MY MARBLEHEAD FIRST TIME: Summer magic in the woods and beyond

Ever since we arrived in Marblehead, everyone has said, “Wait till summer!”

Well, wait I did and it was indeed worth it. Now to be fair, I didn’t have a terribly high expectation. My idea of “summer” is a touch skewed. Summers growing up on the farm weren’t barbecues and ball games. A shovel, a hoe, a tractor seat, dust and weeds and sweat. These are the ingredients of a farm kid summer. They made the moments of joy and play shine like jewels —  climbing down from an open tractor seat to chug a cold cherry Coke on a broiling afternoon, or a baseball game under the lights after a hot day in the fields. I learned young that good things come to those who wait.

Wyman Woods in the summer. CURRENT PHOTO / COURT MERRIGAN

So I waited. Through a winter and cold spring here that did seem interminable. Back in Wyoming, winter can be bone-cracking cold, sure enough. But then a chinook wind blows up and the temps quickly get reasonable again. (Have you heard of a chinook? It’s a warm westerly wind that blows down the east side of the Rockies onto the plains and is heavenly in the midst of a frozen February). The snow melts. The sun shines. Then spring hits, the wind blows. Boom, suddenly it’s 101 degrees out and you can’t remember what “cold” feels like. August in eastern Wyoming gets hot enough to fry an egg on a summer sidewalk, as the song goes, and the lack of humidity makes it a nice, dry bake.

Not so in Marblehead. The cold gray spring seemed like it lasted about 17 years. I couldn’t believe staring down the barrel of June and still wearing a hoodie to a baseball game. But almost imperceptibly, as I waited, the cold faded from the air. When I recently took an evening walk through Wyman Woods, the sunlight painted the fading day with such warm primeval magic that I’d not have been surprised had a wood sprite dashed to my side. I wonder if this was how Massachusetts looked in its pre-colonial state, or if those woods are instead a product of some carefully managed magic? Either way, I stayed there till the mosquitoes drove me away.

My walk through Wyman is just one of those small moments of joy that made my first Marblehead summer so worth waiting for.  We recently walked out to Gas House Beach at low tide to make the walk out to Gerry Island. It was an easy jaunt across the rocks and we lingered a while in the sunlight, sitting on a bench at the far edge of land, wondering what purpose the old machinery slowly rusting amongst the trees had served, avoiding the poison ivy. We hung around long enough that when we decided to head back to the mainland, the tide had started to come in! Creatures of the heartland that we are, we had simply forgotten! But our too-long wait gave us another first time: we waded back to shore through ankle-deep water and then trekked home, shoes squishing with sea water.

We’ve done yoga outside in the soft summer air. Sat out on the open air patio at the Sea Salt Restaurant for drinks and dessert. Zipped down the rail trail on bikes — it’s a different place this time of year, nearly overgrown with verdant vegetation you’d never see back in Wyoming. Met with friends at The Landing, talking and laughing until closing time. Played baseball under the lights at Gatchell’s. Dined on fresh mussels, and sipped on boba tea while overlooking a harbor of bobbing boats. Stood under the gazebo on Old Burial Hill in the early morning, watching the light catch the mirrored sea.  

The other day between business meetings, I walked out to the benches at the far end of Devereux Beach and caught a glorious power nap on the grass to the sound of the surf crashing below. I’ve watched turtles sunning themselves at Redd’s Pond and enjoyed gigantic gin and tonics at Maddie’s. I was glad to have my sister visit from Colorado, to affirm my experience of summer here. Marblehead is like a page lifted from a fairy-tale book.

Yes, good things indeed come to those who wait. Apropos, this phrase describes how I got here in the first place. You see, I am often asked, just how did you come to Marblehead from Wyoming?

Well, like a balmy, dreamy Marblehead summer, that story is worth waiting for. Until next time!

As always, if you’ve got an idea upon which I can embark for a Marblehead First Time, drop me a line at

Court Merrigan
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Wyoming transplant Court Merrigan is a new Marblehead resident. His column “My Marblehead First Time” appears regularly in the Current.

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