Joshua Slocum, the intrepid sea voyager and author of “Sailing Alone Around the World” recorded his 1895 visit to the nearby harbor of Round Pond on the Muscongus Bay, where he rested as “the wind rattled among the pine-trees on shore.” In seeking a harbor of refuge from the approaching Hurricane Henri, Christoph and I thought to seek a mooring for Delfina in that same well-protected harbor. However, a recorded message informed us that there were no moorings available for transient vessels. Instead, we have reserved a mooring in the large and deep harbor of Booth Bay where we hope to safely ride out the storm.
Lately, Delfina has been circumnavigating around some unique and self-contained worlds —sparsely inhabited rocky islands connecting sea and sky throughout the Gulf of Maine. Circumnavigation, first by sea, and then along forested trails that lead to outcroppings on the rocky shore, is showing me different ways of seeing: the contours of land visible from the water do not reveal the variegated life thrumming within. This is the Hebrew month of Elul, the month when vision is rectified. I have been considering the differences between what is visible and what lies hidden, unseen and unknown.
Approaching by sea, glacial deposits of black-flecked pink and gray granite blocks are threaded with jet black rectangles of diabase. Huge coastal boulders are worn smooth by the unrelenting pounding of waves and thrashing wind. Stepping on shore, I find island trails that wind through spruce, pine, fir, birch and oak trees, over moss-covered rocks, squishy bog lined with cranberries and fragrant beds of balsam and pine. Pink and white crab and clam shells deep in the woods are all that remain of seabirds’ feasts; monarchs flutter around yellow and purple wild flowers as the trail opens onto grassy meadow. The shores are monitored by eagles, ospreys, cormorants and gulls; inland I catch fleeting glimpses of songbirds. Aside from the occasional scurrying squirrel or chipmunk, ground creatures are nowhere in sight, but tunnels in the soft earth attest to their quiet presence. Everywhere I turn, the forest is filled with signs of devastation and renewal. Even amidst this wilderness, I can’t help thinking about the people with whom I share this planet—strangers who are mere outlines to me, largely unseen, yet living rich lives of their own, filled with their own specific losses and moments of renewal. And then there are those lives I know in great detail, whose suffering and happiness is so familiar that we have developed love and intimacy. I pray for the compassion to continue to look beneath the surface, to go beyond the outlines and find the depth of connection that is possible, to both the natural world and its inhabitants.