This post is contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.
Editor’s note: This piece is from Barnaby’s archive.
It’s something people do hereabouts; they sit, and watch, and stare, and think… and, no other way to describe it really, they just quietly luxuriate in the peace and beauty of their surroundings. Meditation. And I don’t recall ever seeing more evidence of this phenomenon than I have up and down the length of this river of ours, the Damariscotta.
Since I am an accomplished meditator myself, I guess I know what signs to look for. It doesn’t take too much to tip me off. It could be just a drift plank placed tellingly across two stumps above the tide. Or it might be a couple of pot buoys hanging from the stub of a tree branch near a charred black spot between some rocks. Minimalist housekeeping along the shoreline is what catches my eye. It’s just what seems to happen when people make repeated, lingering visits to the same spot by the water.
The variety of form of meditation spots makes me smile. They’re as varied as human nature itself and peoples’ disparate ideas of what it takes to be contented and comfortable in the setting of their thoughtful interludes. I see the simple planks; I see wooden cable spools, Adirondack chairs, plastic chairs, half-log benches, iron park benches, love seats, all manner of tables, hammocks of string netting or striped canvas, Buddha statues, Mexican fireplaces, potted geraniums and flags.
Many of these spots are in unexpected places. I suppose it’s because no house is in sight. But on thinking about it, that makes sense; being away from things, the parishioners, or whatever you call them, can find true solitude. Some, indeed, are in hard-to-get-to locations, which suggests to me they might see only occasional use. But the common denominator is proximity to the river, where soul-searching and soul-soothing are part of the landscape.
I personally have five meditation spots, not counting my boat or the kitchen table. I frequent them all, but I favor the one in the pine grove by the shore where there is a round, wooden table and chairs and a heavy bench by a big stone fireplace. I use it year-round. My preferred hours are sunset and dawn, when the light is poetic and the air is still.
A quiet crack-of-dawn at dead low tide, coffee cup in hand, finds me blissfully immersed in pure idleness, watching the birds work the flats. It can be a whole hour of perfect meditation on a summer morning. And though I don’t really have a favorite season, I’m especially happy on an autumn evening with a fire going, its blue pine smoke drifting low out over the river, a drink on the bench beside me, maybe something to munch on, and my dog leaning against my leg, hoping for a handout. I just sit and watch and listen, lost in my thoughts. And time stops.
Artist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.