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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Friday, July 25, 2008


Maine granite was a big industry for a long time. The feds in DC were a big customer, and cities with streets to be paved, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. These days its customers are kids jumping off sheared quarry walls. One of the fondest memories my children have of Maine is swimming in the quarries of Tenants Harbor, especially the danger of the rope swing and the question: is this the year we dare to swing way out and drop twenty scary feet to the water?

It's one of those quaint things that make Maine special, or is it? Clark Island in Spruce Head holds a former quarry - deserted, peaceful, gone to nature. There are quiet trails, lovely ocean views, those deep blue-green quarries, a generous inn at the edge of the causeway. Imagine it in the 19th century, however: the rough barracks for the workers, the explosions, the steam drilling, the hammering, the pollution. Stone is a difficult, noisy, obstinate thing to handle. Life on Clark must have been a little less than idyllic.

So the paradox. To get to, to enjoy, to preserve the places we love, we have to make a mess of the earth. Mining, logging, fishing, agriculture - you don't want to know. But at the least, let's put things back the way we found them if we can, and when we find a place we love, let's try to understand how it got to be that way.

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