“O holy solitude, happy beyond measure,
who may tell your praises!
O life, sweetness, rest, shelter,
path of retreat.”
~ Paul Giustiniani, monk of Monte Carona.
Penobscot Bay, Maine, has long had a personal connotation as a place of solace and wonder. An opportunity to reside astride these shores presented itself, and I am gratefully here. In this part of the state, I am somewhat north of spring’s progress. The only green trees are the pines, and the tourists are yet to arrive. It is quiet throughout, and the aromatic woods and vast waters are beautifully lonely. Knowing how vital the solitary silence would be, ironically I cashed in my earned sick time at work. I am here to be consoled and strengthened, and it seems to be happening in that order. During hard winter months of multitasking, I thought of Penobscot Bay’s expanse.
With the small cabin along the sands, the Atlantic is ever before me. This panorama is such that I am often distracted from my writing. Even better than that, distracted from my self. The cabin thankfully has a canopied porch, allowing me to write and read through all sorts of weather. Rain ticks on the covering. Wind-blown waves embrace the land, and buoys chime the elements’ changes.
There is a strong sense of being away, yet also very much at home. Portland and Casco Bay are only a few hours’ drive south of here, and the scenery is but a wilder, vaster, much less built-up rendition of my usual environment. Even the city of Belfast, always my favorite Maine town after Portland, is very familiar- yet distinctly different from my workaday. Belfast, like Portland, is a working seaport of tiered brick buildings and streets of Victorian houses. But unlike Portland, it is still quieter and more intimate. An old hospitable perch; I had stopped in Belfast for a day, shortly after September 11, 2001, to collect my thoughts along the waterfront.
This entire stretch of coastline has long illustrated a continuing history of Divine consolation for me. This is the region between Rockland and Mount Desert Island. Belfast compacts small city streets with a wide-open waterfront. Even Main Street’s incline tilts into the municipal boat landing.
As with all such sojourns, I hope to bring the peace of this travel back with me to the world of fulltime work so boldly interrupted. Practicing a balance between intensities required to meet work demands and calmness derived from retreats amounts to an exercise of conscience. Remembrance occupies many manifestations in life. Of course I want to bring this week back with me to inspire the future- both the rainsoaked and sundrenched alike. And of course all that awaits me will threaten to drown this out, if time itself doesn’t. Yet I have the written and photographic record to remind and to build upon. I am as grateful for the moment’s preservation as I am for the present itself. At the ocean’s edge, all is near.