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orourke's blog

On ships and stars and getting underway

All of us who love the ocean – and the ships who sail upon her – resonate with certain phrases. They’re the poems and stories we first heard as kids and now they are part of our “oceanside memories, made in Maine,” like the salt water in our veins that speaks to our origins. We agree with Rat in the Wind in the Willows that “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” And each spring, whether we live in constant view of the water (as we have the luxury of doing here at Spruce Point) or far enough way that folks stop us to ask what the oar is we’re carrying, the poetry of John Masefield paces the rhythm of our daily chores with “I must go down to sea again, the lonely sea and the sky; and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”

The warm shawl of a Maine coast summer – Happy Mothers Day!

It seems that some of our fondest memories here at Spruce Point Inn involve children, one way or another. As we look towards Mothers’ Day on Sunday, we flip back through the pages of our mental album labelled “Oceanside memories, made in Maine” and remember the kids who kept us all laughing – yours and ours -- and how we’ve watched some of them grow from Lighthouse Campers to Spruce Point brides. The dads and moms who taught that first fishing lesson off our dock are now gathered in The Pemaquid to watch their daughters dance – the film of all those summers here playing back across their faces.

Yet we most vividly recall the firsts – the first real fire one young lad had ever seen, at our s’mores fire pit; the first boatride, on Brightline. The first firefly. The first horseshoe crab. The first whale (that one stops your breath, no matter how old a kid you are).

Carried in on the seabreeze

When the seabreeze kicked in the other afternoon, it was hard to believe the land had warmed up enough to start that flow of cooler air from the water. But the temperature in the Gulf of Maine is still only 43 degrees! So the pockets of 60+ degrees of sheltered sunshine caused the thermals to rise (to the delight of the red-tailed hawks) and there’s incontrovertible evidence that another season on the Maine Mid-coast is underway!

There’s more evidence in the garden. The flowering shrubs and potted plants should make their usual Mothers’ Day appearance at the garden centers; and of course Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is moving into its seasonal rhythm, welcoming mothers with free admission on May 10th.

Taking time to smell the flowers

The annual Daffodil Festival is underway on Nantucket; and given the winter they had – hurricane force winds, frozen waves and feet of snow, they certainly deserve a moment in the sun. But not to take away from Boothbay Harbor, we’re more than thrilled to see the greening of the grass, the suggestion of buds on the branches and a few sheltered crocuses and daffodils of our own.

This week is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day; and looking back over the past four-plus decades is enough to make one stop and smell whatever flowers we can find. The environment is far from being beyond our stewardship. The fragile egg that is our planet still needs all the help it can get (which is why we take our environmentalism seriously, here at Spruce Point Inn). 

The concept of earned value

This photo of Spruce Point Inn Resort and Spa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Preparing for opening day a month from now, we’ve been reading the TripAdvisor reviews (and photos like this one) that have brought us a Certificate of Excellence, three years in a row. As anyone with a small business like ours knows, the kudos are wonderful; but it’s the collection of details, tips and suggestions that point us in directions that will benefit our guests, our team and the overall value of Spruce Point Inn.

We learn how customers perceive the experience, every step of the way. We reinforce our best assumptions about how each of our different rooms, cottages and townhomes work for different types of guests. We reconnect in our minds with repeat guests who love Boothbay Harbor and Maine so much they can’t imagine vacationing anywhere else.

Return of the spring. You come, too.

There’s been a flurry of national attention to our south, recently, as New Hampshire Legislators decided to challenge an innocent fourth grade civics lesson. The kids sought to make the red-tailed hawk the state’s official raptor. The legislators gave them a different lesson in sausage-making on the Statehouse carpet.

But we notice that the Boothbay Region Land Trust has showcased our own Maine raptor the osprey (or fishhawk, if you prefer) in celebration of their 35th anniversary this year. Part of the logo at BRLT, the osprey is shown carrying a tasty-looking trout to its nest.  As they say, spring is an ideal time to ‘grab a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for our feathered friends returning from the south.”

Aprils and Openers

TS Eliot called April “the cruelest month” and after the winter we’ve had there are many reasons to agree. Yet the French greet the month with “poisons d’Avril” – “the fish of April” – recognizing with classic wry Gallic humor that those who expect more of April are no more than the silly little fingerlings soon to be snapped up by hungry trout (and they, by bears.) These “poisson” always put us in mind of April 1st as the first day of fishing season on inland waters – the first forays on the icy rivers. Did you know Maine hosts 90% of the wild brook trout in lakes and ponds in the US?

Lifelong learning outside the book on the Midcoast

Somewhere beneath the snowbanks here on Grand Avenue the roots are starting to stir. We saw a chipmunk the other day, who must have been responding to the lengthening afternoons of spring (certainly not to the temperature!). By March 17th we’ll enjoy 11 hours of daylight, made to seem even better by the return to Daylight Savings Time on March 9th. And then it will be Maine Maple Sunday – if the sap ever decides to rise.

The February Sound of Silence

One thing all this snow seems to do is magnify the senses. Sunlight is dazzling. The cold is bitter, especially when the wind comes in off the Atlantic. The woodsmoke curling from chimneys on the Point sharpens our desire to hurry home to our own fireplace and woodstove. And the other day, while shoveling, I smelled a sudden burst of mint as my shovel caught a plant at the edge of the herb garden. (Won’t be long before it’s Derby Day and julep time!)

Adding up the elements of experience

In New England, the topic of hauntings is a familiar one, undoubtedly because we have 400+ years of colonial history and millennia of stories from the Wabanaki whose woods these were. Each sunset looks back across an ancient natural and built landscape; across a sea of stories.

We were remembering the matter-of-fact observations of a friend convinced that she and her family shared a house with a colonial ghost. Trying to recall the spirit’s name, we thought, “Patience? Prudence? Charity?” None seemed right. And then we remembered: “Experience.”