The road to Blue Hill is long and winding, with red- and rock-studded fields on either side as you drive down and east on peninsulas, as if the bones of ancient giants were exhuming themselves the farther you go toward the ocean. When you finally turn into town on an October afternoon it feels like stepping into actual magic. It’s a New England dream world with nothing but libraries, book stores, galleries, cafes, Congregational Churches and a flower shop as far as the eye can see. Main Street isn’t busy, like Bar Harbor or Camden, but seems almost forgotten, left like a village where nothing changes and everything is good. Those sorts of places can also feel haunted though. Downeast can definitely go either way.
I was late to meet Kate in the tasting room. She was gracious about it. She had a plate of chocolate waiting and offered us drinks with a warm welcome. I sat down with her at a table near the window and immediately felt something like relief washing over me; even though I hadn’t noticed stress, I suddenly was happier than I had been. I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by chocolate and flowers, balloons, records, plants, wreaths, and other cheerful things. It’s possible that this was heaven. The Black Dinah Chocolatiers tasting room shares space with a flower shop, which is genius.
Have you ever been in a small town railroad station? The sort of waiting room with a wood burning stove in the center and brown painted benches along the walls where perhaps you waited for a train by yourself during college? And you got to experience that curious sensation of loneliness and hope that I thought only adolescents felt? That is where I am in my life right now. Joseph Campbell might say that I am on the precipice of adventure, about to journey into the unknown realm of independence and adulthood. That metaphorical room also houses this candy store. It’s easy to imagine a platform to another dimension, one hidden within this one. I’m not saying it’s a wardrobe or 9 3/4, but it’s something close.
Kate started in smiling, telling me about falling in love with a Maine islander and moving from California all the way east to Isle au Haut. It wasn’t a passion for chocolate that birthed Black Dinah but love just the same. She was looking for a business, a way to make a living from a remote island and chocolate just materialized out of her relationship with her neighbors, farmers and other local food types. That influence is evident in rhubarb and spice and salted chocolates; she is learning from savory to transcend sweet. Her chocolate creations are not overly saccharine, which she explains is perhaps why many of her most loyal customers are old folks. Her candy tastes like candy used to, the way it’s supposed to be.
The tasting room is more practical than precious. You can sit at a table among the flowers, on a sofa in the back near the ribbons, or at the salvaged soda fountain counter and enjoy chocolate that you want to savor, that gratifies the pleasure centers of the your brain and energizes you in a wonderful way. After we sampled a bit we walked down Main street. We played in the leaves, already fallen there, and piled our sweaters in a heap as we ran in a park by the ocean. We lingered on a good climbing rock of an island, where Violet whispered to periwinkles and Mina jumped into tide pools, or “tad pools” as Violet calls them. We didn’t want to leave, but we had to; it was getting late and I wanted to be home before dark.
I promised we’d return soon, and I meant it. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the assistant manager Sarah about how she gave Henry Rollins a chocolate sugar skull, and with another employee about how in summer customers spend hundreds of dollars on chocolate in one fell swoop. What luxury! But what would Henry Rollins think? It’s a totally enchanting place, from top to bottom. We could not have had a more beautiful day for driving and looking for foliage and Halloween decorations and weird old houses and tasting chocolate the way it should be. Many thanks to Kate et. al for inviting us and letting us hang out in their joyful world for a while.