As we get to Emilie Loring’s final, complete novel, To Love and to Honor, I wonder. Should I write about the plot, her writing style and language, personal and historical references in the book, what was going on in her life as it neared its end? I’ve started this blog post four times–once each for story, language, and references, plus a spontaneous burst that came from a delightful, first-time discovery (!!!). How do I frame this last book?
We’ve got time. I’ve decided to do several posts for this one.
Today, I’ll take you with me to Maine and the memories I wrote down when I first visited York Harbor, where Emilie created Cindy Clinton, Ken Stewart, and a tangled web of smugglers off the coast of southern Maine. Since I was a kid, I’ve recorded my thoughts at special times in my life, and this visit felt like one to me. I sat down right then and wrote.
“And so, history repeats itself. I am sitting at York Beach, Maine. Emilie stayed here at the Marshall House in 1949 as she wrote To Love and to Honor. Now, here I am.
“But first, I had to get here.
“How did I know? I exited the interstate at Highway One, the coastal route (interesting, that it’s the same in California). Guess what I saw, immediately? Outlet stores! Mile after mile of outlet stores. Not romantic.
“When I got to York, I took the highway to the beach. I knew before I came that the Marshall House had been taken down in the 70’s and replaced with the Stage Neck Inn. Just a little down the way, I saw the sign: “Stage Neck Inn.” I turned in. Big smile! This is the place.
“I came immediately to the beach. It’s perhaps 150 yards long, a smooth curve, with dark, granite gray sand and low, granite cliffs all around.
“I walked along, admiring the incredible rocks. These are great rocks here! They have such neat colors and patterns and shapes. I picked up too many, but I’ll let them ride with me around New England, and I’ll choose when it’s time to pack my suitcase.
[Update: You know I didn’t choose. They’re all at my house now. The light gray one with a white stripe around it is my study’s doorstop.]
“There were little girls swimming in the incoming waves, apparently without planning for it, so they were swimming in their dresses. Who wears dresses anymore? Anyway, it was a fresh, happy sight, and when I asked how it was, they said, “Fun!” Since I was planning to have dinner up above, I didn’t swim, but I took off my shoes, rolled my pants to my knees, and waded in. It was perfect.
“The whole time, I was thinking, ‘Emilie walked on this beach. She saw those old houses on the hill, this big rock outcrop, that line of shore…’
“I also remembered why one never shaves one’s legs before entering salt water.
“The grand hotel was gone, but I lunched at a perfectly lovely substitute. I looked out the window to the beach through a multi-paned, arched window. A vase of fresh, pink freesias sat atop the cherry table. I ate a lobster roll that re-defined that sandwich forever in my brain, old-fashioned, red-skin potato salad, and a glass of Pinot Noir. On cue, the restaurant sound system played Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons: Summer.”
“I struck up a conversation with the maitre d’ hotel and told him my mission. He gave me maps of walking trails in the area and introduced me to the head chef, who had grown up here when the Marshall House still existed. She joined me at the table for coffee and asked me to take her card, so I can notify her when my book is available. Orders already!
“The maitre d’ returned and showed me to the living room with its vintage photos, and he gave me directions to the York Public Library, out on a point somewhere, apparently a fabulous place.
“As I left the hotel, I took another glance at the beach, now grim with fog, the clouds and the beach the same color of gray. But the tangy scent of kelp and the incoming waves called to me. I lingered. This was a place I knew.”
Emilie described it in To Love and to Honor:
The sky was a cloudless turquoise, the sea shaded from faint emerald on the sandy beach through rich jade green to ultramarine, to indigo and then to purple where it met and fused with the sky. A stiff breeze was capping in-rolling breakers with fleecy foam and shaking spicy fragrance from the tips of balsams and pines. A few raucously mewing gulls swept low over the beach tormenting a foolish brown setter that raced back and forth, back and forth in a frenzied, futile pursuit.
Stay tuned. Summer’s travel is not yet over, but I’ll drive ten hours today and sleep in my own bed tonight for the first time in weeks. That should make blog posts a little easier. Can you guess how these photos will relate to our story?
Meanwhile, if your travel takes you to an Emilie Loring location, I hope you’ll write and tell us about it. Send photos, too, and I’ll post.