Saturday, Hurricane Lee was 200 miles out to sea. There was scattered sun, and the wind was out of the north. Thousands from inland came to the shore: beach walkers, dogs, surfers, kids. The crowds came just to watch the waves. Saturday, September 15th, was a great day—big waves, 10, 12, 15 feet high, curling, cresting, rolling in. Wind catching the tops of crests, blowing it back. It was a party atmosphere at the shore. I sat on a rock and watched. There were people everywhere.
I love fog. I always have. I love the way the world changes. I love what disappears. I love the simplicity of what remains. This morning, on the way back to the house from picking up my newspaper, the driveway curved and rose up from the street below. Halfway up the driveway, I was almost eye-level with the lawn. I saw the purity of these three objects: the hammock, the love seat, the bird bath…and the white fog beyond. It was beautiful. I videoed 21 seconds of the hammock. The air was still. I could hear bell buoys and a fog horn. There was the soft patter as the fog accumulated on the trees and dripped down the leaves. It was beautiful.
Summer temperatures arrived in early September this year. This is seven in the morning, 800 feet down the coast from Portland Head Light. Much of our summer has had hazy skies due to fires in Canada and out west. The haze has created some interesting atmospherics, muting the sparkly light on the water. Many days feel like the opening to a French foreign film.
In this view, a 100-year-old oak tree stands in the center, with a lacy iron chandelier on the right side. We look forward to clear skies again. In the meantime, it’s interesting to see our land and ocean in new ways.
The Islands of Casco Bay
Coming out of the roofline of the house in front of the lighthouse is a little bit of the rock of Cushing Island. Beyond that is Peaks Island, and beyond that, in a distant mist, is Long Island. Note the white block moving along the shore of Peaks Island. Wait for it. It’s tiny. I’m thinking this is a delivery truck moving a couch or delivering a dining room set to a resident on the island. Peaks Island has a road that runs along the open oceanside of the island.
Sailboat Coming About
Some summers, it feels like the ocean is full of sailboats. Their white sails are all over our blue sea. This summer was different. The skies were often grey. The ocean was grey. It rained so much that I emptied water from my wheelbarrow dozens of times. It was an excellent summer to grow grass.
When I looked out and saw a sailboat, it was a big deal. I studied its progress carefully. On this day, the sun was shining. The boat moved slowly. It caught a bit of wind. It was beautiful. This is 800 feet south of Portland Head Light and 17 minutes from our store.
White Sea Foam
This is 30 feet above the sea at low tide. It was a sunny day. There was a light breeze. We had good waves and great white seafoam at the shore. As we pan left, we come to serious greenery and a small poison ivy bush. Along the shore, always keep your eyes open for poison ivy. This is 800 feet south of Portland Head Light.
Kayakers on the Marsh
Our cottage has been in our family for 79 years. It once housed a boat and thus is called “The Boathouse”. Our cottage fronts a white sand beach and the open Atlantic. Out back, we front a 10-acre saltwater marsh. Twice a day, the ocean sweeps in to float our boats. We have five sitting areas outside. One on a porch, one on a wooden dock, one on a granite dock, one with lounge chairs, and one with a big round table. All sitting areas have big umbrellas.
Every spring, we have projects. This year, it was dock repair and a new lawn. At one point, while i was resting, three kayakers came paddling through our marsh in blue, red, and yellow boats. Work days on the cottage are as good as beach days, maybe even better. The family cottage is 20 minutes from our store in downtown Portland, Maine.
Sometimes I Think I
Might Be Part Owl
I’ve already admitted to this. I love the night. I love a good full moon. I sometimes think I may be part hooty owl. Most nights, I go out on the porch several times to watch the sea and listen to the wind in the trees. Some nights to study the stars and other nights to study the moon.
On August first, it was grand. The sky had scattered clouds and lots of open space. The sea was silver and sparkling. To the south, there was the bright light of a ship on the horizon. To the east, a series of ships with lights across their decks lined up at the horizon. They extended a long way. I’d never seen anything like it.
The tree in the foreground is a white birch.
I took a break at the granite dock from my spring/summer repairs and renovations of our summer cottage. The tide was rising. The 10-acre marsh was lush green, and this seagull had just swallowed a fish whole. I got my camera out to watch the gull paddle upriver. The birds were chirping in the bushes up back. I was surprised at how fast the gull paddled and how high he sat in the water.
