Today I write to you from one of my favorite, most inspirational locations, coastal Maine. I have always been fond of the ocean, although not being in the ocean, but being near it. The sound of the surf, the lighthouses, the happy puffins, and today, the way the striated clouds parallel the horizon, makes me quite content. I find inspiration here, in this setting, even though the wind makes my cheeks frozen and numb. What is it about the ocean, specifically Maine?
Back in 1990, I flew with my friend Jenny to Spain, and spent a few weeks living with a family which we had met when their daughter was an exchange student at our high school. It was our first transatlantic flight, one where we would actually need a passport, and we were all of nineteen years old. On the return flight, our plane made a surprise stop in Bangor, Maine, at which time I viewed for the first time the beautiful, lake-filled, ocean-coasted landscape of that state from the window of our plane. At that moment, I made a pact with myself that I would be sure to visit and spend quality time in Maine.
Nowadays, my husband and I make at least one yearly trip to Maine. During that time, we visit familiar and unfamiliar places. I draw much inspiration from the sea and the surf here. On one visit, we saw some beautiful harbor bells for sale. These multi-toned bells are crafted to mimic the unique harbor bell tones of the various harbors on the coast. We purchased three different bells that visit, each representing the bell tones from different places: Cape Cod, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth. Each sounds different, and each represents both a lonely and uplifting spirit. Here are some sound samples. What do you think?
Cape Cod Buoy Bell
Chesapeake Buoy Bell
Portsmouth Buoy Bell
I learned from the vendor that all buoy bells are different, each one a unique combination of tones, distinguishing it from the bells of other harbors. I have also since learned that there is a long history of these bells in Europe as well. We ended up keeping the Portsmouth buoy bell, and gifting the others to our parents. We leave our bell up year round on our front porch. Even the smallest breeze sends the mournful, yet hopeful tones through the air. We love its sound.
Coastal Maine and buoy bells were an inspiration in my Harbor Bells Trilogy. Here is a small snippet from chapter 1 of book 1, tentatively titled, THE FIRST HARBOR BELL:
An old man, with skin transparent enough to see the veins and sinews beneath, sat on a stump. Mangled and contorted, his bony fingers grasped a walking stick, gnarled with knots of the tree from whence it came. His knuckles, enlarged and swollen with age, protruded profoundly, threatening to burst through the very skin that was holding his aged body together. Around his shoulders, a cape, threadbare from time and wear, fluttered as a breeze floated past.
In the distance, a harbor bell sounded. Its three-toned broken chord, resonated within James. It was a familiar sound. One that he had been around his entire life in coastal England.
Today, though, the bell’s music felt somewhat different. As if a trance threatened to overtake him, James stood, looking intently at the caped man. He was captivated.
While this book is still in the early draft stages, I am happy to share this bit with you all. If you listen to the samples of the buoy bells above, what do they make you think of? I’d love to hear from you in the comments 🙂