Silvery edges: Maine

At the edge of consciousness
Where the lines they start to fade
Where the spirit goes undressed
Of all malice and brocade
At the edges, silvery edges
Where the mirror it bends and stretches
Past the edges of this world
Where the waters crash and curl

-David Gray, “Davey Jones’ Locker”

Birch Point Beach.
Birch Point Beach.

There is a power of place that transcends memory, time and logic. Smells, sounds, and shimmering moments of déjà vu conspire to transport our consciousness somewhere familiar, yet somehow altogether strange. For me, Maine is one of those places.

Situated so close to the mega-metropolis of the Northeast (only a few hours’ drive from Boston), it’s startling how tranquil Maine can be. The landscape, in summer, is quite picturesque: rolling green fields, dense woodlands, and winding rural roads. Homesteads and mansions alike pepper the coastal towns, lending a decidedly domesticated atmosphere to the region. I am accustomed to the rugged, gaping expanses of the West and, in comparison, coastal Maine does not feel at all wild. Even when a moose or a fisher can be spotted, or a giant snapping turtle crosses your path, it feels somehow… tamed. Compromised. It’s almost as though these creatures are intentionally making an appearance. As though they have agreed to participate in this quaint scene.

Even the Atlantic ocean here is subdued, its power diffused by the myriad islands and peninsulas, tiny wavelets curling over your feet almost imperceptibly on the beach. Indeed, a far cry from the thundering surf of the Pacific.

Contemplating on a rainy morning. Photo courtesy Spencer Worthley.
Contemplating on a rainy morning. Photo courtesy Spencer Worthley.

I was here for more than 3 months last summer, working as a teaching assistant for Maine Media Workshops. (See my farewell note here.) It wasn’t an easy summer for me in many ways, and I found that being in a place so remote from everything I care about served as a catalyst for some pretty serious soul-searching. Like many people teetering at the edge of a new decade (I was about to turn 30), I had some things to figure out. I still do. We all do. A year later, have I made progress? I think so. I hope so.

And here I am again, in this familiar-yet-strange place. Swirling tides, screeching gulls, spluttering diesel engines in the harbor. The musty smell of Victorian mansions left in various states of disrepair. Salty sea spray and wispy clouds in a haltingly blue sky. The smell of lobster on my hands, a full belly, and a cold summer ale passing over my lips. The sound of songbirds in the woods and the glow of fireflies perched on my finger. Slippery carpets of kelp draped over rocks at low tide like limp wigs. Fog and drizzle and a gentle breeze through the poplar trees. Each of these triggers a sort of reluctant, melancholy nostalgia; memories of discontent I cannot quite trust.

I arrived in mid-coast Maine (Camden and Rockport area) on Tuesday afternoon. It was a gorgeous, sunny mid-70s summer day, and my first stop was to say hello to my colleagues from last summer at the MMW campus. Some knew I was coming, others were surprised to see me. It was interesting to be on campus, watching the churning chaos of workshop operations, and to not be a part of it. A spectator. A tourist.

My demeanor was so much more relaxed than last summer, as my only agenda for this trip consisted of socializing, exercising, eating seafood and sightseeing for the week. When all was said and done, I accomplished 3 out of 4 for the week, which ain’t too shabby (sightseeing never materialized).

Swaying with the kelp.
Swaying with the kelp.

I spent an afternoon at Seal Harbor and Birch Point Beach, as well as a day in lovely Belfast. I swam laps at the familiar Penobscot Bay YMCA, and jogged out past the dairy farm by Lily Pond. I sat on the dock in Rockport harbor and dangled my feet in the water.

Wandering, in solitude, the same places as I had a year earlier stirred in me many memories, faded with time yet intermittently vivid. Fleeting vignettes. Flickering, sputtering flames. Shadows on a sagging clapboard wall. Voices singing faintly in the night wind. Revelations, revisited.

The summer rains are coming, and I am ready to dance.

Where the sands they blow and shift
Borne away now on the drift
Maybe I can free myself
Dancing with the swaying kelp
Maybe I’ll redeem myself
Swirling with the swaying kelp

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50 thoughts on “Silvery edges: Maine

  1. Karen June 25, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    I enjoyed your post. You are so right about Maine…it is a tranquil spot to visit.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 25, 2013 / 9:26 pm

      Thanks, Karen! Maine is quite nice indeed, especially after a visit to the bustling cities to the south. I’m sure I’ll be back again someday. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

      • Karen June 25, 2013 / 11:29 pm

        Your excellent writing will have me returning.

        Like

  2. rami ungar the writer June 27, 2013 / 5:48 pm

    I knew there was a reason Stephen King liked Maine so much and keeps writing from and about there. Look at your photos!

