Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
It's not the wash cycle, which is boring in the extreme. It's the drying, ie, the obscure satisfaction gained from hanging clothes outside. Obscure because I haven't figured it out yet. Here are the elements:
- Planning all week for a sunny day, or morning, or afternoon, or please just an hour.
- Taunting the electric dryer.
- Taunting the power company.
- Taunting George Bush?
- Watching the sky for rain showers.
- Taking down the sheets and wrapping your head in them to experience the smell of sunshine.
- Getting into a bed with clean, air-dried sheets, drying yourself with a clean, air-dried towel, putting on clean, air-dried tighty whities, etc. etc.
- Making your grandmother proud.
Is that enough for pleasure, or epiphany? You'd think so, although there is the unmanly embarassment, and twenty years of comments, which will take a while to undo. At least I resolve not necessarily to tease when my helpmeet starts the laundry before breakfast.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Throwing out a whole fridge, however deceased, should have been worse. But we never really considered repair. Well, I did, briefly, but the thought of trying to find someone on a Sunday morning, waiting days for a service call, and probably it couldn't be repaired anyway, and then what about the Chicken Fajita frozen pizza and array of condiments? So we did what everyone does and went to Lowe's (open 8:00 to 7:00). Less than 24 hours later, decay departed, life resumed.
So what happened to Yankee ingenuity and thrift? Wouldn't it have been more satisfying to get the old brown relic repaired? After all, I called appliance repair back home in Massachusetts, when the heating element of the oven shorted out. And in Maine I'm more inclined to try to fix things myself, as if the heroes of the 19th century - Emerson and Thoreau and all the rest - were still alive to help. But of all the conveniences of our convenient lives, fresh food always to hand is sacrosanct, and anything that interrupts our ability to make ice must be rectified, ASAP. We believe in Freon, even in self-reliant Maine.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Your serious gardener probably doesn't bother - too easy, too common, they grow in ditches by the side of the road, for heaven's sake! Gardening, like life, should be a constant struggle against the elements, insects, too-much or too-little hydration, and in-laws bearing petunias in pots, and bringing one's rare roses or orchids to flower year after year, with military precision and planning, apparently guarantees the thrill of victory.
I'd rather observe than battle. You see your life in the arc of one flower: the vigorous morning, opening to dew and hummingbirds and energetic growth; the afternoon sun and full flowering of your ambition and maturity; the gentle evening and its contented wilting and spent stamens; night-time, when you humbly fall to the grass and sleep. Your younger brother does the same the next day, and your nephew, your daughter, your third cousin twice removed. This daily miracle pleases me more than any prideful campaign of cultivars.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
A season-shifting kind of day: definitely summer this morning, wind out of the south, warm and so humid that a couple of minutes of playing with the dog produced more than enough sweat for me and ennui for her; then the wind shifted to the north and east late morning, and it was suddenly cool enough on the deck for me to seek the sunny corner where we usually huddle in September; by the time I started my daily afternoon project (window washing today) the wind was back in the south, with attendant results.
I would hardly notice such changes in the city, where the wind needs thunderstorms and blizzards to get publicity. Here it's a significant fact of life. We have no windows on the north side of the house; there are storm windows all along the east side; a couple of the firs tilt lovingly toward us and will have to come down some day; the National Weather Service breaks into radio broadcasts (even Beethoven, who doesn't really mind) with storm warnings; wind direction determines the take-off and landing patterns at the nearby *&^%$# airport. In the country we live much closer to, and are more aware of, the personalities of the winds, which used to be gods with names and adventures, but now are homogenized by the headline writers and marketers into slogans - winds of change, war, jihad, dawn, praise, and all manner of Four Winds seaside hotels.
Oh, and we don't need weathermen either.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Setting aside any religious reasons for this remarkable point of view (she is a Unitarian Universalist, after all!), I hope that the state of Maine has a good deal to do with the state of her mind. She hints that it does - the mix of natural and human discourse, the sense of community, inspiring beauty all around. There's plenty of tragedy here too but small-town Maine seems to provide the tools to deal with it. My favorite story from the book: Warden Hannah Robitaille sets out to do some repairs on a remote warden camp in January. Her snowmobile quits in the middle of the lake on the way over, and she has to walk, in bitter cold and snow and dark, winds blowing, her life in danger. She prays but not for help. She prays, "God, this is great: I'm getting paid for this!"
