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We Too Are Salt and Water

Stories from the Coast

We Too Are Salt and Water

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Megan Grumbling
Photo credit: Amy Grumbling

On August 1, Maine Coast Heritage Trust publicly announced a $125 million Campaign to address urgent threats to the coast and keep it open, alive, healthy, working, and beautiful—today and far into the future. The announcement was made by MCHT President Tim Glidden at the L.L.Bean Paddling Center in Freeport before a crowd of conservation supporters and members of the press.

Glidden outlined threats to the coast—including limited guaranteed public access to the water and looming impacts of climate change on Maine’s human and natural communities—and MCHT’s strategic plan to address those threats, before introducing poet Megan Grumbling. Speaking from personal experience, with extraordinary tenderness and detail, Grumbling spoke to the importance of this Campaign and MCHT’s mission to keep the coast Maine.

What follows is an excerpt of Megan Grumbling’s speech.


I grew up learning to canoe down tidal rivers, learning how to dive under a wave, to reach under tide pools to find moon snails to put my lips to and hum.

I also grew up learning how to be in the world by watching where and how the land meets the sea, by watching the complex ebb and flow, the crashes and shifts that happen only at the coast.

I grew up finding in the coast words that I wanted to hold in my mouth. Rose hip, and barnacle, and heron. And I grew up finding in the coast a beauty that I wanted to learn how to speak and share. So it’s really no exaggeration to say that as a poet, the coast gave me both words and a reason to use them.

Now, I’m grown up (mostly), living and writing and teaching in Portland, and I still find new delight and wonder and pleasure in our coast every day that I’m alive here. I’m sure that’s the same for everyone in this room.

“As a poet, that the coast gave me both words and a reason to use them.”

Perhaps like me, you find delight in the sudden white of a snowy egret in a green marsh, or sitting on warm granite for hours watching the shifting blues of sea and sky, or in the tart orange sweetness of a rose hip. Perhaps like me, you've found wonder in the froth and roar of a crashing wave, or in hiking along a river under cool spruce, or swimming through eel weed in the dark among the twinkling green cosmos of phosphorescence.

Perhaps like me, one of your favorite luxuries is a high tide in late afternoon as the light deepens like honey, and perhaps like me you feel that the salt of our coast is alive in your very cells, that you belong to it.

“Maybe like me you come away from the coast feeling kinder, with a renewed desire to care for the people and the creatures and the places around us.”

And it’s not just pleasure that we find at the coast, is it? I think like me, you too might come to the coast for renewal. You too might find solace and balance in the turning of the tides, or curiosity at the intricate, strange innards of a jellyfish, or endurance in how an eastern cedar gnarls as it grows against a sea wind off the coast.

When you too spend time where the land meets the sea, you might remember how liminal our own lives are, how fluid and how interconnected. And maybe like me, you come away from the coast feeling kinder, with a renewed desire to care for the people and the creatures and the places around us.

“I am keenly aware that these places cannot protect themselves.”

So all of this the coast gives us, and I am so grateful and proud that as Mainers we choose to preserve them and to keep them open for all of us, not just those who can afford ocean-front property. We, as a community, should feel proud of this.

But like everyone in this room, I am keenly aware that these places cannot protect themselves.

Having grown up in Wells and living now in Portland, I know what coastal development looks like, as all of us do. Each new shiny building I see along waterfront, I feel ever more urgently the stakes of protecting these special, beautiful places, keeping them open, and keeping them as they are—working, wild, open, alive. Keeping them, as Maine Coast Heritage Trust so nicely says, Maine. The place all of us belong to.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Campaign couldn’t come at a more crucial time. As someone who, like all of us, loves the coast, I’m grateful for the work of the Trust as the stakes rise ever higher, and as the work of conservation does become ever more complex, difficult, and expensive.

“I’m constantly gratified anew by how many of us do come together to do what needs to be done.”

As someone who loves where the land meets the sea, I’m grateful for how much Maine Coast Heritage Trust and its supporters have done to make sure all of us can spend the day watching an osprey hunt or wiggling our toes in the sea foam. And of course all of us can help, and we can find joy in coming together to do so.

I’m constantly gratified anew by how many of us do come together to do what needs to be done—the work of taking care—to make sure all of us and our children’s children’s children will continue to find moon snails in the tide pools, or beach rose romance on the ocean at night, and will continue to float in green coves or taste the tang of rose hips.

We too are salt and water; we too have tides.

We have so much to learn from where the land meets the sea.


Megan Grumbling is a writer, editor, and educator based in Portland, Maine.

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