    Like

    • rameyontheroad September 12, 2013 / 8:13 pm

      Yes, there is definitely an eerie quality to much of Maine. Unsettling, even.

      Like

  3. Gratitudenist June 27, 2013 / 6:04 pm

    I love Maine as well and spent several summers at camp there. Now my kids do the same. There is something special about Maine in the summer. Excellent post. I look forward to reading more!

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 27, 2013 / 10:13 pm

      Maine is somewhere between the past and present, I think, steeped in a mixture of Americana and the pioneering spirit of the hardy northern folk who have lived there for centuries. Summertime there is the sigh of relief after a long, hard winter. It is the opening of windows and the release of pent-up energy. It is a slowing down and speeding up, a rush of leisure to capitalize on the brief, glorious sunshine. So glad you have had the chance to enjoy it as well! Thanks for your kind words.

      Like

      • Gratitudenist July 1, 2013 / 1:28 pm

        What a beautiful description of Maine summers!

        Like

  4. Jnana Hodson June 27, 2013 / 6:32 pm

    Like you, I’ve known both the Pacific Northwest (the desert and Cascades, in particular) and northern New England. The primary difference is a matter of scale: vast and spectacular for the Far West, and far more detailed and small-scale on this end.
    Even though Mount Washington and Katahdin may seem like foothill preludes to Rainier and its ilk, they claim their share of fatalities each year — maybe in equal numbers.
    Don’t be fooled by the ocean, either: it can turn brutal in a flash, especially in winter. Or in summer, return to all smiles within a few minutes of blinding downpours and hail. I don’t know which is worse, the Chinook winds’ storm or a nor’easter.
    The swampy woodlands can also be deceptive, even before you get to the long winters “north of the notches.”
    And the eastern timber rattlesnake has a much longer striking range and deadlier bite than its western relatives, or so I’ve been told.
    Still, the elk are more graceful and admirable than our clunky moose.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 27, 2013 / 10:08 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts! I am certain the landscapes of Maine, though lacking the grand scale of my native Western lands, contain their own physical power. I certainly would be hesitant to be up north during the harsh and lengthy winters, or for an Atlantic hurricane. I grew up in Oregon (the Cascades hold a special place in my heart, for sure) and have a healthy respect for all natural forces, no matter how tame they might appear at first glance. I too have seen even the most tranquil scenes turn deadly.

      I think Maine also holds an Anglo-American history that tempers its sense of “wildness” for me (but simultaneously enhances its cultural significance and human historical interest). White settlers have been living there for much longer than the expansive West, and the land just feels more trodden, even in the remotest reaches. I felt the same when I lived in Europe, due to millennia of development and environmental alterations. Though the Alps were grand and certainly powerful, they just didn’t feel as wild as the American West or the South American wildernesses I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. Perhaps this feeling isn’t rooted in reality so much as my own biases and perspective. Food for thought!

      Like

      • thenakedtruth2 June 27, 2013 / 11:04 pm

        -ramey

        Pardon my intrusion on your post; but just a kudos for a well descripted image of ‘Alaska of the east,’ in a way. The great frontier that you aptly said ‘tempers it’s sense of wildness….’

        Very nice description. I’ve considered the purchase of land in Maine, funny thing, never been there.

        Like

      • Jnana Hodson June 28, 2013 / 12:36 pm

        You’re right about the Anglo layering. What I sensed immediately in Yakima was the Native American vibrations in the land itself. And then I discovered how much the mythology describes that landscape and its creatures, in addition to geological upheavals that happened within the time of human habitation … volcanoes, glacial damming of the Columbia, and so on. I haven’t been able to find anything comparable in the East Coast ethnology.
        And I’ll have to trust you on the South American experience.
        The important message we share is the need to respect our wilderness and to celebrate its many, many faces.

        Like

  5. Grace @ Cultural Life June 27, 2013 / 8:26 pm

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with us and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I have never been to Maine but for some reason, I feel a pull towards it. I hope to live there at some point. It looks like a wonderful place.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 27, 2013 / 10:09 pm

      Maine is a lovely place, and worth a visit for sure. I hope you make it up there someday! Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

      Like

  6. broadsideblog June 28, 2013 / 12:59 am

    I love Maine — and enjoyed your photos. Of all the New England states, it feels the most untouched by time, to me.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 29, 2013 / 5:35 am

      I agree – there is a feeling of stepping back in time when I go there. Thank you for stopping by to read!

      Like

  7. Kathleen June 28, 2013 / 1:56 am

    Beautiful writing. I have never been to Maine, but you made me want to visit even more!