Our cottage is 20 minutes south of Portland. It’s been in our family for 79 years. What’s fascinating about the cottage, it was originally built to house a boat; thus, it’s called “The Boathouse”. It sits on a white sand beach, open ocean out front, and a ten-acre salt marsh out back with a tidal river, Angel Creek, that fills with ocean water twice a day. Twenty percent of the property is flooded with seawater twice a day, and has four sitting areas between a wooden dock and a granite dock.
The lobster buoy marks the edge of our saltwater property. It’s an authentic wooden buoy: a half slice of a wooden log with a long wooden handle. The buoy was in the basement of our cottage. The buoy is over 60 years old and has been painted many times. Evidence of colors shows light blue, black and red. When the tide comes in, the buoy shows nicely, riding high in the water.
Summer fog. Surreal. Our world suddenly becomes shrouded in an alternate universe, a mystery of space. Sounds and smells change. Space and time are inverted. The beauty of the simple is magnified. Look closely on days of fog, for there is much to be revealed.
This is eternal. It’s the first walk on the beach in July: bare feet, shorts, 68° with an incoming tide. I truly believe there is so much beauty around and so much magic in our world and that we are so overwhelmed by it all that it can be hard to see.
This 23-second video is a collection of seafoam bubbles at the shore, cream color, all sizes clumped together. Then a wave sweeps in, and it all disappears. Water retreats and bubbles return. Wait! Wait! Wait! At the end, you can see me with a hat, white shirt, and shorts leaning in as a reflection in the water on the sand.
This is June and the great flowering of spring. This is a sea rose, an invasive brought back to America from China in the 1850s. Seen here on the cliffs of Cape Elizabeth, the blue of the open ocean out beyond contrasts beautifully with the delicate pink of the rose. The camera lifted a little higher caught the rock cliffs and a lobster boat in motion on its way out to sea.
I live at the ocean. One of the few times I go inland in the summer, I go to a Maine tourmaline mine. On this August day, I went early because I was curious about the Little Androscoggin River that wraps around the base of the hill of the SparHawk mint-green-teal tourmaline mine. The SparHawk Mine is off the Hardscrabble Road. I found an access point to the river and climbed down to study the stream. I was curious to see the bedrock near the mine to see if it held any clues to the gems that are found in the area. The Little Androscoggin was beautiful. I hopped rocks and sat in the sun. I listened to the rushing water and was surprised to find what looked like lobster claws along the banks of the cascading river. Yes, it was a crayfish claw. My upbringing immediately said lobster.
It was a good day of mining at the SparHawk Mine. And yes, Maine is beautiful in many places beyond the coast.
This is my beach. One hundred acres of sand at low tide and 25 acres of sand at high tide. This view is our shipwreck that came to shore on a foggy August night 125 years ago and dropped 800 tons of coal. The sand moves around every tide. This is a rising tide. The green horizontal line mid-frame is the old ship. The tide returns every 12 hours, 30 minutes.
Here is the view at the coast Thursday morning, June 1, 2023. Sun was up, sparkly light on the water. It was beautiful. And yet, there was something different, forest fires in Nova Scotia. The eastern seaboard had a fine film of smokey air for a thousand miles. The effect was a 10 – 15% tamping down of the morning blue sky brightness. Minor but noticeable. I notice the subtle differences in the sky over the sea every day. This is 42 seconds of morning light. Yes, subtly different and beautiful.
The sea is always ready to surprise. Several years ago, I was sitting on the outer rock on the left. The tide was a foot lower, and the rock was dry. In the six-foot channel beside the rock, a baby seal came and swam back and forth. He frolicked and dove and played for a long time. I sat still like a rock. I believe he never saw me. Finally, he swam away.
Part of the appeal of the ocean is the waves and the tide. The other part, even more fascinating, is the sea life, how it all interacts, and how we might be surprised at any moment by what may appear.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor. Yes, these are the words I memorized in the 7th grade and had to recite on stage. This photograph and video were taken at 9:37 in the evening of a no-mow summer. The day was June 5th; the grass tassels were tossed by the wind. The sky was mostly cloudless, but down below the road was indeed a ribbon of moonlight looping through and around the marsh. And, there was no highwayman, just moonlight on the sea. Funny how memory holds a phrase memorized 70 years before.
