My love affair with coastal Maine began in the summers I spent as a child at the vacation cabins my grandparents owned in Pembroke, near the Canadian border. Later, I returned to Maine as a student at Colby College. I didn’t know it then, but there was already a thread binding me to the Blue Hill Peninsula in the person of Daniel Merrill, the revivalist who founded the First Baptist Church of Sedgwick in 1805. In the same year Samuel Billings finished building the house pictured above, Merrill led a push for the establishment of a Maine Literary and Theological Institution, the school that would eventually become Colby College.
After graduating college, I worked for two glorious summers as a chambermaid in Northeast Harbor, a perfect gem of a village nestled in the middle of Acadia National Park. My employers, Frank and Sara Weeks Peabody, were quintessential Bostonians taken straight from the pages of a Henry James novel. She painted, and he sailed; they ate soft boiled eggs in the morning and whatever the cook, another recent Colby alumna, felt like making for them for dinner. Frank liked to save money on the linen service and would address me in arch tones of confidentiality as I came to clear their trays away: “You can see, I didn’t touch my napkin.”
I still hear the crunch of shell fragments beneath my feet as I made my way from the servant’s quarters to the main house in the morning. Bill, the chauffeur, would be righting the heavy, varnished breakfast table and opening the awning. You could hear people calling to each other on their boats, dumping bilge, hoisting anchors. An engine puttered. The buoy clanged.
It was the first place I’d ever seen that was absolutely perfect.