I arrived in the evening, with enough pink light left in the sky to clamber quickly down to the beach below my cottage. In the distance, Mount Desert’s “Sleeping Giant” slumbered, and at my feet… yes! There was the familiar, happy face in the rock.
I don’t know what I expected. It’s rock. Of course it’s here. But these past years have brought so much change that permanence seems like a little miracle.
I searched the pebbled shore and quickly found a piece of cobalt-blue sea glass. Then a few more: brown, white, green. Arrival is a blend of excitement and peace, and the beach rocks and glass are my welcoming party.
1922 – 2022
When I came here last year, I was still looking for a publisher, still tweaking the final, final draft of Happy Landings: Emilie Loring’s Life, Writing, and Wisdom. This year–same place, same cottage–I await the published book and reflect that, exactly one hundred years ago, Emilie Loring summered in Blue Hill and awaited the publication of her first novel, The Trail of Conflict (1922). I like that.
I took the East Blue Hill Road to get here, passing familiar sights that awakened memories of earlier times: the trout stream from Where Beauty Dwells, Seven Chimneys and Stone House from Uncharted Seas, and the cottage with rabbit shutters (Gay Courage).
In Emilie Loring’s day, these landmarks were easier to see. Trees that hadn’t been taken for ship building had been cut back for the granite quarries. From the road and from the cottages that lined it, Blue Hill Bay was in full view.
As I drive, I imagine Emilie and her summer friends meeting for tea, picnics, costume parties, and home entertainments. They walk to each other’s homes, or, when the occasion calls for it, they ride in a horse-drawn wagon–later, an open roadster. The women share their gardens and their recipes, cementing friendships, one cup of tea at a time, for decades.
The society of friends along the East Blue Hill Road was a local fixture through the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. Emilie remained through the 1940s, but by then, many of her summer friends had died, and the post-War contingent who moved in afterward knew little of them. Local histories tell about Parker Point on the opposite side of the bay, while the East Blue Hill Road goes largely unremarked.
I understand now why Emilie Loring wrote her family and friends into her books. On the page, they laugh, motor to town, pluck crisp bacon from the fire, and slink down the stairs in shimmering gowns. They live again.
This is the same reason that I’ve written their lives so thoroughly into my biography of her, “collaborating” with Emilie to tell both what happened (my text) and how it felt (Emilie’s).
Trees line the East Blue Hill Road so closely today that it’s hard to imagine the bay beyond. There are more cottages than in Emilie’s time, but they are hidden by forest, much as her times are hidden in memory.
With luck and a bit of work, Emilie and her summer friends along the East Blue Hill Road will soon claim their place in the recorded history of Blue Hill, Maine–known, appreciated, and remembered. They are representatives of a time that has passed, but as we who read Emilie Loring’s books know so well, there is much in every age that is timeless.
Like Emilie Loring, I love my annual vacation in Blue Hill, made more special by summer friends, old and new. I will leave you with some images of the day: