Dee and I drove to Down East Maine last week ... almost as far Down East as one can go, 450 miles to the 1,400-or-thereabouts-population town of Lubec.
The fishing town lies just over the bridge from the Canadian island of Campobello, also a maritime community. Dee's brother Jim lives in Lubec and we wanted to visit him and his partner Marilyn. Jim's not been well lately, so we wanted to catch up with him and with the town we last visited about 30 years ago.
Lubec is an end-of-the-road community. That is, it looks like most people got off the highway before the highway reached the town. The place has had a summer renaissance of a sort in the past several years, with a music school, a few good bed-and-breakfast inns (we stayed at The Peacock House and heartily recommend it and its owners Sue and Dennis Baker) and some renovated homes turned into summer cottages, but it still has the look of an old and worn New England memory. Civil war monument, hardscrabble waterfront fish piers and warehouses, one bar, restaurants that close for the year by the end of October, churches with congregations of a dozen on rainy October Sundays. It's not the kind of place where a visitor can find a New York Times. And probably that's a good thing.
Visitors are drawn by the remoteness of it all, the empty beaches and cold water, the seals in the channel between Lubec and the island and the bald eagles above, and some no doubt come for the preserved summer home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on Campobello.
We came to see Jim and Marilyn in the old wood-frame house on Crow's Neck Road that Jim bought back in the '70s. He's made himself a life in the woods and on the water for more than 35 years, growing all his own vegetables, digging clams for consumption and for the market, working as a dependable framer and roofer on whatever carpentry job came his way. (Before he moved to Maine, Jim worked on my uncle Roger's carpentry crew on Martha's Vineyard and learned much of what he knows of basic house-building from my father, Paul Engley.)
We spent several hours of two days drinking coffee and talking with Jim and Marilyn. We drove often to Campobello (bring your passport), where we toured the Roosevelt home and drove the wet and empty roads. Dee went to the little Anglican church there on Sunday, while I drove to the vast crescent of black sand beach at Herring Cove and photographed rocks.
It was not a pottery vacation. We passed several potteries along Coastal Route 1, but communing with clay was confined to drinking from some of my old mugs at Jim's.
We took two days to come home, stopping for smoked fish at Capt. Vinny's in Lubec and then with Dee's uncle and aunt, Charles and Mary Dorchester, in Kenduskeag for a night of fish chowder and stories.
It's good to be home and back in the studio.
Photos: Marilyn, Jim and Dee; the Catholic church across from the Peacock House (Mass on Saturday afternoons); several wet rocks from Herring Cove.