A Memorable Place Getting acquainted with E.B. White...

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

September 29, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Getting acquainted with E.B. White

By Andrew Reiner

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Even though he died in 1985, I went to E.B. White's home recently to find him. I was following the advice of a teacher who once told me that aspiring writers need to seek out their mentors.

So I drove three hours from a friend's home in Freeport, Maine, to the celebrated children's author and essayist's home in Brooklin, Maine, hoping for illumination. But a pall descended when I learned that the farm he shared with his wife (an editor at The New Yorker), their son, Joel, and many animals, was now a private residence.

I awkwardly inquired with the owners, the Gallants, if I could walk around the grounds. With a Southern accent, Mrs. Gallant graciously said that I could look around, and her husband even gave me an inside tour of the home. This was pleasant, but helped me little on my pilgrimage.

Mr. Gallant must have sensed my disappointment, because he suggested that I see White's old boathouse.

Inside this dark hut, whose only light came from a small window that looked out onto the sea, I recognized something. It was a wooden table and an attached bench that I had seen in a well-known photograph of White at work. Seated in the same spot where he wrote Charlotte's Web and many timeless essays, I looked out at the land and the seascape.

The patterns of horizontal and vertical lines in masts atop lobster boats and pine trees on the shoreline created a symmetrical grace and beauty that White courted in his prose.

Before leaving, I asked the Gallants if they knew where a pig had been buried, the tragic character in my favorite essay, Death of a Pig. What I love about this essay is that it betrays a rare moment of effusive grief and introspection for the author, who was usually squeamish about putting his emotions on the page.

The Gallants didn't know anything about the story or the gravesite, but they did direct me to a spot in the woods where they said White kept a dump.

Inside this area, overgrown with thickets and dimmed from a canopy of leaves, I saw what looked like a handmade sign. When I got close enough to the faded letters, I made out the words "Cemetery Lane."

Following the sign through waist-high weeds, I came to a crescent of small, weathered crosses bearing the names of White's long-departed, much-beloved dogs.

I would have liked to stay longer in this tangled garden that hid, yet also revealed, so much about this master craftsman, but the appetite of black flies dictated otherwise.

Driving back to Freeport, I smiled: Sometimes the darkest places yield the brightest light.

Andrew Reiner lives in Baltimore.

My Best Shot

Geri Schlenoff,

Lutherville

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

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Castaway Cay, Bahamas

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Mount McKinley, Alaska

Sal and Ann Blasi, Upperco

"Last year, we had the great experience of visiting Alaska. After flying into Fairbanks, we went to Denali National Park, where we took this photo of the "Great Mountain," as Mount McKinley is called. The second day of our visit, the weather was crisp and clear -- not often the case at McKinley. The scene exemplified beauty, serenity and calmness."

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot: Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place: In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that has changed you; the nostalgia a special place evokes; the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

Readers Recommend: Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (Photos are welcome.)

Readers Respond: Send a brief reply to our current question: Where is your favorite place to see fall foliage? Selected answers may appear in a future issue. (Photos are welcome.)

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