Mornings in Maine I rise very early – much earlier than in Florida or East Hampton. Summer sun-ups occur around 5:45am so I am up too. I never sleep with the shades and curtains drawn. To be awakened by the morning sun is the ideal way to ease into the day. Once my feet hit the floor however my direction is pointed in one way only: to the nearest source of hot coffee, which means a stop at Provisions in Kennebunkport, for an extra-large brew and a copy of The New York Times. Afterward, I head west to Cape Porpoise for my favorite seat on the dock. The bench is often buried under six-foot-high lobster cages which I move aside as I acclimate to the pungent aroma of fish carcasses left behind by the circling sea gulls. By 7:00am most of the lobster boats are offshore retrieving the catch of the day. There are usually a few stragglers doing maintenance on their boats on the dock—the dock with its decade’s old nails protruding, the wood worn down from the tread of so many lobstermen over the years.
Today, I sit with my back to the sun, remove the lid from my coffee cup and take my first sip of the day. I open the Times with the sun over my shoulder and glance at the headlines. I scan the various columns, but my gaze shifts up, over the top of the paper to view a small island in the middle of the bay, now exposed by the receding tide. A flock of geese land in the few feet of water remaining in the inlet. Soon they will be heading south, to my backyard in East Hampton, for a rest and some sun in Jones Cove. It is a glorious morning coffee break, birds and all, in one of my favorite places to sit and rest the morning lonely.
I mull over other mornings, with friends, and reflect on their favorite places to start the day. Carl Butz, my editor at Mountain Messenger, has his balcony on the second floor of his office in Downieville, California. He and I recently spent time there together during my trip to the High Sierras. I recall Carl, stroking his beard, with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee cup in another, speaking of mornings in that small town on the Yuba River. Traffic is light on the main road with few shops open early. The line of old storefronts is not unlike something out of a Hollywood western. At any moment I expect a herd of cattle to be driven down main street with a couple of cowboys trailing them on the way to the railroad further down the river. This is Carl’s perch from which he watches over his domain.
Back in Danforth, Maine, Greg, my caretaker at camp can be found in the early hours of the day on the rock outcropping in front of my camp and Ted’s -my next-door neighbor. Greg rises just before the sun, grabs his ceramic mug with hot coffee and heads down to the water to inspect the rods he secured on the rocks overnight, hoping to hook a salmon. He scans the horizon with the rising sun on his face, sitting on the big rock protruding into the water, then follows his fly line to the battery-powered glowing plastic bopper now below the surface, which means there is salmon on the line. Greg reels it in skillfully and is positively giddy about catching another salmon overnight. One night he saw the neon bopper disappear beneath the waves at 2:00 am and roused his daughter Darcy to go with him in the dark to retrieve his catch.
As a young lawyer living and practicing law in New York City, my favorite morning spot was the counter at the coffee shop at 655 Madison Avenue near my office. It opened at 6:30am and coffee with a freshly toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox was my breakfast of choice. I made sure I always had enough time to enjoy the meal and still get to the office before any of the partners.
I look forward to visiting camp next week, where I will sit on my dock, feet dangling in the water, with my tin coffee cup in hand. No bagel but plenty else to satisfy my hunger for enjoying life.