Sometimes, enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous weather that we are visitng upon ourselves becomes absolutely too much for me. I turn to trips of other times, other climes, seeking surcease.
Years ago my family summered in a cottage at Spruce Point Resort, on Boothbay Harbor in Maine. This past autumn, my dear cousins, Margy, Sally, my sister Marilyn and I toured the grounds of this place of splendid memory.
It is still ‘spruce’, in the archaic sense, otherwise known as ship-shape in that literal neck of the woods. The setting remains sublime.
We could find ‘our cottage’, and remember waking to woodsmoke on brisk July mornings, before dressing and walking over to the Main House for gratifying breakfast at our table with our waitress. I could still find the beach where I read Rachel Carson’s “A Sense of Wonder” to my sister’s son, borrowed by my husband and me because our girls were in Maine camp that summer. There, Carl and I found every shell and creature Rachel describes, as she took her nephew tidepooling a few miles away.
I could send some of these pictures to Carl, and he could resonate and remember. His favorite off-Spruce activity, beyond fishing and piloting the Boston Whaler though only a lad, was to visit the Old Salt in downtown (so to speak) Boothbay Harbor.
My cousins and sister and I didn’t find the Old Salt, needless to say. That’s why Werner and I had bought Carl a woodcarving, in his childhood, that greatly resembled that grand old man. Because we somehow knew those encounters were a one-time blessing. But, –as you can see from the sign –, last September, we all found the same warm welcome that was always ours, even on the first visit. That sense that we were old friends, cherished, whose return absolutely delighted the Staff.
We strolled the public rooms where the girls and I had worked puzzles, where we took down venerable books of the region, read by many others before us, on rainy Maine days. This was the room where Carl and I peered as though we knew what we were doing, through gleaming brass telescopes, scanning the sea.
The funniest day with the girls had been when we finally gathered all our gear, boarded the Boston Whaler, and Werner (double landlubber – partly because he was Swiss) acted as Captain. Our shiny new fishing poles were at hand. We felt bulky and even buxom in our too bright new L.L. Bean life-vests. We didn’t have bait – we used ‘spoons’, which are what Maine mackerel require. We finally were able to use the casting we’d endlessly practiced (in futility) in our Princeton Pool. Mackerel were a joy to catch, feisty and lively and beautiful, catching the light as they danced on our lines. But Catherine had a pronouncement to make: “Everybody quit fishing! We’re killing them!”
Werner saw the entire trip, which included stopping at waterside places en route to practice our casting, the rental and negotiation of the Boston Whaler, everything in effect going up in smoke.
Without a pause, he countered, “No, Cath. We’re feeding the gulls.” And he threw his newest catch into the beak of the hovering one overhead. At lunch we did eat mackerel we had caught, prepared by the Spruce Point chef.
My cousins, my sister and I didn’t eat at Spruce Point, but it felt the same in those sunny seaside rooms, as when the girls and I in our long skirts, and Werner in his very non-doctor summer sports coats would stroll over to lunch and to supper. I could still see my father, luxuriating in his favorite part of the Spruce Point week – the Sundae Bar, of all sorts of ice creams and all sorts of toppings. I think he tried them all.
My cousins, my sister and I found the boat dock where our family had boarded sunset cruises and boat-jaunts to other islands and bays. We reminisced about taking Carl and his grandparents, my parents, over to Bath for a ship launching. Where we’d foolishly embarked during an eclipse of the sun, to go sort-of deep sea fishing. When sixty-pound Carl caught a sixty-pound cod, we realized our folly. It may have delighted the Captain to have that huge fish on board, but ir hadsurely depleted my beloved nephew to have done so. Eclipses do weird things to waves — ‘chop’ doesn’t begin to describe that Bay that day.
They say you can’t go home again. Well, this wasn’t home. But Spruce retains the family welcome after long absence, for which we once drove ‘over the river and through the woods’ to relatives in Ohio and Michigan.
I was afraid I would be too sad to walk Spruce lanes and rooms. But only joy was there for me. It matters a great deal to Marilyn, Carl and to me, that Spruce Point remains impeccable, beautiful, and so welcoming.