Rockport, MA is the kind of town where you can be pretty sure magic is being practiced just outside your line of sight. Seriously, the little downtown area of shops and cafes and art galleries makes a better Diagon Alley than Diagon Alley does. I looked at one building this morning while I walked Zelda down yet another different little winding street on the dock. It was part stone, part wood shingles, and could have been transplanted to Universal Studios absolutely seamlessly. Except Rockport is better, because there are also flowers growing everywhere, gorgeous… well, I would have called them zinnias, but google tells me that they’re actually dahlias… so dahlias and sunflowers and all sorts of other flowers, in buckets and barrels and window baskets.

The shops are maybe mostly old waterfront cottages. Lots of wood-shingle siding and narrow alleyways. But it’s also right on the water, so around every corner is a view of ocean and boats. You can hear seagulls steadily, that whee-whee-whee shriek they make. This morning I watched one drifting on the air currents the way they do and it was gorgeous — which is funny, because sea gulls definitely fall into the rats-with-wings category of birds for me. I prefer sparrows and there are flocks of them right down the street from me. Truly, flocks. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many sparrows all in one place before.

The right time to be here, though, is definitely 7AM on a Thursday in September. I went looking for images online, because my descriptive abilities seem sadly lacking when it comes to explaining just how damn cute it is, and… No. Most of the images I found are either of the ocean (lovely) or of the town while it’s filled with tourists. I’ve been wandering around with Zelda in the early, early morning and that’s when it’s magical.

I’m staying with a friend here, Serenity parked in her driveway. It’s been weirdly emotional for me, because this area is where my friend Michelle lived. All of my trips to Cape Ann in the past have been to Gloucester, to her family’s house there, either with her or for her. My last trip here was for her memorial service. Yesterday I went back to that same beach and wandered there with the dogs. I’m getting tearful remembering, much to B.’s dismay — he’s starting to whimper at my feet — so I’ll stop there. But I had a lovely dinner with her parents, and a nice chance to catch up with them. I tried really hard to keep my brain focused on the good, not the bad — not how much I miss her (so much!), but how fortunate I was to have her in my life when I did.

A while ago a friend told me that I was sensitive, which sounded like an insult to me, although she didn’t think it was. I’ve thought about it since, and I think mainstream public school pretty much tries to beat the curiosity and the passion and the sensitivity out of all of us. Growing up, I was tough because I had to be. I made it through adolescence by growing a thick shell and rarely, if ever, revealing those elemental parts of me. Michelle, on the other hand, kept those qualities and didn’t try to hide them, not at all. When I met her, she created a safe space for me where I could let those parts of me be free, too. She made it okay for me to be sensitive and imaginative and curious and… me. I could be my real self with her. Huh, and now I’m upsetting both dogs, so… onward.

I don’t know what today will bring: based on previous days’ experiences with my friend B, I expect that it will include some excellent food. Today is also the first day of the season where dogs are allowed on the beach in Rockport, so I hope it will include some beach time. And Grace is still progressing, albeit slowly, so hopefully, it will include some good words on Grace. I’ve been stuck on this one character, Avery, who I really like, and their introduction, and this week I decided to just go for it, full on, nothing subtle about it.

“Avery doesn’t believe in the gender binary,” Dillon told them. “They think it’s limiting.”
“They’re a they,” Rose added helpfully. “But they don’t get mad if you get it wrong.”

Ta-da! I don’t know how many hours of agony have gone into whether Avery is male or female and what it means if they’re neither, but apparently they’re neither and that’s the way they like it. My latest approach to Grace seems to be “if there’s a problem, fix it.” I’ve got another paragraph that I’m definitely writing today on an issue that has bugged me for two years — do the ghosts think Noah hears them and if not, why do they bother talking to him? I’ve never had the answer to that question but I’m just going to go ahead and answer it in today’s words. Yay!

Tomorrow I’m headed into Boston to visit Michelle’s husband and son. I suspect it will be both a pleasant and an emotionally wrenching weekend. I should come up with a plan that includes yoga and meditation because both of them would be better for me than coffee and sugar, which seem to be angling to be my current forms of comfort. But hey, even coffee and sugar aren’t all that bad. And on Sunday, I head back to Maine for a few more days before starting the long trip south, so maybe there’ll still be a lobster dinner in my future.