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

Saturday, July 9, 2011


We spent Friday afternoon on Deer Isle, the large island that marks the southern end of Penobscot Bay on the east side. It's only 20 or 25 miles from Owls Head as the crow flies, but given the way Maine's coast is drowned, the trip all the way up the bay, then down again is nearly 100 miles by land. Deer Isle definitely feels that far away. On the continuum of acculturation, yuppiness, gentrification, whatever you want to call this trend marching inexorably northeast up the coast of Maine, Deer Isle seems to maintain a envied position between the rapidly changing midcoast and the still-poor, still-wild, still-natural coast downeast.

It has its cultural, city tendencies. The Stonington Opera House is now a vibrant place of theater, music, dance. Stonington itself has lost much of the grit that we remembered. Haystack, the well-known arts and crafts school, is thriving. Galleries abound. The waterfront is tamed, mostly.

And it is gorgeous. Coves and inlets and harbors and islands spring willy-nilly into view. Woods are deep. Our tour courtesy of friend Kathie showed a remarkable blend of old and new, fishing and tourism, quarrying and painting. She herself is a perfect blend, from away, but living on Deer Isle for 3o years. I'm sure there is more strife than she lets on (her decade-long effort to overcome local biases and build one elementary school for the island's two villages, Stonington and Deer Isle, is an obvious example), but the evidence of one peaceful afternoon is pretty compelling.

For Cindy and me, it was also a trip into the past. Our very first vacation as a couple was to Goose Cove Lodge on Deer Isle, and it was the beginning of an love affair, for the state and for each other, now nearly 30 years old.

Kathie took us there to see what had happened to the place. It was in trouble for a while, she said, even closed briefly, but has been resurrected, and perhaps subsidized, by a very rich man with local connections, for whom a shrine of a table in the restaurant, complete with full table settings for six and fresh flowers, occupying the best view of the water, is always set in case he arrives without warning. This is a far cry from the plain, family-style dinners we remembered (corned beef, anyone?), but the cabins looked largely the same, and the view of the ocean was as tremendous as it was when it inspired two youngish Bostonians to come north. I've been infected with Maine since the age of 12, but there's nothing like the love of a good woman and a beautiful shore to make my plight one for the book of classic case studies.

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