In the High Peaks

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alix Kates Shulman

Reading has been my preoccupation during the month of June, and especially so since Sasha, our new golden retriever, has come to live with us. She loves to walk and...she LOVES to come home. She's a "Back to the Barn" horse version of a dog who loves nothing better than to sit by my side while I read.

I have become so relaxed, it's ridiculous. I'm now reading the last 50 pages of Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass, and this morning I began Drinking the Rain: A Memoir by Alix Kates Shulman, the author of the highly acclaimed American feminist classic, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen. Still read, still adored.

Drinking the Rain is about Shulman's solitary connection with a Maine island retreat, Long Island in Casco Bay, a 50-minute ferry ride from Portland, the largest city in Maine. My Ken grew up in South Portland and spent his summers at his aunt's cottage, a stone's throw from Long Island, on Peaks Island. How he loved the summers there, sailing, swimming, bicycling, clamming, and eating lobsters, shrimp, and all kinds of seafood.

So it is that I came to Peaks as a youngish bride (okay, I was 31), though it took me years to learn the island's charms. The first two years I visited, the sun never shone. All I ever heard was the mournful cries of the foghorns. When eventually the sun appeared in my third year, I fell in love with Peaks. We spent our summer vacations at his aunt's cottage from 1986-1998. We would have continued, but I developed horrendous, incapicating allergies while staying at the cottage in 1997 and 1998, so the year after that, we visited the Adirondack Mountains and found a lasting home that suited us both.

I never visited Long Island, Maine, though I spent many a time viewing it through binoculars from the rocky shores of Peaks, watching the people and cars traveling back and forth. A fascinating pastime, watching the Long Islanders.

So it is with fascination that I'm reading Drinking the Rain and Shulman's whole-hearted embrace of solitude--writing and eating "off the land." This 5-month sojourn was a huge departure for Shulman, a Manhattanite born and bred, but therein lies the story. I happen to love solitude, so I enjoy reading about others' discoveries and descriptions of their solitary adventures.


  1. Drinking the Rain sounds like a good read. And vacations on Maine's islands sound idyllic...presuming the sun comes out once in a while. ;-)

  2. I'm so glad that Sasha has turned out to be such a great companion dog for you. The freezing sea mist (haar) is what I dislike most about living by the sea.

  3. Megan,
    The sun shows its head on an average of one day out of 3-4 on the islands in Casco Bay. Still, lots of people, including Ken, adore the fog.

  4. Katrina,
    One Christmas Day, back in the early 1980s, I visited my aunts living within a mile of the Atlantic on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The temperature was zero degrees F that day, and what the meteorologists call "Arctic sea smoke" was everywhere. I tell you I have never, ever in my life experienced anything before or since that froze my bones like that! And that includes temps of 20 degrees below zero F in the Adirondacks!


  5. I've never been to Maine, but I think I'd like it very much. As a matter of fact I have it in my mind as someplace I'd like to live, so I think I must read this book. I read Shulman's Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen years ago, though too much time now has passed and I've forgotten details. I am going to look for her books!

  6. Danielle, Maine is a delightful place to live. If I were to live there, I'd live near the coast, in a rural farming town, I think.

    Best to you,