Updated: Apr 25, 2022
By May Davidson
We toss about the word “love” so often that it can almost seem commonplace, but as a silent, unseen force, it is the greatest power in our lives. Its truth is what binds us to other humans, and sits at the core of caring, kindness, faith, insight, and even survival.
When I say “I love Maine,” I am saying love is a form of worship. As I have said many times, Maine is a place of worship without walls. I was born here, and from my childhood spent close to the sea, lake, and pine forest, I learned the meaning of beauty in all elements: salt and pine-scented fog, birds, snow, wildflowers, and animals. There was nothing to fear and everything to inspire wonder; wonder as to the mystery of how it all came about.
The beauty of Maine’s land and sea served as the constant backdrop for the love story between my husband, Jim, and myself. He was a guest at my parents’ inn when I was sixteen (Jim was eighteen), and while we swam, rowed, and fished; while we enjoyed the view of the pines near my family’s barn and breathed in the scent of apple-blossom petals and lilacs; and while we walked the trails and examined wonders that washed up on the shore—we fell in love.
Determined never to leave our beloved state, Jim and I went lobster fishing, raised thousands of chickens for a poultry company, drove an 18-wheeler truck across America, and took on one project after another. Finally, Jim invented the beautiful Maine Bell Buoy Wind Bell (now available nationwide). Writing my first book, Whatever it Takes—a memoir recounting our life as we worked together for seven decades—was like living our lives all over again, a joy in itself. I have kept a daily diary since I was fifteen years old, and from these pages I was able to recall facts, reactions, impressions, and actual conversations from my life.
When we drove the 18-wheeler truck, and it wasn’t my turn at the wheel, I would sit in the lower sleeper berth with my laptop computer and my journals, and write for the many hours that Jim was behind the wheel. Later, when we had a live-aboard boat (and spent weekends on it), I wrote on the couch in the wheelhouse. Together, Jim and I worked, loved, laughed, and danced in the pasture. Writing Whatever it Takes was like writing our story. Salt and Roses, however, has been a different, but no less significant, project.
For more than sixty years I have had the privilege and pleasure of writing a column called “Lower Round Pond” for The Lincoln County News. Subject matter for the column has primarily been the little miracles I’ve witnessed in nature and in our barn full of sheep, ducks, geese, rabbits, pigs, and goats. Relating their interactions, grace, and small dramas brought me the satisfaction of sharing both funny and beautiful sights that aren’t seen unless one lives with farm animals. I also offered observations of the deep wood that surrounded me, and the treasures it held. I wanted to help others seek the magic of a forest—so many wonders to be found if one just takes the time to search, or just gaze. Salt and Roses is a collection of fifty of these pieces written over the course of my adulthood. They serve as a time capsule—relaying the beauties, wonders, and quiet humor of life in midcoast Maine.
Throughout the years, I have found that laughter and love, or “salt and roses,” are the most important parts of life—and I have had many years to experience both. Laughter levels the inner mountains we must sometimes climb, while love is powerful. The “salt” in my collection tells true stories of actual people, including my husband and myself, finding themselves in comical situations in their daily lives. The “roses” that bloom on the page are stories of farming and animals, their innocence and special society, the goodness of people, and the astounding beauty that abounds in Maine.
I want this book to bring joy to readers, but also to bring them tranquility—like the kind one may find on a spruce-forested Maine island. As you read the book, please picture yourself sitting on the shore, breathing in salt air and the perfume of wild Rugosa Roses. Imagine seabirds wheeling freely, caressed by the wind thermals they ride. Watch the submerged boulders appear to be washing the locks of their seaweed as it gently swirls in the incoming tide.
Think of paddling a canoe or kayak on one of Maine’s multitude of pine-surrounded lakes, and hear the heart-piercing wilderness call of loons; maybe picture a moose enjoying a cool bath in gentle water. If you live in Maine, you know many of these pleasures. If not, I hope I give you a reason to visit this place of beauty, serenity, and inspiration; coastal life in Maine is soul-nourishment. Whatever it Takes was a love letter to my husband, Salt and Roses is my love letter to Maine.
May Davidson, author of the memoir Whatever it Takes, was born and raised in Maine. Over the years, they worked at a variety of jobs, including owning a chicken farm, raising sheep, owning a sawmill, and crossing the country as long-haul truckers. She decades she also wrote a column in The Lincoln County News. Many of the essays in her new book, Salt and Roses, first appeared in that newspaper.