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
Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
"My family and I were camping in Utah, and took a mule ride through Bryce Canyon. The sky was deep blue, and the rock formations -- called hoodoos -- were bright orange. I took this photograph on the trail when I got a view of the animals, the sky and the rocks. We thought Bryce was the most incredible place we had seen."
Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Tiffany Taliaferro, Baltimore
"I was on a four-day Bahamas cruise on the Disney Wonder. The ship landed on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. The beautiful water and warm weather made this vacation very enjoyable."
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."
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