And if she had died, a thousand people would have attended her funeral.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
The taste is marvelous, of course, but I must confess to another pleasure: the seeds that stick in your teeth. They are of the perfect size to lodge creatively, and for the several hundred yards back home, I explore and excavate, which is pleasurable enough, but the highlight is the satisfying compulsion to spit them out, or more correctly blow them out, concentrating on accuracy and distance. With the Olympics coming up, we're going to be hounded with personal bests, the year's best, American records, Olympic records, world records, Lithuanian records, and dreaming of a raspberry seed world championship is as important as any hundred meter fly. I especially like it when there's a breeze out of the west, although of course any record thus established would be wind-aided.
If I'm unlucky, I'll find a seed hiding between gum and one of my implants, often much later, in the house. Dental implants are a decidedly un-boyish thing, with few Olympic records, and since I don't quite dare to bombard the wife or the dog, I must step outside or swallow. When I was a kid in the early 60s, my brothers and I had no such compunctions and my mother would have to intervene. Fortunately for her, the raspberry canes that Dad planted behind the shed at our summer cabin lasted only a year or two before he gave up. At the slightest hint of redness, the deer got breakfast, and he did not want to get up early enough - it was summer, he was a teacher - to prevent it. The boys waited for watermelon season.
I'll wait for tomorrow, and another swing at the very definition of carefree: walking in the woods, eating berries, imagining the podium.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
This afternoon it was the trio of fawns, sans mother this time, or more likely, mother was hidden just out of sight. Last week the four of them played on the lawn of the two-family house on Canns Beach; today it was the lawn of the house that shelters handicapped kids. We didn't get too close either time -mothers, you know.
Wildlife is getting used to humans. They really don't have a choice, I guess, as we poke our way into every corner of every habitat. Do deer prefer lawns? Lawns tend to have good things to eat in and around them, so the danger represented by the bipeds is waning in favor of the calories they can provide. Evolution in our lifetime: is the Peaceable Kingdom next?
See, dear, our young and tender hostas are players on a much bigger stage.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
But the taste (oh, the perfect taste!) makes me want to add "Civilize raspberry patch" to the list of projects for the summer. They say that smell is quickest to prick memory; well, for me it's the taste of raspberries, and everything else worthwhile besides. When the children were young, we would make an entire ritual of them. From my walks I judged the best day for picking. All put on long pants and bug dope and walked up Bay View carrying the same stained green berry containers from years past. It took our collective forty fingers about an hour to get 3 quarts, enough for one large spoonful each at lunch and then, the highlight of the week, Cindy made a freshly baked pie, luscious, bright-red, that we drooled over until it was cool enough, usually at the end of the first round of Wizard, to eat. Sometimes there was even a piece of two left over for the next day, but it wasn't as dramatic anymore, nor were the pies baked from farm-stand berries when we got too lazy to pick our own.
It's still a shock to me to see raspberries in supermarkets, or on dessert menus, in January. The taste should stay intense, fleeting, full of summer sun and air. The only carbon they consume should be the CO2 you expend as you walk to the top of the road.
We also picked blueberries, the kids and I, in the field on Ash Point that is now a new, as yet unembodied cemetery. Blueberry pie is almost as superb, but the wild blueberry seems a tougher species, not quite so precious or fragile (it's harvested by mechanized rakes, after all), and the cultivated ones are hardly worth mentioning.
Later in the summer, blackberries ripen along the roads, and we stand there eating but not saving. The girls didn't particularly like them, pies and jams are too seedy and require too much sugar, the blackberry has little cachet, little spirit - unlike its intense red cousin that embodies the idyll of summer.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The breakwater also makes the harbor pretty safe for large boats - the windjammers, the Coast Guard, the trawlers, the Navy warship open to visitors during the Lobster Festival. Now we hear that Rockland is getting the ultimate touristical compliment. The big cruise ships are coming. There have been some little ones here and there, the 50- or 100-passenger teenagers sailing the coast from Bangor, but in the fall of 09 we're supposed to get the kind that, if the ship were full and all the passengers came ashore at once, would increase Rockland's population by nearly 50%. What will Rockland do with 3,000 tourists? Disembarking from a ship owned by Royal Caribbean? Which, if the town fathers are really nice to them, might deign to dock overnight?
