Maine is my new favorite place to be. Previously it was magical Martha’s Vineyard having spent four summers there during my college years following Sweet Baby James, working at the 20-bed Martha’s Vineyard Hospital pharmacy, celebrating birthdays at the Black Dog Tavern when it first opened up in Vineyard Haven. I remember swimming buck naked at Moonstone Beach near John Belushi’s house up island near Menemsha, smacking my lips eating the best key lime pie ever and romancing my first love.
In recent years, while many friends swarm in on the Cape during the summer months, we made Narragansett, RI our regular go to place only an hour away. Walking the town beach is the main draw for us, not baking in the sun. We enjoy the troubadours set up on the sidewalk by the beach after dinner or lunch after Crazy Burger.
Actually any time at the beach on the coast (any coast!) conjures up spirited memories of times past. Living on the water seems to be everybody’s dream unless doing so results in calamitous beach erosion, corrosive salt water causing debilitating rust to anything with a motor, flash floods, mudslides, hurricanes or torrential rainstorms washing away one’s safety, security and dreams. Water untamed can destroy, we know this for sure, even moreso as the planet warms up and disastrous weather events occur with more frequency and more destruction. Churning ocean water can destroy as well as be the subject for an oil painting.
Earlier this month we trekked up past Portland, visiting two sets of cousins and discovered new experiences of bountiful uniquely beautiful Maine. We enjoyed the good life on a sparkling 26 foot Mercury Marine boat tooling around Casco Bay with a crisp blue sky overhead saying good riddance to the grey clouds and dreary skies of Massachusetts from whence we came. If not for the soupy fog bank we wouldn’t have had to abort our trip to Eagles Island, off the coast of Harpswell, and the summer home of Admiral Robert E. Peary (1856-1920). He’s the same Peary known for scaling the Arctic and North Pole. He was the first of several venerable unsung Mainers we were to learn about that weekend.
Shortly afterwards, off the boat we walked over to the surprisingly rich Portland Museum of Art (PMA) at Seven Congress Square. We viewed other famous Mainers including the painter Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth (who had a summer house in Cushing, Maine) and his father N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations and paintings. Not all art on display was of Mainers’ creation, as the PMA displayed several world famous originals by Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, Picasso and others.
Winslow Homer, considered one of Maine’s treasures was actually born in Massachusetts. But our hosts drove us out to Prout’s Neck http://www.proutsneck.org in Scarborough where Homer had a studio and eventually built a house. It’s a most private community with famous families that summered there for generations including members of the Rockefeller family and those of the Carnegies.
“Weatherbeaten”, a Winslow Homer painting proudly on display at the PMA looks like it was drawn from Prout’s Neck’s view of the sea with strong cresting foamy waves crashing against the large dark squared rocks. You could smell the briny and crisp ocean spray mixed with crinkly sea foam, feel the jarring yet rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves below. Multiple senses at play simultaneously: sound, sight, touch. It was this sensation http://www.barbarastroud.files.Wordpress.com that resonated, carrying me away to the other moments of ocean scenes from my past: waves crashing at South Beach in Katama after a storm, the Big Island in Hawaii, walking on Little Sands Beach in York, Maine, Duck Island in the Northern Outer Banks of North Carolina.
I guess the coastline of Maine provided a solace and relaxation with family that I sorely needed after the ravages of the past year and a half. It’s a place I’d like to return to again and again in person, to hang out in, to reclaim some of what’s lost by only banging away on my iPad. Maine 2021 had a feel to it that made me reminisce of the summers of my past, knowing full well that the summers of my youth are unlikely to occur again in the midst of climate change as the world is different and will become even more different as global warming continues unabated.