The first day of September already felt like fall. The sky was pure blue, and the breeze was blowing off the ocean.
Our friends Steve Walker and Jackie Sartoris invited us for a boat ride. Jackie’s kids and my kids are buddies too. What could be better than cruising past seals to celebrate the last day before school? Jackie’s poodle worked on her sea paws.
We left from the brand new boat launch in Brunswick just 4 miles from my house. Jackie and Steve had worked together to pass this public boat launch despite some local protest. So much of the coast in Maine is privately owned. Despite concerns, the launch was built with great care for the environment down to the eel grass.
Steve now works for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He helps communities and land trusts plan for habitat conservation. I go to him to fact check the wildlife details in my novels. Jackie used to be a Brunswick Town Councilor and is now in law school.
Steve has been boating on the Maine coast for years and knows the tricky tides and coves. We headed into Middle Bay towards the sea. It was the same part of Harpswell in which I’d gone out lobstering to research my novel S.A.D.. Our part of Maine is full of these tiny, uninhabited islands only accessible by boat. We had one of The Goslings Islands all to ourselves (and a few flies!)
Jackie, a fabulous cook, baked mushroom calzones. I brought Smart Puffs, “healthy” junk food. Steve, even smarter, brought the beer. I’d missed these friends while we were in England last year. Even sadder, we’d missed their January wedding. An island excursion was a great way to reconnect.
At low tide the two mini islands connect by sandbar. Our kids crossed over to explore, but I could only bear the cold water for a short swim plus getting from the boat to the beach and back. The water is at its warmest at this time of year.
My son and I bushwhacked to the southern tip of the island for a spectacular view of Casco Bay.
I admired the patterns in the seaweed and tried to figure out how I could return to paint. I felt sorry for my husband, who was meeting student advisees all day. Labor Day is a day to labor at Bowdoin College. We had at least squeezed in a couple of beach days when Henry could join us. Our two favorites are Popham and Reid State Parks on the Atlantic Ocean.
On the last day of August, my family went to Popham Beach just when everyone else was leaving. At this time of year, the sun is low in the sky, making the sea a deep indigo and the rocky islands glow like gold. At low tide you can walk for miles and miles along the soft sand beach.
My son and I must have walked, swam and waded 6 miles round trip along Popham Beach to Morse Mt. Beach then towards Small Point. We passed few people but found a record 35 sand dollars. The light colored ones are dead and okay to collect. The dark ones are still alive. I hope we didn’t kill any by mistake. My son told me that sand dollars are divided into symmetrical fives, like starfish, their cousins. I love that now he’s teaching me about the world.
The wind whisked water off the waves, catching the sun to form rainbows in the surf. The wet sand reflected the puffy clouds. The sky is always cerulean, causing a problem for painters. My art supply store was sold out of that hue watercolor.
I used up the dregs of my cerulean blue in Georgetown where I often paint. My kids love Reid State Park (above and below,) a beach with the biggest waves, but I find the biting greenhead flies annoying. My son calls me “the bug magnet.” I’m tempted to come back and paint at Reid after a cold snap kills the bugs. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Five Islands Lobster Co. is a short drive from Reid State Park. I love the directions on their website: “Keep driving until your hat floats, and then just back up a bit.”
Five Islands sells live or cooked lobsters fresh out of the ocean. They also have delicious grilled haddock sandwiches and non-seafood. The food couldn’t be better.
You sit on picnic benches with an amazing view of five small islands. During the summer, it’s open all week long but only on weekends from Labor Day to Columbus Day.
After a delicious dinner with my family and friends, I had to come back to paint. You can see how different my painting (below) is from the photo (above). I painted from the same picnic table, but my eyes see selectively. Note the changing leaves in the foreground. You can click on an image to see it enlarged.
The camera was best capturing the sunset on the water. It had been a race to finish the painting before the light faded. I had long lost the tide. I enjoyed a perfect lobster roll as a reward. I don’t usually paint in such luxurious conditions, but what a grand finish to a short painting season.
The kids started school Tuesday so I’m back at work on my new novel, A MATCH FOR EVE. I may sneak out and paint a few more days this fall, but it feels so good to be writing again. My fingers switch from brush to keyboard. The landscape glows inside my mind.