Four hundred years ago, Captain John Smith sailed along the Coast of Maine, landing at the fishing camps on Monhegan Island and the Isles of Shoals. Already Europeans had sailed west to the teeming grounds now known as the Grand Banks. Maps of the coast were published in London in 15xx; But John Smith’s own 1614 map named the whole region “New England” and was popularized for a century.
Lobsters and lighthouses. There’s no escaping the iconic ‘odd couple’ of summertime Maine. They are to our visitors Down East what the Statue of Liberty is to Manhattan, the Strip to Las Vegas, the cherry trees to Washington DC.
They say that Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” is one of the most-recognized paintings in America. It’s a vision of a woman in a summer-dry field; a grey farmhouse in the distance. The story of the woman, Christina Olson and the family farm in Cushing, Maine is one of Andrew Wyeth’s enduring, some say “wondrous strange” fascinations with the people and places of Maine. Andrew was not alone in his love affair with Maine – his father NC and his son Jamie have also put paint to the romance, history and landscape of our sea and sky.
“Stopfulness.” That’s the word New England historian J. Dennis Robinson uses to describe the quiet and calm of immersing oneself in a sense of place and the moment. He finds it in events and experiences that catch your breath with their authenticity and the opportunities they provide to absorb your surroundings through every sense. They are places that let you stop and take a look around, to get a new perspective on the day.
Skimming the headlines of the Boothbay Register this week, one knows that another Maine summer has arrived. Like so many others who’ve ‘come home’ for the season (and those who us who live here year ‘round) we greet local news as gossipy cream in our morning coffee. There’s the new Landing at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, making the scenic spot perhaps the only Top 10 US Garden you can visit by boat. A stop we recommend highly for the mix of habitats, woods to shoreline, as well as the report that there’s a new surprise blooming around every turn.
Homeward bound on the dark ocean, the first loom from a lighthouse is as reassuring as the dove carrying the olive branch must have been to Noah on the ark. It’s the sign that home is on the horizon and safe harbor is close at hand.
The 52nd Annual Windjammer Days slip into history, leaving traces of the schooner American Eagle, Alert, Eastwind, Lazy Jack, the Lewis R. French, Heritage and Winfield Lash in their wakes. Technically, windjammers are “large sailing ships with an iron or, for the most part, steel hull with between three and five masts and square sails.” Named “windjammers” for their massive sails that seemed to jam the wind but actually propelled them across the globe in early feats of shipbuilding skills and seamanship, these beautiful birds now carry the memories of those voyages. It is that history that Yankee Magazine celebrates by naming Windjammer Days one of the top 20 events in Maine and why the event makes the “Top 100 in the US’ list. For so much of the nation was built on her sails.
Daisy Buchanan, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, said she always looked forward to the Summer Solstice – and then invariably missed it. Like everything else, even the motions of the heavens rushed by her too quickly.
Along with the lilacs and autumn-olive that fill the air with perfume and form a flowery fringe between sea and sky, we’ve noticed the small white blossoms of wild strawberries on the edges of the fields. Just a handful, scattered in among the bluets and sweet-smelling white violets, they are the advance team for the summer yet to come.