“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied.” —Henry Beston, The Outermost House […]
By Mel Allen
May 02 2022
“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied.”
—Henry Beston, The Outermost House
I grew up in a small Pennsylvania town where summer swims meant running back and forth beneath the whirling lawn sprinkler. We had neither lakes nor ponds, and once each summer my parents would set off with us for “the shore,” two or three hours distant, depending on the wait to board the river ferry, and then another hour’s drive before the first whiff of salt air, the first seagulls in the sky. We’d stake out our spot on a crowded beach, jump into waves, wash off in a bathhouse, eat at a seafood place, then, late that night, head home. I always came back with two empty clam shells, and when I pressed them against my ears, I believed I heard the roar of surf. The best sound I knew.
I have now lived in New England well over half a century, and to everyone who does not, it almost seems unfair how much land here touches sea or bay or tidal rivers. Calculations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration count nearly 6,200 miles of coastline here, including tidal inlets, peninsulas, and islands. If you stretched all that out into a straight line, it would carry you from Portland, Maine, to Los Angeles, and back again. We love our mountains, and our rivers and lakes and forests, our villages set into hillsides, and our cities with parks and colleges and walkable downtowns, but it is the coastal landscape more than any other that shaped New England and burrows into the memory of anyone who knows it.
In these pages, you will find enough ideas on where to go and what to see and do to help you enjoy dozens of summer vacations. We at Yankee plan all year for this travel issue. But this one, especially, holds the lure of the sea inside. More than ever, we need to escape for just a while, to feel a little quieter. The deep bays, the crashing surf, the harbors, the coming and going of the fishing vessels, the sailboats scudding by, the cries of seabirds—all hold a timelessness that I wish could be felt by everyone. And I wish each issue held a seashell or two, so that no matter where you live, you could press one against your ear, close your eyes, and believe you hear endless ocean hitting the shore.