Although I’m in Maine on a two-week working spree, I’m not far from the coast. I’ve taken advantage of a little spare time over the past few days to return to the ocean. After the stress of several shifts in the emergency department, the salty sea is therapeutic. I’ve ambled across the broad beaches at low tide. I’ve climbed along the cliffs of York Harbor. I’ve stood with gaze transfixed upon the gorgeous lighthouses along the coast. And, finally, I’ve delved into delicious dinners of Maine lobster.
On the plane ride from Atlanta to Portland, Maine, I sat next to a semi-retired dentist doing locums work, who also happens to be from this area. He suggested three seafood restaurants to try in the Saco/Biddeford vicinity. Success on two out of three is not bad. Mabel’s in Kennebunkport was fantastic, Huot’s in Saco was great, but Bufflehead’s in Biddeford was disappointing. I might have known this when I asked my waitress for recommendations. She said she doesn’t eat seafood. Shouldn’t eating seafood be a requirement for working in a seafood restaurant? She then kindly suggested a dish which is frequently ordered, crab-stuffed haddock. Very disappointing result.
I took a short road trip down to York and then up to Portland to see lighthouses. Sadly, since lights are almost all automated these days, stately lighthouses like the one’s at Cape Neddick and Portland Head will likely not be built any more. First, was the picturesque Nubble Light.
The Cape Elizabeth Light served as the inspiration for Edward Hopper’s “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” (which is in the Met).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow often walked from town in Portland to visit the Portland Head Light. It is said to be his inspiration for the poem, “The Lighthouse.”
The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
And on its outer point, some miles away,
The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.
Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard, along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
In the white lip and tremor of the face.
And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
With strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!
Not one alone; from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.
Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night-o’ertaken mariner to save.
And the great ships sail outward and return,
Bending and bowing o’er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
They wave their silent welcomes and farewells.
They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child,
On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink;
And when, returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o’er ocean’s brink.
Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace;
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove,
It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
But hails the mariner with words of love.
“Sail on!” it says, “sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man!”
“Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!”
– William Whiting, 1861
A serendipitous discovery was the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, which I happened upon while driving up the coast from York. The highlight was a private exhibition by Jamie Wyeth, the son of the very famous American painter, Andrew Wyeth.
On Saturday, Cindy and I will reunite at JFK in New York City to fly the 2000+ miles southward to Grenada, just in time for Carnival!