In Notes on the Landscape of Home,
her newest book of essays, Susan Hand Shetterly explores what it is to live in a Down East coastal town and to pay attention, over time, to what it offers of land, water, wildlife, and neighbors. She takes her cue from Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry, who advocate for the virtues of staying in one place, believing that as we delve deeper into the landscape of home, we learn to read the world.
For two and a half years, Susan wrote short essays for Down East Magazine. She’s expanded some of them and revisited the subjects of others originally published in Yankee Magazine and The Sun. She includes them along with new essays written in the time of Covid. Together, they build on a sense of place and community.
Photo credit: Barbara Tedesco
As in many places, this particular one is in trouble. Susan celebrates the work of communities to restore and protect environments their people know and love, and takes a look at what is changing and what has been lost. Among her subjects are the reestablishment of the bald eagle population in Maine, the reintroduction of the American turkey, and the turkey vulture’s northward trend.
She also writes about shorebird migrations, the bluefin tuna and the humpback and right whales in the Gulf of Maine, counting alewives along a stream in her town in the spring, seaweed cultivation in a bay, a forest’s rebirth, the island that gave her the imaginative space she needed, and more. She recounts how she and her neighbors kept each other company at a distance during the long months of Covid, and she celebrates coastal culture—its particular, deep history that anchors a person’s sense of place.