October makes us think of things mysterious, foggy nights and the deep tradition of Maine as a threshold for the otherworldly. Certainly the silent spruce, rocky shores and dramatic ocean inspire authors like Stephen King. But the true tales of harrowing adventure are enough to keep us reading, close by a toasty fireplace, into the night.
This Ocean Awareness Week, October 6- 12, gives us the opportunity to replay the oceanside memories that animate our thoughts of the seasons here at Spruce Point. The harbor seal that heralded Spring as he basked on the rocks right below Sunset Cottage and entranced the visitor from San Antonio. The puffins on the day charter. The tiny inhabitants of the tidal pool the kids at Camp Lighthouse discovered one summer afternoon. And of course the sustainable seafood, from lobster to halibut (and the working fleet of Boothbay Harbor) that inspire the menus that form the backdrop to so many wonderful dinners. All of these sharpen our awareness of the ocean and what it means to live perched on the edge of the Atlantic coast.
“Wondrous strange” is how Andrew Wyeth and his family describe the Maine coastal villages and upland haunts they paint in landscapes familiar to generations of Americans. The new exhibit at the Farnsworth Museum in nearby Rockland showcases some of those strange and wonderful things. “Every Picture Tells a Story” features the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth, the patriarch of the clan, who painted pirates and prisoners, Native Americans like the Wabanaki who knew the shores and woodlands of the dawnland long before Spruce Point ever got its name and an assortment of characters ideally suited for ghost stories on an October evening.
Our friends at Maine, the magazine, did a story a few years ago about the land trusts of the state – the people and acres who ensure that the beauty of the place and its ecosystem are sustained. As the editors wrote, “A journey to Maine has always promised an escape into the woods, a breath of fresh air, and … pristine beaches. Thanks to a network of grassroots conservationists this will continue to be true. Forever.”
In autumn, in particular, we love to share such places – the land trusts, the gardens, the wildlife areas (currently filled with migrating birds) – that our partners, including the Boothbay Region Land Trust and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, are dedicated to preserving for all to enjoy.
Autumn is the golden season – the goldenrod along the side of the road. The black-eyed Susans and yellow asters. The jewelweed and the marsh grass as it turns from green with each tide. Pots of chrysanthemums at the farm stands. And, of course, the leaves.
When he wrote that “nothing gold can stay,” Robert Frost was talking about the leaves – the first ones of the spring foliage season, that are like gold fringe in the branches. But the same is true of the birch and maple now – and it is as true of their leaves that “nothing gold can stay.”
We saw a selection of “the things they carried” that will go into the national 9/11 Memorial in New York and were reminded of how quickly the ordinary can become extraordinary; the common become an uncommon moment, preserved in amber for future generations.
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.)