About Walter, and some musings by the bay.

Welcome to my website. My name is Walter Sullivan and I am a lifelong resident of Newport, Rhode Island.

I have deep roots here.  My Great Grandfather was a Master Carpenter and  Artist.

This luminous scene of Newport harbor is one of less than a dozen known works by this Newport artist. A self-taught artist and an early photographer, James Nicholson was born in Scotland in 1848 and came to Newport as a master joiner to work on the interiors of some of the new cottages being built for wealthy summer residents, including Marble House (1892) and the Breakers (1893). The vista gives us an accurate picture of Newport harbor in the late nineteenth century, including factories, wharves, and many Newport church spires.

This is his Photograph of the spot. I assume he used it to work on the painting.

a collage of the painting and some of the family. My maternal Grandfather is shown in the photo.

I am named for him.



Narragansett Bay

I have worked on the bay as a fisherman. I operated a small lobster skiff for 10 years out there. It is a lovely place to call the “office”.

The inshore waters are usually calm and allow for daily trips to the lobster grounds. That is, during late Spring, all Summer and all the way into October. Then there is a change. This is what it feels like:

The Fall

Fall is here.
The summer heaviness has  retreated  before the north wind, mornings feel different, daylight  abbreviated, the night  skies are blacker, clear and cool.</span> It  starts with one day. I know this  day.
It comes every year with a snap. The day of change.
It is noticed  more on the waters of the bay, a more elemental shift  out here.
Where  yesterday the sun was brilliant and yellow and warm and the air  was sponge heavy  with moisture and with the scent of the last remaining  blooms from the  surrounding shore: Switch grass, Aster and Goldenrod.

This is the day  these things are wrung out, all landward odors erased  by the burgeoning  northerly pressure.
What remains is the smell of the water,  collected by the wind across  miles of open channel and forced into the nostrils.  Just the seething  salt of the tide and the occasional, obvious, stinking reek of  bait fish  from a passing lobster boat. Save these few things, the air today is   scrubbed clean with perhaps just a tiny hint of far off snow.

Here is  what the fishermen know: prepare, make plans to retrieve the  nets and the traps  for in a few weeks the ease once enjoyed upon the  water will become an  unromantic struggle with the cold. The fish will  depart for warmer places and  fingers will numb as lines are cast off.
Now the wind will be hushed, less  energetic, the lively tempo of  summer slowed. Playtime is over.

The  population of fair weather sailors will be decimated, moorings  abandoned. The  patchwork of  crisscrossed wakes colliding on the choppy  summer waters will be  replaced by the solitary, slowly folding waves  curling from the stern of a  passing work boat; rising up, unhindered  from a glassy gray canvas.
There  will come a second benchmark day a month from now, maybe two,  when the sea  itself will be wrung out, as a low lying fog,

condensing  from the surface upward  becomes a sea smoke, the water coming into  equilibrium with the air,  surrendering its’ last stored up memory of  summer.
The sky will become  persistently gray, the sea will reflect it’s mood.  Wind and wave will join to  assault exposed hand or cheek with freezing entropy.
Traveling seals return  from colder northern waters along with the  herring and camp the exposed ledges  of the bay, they too are gray, they  agree with the water and sky but are immune  somehow to the effects of  grayness.
This is the prophecy of one day. The  day of change.