Thursday, December 17, 2009


Heading out for coffee this morning, going uphill as opposed to downhill for a change, I passed the Old Stone Mill — a term that confuses me. It's old and stone, certainly, but a mill? As in a windmill? Did it grind grain? Really? Isn't it a tad overbuilt and elaborate?

Confused or not, I'm very fond of this structure and the idea of this structure, especially that no one knows its history. It's a mystery. There's nothing to do but enjoy it. And think about it. And abide archeological digs every few years by folks who are determined to find an answer — but why??

Sometimes the mill is called a tower: the Newport Tower. The Chinese, the Vikings, the Italians and the Portuguese are all cited as its builders, by someone, either as a beacon or some type of testament to the sea, or as an astrological construct of some significance. The only documented claim — of ownership, anyway (that I've heard of, anyway) — is that of Benedict Arnold. Not the Benedict Arnold, but his great-grandfather, who owned this land and referred to "my stone mill" in his journals. If only we could ask him what he knows ...

And, hey, he's just around the corner in the Arnold burial ground (or I think he is). There are multiple Benedicts lying at rest therein, alongside relatives with names such as Patience and Content and Comfort. Someone explained to me once — I learn so much from visitors to Newport — that there were only half as many Benedicts and Comforts as I thought, because their graves have both headstones and footstones. Of course! A resting place is a bed — right??

Reverend Channing might know something about all this; he stands right there with his back to the tower/mill/whatever. But, no, he came a century later. The tower-owning Benedict died in 1678. (I just looked it up.) I'll have to head back to the burial ground and look for an older Benedict Arnold. Besides, Rev. Channing had his own purpose: that of founding American Unitarianism. (I looked that up, too.)

Whoa — big stuff for a small space with far-less-serious purpose.

What is my purpose?? Hmmm. That calls for a change of tune/tone ...

Talking Trash (A Purpose Story)

It’s not what you think.

I was taking out a bag of trash recently and putting it inside the large gray barrel between my house and the tall fence that separates us from the street. We live very close to the street — not so unusual in Newport (or anywhere, for that matter).

A friend once said that her definition of living close to the street is when you sneeze in your living room and someone on the sidewalk says, “Gesundheit.” We’re not quite that close ... but we are on one of those close-quarters, middle-of-town streets that’s crazybusy in summer and nearly deserted in winter — again, not unusual in Newport.

And this was back in October at some point, in-between seasons, so there were still a good number of passersby on the sidewalk, hidden from view on the other side of the fence.

Anyway, just as I hefted and hurled my bag of trash into the barrel, I heard music. Recognizable music. The theme from Star Wars, I think. Or Raiders of the Lost Ark. One of those triumphant theme songs that appeals to Harrison Ford or Princess Leia wannabes of all ages, i.e. to everyone.

My immediate thought — after briefly considering that I was going nuts (am I??) — was a cell phone, a ring tone. Someone on the other side of the fence was getting a call.

But the music was closer than that. It was coming from the trash (!!), as if my trash were feeling triumphant in some way. So I leaned my head down — it wasn’t too pungent, fortunately — and listened. To my trash.

And I was stymied, if only for a second or two, before remembering that I had tossed some birthday cards, left over from my dad’s birthday, into the garbage. Pop hadn’t taken his cards with him after the party. Now that stinks. Especially since those musical cards are investments, at four or five dollars a pop — anything for Pop.

Well, that got me thinking.

First — not to knock the greeting card industry and those of us, myself included, who rely upon it for all manner of personal expression — but isn’t it sad that we don’t think up our own greetings?? That we don’t think for ourselves what to convey??

I mean, this was fine-quality, quasi-inspirational music coming from my trash; but I like to think a message of my own devising may have made it home after the party.

Second, at the risk of sounding preachy just for a second, isn't it amusing and worthwhile and occasionally instructive to look for meaning and adventure in our day-to-day lives, even in adventures so minor as taking out the trash??

That’s why I’m here, I guess, sort of — if you're still with me at the end of this very long bunch of meandering, self-indulgent garbage. I'm filling a virtual space with virtual images and virtual commentary of my own devising all about I’m-not-sure-what-exactly, but it has a lot to do with Newport. Observing Newport. (Loving Newport??) And maybe a few other things ...