I'm definitely going to track these itineraries. Maybe even get a glimpse of the monsters from the safety of my deck.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The other day we actually walked through the village of Owls Head, parking the car in the lighthouse lot and walking back. Not much here: the general store, the post office, a library open 5 hours a week, and of course the paraphernalia of fishing - the town dock, traps and barrels, skiffs, lobster pound, boats at their moorings. Apparently, Owls Head un-developed itself. A hundred years ago it bustled a bit, with inns and restaurants and dance halls and the train that brought sand-seekers directly to Crescent Beach. Isn't Maine increasingly relying on the tourists? Why are we blessed?
We sat for a while at the picnic tables on the dock. The building behind us looked suspiciously like it once was a clam shack, with something like a take-out window. "Wouldn't it be great..." we started to say. Nah, then the lighthouse people would come down here too.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Our first summer here was 1995 and everything was new, including all these ocean birds. We immediately started a list of species spotted. Of course, after a few weeks, the possibilities were exhausted (although we didn't see a bald eagle until relatively recently, by which time the list was abandoned, even discarded). This doesn't mean I can't still get excited by a day like Sunday, when a great blue heron flapped overhead, a large hawk sat in a tree and performed a kind of screeching whistle at the dog and me, and an eagle flew fast along the shore on its way to an important appointment.
Then there's the little fellow above. He's actually the product of the paring of a pear - having quartered it, I was cutting out the core - and appeared spontaneously, in full feather. The adults in the room became wracked with laughter and took lots of pictures. The teenagers smiled but looked askance at each other.
"Look!" I managed, "Owls Head, get it?"
One replied, "It's funny, Daddy, but not hilarious."
Worlds continue to diverge.
Monday, July 7, 2008
There's a riot of purple in Maine in the summer: lupine, purple loosestrife, fireweed, irises, campanula, coneflowers, foxglove, clover. Many of these are weeds, wild and even invasive, rooting about like kings. Then there's this viney-stuff I can't identify that thrives along the edges of lawns and roads, that smothers and kills other plants (also like kings). I pull it out when I see it invading the gardens and the rose bush. But it looks rather nice along the road, hiding the tossed coffee cups and cigarette butts.
A weed is a plant in the wrong place. Purple is the color associated with royalty. When the President invades Maine this summer, does he therefore fit right in?
Let's just say that Walker's Point is not really Maine. Let's say that one man's meat is another man's poison.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I don't know if it's laziness or cussedness, but the world seems to vacillate between Owls and Owl's, sometimes in the same document, when talking about this town. Of course, if you don't use the apostrophe, there's little sense in it (a head with multiple owls?), which is why I don't. It's good to be nonsensical. Besides, no one can even say how the town got its name in the first place. From the way the promontory hosting the lighthouse looks? From a transliterated Indian name? You have to be cross-eyed in the first case, and starry-eyed in the second. Or just be ornery. (I wonder if town meeting has debated this?)
I'm for accepting both little mysteries. Grammar and sense should fail every once in a while. Don't try to explain sun and fog.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
A couple of years ago the rose bush at the back of the ocean garden was looking pretty spindly, so I put on thick gloves and attacked it, cutting it down to half-size and clearing out the dead stalks. The violence helped; it's looking good this year, although never so full and lush as the wild bushes growing along the lanes and the edges of beaches. We don't know if our bush grew there naturally, or if the previous owners planted it. It's a little precarious, right on the edge of the bank, between two firs, battling with the lupine and the lilies in the garden. It needs the occasional human touch.
The shoreline doesn't particularly need the human touch. I'm guessing the tidal zone has stayed essentially the same for thousands of years - the same rocks, rockweed, chaos of waves, with only a stray piece of plastic or invasive species of crab to mar the illusion. I can look out at the bay, of course, and see boats and lobsters pots; there are machines in the sky; houses and stairs and sling chairs bedeck the land above the water. But I also can sit at the ocean's edge and look at the complex of currents swirling around the rocks, always the same, always changing, and wonder what the attraction is to the fancy varieties of rose that are so difficult to grow, when the rosa rugosa gladdens the heart without even trying.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
In a very small way it's my dominion day too. Something new is being founded today, whatever it is, trying to understand the world maybe, with time and the governance of words and pictures and our humble speck of ground in Maine as laboratories.
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
(Read the whole poem Auguries of Innocence http://www.artofeurope.com/blake/bla3.htm ) for some gruesome couplets of what this too-famous opening stanza means in the real world.)
And also a day to re-connect to the world in another way - nervously sending out writing for publication review for the first time in decades.