Smell That Water

WELLS, Maine — With our quasi-oceanfront 1930s motel, My Beloved Wife and I felt a lit­tle sheep­ish that only on our sec­ond full day we waded across the Ogun­quit River (doable at low tide) then clam­bered over a tall dune to find the beach.

The tourist sea­son we were told begins on the Fourth of July. Heck, it was cer­tainly still rainy and cool at the end of June; how unlike Arkansas. The un-season was obvi­ous by the sparse crowd. We were close to hav­ing the ocean to our­selves, well, us and just a few locals and a num­ber of birds.

The water, in the ocean itself and the “river,” was sur­pris­ingly clear. And as far as that briny smell of salt­wa­ter, where was it. MBW and I are quite famil­iar with Cal­i­for­nia beaches from San Diego to Half Moon Bay, and a con­sis­tent odor. Before Maine, we asso­ci­ated the smell with hap­pi­ness: We are here! In Maine — with only a nearly absent and maybe slight astrin­gent qual­ity — we real­ize the Pacific smell has a fair amount of rot in it, sea­weed on good days, a lit­tle fishy on others.

We only would smell decay­ing fish on Wednes­day, the Ken­neb­unkport day, but that was more from the inevitable walk­ing past restau­rant trash bins more than the lit­tle port.

We drove one town up to Wells for the Rachel Car­son National Wildlife Refuge to learn about the ecol­ogy of salt marshes. As a child in the 1960s (not a “child of the ‘60s), I remem­ber see­ing a doc­u­men­tary film about Car­son in class. Inspired, I bought her Silent Spring. In recent years I looked through the clas­sic some­where and won­der how as a kid I got through it. Was it an abridged ver­sion from Scholas­tic Books?

After a sat­is­fy­ing din­ner in Ogun­quit, at the Impastable Dream (never mind the stale pun), we walked around; stores were start­ing to stay open late for the sea­son. A drug store had a Portsmouth (N.H.) Her­ald, which I bought because it had the John Updike talk “above the fold,” 1A. The large photo was of the entire, dark stage, Updike’s head lit, cen­tered and tiny, and the write-up only ade­quate.

The Port­land (Maine) Press Her­ald over­all has been so much bet­ter; I got one at the motel office every morn­ing. It was small but com­plete, locally and nation­ally, good local colum­nists and dis­played a pride in itself, too. On Wednes­day mid-afternoon, we would be dri­ving to Port­land. At din­ner then (more in tomorrow’s entry) with a col­lege friend and his wife, I praised it. I thought he’d be pleased that I liked his home­town news­pa­per, but he wasn’t keen on its qual­ity. He com­plained that its edi­to­ri­als espe­cially in recent years were more con­ser­v­a­tive than they and their friends liked.

We in print jour­nal­ism still see edi­to­ri­als and opin­ions as an inevitable part of our iden­tity. News­pa­per folk pooh-pooh dailies with light, “neu­tral” or vague com­men­taries, despite five years or so of inar­guable national declines in circulation.

Edi­to­ri­als prob­a­bly aren’t cost­ing sales in and of them­selves, but they aren’t really help­ing, are they? –30–

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