Peaceable Man Files Issue #17: The Rocks of Maine: A Visit to Pemaquid Point
Random musings on my gypsy existence at my cabin in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.
What is it about the ocean that draws millions of people to coastal shore points every year for summer vacations and getaways?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering these past few days as I picked my way along the rocky shores of Pemaquid Point in mid-coastal Maine.
It’s my first visit to the state, and while I’d heard about the rugged beauty of Maine’s coastlines, I wasn’t expecting just how different these beaches are from what I’m accustomed to in New Jersey and Delaware. You can’t even really call them beaches. There’s no sand to dig your feet into. No place to stake an umbrella and sit watching the kids build sandcastles. No boardwalks, no crowds, no lines of people rushing to claim their beach spots early in the morning while pulling a cartful of chairs and coolers.
This is a different kind of shore experience, one that draws a different kind of shore goer. You come here if you like to sit on the porch and feel the sea breeze in your face while waving to neighbors. You come here if you like getting up early to catch the sunrise at the Lighthouse Park. You come here if you like to walk quaint little harbor towns that are always a short drive away, and stopping at the seafood co-op at Shaw’s Pier to pick up freshly caught lobsters and mussels for dinner.
And the rocks, those gorgeous Maine rocks. Varying in color from bright coral white to grayish-green and black. Deep-veined molten, igneous, and sedimentary rocks lined with quartz and feldspar, their surfaces pitted by thousands of years of wind and rain.
You have to love rocks to love Maine. The famous painter and illustrator Alan Magee, who is a cousin of mine (on my paternal grandmother’s side), loved these Maine rocks so much that he moved here in the 1970s and made a career painting rocks in his inimitable ultra-realistic style.
Rocks are as much a part of the essence of Maine as lighthouses, lobsters, and art galleries. The rocks here are at once beautiful and dangerous. Danger and beauty are interwoven here in Maine. Lighthouses and sea-bells warn passing boats of danger. Buoys warn of hidden rocks below. Historical markers tell of past shipwrecks. Signs remind visitors of the dangers of wandering the moss-covered rocks, that the tides change quickly and people have been swept away in the past.
Yes, it’s a much different shore experience than those long, lazy days of sitting on a manicured white beach reading a page-turner while slathering on the sunblock. Don't get me wrong: I love the New Jersey beaches. But there’s something frenetic about a vacation “down the shore” in New Jersey or Delaware.
The pace of coastal life here in Maine is slower, more meditative, less commercial.
I love it. It soothes my soul.
But whether we’re vacationing in Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, the Outer Banks, Florida, or the sunny shores of California, the common denominator of a shore experience is the ocean. The ocean calls to us, and we listen. How can we not? We came from the ocean, after all. All species of land life, human and otherwise, once crawled out of the primordial ooze to take tentative steps on land.
Every time we take a trip to the beach, we are going home to our mother. Her rhythms are our rhythms, and vice versa. The great lungs of the ocean breathe and out—inhale, exhale—unto eternity, and we breathe with her. We breathe the air she cleanses. We eat the food she gives us.
Human beings have a deep-rooted connection to the sea, even if at some level we’re a little afraid of it—afraid of its depths and dangers, its jagged rocks and sea creatures, the Great White sharks that prowl its waters.
Tomorrow I head back home to Pennsylvania. Later this week, I’ll be back up at the cabin in the Endless Mountains to mow the lawn and prepare for fall, my favorite season of the year.
When will I be back to Maine? I’m not sure, but I know one thing: I can’t wait to get back here. I’m hooked on this place.
Wherever you are this last official week of summer, I hope you’re enjoying yourself.
Have a blessed, peaceful week.