I walked with my son and grandson down to a bridge and stream near my house. My son said, “Look, ducks!”
“Where,” I asked.
“Sitting right on the bank,” he said.
Where?” I asked again.
We continued that back-and-forth questioning until, finally, I saw the ducks.
The picture shows one duck who was 12 feet away, peacefully blending in. The video shows two ducks looking so natural in their stream-side nests. Sometimes, we are so close we’re racing and going too fast to see what’s actually there just a few feet away.
In Portland, as we look north, we often don’t take our state’s second-largest city, Lewiston, seriously. I have found, though, Great Falls, a massive waterfall above the bridge between Lewiston and Auburn, to be one of the most spectacular places in Maine in the month of May. It’s like high tide in a storm at the coast that lasts for an entire month. Great Falls is only 50 minutes north of Portland.
Summer is Returning
I saw three sailboats with white sails up, catching wind this weekend within an hour of one another. Clues to summer’s return are appearing in the garden, too.
Our video shows a schooner with a yellow hull motoring down the coast through a morning sea with sparkly light.
Spring Flower Fix
I have a garden by the sea. Twenty-two years ago, Nancy planted 12 daffodils. This year we counted 620 flowers. The Daffodil garden has a hill up in back protecting it from the cold north wind. Because the garden faces south, it gets the warmth of the sun before any other spring garden in the area, and our flowers begin blooming a full week before anyone else’s Daffodils.
A Happy Place
One of the happiest places on Earth is a special portion of Fort Williams where Portland Headlight is..a free place where dogs can run free any time of day, 7 days a week. like-minded humans show up accompanied by their dogs. The dogs run., play, frolic, and meet and greet friends as people do, too in a more subdued way.
Fort Williams is in Cape Elizabeth. If you have a dog and you’re from away, we have another Cape Elizabeth institution called Inn By the Sea. The Inn accepts dogs and people as overnight guests. It’s a very fine Inn with a fabulous restaurant and a half-mile sand beach and could be part of a great getaway for you and your dog.
Summer is bigger than any of us are capable of fully recognizing. One leaf, one flower, one blade of grass, even a bug, a simple bug with wings and six legs, is so amazing. Any of these would be worthy of an entire day of study and wonder. Summer is filled with billions of amazing touchpoints.
This is the Spurwink River in Scarborough, Maine, a tidal river. We can leave the dock at our summer cottage, row and drift, and be carried up river on an incoming tide, and when the tide turns, we can return easily to our dock downriver.
The wonder of miles of marsh grass, ducks, loons, and herons, summer breezes, and sparkly light on the water. Will we be able to go slow enough to actually see? Or will so much be coming at us that it is all just a blur? Go slow. Summer is returning.
If you said, “Perfect moment on the Maine coast, mid-summer eve?” Without skipping a beat, my answer is dinner for two on the porch at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough. We go several times each summer. At 6-7 PM, the sun swings around to the west, and there is golden light on the water and a light breeze. I don’t summer there. I do know the lay of the land well because a half-century ago, I dated a young lady who had a summer job out on Prouts Neck. She was part of the house staff of an oceanfront cottage. Prouts Neck has always seemed very fine, very elegant, very proper.
The food is excellent at the Black Point inn, and the waitstaff is efficient. Every time we’ve gone, it feels like a trip to the French Riviera. The men and women with silver and gray hair sitting in white chairs were the same age as I was in the early 70s; they are the children and grandchildren of the people who owned the cottages in the early 70s. This video was taken on the porch during dinner. I highly recommend the Black Point Inn, Prouts Neck, for dinner for two…ask for seating on the open porch.
To stand on the cliff, eyes watering in the breeze. To feel its cool, clear, cutting edge. To watch the waves roll in and the sparkling light on the water. I’ve been here a hundred times. I will come back 100 times more. Do I expect it will be different the next time I come? It’s always the same; it’s always different. There are subtleties, details, and always clouds that reflect and change everything. I will return tomorrow.
