Peter Matthiessen, the celebrated author of The Far Tortuga and The Snow Leopard sought the Zen goal of being completely in the moment. His descriptions avoided metaphor, preferring the single observed characteristic that put the reader in place and time where his story was set. The traveler’s search for authentic places resonates with this immersion in the location and in the appreciation for everything your senses tell you about the actual place, “like” nothing else.
Perhaps this is why lighthouses are so compelling.
A recent query from Fodors.com got us thinking about the magical gardens we sometimes take for granted. As the green noses of the spring bulbs emerge in the sunny spaces between ice clumps, the scents and colors of summer emerge from the underground storage of our memories, too. The thousands of lilies – planted by Don Celler, retired commercial lily grower who now lives here in Boothbay – the perennial gardens, even the hanging flower baskets that brighten every turn are all nurtured with an appreciation for the fleeting, fragile beauty that the summer brings to Maine.
May of this year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Maine Woods” by Henry David Thoreau. A man who understood the inseparability of people and place – and who went to some trouble to immerse himself in the wild places he loved, from Walden Pond to Cape Cod to the White Mountains – it was Maine that Thoreau considered among the wildest of wild places.
He made two trips in 1856 and 1857, attempting to summit Mount Katahdin by the more difficult route; paddling the Allagash and descending the Penobscot via the Ripogenus Gorge. The 1864 publication puts his considerations of the Maine Woods in a context of the American Civil War. A time when many gave careful thought to the alternatives.
Though it’s hard to tell right now, spring officially arrived at 12:57 EDT on March 20 when the sun crossed the equator, headed north. As inevitable as the lengthening daylight, we know that our guests will be headed north to Boothbay Harbor and Spruce Point soon and enjoying a nice long summer before heading south again, with the sun by the autumnal equinox in September.
For now, we’re struck with an image one of our favorite authors, Rebecca Solnit, shared in her Field Guide to Getting Lost. It’s that in the backyards of suburbia, you’re more likely to find the tracks of wild animals in the snow, than footprints of children. The point of her book is that you won’t find many adult footprints there either. And that’s a gap that’s easily restored.
Summer camp. One of the shimmering illusions of American childhood, if the magazine covers and travel page ads popping up like dandelions have us believe. Arm in arm, around the campfire. Swinging from an inner tube out into a mountain lake. Gazing at the stars.
Stephanie Rosenbloom’s story, “Fast Forward to Summer Breezes” in The New York Times Travel section offered advice on booking summer vacation rentals in popular northeast destinations like Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and the Hamptons. Precautionary tips from “book early” to “watch for hidden fees” were solid and carefully researched.
We have a better idea: book a cottage at Spruce Point Inn!
You may be aware of the sightings of snowy owls this winter – numbers of them all along the New England coast and individuals as far south as Georgia and Florida. A researcher at Logan Airport in Boston tags the birds that are caught there and has learned that they travel north each summer to Quebec and Labrador. Here in Boothbay, so close to Owl’s Head (location of the wonderful Owl’s Head Transportation Museum’s collection of working antique planes and automobiles), we are sensitive to the patrols of these mysterious birds. The Boothbay Region Land Trust and Damariscotta River Association have led ‘owl prowls’ to introduce them to more admirers.
Another round of Arctic air. More ice. More snow. But it’s times like these that remind us why we live in Boothbay Harbor year-round. We remember the first winter and the silence. The contrast when the shoreline is stripped to its bare essentials and each step seems an inhuman challenge when the wind – so welcome in August – comes arrowing in, straight in off the Atlantic.
On New Year’s Day, in East Boothbay, with an air temperature in the teens and a water temperature only 8 degrees above freezing, the 12th annual Penguin Plunge helped raise money for the second grade swim program at the Y.
What this tradition says about the obsessions of Mainers, or the rewards of the post-dip warm-up is something that perhaps only “rugged New Englanders” appreciate. (A Puritannical make-yourself-miserable-enough-and-you’ll-feel-better-later understory to the state slogan “The way life should be”?).
Out on Spruce Point winter has settled in early. The homes along Grandview Avenue peer from the snowdrifts like hibernating bears and the spruces that were draped in ermine a few days ago are now as spare and tall as the ship’s masts they once furnished for the Royal British fleet.