A long time ago, I watched a show on television called “Sunrise Earth.” Those who know me are aware that I don’t watch much TV, because I don’t think that there is much good stuff out there, but this one’s a keeper. If you are unfamiliar with it, “Sunrise Earth” was a series of one-hour programs that simply captured the sun rising in places all over the world. There were never any commentators or narrators, only a few occasional statistics in the bottom left corner of the screen, including the time, location and facts. Sometimes, in lieu of morning music, we watch — and listen to — episodes of “Sunrise Earth,” most of which can be streamed through YouTube.
Among my many favorite episodes are “Milk Cows in the Morning” (Vermont), “Wildflower Elk” (California), and “Venetian Canals” (Italy). Furthermore, two more favorites happen to take place in Maine (coincidentally, “Sunrise Earth” was created and produced in Camden, Maine) and became part of our itinerary — “Moose in the Morning” and “Lobster Village.” We’ll get to “Moose in the Morning” another day. This Trip Note is about our adventure through the Bristol area in search of New Harbor, the setting of “Lobster Village.” We blinked, so we missed it on the way in, but we found so much more, resulting in one truly spectacular day.
Although visible on a map, New Harbor is not handily approached. One must go searching for it through stunning scenery in order to reach it. Defined only by the tiny harbor it surrounds, we weren’t sure that we had found the old — and kind of famous (to us) — fishing village, so we continued driving until we could drive no more. A few miles from our missed turn was the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol, a historic lighthouse commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1827. What was once the lighthouse keeper’s house is now the Fisherman’s Museum at Pemaquid. Originally utilizing candles, the lighthouse reflector had a range of two miles. By 1856, it had received the superior Fresnel Lens, only one of six such lenses remaining in Maine lighthouses today. (Wikipedia) One can ascend the lighthouse to take a look at the big wide ocean, imagining all of those ships.
Pemaquid Point is surrounded by stunning metamorphosed rock, which was created by intrusive, “tortured and folded rock layers” that create striped patterns leading up to the lighthouse. (Wikipedia) The geology and geography of this region is just as impressive as its history. Words like “shipwrecked” are used and lists of lighthouse keepers kept, beginning in 1827. Waves crash and polish the rocks, tides come and go, tidal pools remain and the ocean is yours. The area is ideal for picnics, rock hopping, observing sea and maritime life and experiencing the ocean in full form. We stayed until we were amazed, satisified and hungry, and then returned to find New Harbor.
Indeed, we had passed New Harbor, but we knew just where to go. With only two parts — one side of the inlet and the other side — our choices were few. We turned down a street to find a mix of homes and wharves. It was clear: Fishermen, women and their families made up this place. Driveways lead to docks; decorations include buoys and lobster traps, as well as an occasional lifted boat. They work with the ocean.
We turned around toward the other side of the harbor and discovered Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf. At three o’clock in the afternoon, we had the place to ourselves. We ordered local beer, a lobster roll that could feed four people, the haddock sandwich and a whoopie pie for Luna, who has become a connoisseur of said pies. “Lobster Tales” — the same boat featured in “Sunrise Earth” — came in with its catch. Ladies who had once frequented the wharf at New Harbor lunched standing up, taking in their renewed memories and beer and conversation. Employees tended to the lobster tanks and to inquisitive, hungry tourists. It smelled of the ocean and cycles and habits, of workaday stories and history, of expertise and awareness and familiarity, of what one does. The sunlight at sunrise offers different light, of course, than afternoon light, but New Harbor did not disappoint. Folks there know their role; it’s in their blood. As for outsiders, it is a place you seek, not find; the experiences are likely quite different. We loved every minute of it.
Tired and thrilled, we headed home, but decided to stop at a place we had seen on the way into the Bristol area — a tidal pool that had gleamed at midday, at which point Scot said, “So, okay, this is frickin’ gorgeous,” and then started laughing. It turned out to be the Salt Pond Preserve, a project started by Rachel Carson, foremother to the modern environmental movement (hooray!). We were going to stay for just a minute. Really we were. But the tide was coming in and the moon was rising, and we began marking the distance the water traveled, so we stayed. We remained until we needed our sweaters and jackets, until the tidal pool had become a full blown pond, and then a shore, chasing us to higher ground. Luna was captivated, but moreso Scot, who has a love affair with the moon, the tides, the stars and the sky.
Growing colder and later, we hopped into the truck. Luna fell asleep on my lap for an evening nap. We otherwise rode in silence, for there was nothing much to say. The day was still sinking into our full brains. Deep connections were made among the three of us on this adventure. We are so much part of the world and so small, so much part of each other and the elements. The Earth and its daily activities go on whether we are there or not to observe and comprehend or to register and calculate its events. But we breathed in the tides and we breathed in each other, aware that there is so much more to see, but that we just had seen it all, hadn’t we? Such glory and magnificence in this Bristol region of the world. And what a day we had. Ah-Maine.