The Working Waterfront

Ode to an island cottage

Deep relationship forms over decades

By Candice Dale
Posted 2024-03-11
Last Modified 2024-03-11

On Long Island in Casco Bay, a summer cottage sits back from the road across from the conservation area and white sands of Fowler’s Beach. The full branches of pines and maples hide much of Hussey Sound from view off the high porch in the summer months.

As autumn arrives, however, a clearer glimpse of the wide bay emerges. And when the sun’s path moves farther south, bringing frigid air and frost, colorful sunsets begin to appear, but no one is home to witness the changing skies.

The gray and white cottage built around 1902, or so I’ve been told, holds the stories of the many families who have cherished summers within these pine walls and open ceiling rafters. Since 1988, my family has cherished this home we call “Kismet,” Turkish for destiny.

With each passing year, I have grown more connected to the island life and to this cottage, in particular.

A small living room features an old woodstove for shoulder season heat, shelves of ever-changing books to read, and a trunk full of board games to play. A cushioned window seat, out of which crawls an occasional black wood spider, provides a cozy napping and reading nook. Sometimes a late summer bat sneaks in at night through the cracks of the wooden walls, and we all shriek as we help the bat look for an exit.

A recent kitchen expansion brought in more light, room to cook, and a water view out a new window. During the kitchen reconstruction, the mice lost their highway into the food pantry, and the new floor blocked the summer slugs from wiggling their way up to the kitchen floor.

Climbing up the steep rust-painted steps, we steady ourselves with a ship rope installed along the side wall. At the top of the stairs, a book shelf of children’s books and buckets full of colorful Legos invite little ones to linger.

Two of the three bedrooms offer new, firm beds, but the third still has the old single mattresses that curl up around the sleeper like a soft taco. Colorful quilts, bright pillows, and area rugs invite family and friends to rest peacefully for the night.

During summer storms, the constant drum of the falling rain on the wooden rooftop lulls us into deep sleep.
The long front yard has been the site of home run derbies, tennis ball tosses to pups who are no longer with us, water balloon fights, and games of ladder toss and croquet.

The grass has grown green and lush over the years. The backyard now supports a large, accessible deck. The old shed has been gracefully expanded into a workshop for repairing screen doors and broken chairs and for creating new projects.

The three blueberry bushes from the side yard that never produced berries have been donated to a better gardener, and the deer have eaten all the hostas along the winding, wet driveway. Daffodils and purple allium now bloom in the spring around the cottage. In the early summer, deep red and pink peonies and bright blue and white hydrangeas flourish in the new flower beds on either side of the front steps, a garden created with the help of good neighbors.

I used to say good-bye to the cottage at the end of each Labor Day when I headed back to teach school in New Hampshire, but now in retirement, I come out earlier in May and linger longer though October. Each year I wonder as I leave Long Island what changes winter may bring to our family and the world: my older son’s happy wedding, the sudden death of a dear island friend, the arrival of two grandchildren, the passing of my aging parents, a family divorce, a rich love late in life, a car accident, my younger son’s joyful marriage.

Already this year, fierce winter storms have brought snow, strong winds, and high ocean tides, damaging beach dunes, pathways, and cottages built close to the shore. In retirement, I now live in South Portland just a ferry boat ride away from the island.

Sometimes I venture out to take a snowy winter walk along the island beaches or to visit the community library. I first explored Long Island in the summer of 1981 to visit friends with my newborn baby boy. With each passing year, I have grown more connected to the island life and to this cottage, in particular.

Kismet holds the love, laughter, and tears of my family. The uncertainty of life, just like the unpredictable force of nature, reminds us that nothing remains the same.

Sometimes we welcome the changes; other times we struggle to move forward. Each year, however, when the sun grows warm again, we gather in the Kismet cottage to find peace and rest and a life of joy by the sea.

Candice Dale grew up in Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, and the Washington D.C. area. She taught humanities at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. for 29 years. In 1988, her family bought a cottage on Long Island where they enjoy summers. She now lives in South Portland.