Summer in New England

11 October 2022

It was so, so, so good to be back at the Island this summer. It always is, but after missing a visit in 2021 (my first ever, due to Annie’s summer birthday), our time up north was even sweeter than usual. Just like a childhood best friend, we picked up right where we left off. Even better? We followed our week in Maine with a week in Connecticut, staying with John’s parents!

Readers who have been around for awhile know that the pattern of these visits doesn’t change much from year to year — we take lots of walks, play lots of games, read lots of books, spend time with some of our favorite people — but the beauty and goodness of our surroundings is fresh every year. Here are a few snaps from this trip, if you’d like to see!

That first lungful of salty breeze and that first morning wake up on-island… nothing like it.

One of my favorite moments of the trip came early on: I delivered my Sunday service the day after we arrived. A little background: each week during the summer season, a volunteer Islander leads the Sunday evening service. Though rooted in Christianity and still with many of the trappings of the faith (church bell, hymnals, etc.), each leader chooses the content of their service, and right now, most choose a secular message. While I love every iteration of these services (they are one of my favorite parts of Island life!) I knew I wanted to deliver a Gospel message that served as the aroma of Christ to those I got to address, and I spent much time preparing my service in the month leading up to our trip.

Surprising absolutely no one who reads this blog, my message was about the power of narratives – which ones we believe, why they matter, how they shape our lives. It seemed like it was well received by Christians and non-Christians alike, for which I am very grateful. This was the third service I’ve led here, and I hope it will not be my last.

Above: the flowers I picked from a neighbor’s garden, the arrangement I made for the service, the sweet yellow meeting house (used for church and other community events!), and the birthday boy blowing out his candles after church. Love him so!

The older kids had (very informal) tennis lessons a few afternoons, and since the courts are a short walk up the hill from one of our cottages, Kim busted out some margaritas for the spectators. I can assure you our island is decidedly on the non-bougie end of the Maine fanciness scale, but we enjoyed playing the part for a day :)

What we lack in status we certainly make up for in natural beauty. For a two-mile-long island, she has more than her fair share of beautiful corners. It’s no wonder June declared “playing in the woods with cousins at the Island” one of her favorite memories from the summer at our back-to-school dinner, though it still made my heart swell to hear it.

One more highlight: every few years we take the kids to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It is an absolute gem, always, but this year, they had the coolest exhibit of gigantic wooden troll sculptures. Just stunning and so fun for the kids to interact with. Highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the midcoast Maine area!

One of the most poignant parts of our visit was being with my grandmother. She is 95 years old, and though vital in many ways, has also had some health setbacks in the last few years. Watching her get to be in a beloved place with the people she loves was so wonderful. Watching the tender care and attention (mostly on the part of my parents and aunts) to facilitate her being there was also wonderful, and sobering and thought-provoking. It made me want to reread this stunning and loving book (which, if you have not already read it, please drop everything and do so right now).

I’ll end with this. One of my favorite newer experiences on the Island is taking the kids down to a particular rocky point to watch the sunset. We’ve done this a few nights each visit for the last few years. The changing colors over the water, the moon rising, the adults perching on the rocks warmed by a day of sun while the kids throw pebbles into the water… it is magic. It’s also not something I grew up doing, and I like knowing there are still new ways to enjoy our special place waiting to be revealed. We are lucky, indeed.

Then it was on to Connecticut! I have far fewer photos from our second week in New England, because John and I both worked remotely for most of the week while his parents pal-ed around with our kids. While we worked, they went in the pool multiple times a day; rode bikes and scooted on their long, shaded driveway; took walks; read books; and played a lot of Wii Sports, ha. And like an absolute angel, John’s Mom had breakfast, lunch, and dinner in front of us each time we emerged. It was more than we deserved!

A few highlights:

A date night at Shipwright’s Daughter, a new-to-us restaurant in downtown Mystic. Aside from the novelty of being able to have grandparents babysit (something we very rarely get to enjoy, living far from our families), we agreed that there was something particularly magical about having this new experience (new restaurant, going on a date as grown-ups with three small children) layered over so many other memories in this place. We went on many Mystic dates in high school and college, it’s where I had my first job, we’ve celebrated bachelor and bachelorettes here with friends. As in Maine, what a gift to still have the old things and to get to make them new. And the restaurant was amazing, if you ever find yourself in the area!

Breakfast at Sift Bake Shop. Speaking of new(er) things: Sift may not have been around when we lived in Connecticut, but it has become an absolute must for every return trip. Chocolate walnut sea salt cookies and everything bagel croissants as big as your face, the lardon and caramelized onion quiche, absolutely exquisite cakes and entremets that are now a staple at our holiday dinners… do not miss it!

A visit to the farm. This is the 400-year-old farm my Dad grew up on, and where I spent much time as a child. It looms large in my family story and my own psyche, and every chance I get to share it with my children feels very precious.

Thank you, as always, for indulging these memories, friends! Grateful to share them!

P.S. Our last summer trip to Connecticut.

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October 13, 2022 12:30 pm

I visited Maine last year for the first time – and it was beautiful! Can’t wait to go back! I was thinking as I was reading this post how glad your children will be to have this to look back on and read when they’re more grown up!

October 14, 2022 6:06 am

We visit our own tiny cabin on a lake in central Maine each year, and your posts about Maine and New England always inspire me to make that trip (for us, a 14 hour trek from VA) an intentional one! While Mystic is a bit out of the way for us, your blog inspired us to stop there a few years ago, and we can’t stop talking about going back! What a charming place, and you are spot on with Sift. SO good!

October 14, 2022 10:59 am

Hi Emily, I am a new-ish reader to your blog and really enjoy it. I was so inspired by your previous Maine posts that we booked a house on Southport Island for vacation this year and absolutely loved it. We were right on the water and it was heavenly, so thank you for the inspiration ! It was a long drive from Cary, but so worth it ! Thank you!