Passion in New Hampshire
With mountains, rivers, lakes, forest, urban areas and seacoast, the State of New Hampshire is beautiful from end to end.
On a recent trip there, I found the people to be equally lovely: friendly, kind, helpful and eager to tell me all about their home.
In the course of a week, I met three very different people who shared one thing in common. Each was incredibly passionate about one very specific thing. I would like you to meet them.
Deborah Humiston, Orienteer
Prior to meeting Deb, I had never given any thought to orienteering. Listening to her describe this sport of using a detailed map and a compass to find points in the landscape, however, I realized what an important set of skills it develops.
I also remembered my first trip to Paris, and how I would wander around all day long, going wherever the day took me. When the sun began to set, I would pull out a map and orient myself, then plan a route back to my starting point. It actually gave me a real sense of confidence, and eliminated any fear I might have had about getting lost.
I met Deb in downtown Portsmouth, where she was conducting a Treasure Hunt. Participants were given a map and had to move around and locate different points, learning about the city as they went. On this particular day, we convinced her to be our personal tour guide, and we strolled about while she shared her vast knowledge of the history of the area.
Deb also develops curricula for schools and designs custom treasure hunts for children’s birthday parties and corporate events. To keep kids engaged, she incorporates technology, so that they can use text messaging when they find a location. She has even created maps of places like New York’s Central Park.
When I tried to meet up with Deb later in my trip, she was unavailable as she was in a cabin in the woods, mapping a remote location. Of course she was! It’s what she loves.
Richard Tango-Lowy, Master Chocolatier
Dancing Lion Chocolate in Manchester is where Richard Tango-Lowy creates chocolate art. The lovely little shop/cafe saw a steady stream of dedicated local customers the afternoon that I visited. Many of them were greeted by name, and Richard knew exactly what they wanted, be it truffles, brownies, espresso or drinking chocolate.
The drinking chocolate that I tasted was amazing. I have not developed a palate for chocolate tasting, so I am not able to pick out the nuances, but Richard certainly can. He spoke about terroir as it relates to chocolate just as a winemaker would in relation to wine. He develops relationships with specific farmers in specific countries so that he knows the exact origin of his ingredients. He spoke so passionately about it that at times it almost sounded like we were talking about drugs, as he described getting his hands on a kilo of Guatamalan!
In addition to selling at the shop in Manchester, Richard ships his chocolate to eager customers. He also hosts a variety of events, including guided tastings and pairings of chocolate and wine, or tea. Soon, he plans to open shops in Paris and Spain. I suggested that he might want to open one in my hometown as well, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Jeffrey Cooper, Furniture Master
While in Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, I met a group of Furniture Masters. This is a group of highly skilled artisans who came together to build awareness of their craft and to preserve and carry forward the New England tradition of fine furniture making. In a room full of incredible wood pieces and the artists who had designed and created them, I singled out Jeffrey Cooper. Not for his work, because I hadn’t seen it yet, but because he reminded me of Bob Dylan. Well, why not? They were clearly all incredibly talented, and I needed some way to choose one to show me his work. I pegged Jeffrey as the rock star of the Furniture Master crowd, and I wanted to meet him. And I am so glad that I did.
Jeffrey is clearly devoted to his craft. His pieces, which often incorporate elements of nature and animals, grace hospitals and libraries, as well as private homes. He was very eager to show me his work, but equally enthusiastic about showing me the work of his fellow furniture makers and explaining what was unique about each of their styles and how they influenced him. His passion was contagious.
Later in the week, I found myself in Portsmouth and recalled that Jeffrey’s studio was in that city. I wrangled an invitation to visit him there and was able to see some of his works in progress. In addition to showing me his current projects, he explained the concept of deliberative democracy and how it plays out in the city. I could have talked to him all day, but he had work to do, and I had more to see.
There is something so compelling about people who have devoted themselves to one specific thing and have become experts in their chosen field. These three people, so different from one another, so passionate about entirely different things, were fascinating to me. And each one had such a clear connection to their home: one mapped it and shared her knowledge of its origins; one kept his shop local and greeted his customers by name while expanding internationally; and one was inspired by the landscape and wildlife of New Hampshire as he carried on a traditional art of the area.