Standing limber and spruce with a backdrop of the entrance to Boothbay Harbor
Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee recently described a school of courtly Japanese art as having the ability “to stay limber and spruce” as fashion and patron tastes evolved. It was a use of the word we haven’t seen for a while. “Spruced-up,” yes. But “spruce” as an adjective? What Merriam Webster defines as a “somewhat old-fashioned” usage, an adjective meaning “neat, clear or stylish in appearance.”
Smee was undoubtedly put in mind of this particular word while admiring a product of the Kano school: the large, six-panel screen, “Eagle and Pine Tree,” with a majestic bird and an even more impressive spruce painted on a golden ground, a backdrop made by the painstaking and exacting work of hand-applied gold foil.
Of course the adjective use of “spruce” applies full well to the labor of love that is preparingSpruce Point Inn for the season. We, too, strive for the “neat, clean and stylish” appearance we hope will make the best impression on our guests.
It’s a storied outlook from our post here at the approach to Boothbay Harbor. By the time the original English settlement of Townsend had been renamed Boothbay in 1842, this bit of land was already “Spruce Point.” We were “on the map” from then on – “Spruce Point” is clearly shown on historic maps in 1857 and 1893. Set against the mutable sapphire light of Linekin Bay, the spruces (and the soaring fishhawks, or osprey, of the Maine coast) are magnificent guardians, inspiring without needing to understand the first thing about symbolism in Japanese screens. The spruces remain, centuries on, with timeless and steadfast endurance in the face of wind, water and salt spray.
In fact, the word for “pine tree” in Japanese is “matsu”which literally means “waiting for the soul of a god to descend from Heaven.” Ancient beliefs suggested pines were the path to ascendance. And perhaps they are.
If we succeed here at Spruce Point in staying “limber and spruce” we can achieve the 21st century domestic equivalent of ascendance, however fleeting: the perfect family vacation, weekend getaway, wedding venue or dinner with friends. Opening day approaches. We’re sprucing up. Come stand, limber and spruce on the Point, and admire the view.