Harpswell is a collection of islands and a long peninsula, dipping like long fingers into the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve heard it said that Maine has more miles of coastline than California. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure feels right.
Bailey Island boasts of having “the world’s only cribstone bridge.” That’s most probably true as I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. Slabs of granite, erected like Lincoln Logs, form an open lattice to the sea. You can see right through the bridge as the tide washes in and out. The larger opening is for lobster boats to drop their catch at Cook’s Lobster House. Beware of delays if you’re driving as the bridge is being repaired.
The Island Romance ferry from Portland brings tourists to Cook’s for lunch, but it approaches from the sea as do the many sailboats anchored in the harbor. Portland with 65,000 residents is the biggest city in Maine. Bailey Island has only 400 year round residents.
Usually we only go to Cook’s when people “from away” visit, but my kids felt like they’d been away long enough in England to merit lunch. We always start with the delicious fried calamari. The local mussels and steamers (clams) are delicious too. My son had the deep fried local shrimp in a bun and was upset to find it came with no greens (welcome to the USA.) My daughter orders non-seafood off the kids’ menu. If it’s lunch, I get a lobster roll and fresh coleslaw.
For dinner you’d have to get boiled lobsters. They do them well. My kids are huge fans of the mud pie parfait served in an old-fashioned ice cream sundae glass with a long spoon: coffee ice cream, fudge sauce, oreo crumbs with whipped cream and a cherry on top. The view out of the many windows is amazing.
I set a couple of scenes from my novel Moose Crossing on Bailey Island, including one at Cook’s. A central character in my novel S.A.D. is a lobsterman living on an island in Harpswell.
After lunch we headed to Cedar Beach, where the sea is thick with lobster buoys. It’s a small private beach with very limited on street parking. You have to walk 1/4 mile through buggy woods, meaning fewer crowds. Not a good beach to go at high tide as there would be little sand, but at low tide you can walk to a mini island and explore. My kids enjoy catching the many hermit crabs, wading through seaweed and climbing over the rocks. This is not a beach for the tender-footed.
I painted the watercolor on my bio page one fall at Cedar Beach, and the lobster boat harbor photo is on Bailey Island too. There are more Bailey Island paintings on my watercolor page. In the summer my wardrobe is a bathing suit and a smock. I swim first to cool down. I can paint the view while sort of keeping an eye on the kids.
It was take the kids to work day! Now that sounds ideal, but I’ve only just been able to manage it. My children are 11 and 14 and good swimmers. They are also good photographers. My son took the photo of me painting from behind, and my daughter took the front shot. My daughter wrote a story in her journal beside me while her brother dug a pit. They are usually good at not interrupting my concentration, but I prefer working on my own for longer hours.
Even at a remote location, I’ll run into people I know. It’s just as well that I was covered up for the sun as my doctor was there with her kids too. Remember how people used to compare tans? These days the competition is over the strongest sunscreen. I won with 45 zinc oxide over my doctor’s SPF 30 lotion. We tease each other because we are friends too. Lines blur in small towns.
Unfortunately, my first attempt at watercolor painting in a year also became a blur. I was rusty and without my favorite tools. Would you believe the only thing I lost in the move back from England were my paintbrushes? I have spares of my two favorites but will be buying more at Artist & Craftsman Supply in Portland today. I might also have to head back to Sapporo for a tuna sashimi lunch.
I’ve only painted 2 days because of all the rain, but at least on the second day I produced a good painting. We were lucky that day. Can you see the rain clouds passing out to sea?
In the afternoon the light improves, allowing me to intensify the colors and to find the shadows. The problem is that the tide changes too. Working on larger seascapes, I sometimes come back over several days to catch the tide and light. Bugs can be a distraction, as can people who stop to chat. I get in a meditative trance while working.
It’s never easy painting on location, but it does lend greater vitality than working from a photo. What I see with my eye is very different from what the camera lens captures. What I choose to paint versus photograph is quite different too. A photo is an instant. A painting is a vision unique to me. I often change the elements for the composition and let the wet pigment flow on its own. I love both media.
The biggest problem is I’m so absorbed in my work that I can’t engage the kids. It’s still more fun for them to go to the beach while I paint than to stay home while I write. I also need longer blocks of uninterrupted time to compose a novel, which I find while the kids are in school or at camp.
It’s nice having two careers that mesh well with the seasons and raising children. I work half days over the summer so that I can still focus on the kids. We all need some down time to enjoy the glorious Maine summer.
The blog keeps my writing free from rust. Also, in some ways, I am working on my next novel. The central character of my work in progress is a painter too. It will be interesting to combine my two passions of writing and art in one book. As much as I love painting, I’m counting the weeks until I can get back to novel writing. The summer is going by so fast.