Sunday’s New York Times story on family reunions brought out all the negatives and cautioned “how to make the best of it,” quoting experts at the Family Reunion Institute. Which made us ask, “So if they’re so awful, why are more and more people planning these get-togethers?”
The answer -- from our perspective here at the Inn where we see family reunions all season long (and where we’ve designed spaces like the interconnecting rooms in the Lodges to make it easy for extended families to spread out) – is, “Because they’re so much fun!”
Every menu at Spruce Point lists all the local purveyors who fish, farm and harvest the makings of our meals. That list sent us to the Ararat Farm in nearby Lincolnville and this gorgeous image of eggplant, tomatoes, squash and peppers: the fruits of the season the Wabanaki called Demezowas – the “Harvesting Moon” of “crops that are cut.” The Wabanaki of the Maine coast, who have walked our woodland trail for millennia, named twelve moon cycles, with this one falling in August-September, following “The Blueberry Maker” (Sataikas) in July and “The Corn Maker” (Skamonkas), later in September. Gathered together these names become a farmstand display of the best flavors of the season. Sun-warmed, and accented with herbs from our own kitchen garden, these flavors add to the sensory memories of summer in Maine, preserved in all their radiant hues like jams on the pantry shelf, to be savored when the “The Winter Maker” moon comes along in December.
A hundred years ago, the captains of industry and their families fled the baking pavement and sweltering sun of the nation’s cities to “rusticate” on the coast of Maine. They sailed. They fished. They swam. They ate wonderful meals prepared by favorite chefs who knew where to obtain the best shellfish and the freshest produce.
Once the secret behind those newly-relaxed selves became known, their wives and children joined in, spending the weekdays playing at the shore, dabbling their toes in ocean waters, joined on the weekends by the collared-and-tied.
Watching the Perseids the other night and talking to some of the guests who gathered on the dock to watch the annual meteor display in the skies to the east, it became clear that there’s still tradition at work in the way knowledge is handed down, one generation to the next.
So many Dads, it seems, have taken on the task (and joy) of introducing basic astronomy to their kids. We remember the first time we picked out the constellation of Orion; and getting up in the middle of the night to see the “shooting stars.” For millennia, Dads have watched the heavens, checked the weather (and the tides) and tended the fire. Like wizards, theirs is the realm of fireflies and fishing lines and bike rides along the country roads of August (and their cooling shade), or October (and the glowing leaves.)
The end of a dock. In the silence – that’s not so silent – of a summer night. Halyards clinking on masts, laughter and porch light drifting across the water. Some docks, like Jay Gatsby’s, have a green light to give people their bearings, tiny lighthouses showing the way through the darkened harbor. Others, like the green light at the end of the NavCad dock in Annapolis -- a salute to those eternally on patrol -- are comforting beacons. Like the US Navy, leaving a light on for those arriving late.
Our friends at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are celebrating 2013 as a year of Trees, Timbers and Traditions. In a place called Spruce Point on the midcoast shore of the Pine Tree State, this is a topic dear to our hearts and to the principles by which we manage the environment entrusted to us here at the Inn.
So, with a nod to CMBG, we thought we’d give you an update on our trees.
A brilliant forest of autumn leaves. Wave-worn granite abstracted to the point of geometry. Iconic lighthouses. Fishermen hauling dories on a foggy beach. All of these are images our visitors fix in their minds – and through their cameras when they come to Maine. As famous photographers Eliot Porter, George Daniell (Monhegan Island), Berenice Abbott (Portrait of Maine) and even William Wegman (weimaraners in lifejackets, anyone?) have done for over a century.
My Spruce Point Inn signature salad arrived before me as a composition sampler of colors and tastes. The greens ranged from purple to green the color of early morning meadow mist in July. The chevre from Tourmaline Hills farm in nearby Greenwood – soft clouds in this green sky, if you will – was the consistency of whipped cream and tasted just as ethereal. A mix of red and golden cherry-sized tomatoes, cut in half and the home-glazed pecans, sprinkled across the plate. But the Maine blueberries – the identifying totems of this signature salad were the prize.
We were just reading the story in the NY Times about device-free summer camps for adults. Where people unplug from their electronics to give themselves time to retrieve their other senses: the joy of birdsong and the scent of wind in the pines. The opportunity to stop and listen to each other; and to play.
What we see around our firepit each night is the result of just such an endeavor. The guests who arrived as stressed-out travelers who have disconnected themselves from their worlds “away” and have found the luxury of no deadlines, no hassles, no demands except wherever their whim or fancy leads them.
On the Fourth of July, we think of the joys of the summer to come. The hot sun and cool seabreezes. The red, white and blue of lobsters, sails and sparkling ocean. The evening show of fireflies and “campfires” (our s’mores parties come to mind, as well as the new barbecue grills).
Still, 150 years ago on July 4th, Mainer Joshua Chamberlain – divinity student and college professor turned citizen-soldier – was still reeling from the effects of holding the line at Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Historians credit him and his 5th Maine Regiment, for turning the tide of the Civil War. And on a hot, humid day 237 years ago in Philadelphia, John Hancock, John Adams, Sam Adams, Elbridge Gerry and Robert Treat Paine stood for Maine and Massachusetts in pledging their “lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” by signing the Declaration of Independence.