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East of Boothbay Harbor, Maine 1
Seguin Island, Maine
East of Boothbay Harbor, Maine I
I know a spot along the coast of Maine, east of Boothbay Harbor, called Ocean Point, once visited by the novelist Thomas Wolfe. It also served as the collecting ground for marine zoologist N.J. Berrill who described it well in his book The Living Tide (1951). For me, Ocean Point was and is a mystical place where bell buoys clang in the distance and where, on foggy days, foghorns can be heard from as far away as Seguin Island (at the head of Casco Bay) with the delightful sound of wee-hump. On clear days, Monhegan and Manana Islands (ten miles off shore) can be seen as well as clipper ships and lobster boats. Always there is the distinct smell of seaweed and salt spray that momentarily frightens away omni-present Herring Gulls.
As a boy I accompanied N.J. Berrill of McGill University to tide pools where we would collect specimens including brittle starfish, sea urchins, sponges, mussels and tiny green crabs trying to scuttle away. Back in his laboratory across Linekin Bay, he would show me the teaming life, viewed from a microscope, in a drop of sea water. He encouraged me to become a marine biologist which I almost did, but chose, instead, the study of literature including the novels of Thomas Wolfe like Look Homeward Angel (1929) partially written in Ocean Point.
I remember the evenings at my aunt's cottage and a crackling driftwood fire burning with red a blue flames from sea salt in a huge beachstone fireplace. After a seafood dinner, my mother would serve fresh-baked blueberry pie for dessert, and my father (who was reference librarian at Princeton) would light his pipe and start reading a book between bights of blueberry pie. I actually looked forward to going to bed so I could hear the surf on the rocks and see the moon and stars, or, if foggy, hear that distant wee-hump from Seguin.
After breakfast and chores, I enjoyed sitting on the front porch in a rocker and listening to white-throated sparrows who sang A-tee-tee-tee from the depths of the surrounding spruce forest. Somehow I associated Ocean Point with Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond. It was a ferny, misty place for contemplation and, yes, even writing (something I began doing seriously at age 13). Sixty some years later, I sit in my backyard in far away Denver, Colorado, but I can still sense the strong presence of Ocean Point deep within my inner being.
The Boothbay Harbor region is only three hours by car northeast of Boston. This region is a bit north of Sarah Orne Jewett's Maine classic, Country of Pointed Firs.
© 2010 Richard Francis Fleck