The Maine Event
Then, yesterday, it began to change. Here and there the sun broke through, and although the sky was generally leaden, the ocean was tame. The weather news said the storm, a remnant of the great rain which came from the west, was moving out and in a few days it would be the kind of Maine that brings people up from the hot cities. This little place is one of the more popular getaways on this stretch of the Atlantic Coast, long famous for its jagged inlets and coves, dangerous for the seaman, inspiring to the poet on land. It makes one conscious of the uncaused cause, which philosophers call God.
We tend to forget where things are, if we ever knew in the first place. Florida’s peninsula juts out from the rest of the south, but Maine juts out even farther, which is why one awakens to light, thinking it's about 6:30, when in fact it’s closer to 5 a.m. And being about as far north as one can go short of Canada, it tends toward cool, especially along the coast, when the rest of the land is in an oven. The messy weather of the last two days is normal to the natives. But that weather is leaving. We can see streaks of blue in the sky this morning, threatening to break through as the day goes on. Thus Ogunquit.
We are staying in a big old place on Perkins Cove, which is a cooperative between nature and man. The entrance to the cove is pure nature – juts of massive rock, formidable jabbing fists dark at the base where the tide has dropped. Down a few hundred yards the natural rock gives way to mounds of smaller pieces placed by man, here and there a stretch of vertical concrete as if for a bridge. It was put there not so many years ago when man decided this cove had the makings of a resort within a resort. Most of the houses rising above the cove are new, at least compared to the pictures you see in the local restaurants, showing what the place looked like 70 years ago. There you see a rough looking inlet, with little of residences to be seen, one of those spots still common in Maine where the outgoing tide leaves boats stranded on mud, only to be raised twice a day by the incoming tide. The old lobster men had to time their departures and arrivals to assure water. It was this way once, for two small streams (here they flatter them as rivers) came down from high ground with not enough water to prevent a tidal barren much of the day.
That changed at Perkins Cove in the 1940s when the inlet was dredged to permit 24-hour ingress and egress, and in the process building a picturesque little harbor which today is crammed with boats, most of them small working craft, a few with masts denoting pleasure vessels. And that harbor brought development on all sides, beautiful homes sitting above the water, artfully situated on the great rocks, below them and across the small inlet a shopping district with narrow lanes and a collection of stores and restaurants. Last night we had dinner at MC Perkins Cove, a James Beard-recognized restaurant. We never heard of Ogunquit before this trip, but that is not unusual. Old friends who live just an hour away in Massachusetts have never been here. But this is a big country. How many people living in Florida for years have never been to Cedar Key?
Ogunquit might be more famous except for its proximity to a place that politics promoted. Kennebunkport is only a half hour up the coast – a sea bird could make it in minutes – and it's mandatory for visitors to check out the home of the former president, which of course the ladies insisted we do. It is hard to miss. You can smell the secret service. We are happy to report the Bushes are not starving.
This is, of course, a seasonal pleasure. The season is shorter by half than a Florida winter. Some stores in Kennebunkport were not yet open, undergoing remodeling for a new marketing concept to replace a venture which did not survive the recession. We asked a young man how many of these quaint stores stayed open year round.
“They almost all leave,” he said. “I stay open because I do a Christmas business.”
“Where do they go?” he was asked.
“Most go to Florida. A lot of them go to Fort Lauderdale.”