As the land sweeps to an edge, it drops 20 feet to a curious cove with two entrances. In this video, you can see the entrance to the open ocean. To the left, you can’t see a sea storm entrance where big waves can travel down a 200-foot canyon and enter the cove from the northeast. I have never seen an arrangement like this anywhere on the Maine coast.
Out on the rocks, I can see Portland Headlight a quarter mile to the north. And yes, the silver light on the blue water is beautiful today. Sunday morning, slight breeze out of the north, air temperature 39 degrees.
A few thousand feet down the road, it dips and swings close to the ocean. The waves are good enough that surfers come to try their luck. To the right of where they surf, I’m filming. A freshwater stream passes under the road and out into the pond. In the foreground, you can see calm water, then winter marsh, then rocks and waves. This is Pond Cove on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
A recent snowstorm. The little pocket cove at Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth. High tide. Waves rolling in. Bench by the shore. Staircase at the far end of the cove. Air temperature 38°. Sparkly light on the water.
Mystery of the Morning
Some are like spaceships. They materialize out of morning sea fog the size of skyscrapers. They silently drift across the sea as shadows of sleekness and surprise. If my eyes were closed, I’d never know one had just passed. This one first appeared at 6:58 AM. This picture was taken 800 feet from Portland Headlight.
There is a mystery in the morning as monster ships silently approach. No advance notice, no names. They just appear for 5, 10, 15 minutes, then they are gone. This was the sleekest of the summer. Its lines were sharp, and I never saw one so fine before or since. We imagined all the passengers wore black-tie for dinner…no jeans allowed. I took the video first and then dashed to the shore to get the close-up shown in the opening picture.
This Was a Riot
A family and their dog. The dog is running wild on its leash…running in circles. Kids are ducking under the leash to keep from getting tangled. This was less than a minute of their half-hour on the beach. The dog had a good time.
The Most Photographed Lighthouse
This is Portland Headlight, Maine’s most iconic lighthouse. This photograph was taken on an August afternoon. The video is from January 17, 2022, following a fierce storm that blew red shingles off the lighthouse’s roof. The video was taken late in the day. The rain had stopped, the wind had died down, and blue sky was showing. The tide was in retreat, and the waves at Portland Headlight were still big. We often have some of our most dramatic surf in the winter.
I purchased Cross Jewelers from my grandfather Lin Cross in November 1975. Twelve weeks later, the Valentine Bandit hit our city for the first time, taping sheets of paper with a single red heart all over town.
I’ve often thought about staking out our downtown the night of February 13th to see who or what is putting hundreds of red hearts on 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets of white paper all over our city. It’s a mystery. I’ve been on the Board of Directors of our Downtown Improvement District…not a word has ever been hinted, suggested, or has revealed anything. It’s been 47 years, nearly a half-century, I’m clued into many things about Portland, Maine…just not this one.
This mystery is like Santa at Christmas. How this veil of secrecy has been kept up all this time is a mystery. I’m still waiting to grow up, expecting someday the full story will be told. Perhaps, we should leave milk and cookies out with a pen and pad of paper in case he or she wants to write us a note. As it is, life should hold to its mysteries. There’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and now the Valentine Bandit.
The hearts are put up with yellow masking tape. There will be thousands of hearts all over the city Tuesday morning.
The World is
Returning to Normal
This last sailing season we began to see big ships in Portland Harbor. Thousands of passengers spilling out onto our streets. At the end of the day 4 – 6:30, we would see the big boats departing the harbor. It’s good to feel the world returning to normal.
We are often asked when we will be opening our Cross showroom. Our answer is still not yet. I have to give our staff credit for massive adjustments and brilliant adaptations these last three years. Thank you for your patience. The showroom is still closed.
Drift and Dream
It’s high tide, my favorite time of day. I depart the dock and just row. The sky is overcast. There is no wind. The sea is smooth. An August afternoon is perfect for a serious row. I row out to the open ocean, a mile offshore. I ship the oars and drift. I can hear people on the beach doing and saying the same things their parents and grandparents said 25 and 50 years ago. We all become children when we go to the beach.
