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Voices from the Coast: On Play

In celebration of Maine Coast Heritage Trust's 50th year, people share their visions of and for the Maine coast.

play /plā/ 1. engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Lucy Atkins moved to the coast of Maine to attend College of the Atlantic, where she studied natural history and education. She currently lives in Whitefield, and crosses no less than five rivers on her commute to Bowdoinham, where she teaches kindergarten.

Tom Curry, Glacial Erratic, 2014, oil on birch panel, 12 x 12 inches

Tom Curry is a graduate of RISD whose paintings are the subject of the book Island (2012). His work is represented in galleries including Artemis Gallery, Cynthia Winings Gallery, and Gleason Fine Art, and in his studio gallery in Brooklin.

The Point

Blue Hill Bay is rippled silk, aquamarine deepening to indigo on this warm afternoon in early September. The incoming tide turns the tip of Harriman Point into a pair of islets, the larger and more distant one crowned with spruce and bayberry twined with poison ivy, its smaller twin a narrow shelf of bare ledge thirty feet offshore. I lift my binoculars and scan the bay for birds while my husband Tom sketches, both of us perched on a scrap of gravel beach.

Suddenly, a flock of small shorebirds swirls down to the ledge. Another flock alights, and then another, until birds cover the rock. They carry a hint of winter in their silvery plumage, a spangling of gray, brown, and white. Semipalmated sandpipers bound for the northern coast of South America.

Kimberly Ridley is an essayist, contributing editor to Down East magazine, and author of award-winning nature books for children, including The Secret Pool (2016). She holds an MS in science journalism from Boston University.

Photo: Courtney Mooney

Keep the Coast Beautifully Accessible

“I grew up overlooking the water and Canada. I’ve always been drawn to the water, and that’s definitely what I miss most when I’m not here—that ocean breeze.

“It’s challenging to stay here. We don’t have a lot of industry. We’re definitely a summer tourist destination and a lot of people’s jobs revolve around the tourist industry. So, we do try to find ways to extend the season. We have the school and health center and places like that provide more year-round jobs. We do have a lot of fishermen that are working all four seasons.

“Until recently this part of Maine was kind of undiscovered and now people are discovering more of it. As people find this place of unspoiled beauty, lands are bought up and homes are built. Sometimes people will block access that fishermen like clammers would use for years. It’s a hard living and when you take away even that one access point, that can be pretty crucial to their livelihood.

“As a kid growing up you don’t really realize how special the place that you live is, until you’re older. That’s why I like to take my niece and nephew out on the trails, so that from a young age they realize how important and special it is to be able to take advantage of the trails and the lands that we have.”

—Sara McConnell


Sara was born and raised in Lubec. For the last ten years she has worked in various public health roles in Washington County. Most recently she has enjoyed being a nutrition educator for Healthy Acadia. She volunteers in her community on numerous boards and loves taking her niece, nephew, and friends hiking.

Courtney Mooney (see above photograph) is a Maine-based photographer and visual activist. She's a twelfth-generation Mainer whose connection to her birthplace has given her a unique opportunity to give back to it. Mooney's work is primarily concentrated on the environment.

Mcht Asa Philips Photo Ok Full

Asa E Phillips III is a trust and estates attorney in Wellesley, MA who has been coming to Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island since birth. While on MDI, Asa likes to hike the peaks and carriage trails, explore nearby islands, and connect with friends and family.

Fire Friends

I will listen to the sound of the fire crackle and pop.
I will be filled with happiness as my summer friends
Gather around the fire.
The cold night air will encompass us and the stars will dance
Happily in the heavens above us.
Telling stories of the great times we had and the laughter never stopping.
We will vow to never go to sleep until the fire dies and the sun has fully risen.
We will toast our marshmallows and they will pop and suddenly burst into flames.
Then they will fall to the ground and as they pop yawns will fill the air.
As the sun slowly peers over the mountains we know it is summer
Because of the gorgeous sun rise.
The flame will slowly die as the sun comes up and we drift away into a deep slumber
surrounding the fire.
I will become queen of the fire.

Molly Phillips shares her father’s love of Mount Desert Island, where she has made lifelong friendships and enjoyed countless sunsets, sunrises, and full moons. A 2018 Elon University graduate, Molly currently works as a data analyst and consultant for Avanade in New York. She wrote this poem at age eleven.

Thanks for the Magic

A magic potion exists that is critical to our lives. Without it, we feel deprived of an element that is crucial to our health, and we may suffer the consequences. Medical experts tell us of the vital connection between exposure to the green world and wellness, the merits of outdoor exercise over indoor activities, and the negative impact of nature deprivation. From our own experience, we know they are correct. The natural world protects, heals, and sustains us.

How can we continue to connect with nature when we are overwhelmed by work, medical crisis, or responsibilities to others? First, we assess our current situation and determine a realistic level of engagement, Then, we adapt our expectations and move forward in a positive direction

Dianna Emory, a retired psychotherapist and educator of mental health professionals, is an inspirational speaker and the author of Bonding with Nature: Responding to Life’s Challenges and the Aging Process (2018). She is at work on Assess, Adjust, Advance: Facing Adversity and Finding Your Silver Lining. Dianna is a 69-year survivor of childhood adrenal cancer and presently has stage four metastatic never-smoker lung cancer, both of which have greatly enriched her life.

Greta Van Campen, Shapes, Autumn Hike, 2018, acrylic on panel, 8 x 10 inches

Greta Van Campen has spent most of her life in the Midcoast. The ocean has been a constant source of inspiration, and she is particularly drawn to island views. Her piece was painted from a photo taken while hiking up Mt. Megunticook in Camden.

Preserving Mystery on a Complicated Coast

I’ve always felt that of all the states’ landscapes, Maine’s is one of the trickiest to wrap one’s head around. You can get a pretty good understanding of Massachusetts or Ohio by driving across them a few times, but Maine’s most distinctive and remarkable spaces lurk far from its most well-traveled pathways: they’re in the soggy forests of the Hundred Mile Wilderness, in the yawningly expansive potato fields of Aroostook County, and—perhaps most saliently—along the salt-battered crags of its idiosyncratic and complexly serrated coastline.

Maine’s coast itself isn’t easy to get to know, particularly by land, and that resistance to casual familiarity is probably behind its coy appeal. The reasons for the coast’s mysteriousness are inherent in its basic geography: far from an orderly parade of beaches, Maine’s ragged edge is instead a 3,500-mile fractal riot of nooks and crannies. There are very few smooth and clean transitions from land to water, and no matter how intensively one explores, there seems always to be another corner of shoreline to uncover.

Ben Cosgrove is a traveling composer-performer whose work explores themes of landscape, place, and environment. He has collaborated extensively with a variety of environmental organizations and has performed live in 48 states.