A quick post today that will serve as a reminder (to me as much as anyone) of why I write in Maine about Maine and have no inclination to do it anywhere else.
This came to me in the middle of a Q&A at a talk at the Auburn (Maine) Public Library this week. A reader brought up Waldo County, where many of my books are set, saying how fascinating the place was, that it was a sort of parallel universe. You step through a door in Jackson, Monroe, Thorndike and you enter another world.
Well, that got us to talking about Maine in general and how much we love that we live here. It was a nice reality check amid the talk of crime and murders and gritty settings and scroungy characters in my books. Maine is a beautiful and special place.
I sometimes neglect to give Maine its due, at least not on this blog, which is about crime writing, after all. But the magic of Maine is why I’m here, why my characters are here, and they feel it, too. Jack McMorrow will never return to Manhattan from Prosperity, Maine. Brandon Blake will never leave his boat on Casco Bay.
We all have those “ahhh moments” when we are fortunate enough to come upon some beautiful corner of the state. Last week it was the east side of Penobscot Bay. One morning we took the boat down the Penobscot River from Bucksport, passing under the Verona Narrows bridge, that spectacular piece of sculpture that spans the river at Verona Island. We ran down the river and out into the bay, staying on the east side. The air was cool, the bay was calm and, that far north in the bay, there were few boats in sight. We motored past Castine, Holbrook Island, Harborside, and the head of Cape Rosier. On the south side of the cape, at the entrance to Eggemoggin Reach, the waters went calm, a rippling gray sheet broken by porpoises, arcing like shimmering black dancers.
This is Robert McCloskey’s turf, the setting for his wonderful books. One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, and all the rest. We slipped between the islands, Pond and Hog, with haze-shrouded Butter and Great Spruce Head in the distance, the locations of many picnics past for our family. Moving into the Reach, we passed the tip of Little Deer and continued east, checking out some haunts from years ago, when we spent a lot of time here.
Back to Buck’s Harbor, we stopped at Buck’s Harbor Marine for fuel, walked up to the store for sandwiches. The old Condon’s Garage, of McCloskey fame, was closed and dark. The sandwiches from the store were freshly made and we bought a bag full and took them with us. Outside of the harbor, we stopped and ate. More porpoises passed. Sailboats headed for the bay. We looked out on paradise.
And then we rode the swells blown up by the afternoon wind, all the way back up the bay to the river.
A parallel universe, indeed. What is the special place in Maine that makes you feel the same?
I just want to add my name to the long list of writers who regard Maine as a very special place, a corner of earth’s heaven! I was born in Fitchburg, MA, and though I have never lived in Maine I have spent many happy summers at Prout’s Neck. I love that land and water – everything about the place. To me, shopping IS L.L.Bean! Always will be! Look forward to reading your posts, now that I have found you! Thelma Straw, a transplant in mysterious Manhattan…
Prout’s Neck! I was married at the Black Point Inn. Good times in that neck of the woods and stretch of beach. Stay cool in Manhattan, Thelma. Think of Maine!
Gerry…I am always torn about revealing how wonderful our parts of Maine are. What if more people start coming here? But it’s absolutely true that ever morning, waking up on Bailey Island, I feel grateful for the opportunity to be here. Last night, the storm over the sea was spectacular, and later, around nine, when the darkness lifted, there was a trace of sunset, a bowl of light in the sky, and a tall mass of boiling purple clouds. This morning is as fresh and clean as line-dried laundry, and the trees are rustling their water off like they’re slightly irritated. Hard to think of driving up to Brunswick to do errands, or of the three hours I’ll be spending in this chair editing. But if I pick up my head, it’s all right there. And the drive down from Brunswick is filled with lovely vistas.
Agreed. On all counts. I lived here part-time until 1998, when I finally was able to move here full-time, and I still have moments when I drive around a corner on my way home from the post office, or look out my bedroom window — much less an adventure further from home — and just marvel at the fact that I’m lucky enough now to call this place home. I love the fog, on the river or ocean, which plays mysterious tricks. I love the old houses full of secrets and stories. I love the people, both natives whose roots are deep in the rocky soil, and those from away who’ve left amazingly diverse lives in other places in the world to come to this state, and, often, to contribute their experiences to their new home. I love that extraordinary crafters, writers, artists, organic farmers, chefs, and seekers of all that is original and creative, have found what they are looking for in Maine. I love it’s natural beauty, and I love that most people here want to protect that. I love that we’ve blogged about it for a year — and have just begun. Thanks for reminding us, Gerry.
Washington County would be where I’d live if finances permitted. We scoured a small beach on Campobello yesterday in fog and rain, finding endless beach glass and pottery shard treasures to expand the collection begun 30+ years ago. Eastport on the 4th was as vibrant as one could want.
My first visit to Condon’s Garage was on a midwinter Sunday afternoon with my Dad. A decade later, when my brother went to college in the mid-west, he called home asking my mom to send him the photograph of me sitting on the steps of Condon’s, holding up the corresponding page in “One Morning in Maine.” I was both perplexed and touched. It was my first step toward understanding that growing up in Maine, with its unique places, people and books, would forever shape how we explain ourselves to the larger world.
Thanks for the virtual trip down the reach and sparking some thinking. It is a great comfort to hear that Brandon Blake won’t be trading in for life ashore anytime soon!
Happy Birthday Maine writers. I read your blog and enjoy it. Also enjoy your books. Have a prosperous year.
Oh! Robert McCloskey! I jgave my brand-new grand daughter Penelope a one-volume anthology of all his books, so she can grow up filled with the wonder he instills. Maine contains so many worlds, from that of the Shakers (before I came to see you on Monday, I was at Sabbathday Lake where, I understand, there are TWO new postulants, so perhaps they will stay and the place will persist) to the road up through the top of Maine to Quebec, which I took for the first time in May with a group of students from UMA, which is a place of delight, in its own right; whodathunk we’d have a world class Jazz school in central Maine? And of course, Waldo, where my brother lives, and about which you write, is fascinatingly in a 1972 time warp most of the time. That’s the year I moved to Maine. It’d take something major to pry me out of this place.
I was blessed to have grown up in Kittery Point – my family on my Mom and Dad’s side have lived in Maine for generations. Maine is in my blood and even though I now live in St. Louis, I come home every chance I get to smell the salt air, hear the waves crash against the rocks, taste sea salt on my tonge, listen to the fog horn at night out in Pepperrell Cove and appreciate my inheritance of being a part of such a special place. My husband knows that when I die my ashes are to come home to Maine. Maine – the way life should be – how very true!