After drifting and dreaming, I row to an eastern shore with cliffs and trees, where I ship the oars and drift again. Am I thinking? Not at all! I’m drifting among the seaweed. On the shore, the cliffs are ancient red, yellow, orange, and green rock with spider webs of color running through. The colors and their mix are opal-like. Over the years, I have spent hours studying how colors combine. One of the dramatic features of these cliffs is massive veins of pure white quartz running diagonally down the cliffs. Quartz is harder than the host rock and thus juts dramatically out into the sea.
I have rowed out to this spot many times. I go for its peace and beauty. If I came a hundred times, I would find it fresh and new forever.
I Didn’t Believe a Word of it
But I Never Forgot What He Said
I attended a geology course on the rocks and coastline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. This was 40 years ago. The teacher was an old guy in his 60s. He had maps of continents and spoke of continental drift. He was clear, enthused, and held the class’s attention. He was articulate and made a case for Cape Elizabeth, Maine and the USA splitting off from northern Africa 250 million years ago. He said Cape Elizabeth and the Rock of Gibraltar were once joined. He said he had been to Gibraltar and had rocks from Gibraltar. We could all see he was convinced.
I Marvel at the Beauty
We all like to make connections. I remember being impressed and, at the same time, not believing a word of it. And yet, I marvel at the beauty of the gnarly bone-white rock that exists along our Cape shores and several Casco Bay islands. I’ve not been to the Rock of Gibraltar or northwest Africa. I have, however, logged hundreds of hours on our Cape Elizabeth shores studying our unusual rocks. The stills show the bone-white rock. The video shows that same rock in the intertidal zone, and with seaweed and moss it darkens to black. Are Gibraltar and Cape Elizabeth kissing cousins? I don’t really believe so. We do, however, have some interesting rock formations along the Cape shore.
I Know I Was Lucky
The Day I fell Into the Ocean
This is a pitch for why you need iCloud for backup storage. One day several years ago, I was down at this cove and walked out to my favorite tide pool. I walked out to the sea side of the pool and stepped on a moist portion of the smooth rock, and fell into the ocean. It was August. As I plunged in, my first thought was, this is much warmer than I thought it would be. My second thought was that I needed to get out of there fast because my iPhone was in my back pocket. The rock I had been standing on was polished smooth and rounded down into the water and had a fine slick film of green algae covering the surface. There was nothing to grip onto. I floundered around for a while in the water. My third thought was I hope no one is looking from up on the cliff. This is one of my life’s most undignified moments. I finally found a chink in the rock and crawled out of the water like sort of a sea creature.
I lay on the rock for a while catching air, then reached into my back pocket for the phone. The screen was black. I went home, changed, and drove to the Apple store and told them my story. They called over their appropriate Genius. He asked, “Do you have photos on this phone?” I said, “Yes, 7000!” He asked if I wanted to buy another phone. I asked him if there was any other way. He said, “I can probably restore your contacts and all your pictures. I will need to pull the SIM card.” I told him, “I want the photos, pull the SIM card.”
Forty minutes later, I walked out with a new phone that was reloading everything from the cloud. My best advice? I had iCloud backup; get it for your phone. Also, be careful of the slippery rocks seaside.
When I got home, I went back to the cliffs and my tidepool. The tide had dropped and I saw, two feet away from where I fell in, a sharp pointed rock just below the surface. It was nearly identical to the rock in this video which was thirty feet away. I was lucky. Had I been two feet over when I fell, I could have been impaled by a pointed rock just below the surface.
The cloud won’t protect you from falling but it can make your phone life easier.
January 1, 10:44 AM. The temperature on the Maine coast is 50° with a sea breeze. Standing near Portland Headlight, looking south toward Two Lights. The sea was a glitter with diamond light. January 1 and 50 ° usually don’t go together in Maine.
Sunday, November 27, 2022. The tide was running particularly high. The time was 1:17. High tide was 1:07. Sunshine on the beach grass. Sunlight on the lighthouse on Wood Island at the other end of Saco Bay. I came close to not going, but I went and got this shot. I sat on the sea wall and actually saw what was there. Sun low in the November sky, light on the water, it was beautiful.
Location: Higgins Beach, Scarborough, Maine looking to the south and Saco and Biddeford Pool. Those of you who live out of state have no idea how beautiful our winter seas can be. With the sun low in the sky there is an elemental simplicity to what may be called our off-season.
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