Today, on a freezing day in the Old Port, dozens of Irish Americans came together to celebrate “Irish-ness,” which, in New England, is something of a badge of honor. To be “Irish” (read: at one point one of your great-great so-and-sos came here from the Emerald Isle) is to be proud. And, on March 17th, everyone is Irish.
It’s a strange thing, though. Having lived in Dublin, St. Patrick’s day is known mostly as the time of year when swarms of Irish Americans stomp into Temple Bar and puke, pee and philander around the streets. Business, for the Irish, goes on as usual. Then, one could assert, St. Paddy’s day is more of an “Irish-American Holiday,” and this crowd in Portland certainly showed up en masse to claim that title.
The oddest thing about the whole celebration were the mixed messages in the crowd about who is and what it means to be “Irish,” a sort of sacred and profane situation. Young kids wandered around in GAA jerseys with hurls and young girls carried banners promoting traditional Irish dance, all while people wearing pot-of-gold hats and leprechaun outfits stumbled about waiting for it to be a more socially appropriate hour to order an “Irish Carbomb.”
Despite the confusion and reductiveness of “Irishness” there, it was still fantastic that at least some of the culture that some consider to be dying in Ireland is alive stateside, even if you have to fight past a Lucky Charms mascot to see it.
Higgins Beach in Scarborough is a winter-time surf Mecca for those seeking out half-decent swells. Pulling boards off of frozen roof-racks, intrepid wet-suited thrill-seekers scramble across snow banks to the beach, across frozen sand, to frothing crashes and nearly-freezing water.
During summer, Higgins is a writhing mass of tourists and beach enthusiasts, but in the cold, only the most intrepid dog walkers and surfers can be found. The undisturbed sand, lacking the footprints and chaos of summer traffic, reflects like a looking glass.
It will not be long until the seasons steal the stinging, cold winds and return the warm glow of summer, but whether that is entirely for the better is a matter of opinion, at least for those who were there the day I took these photos.
Located between Route One and Scarborough Beach (but before the brilliantly named “Massacre Pond,” the story behind which I’m not certain I want to know) is Scarborough Marsh. Biddeford Savings, a local bank, is offering $500 to one photographer who can best capture the essence of the marsh, as well as an additional $500 to a non-profit of your choice.
The area is gorgeous, the wildlife endangered, and the smell nothing less than acrid. Really, it’s quite a location. Thankfully, photos capture only one sense. If you have a chance, get out there and submit your photo via their website, or the Instagram hashtag #marshmadness (cute…) to enter.
If you are looking for a possible non-profit for your donation, I’d suggest The REAL School on Mackworth Island, which serves the most at-risk students in Southern Maine, or Preble Street Resource Center, which proves to be one of the most innovative, caring, and well-run non-profits in Maine, and possibly the country.
Hidden away in Phippsburg, Maine, is Morse Mountain. Protected and studied by Bates College, Morse Mountain and its trail down to Seawall Beach provide a welcome escape from Maine’s crowded, fan-favorite beaches like Crescent, Old Orchard, and Popham (of which Seawall is a conservation-protected extension.)
Sadly, and thankfully, the two mile hike to the beach dissuades many from attending the beach, where balls, dogs, frisbees, and all that may endanger the flora and fauna are prohibited.
What that leaves is a glimpse into what Maine may have looked like before it became Vacationland, and an explanation of what made it a national tourist destination.