We are definitely off our beaten path this month. Along the edges of Penobscot Bay, east of the larger business cities of Bangor and Augusta, and west of heavily visited Bar Harbor, we are ensconced in the island and village of Deer Isle. We were fortunate to find the Atwell House (first floor), newly placed on the summer rentals list by an obliging landlady who installed high-speed Internet so that we can continue our genealogy work while enjoying the sea breeze and admiring the beautiful water just outside our window.
There seem to be two kinds of people here. Our grocery store The year-rounders patch together a living out of the riches of the sea and serving the needs and wishes of the summer people, who just enjoy life. We're still forming impressions, and hope to put together a more comprehensive essay by the time we leave.
Here are small towns spaced five to twenty miles apart, each with a gas station, ice cream store, auto mechanic, small supermarket, a couple of restaurants, several home-based art galleries, and lots of unpretentious, generally older summer homes. Piles of lobster traps and the roar of truck engines at four a.m. Downtown Deer Isle Village testify to one industry, although nearby Crotch Island still has a large granite quarry, and all the local parks are gifted with unoccupied polished granite benches. In addition, there are hillsides covered with wild blueberry bushes.
The few roads are well-traveled as the summer folk come into the towns to chat and shop. Even though we have no house to fill with art works, the painting and sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry here are all first-class. For example, two doors down from our house in tiny Deer Isle is the jewelry gallery of Laura Givertz, who does business under the name of fibula. Her principal gallery is located at 2 East De la Guerra Street in Santa Barbara, California, and her small Maine shop features poetry by W. McCaffrey. Eliot Porter liked to take photographs in Maine, and Terrell S. Lester has a photography gallery across the street. The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is for students, not shoppers.
Friday morning in nearby Stonington is the Farmers' Market, which has a couple of dozen stalls set up next to the backs of cars and station wagons. We admired the homemade preserves, baked goods, vegetables (all proudly organic), and undyed wool, and we have bought several pieces of the delicious homemade Waiting for high tide salami and cappacola, stuffed in slender casings, as tasty as we've ever had.
Everywhere the views are beautiful. These islands and peninsulas are full of bays and fingers and reaches and lagoons, with the water and the land fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw. The comfortable repetition of older homes overlooking the water, with clear air and lovely summer colors, along with boats everywhere, is immensely pleasing to our eyes.
The town of Castine, about an hour's drive (though perhaps only 10 miles by water) was noted on Samuel Champlain's map of 1612, and was the site of an early trading post, although full time settlement came later. Castine is now home to the Maine Maritime Academy, founded in 1941, and the Pentagöet Inn, which is advertising a Summer Supper Special consisting of Tomato Stewed Calamari with Housemade Chorizo, Saffron Potatoes and Goat Feta, food we wouldn't have been permitted to eat when we were children (perhaps these dishes didn't even exist then).
Our landlady promised us we wouldn't need to lock the door, and she was right. The library happily extended borrowing privileges, the Post Office handed over the mail without question, and everybody says more than just hello on the street. We have settled right in, and -- of course -- spend the bulk of our time adding to our genealogy files, while we relax in a lovely setting.