A short story from: Coastal Maine in Words and Art: Gallery Fukurou’s Reflections by Maine Writers, 2019.

© S. M. Belair, 2019

By the Sea, photographic art by Ramona du Houx

Encouraged by the droning cadence of the waves beating the beach, my mind drifted. Although fall, the sun-toasted sand had the warm familiarity of a summer day. I had laid a blanket and spread myself over it. My mind drifted.

We had been a large, gregarious group of kin and friends. Back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, for the entire summer every year, Aunt GG and Uncle John, their two children and my grandmother in tow, would rent a cottage right on the beach in Maine—to which Aunt GG’s four siblings, their spouses, and many children and friends, would descend. On summer weekends we came. A dozen, usually more, with beach chairs of woven web in white and green or blue or black, with blankets and towels and flippers and goggles and cover-ups and bright summer hats we came. In baseball caps, proclaiming unwavering loyalty to the Red Sox, “Maine’s” local team, we came.

It was cooler lunches of cold chicken or ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with sticky grape jelly that oozed out the sides and down young fingers. Sandwiches that we fought to keep the grit out of on windy days. Sandwiches that were washed down by Coke or orange tonic or Moxie and in later years by beer. There were brown paper grocery bags full of potato chips, bright orange cheese twists and devil dogs and whoopee pies and always watermelon. Seed spitting contests typically ended lunch; I often wondered whether watermelons would grow at the beach.

When we were young, we would splash in the shallow pools that formed in the beach hollows, while mothers and aunts and uncles sat under large striped umbrellas sharing the latest social news—one eye pinned on us. Or we would build large, elaborate sand castles with towers and moats and roads, where we would drive Match Box cars, and there was always a line of massive sea walls that we challenged the waves to breach.

As we grew older and bolder, we would dare each other to get wet in the icy water, and once we did, would body surf the waves until blue and exhausted. Finally, heaving ourselves onto some enormous inflated pink flamingo or rigid, ridged, red raft, would ride drowsily over the hilly sea.

In pet friendly Maine, we were often joined by Sparky our favorite dog, the ninety-pound golden lab mix-breed hound who loved to swim. He would race in and out, riding the waves with the best of us, and when Sparky caught the perfect ride, his eyes would shine and his mouth would turn up into an unmistakable grin of pleasure.

As afternoon waned, we would abandon salty suits for shorts and shirts, then scramble over tide-uncovered rocks, hunting crabs. We would play wiffle ball or badminton, bocce ball or horseshoes, or lie on the blanket playing cards. Uncle Adam and later brother Jon would pull out the saltwater fishing pole and repeatedly cast it to the sea, leaving it parked for a while in one desired location or another, while they smoked their cigars and sipped their beers, until the sun finally set, and it was time to go. And go we would, taking with us swimsuits and chairs and coolers, flippers and goggles and blankets and towels and the images of the day.

The drone of water-on-sand had changed now; it was louder and less rhythmic. The air had become chill as the sun lowered and the breeze shifted from land to sea. As I lay on the blanket, I remembered that it was autumn, that the summer had moved on. And so too had my large, gregarious family moved on, some to places far away to become grandparents themselves, and some to places from which they will never return, except as wonderful apparitions in a drifting mind on a blanket on an afternoon at the beach.


Coastal Maine in Words and Art: Gallery Fukurou’s Reflections by Maine Writers, 2019 was published after a contest for writers to create stories to accompany art photography that depicted Rockland and the coast in its myriad situations, moods and emotions. This story was published in the book along with 27 others.

An overwhelming 88 stories were submitted for the contest. In the end seventeen writers were chosen. Their stories are told with depth, insight, candor, irony, wit and humor. Anyone who has every visited Maine’s coast will be able to relate to them. They’ve put humankind’s instinctive emotional connection with the sea into words.

A gallery exhibit/booksigning was held at Gallery Fukurou in September 2019. The contest was held by Polar Bear and Company, of the Solon Center for Research and Publishing.

The Maine Humanities Council provided a grant for our project that enabled the Solon Center to donate books to libraries across Maine. MHC is a statewide non-profit organization that uses the humanities, “as a tool for positive change in Maine communities.”

Please ask your local bookstore to order it in for you or, if need be, purchase it HERE. All photographic art is available through Gallery Fukurou at info(at)soloncenter.org.