Book Review for Beyond the Spring by Chandler Richmond
There’s something to be said about those of us that have lived in Maine. It could be the cold and the fact that country folk just have to be stronger to endure more. “Beyond the Spring” by Chandler Richmond shows the strength and mettle of one such woman with her roots in Ellsworth, Maine, before it became the city that it is today. Cordelia Johnson Stanwood of Birdsacre was the daughter of a sea captain who settled in the tough Maine landscape, even harder in the 1800’s.
She was sent to school in Massachusetts at the age of 14 and lived with her aunt and uncle in a privileged setting. Hard work and that strong Maine spirit turned her into a remarkable teacher, but eventually pushing herself to the limit caused her to experience a nervous breakdown. She returned to her roots in Ellsworth at the age of 39 to again live with her parents. Once her only brother married and her parents passed on, the was the only family member living at the top of Beckwith Hill.
As a teacher, she knew that something was missing, though she enjoy teaching children immensely. Once she returned to Ellsworth, old feelings were rekindled with nature, and she realized that was how she was happiest.
She worked for nearly 50 years as Maine’s pioneer ornithologist and later photographer of nature. She survived through crafting baskets, and as a writer for a number of magazine articles, barely enough to live on. She may have grown up privileged, but once she returned home, she trudged through the woods no matter what the weather to study her birds on her 40-acre property, complete with natural spring, which is the spring included in the title of this book.
She refused to use the well water beside the house, which had no running water, instead getting this wonderful water from the spring, where she made a daily trek and observed the birds getting their water, too.
It became more and more infectious, where she was studying where the birds nested, how they gathered nesting materials, and how they lived their lives, both with and without young ones. One of the first important birders that recognized the value of her work was Frank Chapman, the author of Birds of Eastern North America. She became such an authority over the decades with drawings, photos, and field notes, she became an important naturalist that shared information with people and birding organizations all over the world. Three years after her death, she was recognized by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and her portrait is in the Deane collection of the Library of Congress.
- Birdsacre - Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary
Birdsacre is a nature center and wildlife refuge located in Ellsworth, Maine and is dedicated to the memory of orthinologist Cordelia Stanwood.
Mr. Chandler Richmond wrote this book, as he believed in the value of her work. Many of her photographic plates were recovered by William Townsend, who was my biology teacher, and were returned to the house in Ellsworth. The Lady of Birdsacre made such an impact with the work in her later years, her home was placed on the historical register of Ellsworth, Maine. Thanks to Chandler Richmond and many others from Ellsworth, the house was restored to its original state, as Ms. Stanwood could not afford to keep it up on mere pittance.
The home was opened to the public on Cordelia Stanwood’s birthday, August 1 in 1960. It has a wonderful museum and tribute to her work, which much of it is housed under glass, as well as a beautiful gift shop. Every year on Cordie’s birthday, the house is opened to the public for a wonderful tour. Chandler Richmond is no longer the curator of this wonderful place, that duty has been taken over by his son, Stanley.
Birdsacre also has a lovely sanctuary for birds that cannot be released back to nature, and they also care for injured and sick birds.
How do I know so much about Birdsacre? I attended Cordelia’s posthumous birthday bash in 2005, and lived not far from there where I grew up in Steuben, ME. I never met her, as she passed the year after I was born in 1958, but I do understand her motives and work with the bird world. I have walked the trails, visited the house, and felt her presence, as so many others that visit that are so deeply connected with nature.
This book gets a thumbs up, no, TWO thumbs up, and it is definitely a must read for those people that love birds and nature. Not only is it a tribute to Cordelia Stanwood, it is a tribute for all naturalists that share with others. Bravo, Mr. Richmond, your painstaking work was not in vain, for it means so much to those of us that follow in Cordie’s footsteps years later.