Welcome to day 5 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“…vicinity to the sea is desirable, because it is easier to do nothing by the sea than anywhere else”― E.F. Benson, The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson
The Seaside Inn in Kennebunk is “directly on the beach!” and walkable to Kennebunkport’s Dock Square shops and restaurants.
Not to mention just a few hundred yards from the really interesting St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery and Guest House, with its Lithuanian art, stained glass, and sculpture. (And a red-tailed hawk, the day we were there.) What became the monastery and guest house was built around the turn of the 20th century, with landscaping “arranged by the Frederick Law Olmsted Brothers, designers of New York City’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace.” The Lithuanian Friars of St. Casimir bought it in 1947, when they fled the Soviet invasion of Lithuania; their founder here, Fr. Justinas Vaskys, had left Lithuania at the beginning of the occupation of his homeland in 1940. (More on Lithuania under Soviet control in World War II and after.)
A bit farther, but still within walking distance, is the Mornings in Paris cafe, selling coffee drinks and a wide variety of macarons, napoleons, truffles, and other pastries and sweets.
A favourite home store for more than 20 years, Pallian & Co., is nearby in Wells.
Also in Wells, the wonderful Wells Reserve at Laudholm (or, Laudholm Farm, as I call it), with a short walk to the beach and ocean at Drake’s Island.
We also walked on the Mousam River Estuary Trail in Kennebunkport (if you haven’t listened to Hugh Laurie singing “Mystery,” please do. It’s the most important thing I can offer in this whole series.)
Seaside was the perfect place to stay in the waning days of December 2014. I can’t say the room was anything special — the most special thing was how well you could hear what was going on in the other rooms nearby (a reminder that the seemingly private space is actually public) —
— the patio outside the door was nice —
— and the location, across a small yard from the beach, is absolutely splendid.
“At the seaside all is narrow horizontals, the world reduced to a few long straight lines pressed between earth and sky.” ― John Banville
During this mid-winter time, the monastery grounds and church, the French bakery, the quiet beach and seaside motel, the cracking ice everywhere all lent a heterotopic feel to the place, a sense of being suspended in time in a timeless frozen landscape, of finding oneself in the alternate winter universe of a summer tourist town. It felt dreamy and slow. It felt like the place was taking a deep breath, an intermission, waiting patiently for what would be next, as one year ended and the next came into view. It felt like a good place to end and begin again, a place blurring land-sea-sky boundaries.
I wonder if the Lithuanian friars felt that it was a good starting place, when they came here under tragic and difficult circumstances from the Soviet Union rather than, probably, be deported to labour camps during and after the war.