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Once Upon a Time, in the Secret Season of Maine

“Once upon a time” are four words that promise the unfolding of a wondrous landscape. Secrets revealed. Magic charmed from the telling.

Those stories, conjuring an experience played across the mind of the listener, suggest just how ‘image’ and ‘imagination’ intertwine. Yet for each listener, the experience is singular. As the new director of the San Francisco Symphony observed recently about performance, “You have this moment… It happens in real time, but it will never happen again, and you were there.”

Such is the nature of experiences so enchanting they are both personal and universal, discoveries that wait. Revelations, in the story-forming mind, unfolding before your eyes. Lives lived in the transitional territories of, say, spring-becoming-summer, like the ‘secret season’ we all love so much in Boothbay.

Sometimes, as in dreams that spring from stories, the true tale is hidden. A dense grey fog envelops the landscape, wrapping the hardest of coastal granite in an atmospheric effect the scientists would explain in terms of temperature differentials. Dewpoint reached. Veil drawn. (Did you know that submarines used to ‘hide’ in thermoclines, where the ocean stratified in temperature layers?) Then current or character reveals a glimpse of what lies hidden and that clarified vision becomes the singularity from which an entire memory is born.

Screens, like the ones in the exhibit “Screen Show” at the Farnsworth Museum up the coast in Rockland, offer the same consideration of what’s seen and what one hides. So do Maine’s painters familiar with coastal fogs, like Homer and the Monhegan Artist Colony, wrapped in the stuff, just offshore, and hiding their truths in plain sight.  Focusing the viewer, like the listener-to-tales, on the tantalizing suggestion of what might come.

The editor of Portland Monthly recently compared San Francisco and Portland, matching Frisco and Casco Bay, Jack London’s “White Fang” and Stephen King’s “Cujo,” independent bookstores and great restaurants. But of the Golden Gate wrapped in mist, he scoffed, “We invented fog.”

Such is the ‘secret season,’ that beckons, here on the Midcoast in June. It comes in the quiet of having a magical place, like a landscaped garden, all to yourself. The story that begins on a cool but sunny day could end in one of those evenings of golden light that prefigure full summer.  Or it might bring the fog. We first notice it here at Spruce Point Inn at the entrance to Boothbay Harbor, as the undercurrent that, in summer, will bring the sea breeze. But before summer arrives, it is the thread of the mist made visible – as if a painter had drawn thin grey lines across the canvas of the afternoon — rising as sun-warmed air becomes apparition, bewitched by the ocean’s chill.

“Once upon a time” can start a true story just as well as a fairytale. We’re waiting to spin your secret season moments into many times-told “oceanside memories made in Maine.”

 

Image: David Marx