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 29, 2013 / 6:28 pm

      I hope you get a chance to go – it is worth the trip! Thanks for reading.

      Like

  8. studiolightblue June 28, 2013 / 3:37 am

    I think we may have been separated at birth! (though I’d be the jealous one finding out you spent 3 months at The Workshops (i.e. Maine Media). I have only been fortunate enough for two weeks at a time – each and every one even more wonderful than the last. So many memories! Thanks for sharing your post…made my night! Your photographs are beautiful!
    p.s. I found ‘Roswell’ at Elmer’s Barn! (my post of 8.29.11).

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 29, 2013 / 6:29 pm

      Always nice to hear from happy MMW students. Everyone there works really hard to make it a good experience for workshoppers. Enjoy your next visit up there, and thanks for taking the time to stop by here. 🙂

      Like

  9. moodsnmoments June 28, 2013 / 6:17 am

    beautiful – both your account and the photographs. wishes for being freshly pressed and many thanks for sharing.

    Like

  10. LaVagabonde June 28, 2013 / 9:59 am

    Beautiful post and haunting photos. I’ve always been fascinated by Maine, but I haven’t yet made it there.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad June 29, 2013 / 7:52 pm

      Thanks so much! Looks like you get around quite a bit – I’m sure you’ll make it to Maine someday. I’m continually impressed by what the States as to offer in terms of domestic travel experience.

      Like

  11. leahgraceobrien June 28, 2013 / 2:50 pm

    Beautiful photographs of Maine! I live here and never grow tired of the enchanted lakes and forests.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:55 pm

      Thanks for the kind words… Maine certainly lends itself to easy photos.

      Like

      • leahgraceobrien July 24, 2013 / 2:16 pm

        Definitely. It is a wonderful place to photograph!

        Like

      • paulettemotzko July 29, 2013 / 3:57 pm

        You are so welcome Ramey. I look forward to reading & seeing more of your adventures on Ramey On The Road.

        Paulette Le Pore Motzko

        Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:56 pm

      I hope you find time to return for a longer trip someday! Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  12. ckelp June 29, 2013 / 6:10 pm

    Kelp enjoys this. Well done.

    Like

  13. ripe red berries June 29, 2013 / 8:26 pm

    You are so right about Maine – I live here year round…and while it’s not an easy place to live, it is certainly tranquil and beautiful – the salt of the earth kind of place…beautiful photos!

    Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:56 pm

      Thanks! Salt of the earth indeed, both in landscape and in human interest. Fascinating and haunting.

      Like

  14. tbeckerphotos July 1, 2013 / 7:38 am

    I spent 5 days in Acadia National Park last summer for a photography workshop. I loved Maine! Can’t wait until I can return.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:57 pm

      Acadia is lovely. I made it up there a couple times last summer while working at the Workshops. Just look out for ticks! 😉

      Like

  15. nstecker July 2, 2013 / 1:45 pm

    I’ve always loved Maine. Thank you for sharing your observations and perceptions. Wonderful writing.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:58 pm

      Thanks for your feedback! I enjoy Maine and I love writing. Just wish I had more time for both. 😉

      Like

  16. Todd Pate July 16, 2013 / 5:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I love Maine, its ghostly beauty, and thick stillness…

    Like

    • rameyontheroad July 23, 2013 / 6:59 pm

      It is ghostly, isn’t it? I always feel like Maine is just a tad creepy, even in all its beauty. Like the shadows of the past still haunt the woods, and those lost at sea still wander its shores.

      Like

      • Todd Pate July 23, 2013 / 8:25 pm

        You nailed it. But doesn’t it draw you in, especially during the Fall? Makes you want to be a little creeped out.

        Like

  17. michellecrosssmith July 27, 2013 / 12:47 am

    Great post! I’m a Maine native, Appleton-way, and went to high school in Camden. I live outside of Philly now, and still feel the pain of being far from a place so…itself. When I went to Washington State, it reminded me of Maine but on a bigger, wilder scale. I appreciate your description of the place. I’m 10 years removed from living there, but still spent 70% of my life in the Midcoast. You captured it nicely!

    Like

    • rameyontheroad September 11, 2013 / 7:29 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words! It’s nice to hear from a native that my impressions are not misguided. 😉

      Like

  18. allintheksss August 20, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    Aaaahhhh! The coast of Maine, especially the Midcoast- where the mountains meet the sea! It has been a few years since I lived there, so thank you for reminding me why I loved it there so much.

    Like

    • rameyontheroad September 11, 2013 / 7:28 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! It is a unique place, and I’m sure it will always hold a spot in my memory and in my spirit. Sounds like it will for you as well.

      Like

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