Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: Acadia

Throughout the winter in Maine, for the five months of the year starting on October 7 and lasting to March 6, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the first place in the United States to receive the morning sun’s light. It is a place of worship: the pink granite of the mountain rises 1,500 feet directly out of the sea, the luscious Cranberry Isles lie just offshore to the south, the blue of the sky intensifies the blue of the ocean, the sunshine streams from the east across the Schoodic Peninsula and Frenchman Bay. By October the summertime crowds are gone. The air seems extra pure, hinting at the crystalline winter to come. The commercial development of Bar Harbor just below, where others worship, is temporarily irrelevant.
But even in the height of August, in the middle of the day, the hundreds of people crowding Cadillac’s crown are quiet as if in church, receiving a gift from Abraham’s God or the gods of Thoreau. Perhaps for a few moments the light and the air cleanse them of care. Perhaps it lasts longer than the drive back down to their motels, than the drive back home. I’d like to think that feeling could last for the rest of their days.
I read a blog post once that described a morning on Cadillac shortly after 9/11.  The author said the mood among the tourists was somber until a few college women starting singing “America the Beautiful.” As the song lifted to the heavens, many of the people around them broke down in both tears and joy.

Even second-hand, the account was thrilling. It wasn’t just the conflux of emotions, the anger and senselessness and soul-piercing beauty. For me Acadia is always a restorative place, and even the thought of it heals wounds all year long.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer

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