In 2019, the black-comedy thriller “Blow the Man Down” was filmed entirely in Harpswell, and immortalized our Orr’s Island home. Many of our rooms, even our front door, featured in the movie.

“This home has viewed the return of the island’s fishing vessels for over 100 years – a perfect example of a coastal cape, this spacious house has easterly ocean views, and impeccable updates.” This was the real estate agent’s quote that got our attention back in 2003. The cape has now stood 180 years; the word “impeccable” was up for debate.

We were in a small rented apartment in Boston then, waiting for an international student exchange program my husband worked for to decide where to re-locate. After 9-11 it was important to us to move out of New York City.

If “home” can be a metaphor for contentment, peace, joy or security, looking for a new one is like looking for a new love. But, as in the beginning of any love affair, how much you are willing to overlook or deny depends on how long that first blush lasts. True love can go beyond skin deep, travel to the soul and reside there to offer comfort in spite of any logic, misgivings or disappointment.

Portland was the chosen location. When our real estate agent sent that listing for the home on Orr’s Island, I immediately drove to Maine, even though my husband was away on business.

We were familiar with Harpswell and Brunswick, my son had gone to Bowdoin, my husband spent summers in Kennebunkport. Reaching Orr’s Island, I saw breathtaking water views, a small village, a post office, a library and lovely old homes. Rounding the corner onto Leeman Road, I was greeted by a wooden picket fence, surrounding perennial gardens and a beautiful antique white cape. I mentally bought it without even stepping inside.


Even though my husband and I have considerable house skills (we had lived on a 35-acre farm in West Virginia, built a post-and-beam barn on 10 acres in Vermont and completed a home in East Hampton, New York, abandoned by the builder, and I had previously been a Realtor) we knew better, much better. But, ah, love at first sight!

Many levels inside the house, because of its position on rock ledges, would horrify anyone with small children or elderly parents, neither of which we considered at the time. The basement became a stream each spring; original antique brick walks had succumbed to ravages of ice and water. The perennial gardens were in serious need of splitting, lovely six-over-six windows required plastic inserts to keep out the strong nor’easterly winds and the walls and ceilings in the “old house” had a chemical reaction to the plasterboard and modern paint.

The small “1840s cape” was actually one part of three additions, two built in the 1960s, to merit the term “spacious.” To heat it required baseboard electric, a propane heater, oil furnace and wood stove. The lack of insulation made heating bills outrageous. So, we did what had to be done, what we could do.

It has been over 20 years since we bought that home. We shared every summer with our grandchildren, lived in it and truly loved it. We watched fishing boats head out of the cove, saw Ragged Island from our bedroom window, enjoyed the setting sun dancing on Casco Bay, spring azaleas bursting into color, a white lilac’s heavenly perfume, Montauk daisies hosting migrating monarch butterflies and baskets of honey crisp apples from our trees.

Like all passionate love affairs, this one eventually had to come to an end. “Downsized” now in Harpswell, we plant remembered perennials, built a spacious art studio and have central, manageable heat. My children and their grown families, happily relocated to Maine, still visit.

Sailors know: You cannot plot a course forward until you plot where you have been. If home is “where the heart is,” then we carry our “homes” with us always. Cherish the past – happy memories can sustain us emotionally and spiritually long after a home is gone.

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