Portland History Docents might best be described as ambassador of the City of Portland's wealth of historic resources. Organized annually for the last decade by five of Portland's historic institutions, this docent program provides some 50 or more participants with months of preparation for guiding visitors through the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, Victoria Mansion, Tate House, Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, or Portland Landmarks' sites (including Portland Observatory).
The program culminates each May by graduating a new class of docents at a final ceremony at the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum on Peaks Island.
Midway through the program, after a range of site visits, participants "pledge" to serve as docent at one of the hosting institutions. Today, I pledged to docent at the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House.
With this decision, I bring myself full circle back to my childhood crush on the bewhiskered Henry and his poetry. When bedridden for a week with influenza as a young child, I occupied the hours by memorizing The Wreck of the Hesperus.
At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.
The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.
Perhaps the image of a young woman washed ashore, frozen and lashed to a mast, has brought me to this historic house. Perhaps the fact that this nationally-famous poet wrote - not about somewhere else - but about familiar places, about a sense of home. My home. Perhaps it's because my mother toiled the soil of the Longfellow House garden throughout years of my life and her spirit lingers there still. Likely it's all of these.
More than anything, when I received my first behind-the-scenes tour of the house today, it felt like coming home. I hope to see you there.