And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days. – James Russell Lowell
The long days last week on either side of the summer solstice were truly stunning, each one more beautiful than the day before. It was my good fortune to have made plans for a couple of late-June library visits Downeast to read from Cover Story, my second Joe Gale mystery, which is set in that beautiful part of the state.
Am I lucky, or what?
On Thursday the 23rd of June we ferried from Bass Harbor to Swan’s Island for an evening reading at the beautiful library that’s the understandable pride of that community.
In July, 2008 the former structure—a one-time schoolhouse—was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning. The new building opened in July, 2011 and it is spectacular!
Bright and comfortable, it boasts moveable shelving and a unique ceiling sculpture of jellyfish that dance on filament when the ceiling fan is on.
The building houses both the library and the historical society, two community imperatives that so easily walk hand in hand. I enjoyed the opportunity to read in that lovely space and to meet library director Candis Joyce.
We also were treated by longtime friend (and library volunteer) Sandra Haggard, not only to an island tour, but fish chowder for dinner and strawberry rhubarb French toast before we left the island the next morning.
Thank you, thank you!
Riding the boat to Swan’s Island and back was a treat. The ferry rituals—not to mention the sounds and scents—are ingrained at a cellular level from my years living on Peaks Island. It was a joy to be on the water on a blue-sky day, watching the seabirds and the sailboats, seeing familiar landmarks from a different perspective.
Our verdict on Swan’s Island in general and the library in particular? We will be back.
Friday afternoon’s reading—also from Cover Story—was in Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula, another singularly beautiful place where history is front and center all the time.
In contrast to the five year old library on Swan’s Island, the Winter Harbor Public Library was built in 1888 as a Unitarian chapel, using stones harvested from nearby fields and beaches.
The vestry area on one end of the building served as a library even when the main part functioned as a place of worship. Called Channing Chapel, the building boasts stained glass windows that honor both its builder, David Flint, and William Emery Channing, the founder of Unitarianism. Now the library occupies the entire building, but the feel of a church remains, which is as it should be, because libraries are among the most sacred of our community spaces, where everyone is welcome and knowledge is celebrated.
Library director Ruth Mapleton, who also is an author (google Ruth Axtell, she’s terrific!) offered a warm welcome and the reading drew a wonderful group of inveterate mystery readers, including the president and vice president of the library’s Board of Trustees.
After I read a couple of passages from Cover Story we enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about my writing life, Joe Gale’s prospects for the future and favorite authors from Maine and beyond. The questions were excellent and we laughed a lot−a pleasurable afternoon all around.
A bit before 6:00 we walked outside to birdsong and the happy awareness that sunset was still hours away. The Friday night fish fry was on at the Pickled Wrinkle (which just so happens to be owned by the daughter of Library Board VP Cynthia Alley, who sat in the front row during my reading) and it was as delicious as you would expect in a community with such a strong bond to the sea.
This was a road trip I will revisit in my mind when the days grow short and the winter winds begin to blow because it involved so many of the joys of summer in Maine−fresh strawberries everywhere, rosa rugosa in full bloom, the intoxicating scent of new mown hay, night skies full of stars and most of all, the opportunity to spend time with readers. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the support.