Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
But (says the ex-Calvinist) there's always a dark side. The Atlas is of course published by DeLorme, in Yarmouth, home of the great globe just off Route 1. And DeLorme is David DeLorme, who founded the company in 1976 when his homemade maps found a market niche. Great story: local man loves the outdoors, sees a need, big success. The dark side is the relentless press of business. Having published Atlases for all 50 states, having pioneered the street CD-ROM for every address in the US, DeLorme is now heavily into GIS and GPS, and the irony starts to be crushing. It's now easier to find oil and minerals, easier to develop land, easier to log, easier to build malls, easier to trek into wilderness knowing you can be rescued, and the very thing the Atlas is designed for, to find places of beauty and peace, is aiding and abetting the opposite.
Having been in business and having (in effect) despoiled my own bit of Maine by owning a house here, I'm sensitive to the contradictions of such criticism. I dearly hope, however, that Maine can remain a place of some mystery and inspiration for my children and their children, that the Atlas will continue to provide inspiration for responsible souls, and that the users of GPS will every once in a while turn it off and go where they don't know where they are.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The hour seems to go very slowly. It's not just that I'm not ready to get up; it's peaceful and quiet, this transition between night and day. The ocean is calm, the light is slowly brightening, and the only wireless transmissions are my own, exploring the coast un-Googled. I know from the map that the orientation of this view is down east, a straight line over Vinalhaven, through Stonington and Acadia, all the way to Lubec. I take the hour to fly from here to there, calmly, fixed-winged like a gull. In this lovely hiatus, it's hard to believe the earth is really spinning, that the sun will rise soon enough.
Then the red starts to turn to orange and the first piercing ray shoots across the bay. In the space of 5 minutes he's fully up, white and brilliant, the earth now spinning much faster, or so it seems. The mood is broken. Various imperatives beckon. I park my little hour of reverie on the hard tarmac of the day.
Monday, September 22, 2008
- Start off in the back seat but get your skinny butt into the passenger's lap as soon as possible.
- For 20-30 minutes, tremble with fear, as it's unclear if the trip will end in some torture conducted by the groomer or the vet.
- Start to calm a little, ie, sink into long-suffering arms until a turn signal or lane change or slight slowing down or buzzing fly on the dashboard provokes new fear and fresh trembling. Go upright.
- At the hour mark, give or take 15 minutes, give over to trust and sleep, draped willy nilly across arms and legs, for the next two hours.
Yesterday, however, I drove to Maine with no passenger lap on offer. The solution, I figured, was to take along the doggy bed as a substitute. We set off, and all was well for the first few minutes. Mia settled into her bed as soon as we reached the highway.
Then I looked over at her and got my first inkling that all was indeed not well. She was lying in her bed, fine and dandy, but her head was perched on the side wall and she was staring at me. I don't know if dogs blink; she didn't for ten minutes; I checked almost continuously. She was unyielding, knowing that I was carrying her off for some disaster. Her face was pathetic.
Clearly, none of my assurances and invitations to rest gave her relief and she turned and twisted and trembled all the way through Massachusetts, finally giving in as we crossed into New Hampshire. Perhaps she thought that now, surely, having crossed a state line, someone like the FBI would be on the case and she could relax a bit. There was a brief disturbance at the toll booth as she tried to signal for help. Then she actually seemed to sleep for a bit, although her eyes were partly open.
Until we hit the Piscataqua bridge. I don't know if it was the soft curse I uttered at the driver tailgating me, or the smell of the tidal river, but Mia bolted upright at the height of the span and wouldn't be comforted. Maine doesn't necessarily give her great vibes; she's a people, after all, and shouldn't have to deal with large dogs and wild deer. For me, of course, the moment is heaven. Not even the awful sprawl of Kittery's outlet stores can blunt the sweet smells and salubrious scents of the piney woods and the ocean air.
Her distress lasted all the rest of the way. She was starting to give up to her fate around Brunswick if we hadn't stopped to deliver forgotten goods to the college senior; unfortunately, as soon as we turned towards Bowdoin, she knew she was about to see her big sister. And with that reminder of home, comfort, love, and happiness (all the things I didn't represent at the time), she wasn't about to believe me anymore and was restless all the way to Owls Head.
So today I've been extra nice (treats, a walk on Crockett's beach, a session of rope pulling), pathetic in my own way in asking forgiveness for my crimes. I believe she has forgiven me. At the moment, she's behind me on the blue couch, napping without staring.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I've always thought you can write about anything anywhere. To do it honestly and well, however, you have to get inside your character, or feel cold clammy sand between your toes, or take apart the car engine yourself. Otherwise, it feels shallow and forced. It's not just about the language or the medium. It's about your connection to something.
Everything these days conspires against connection. I'm blown around like a leaf by the news and the views. Distraction is a way of life, maybe even a deliberate philosophy. A place where we don't get so distracted by words and images of all the other places we could/should be - that's what we need to believe in.
Fortunately, Maine so strongly gives me that feeling that I can write about it while being elsewhere. I imagine that's what the theorists say also, that Marshall MacLuhan is still right about the medium being the religion. True, but maybe for people who don't have any religion to start with.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If this had happened in the 80s, the author would have had crucial detail (big dog bit little dog, or Palin vs Biden, or some territorial dispute involving an excess of feces). But there's no money or talent anymore to expand the news. We no longer get Mrs. So-and-So reporting a prowler wearing yellow suspenders. A car no longer backs onto a front yard and dumps a box of National Geographics, a goose-neck lamp and two ratty teddy bears. Mr. Smith of Worcester, MA used to be apprehended for sitting on the banks of a pond at midnight, unclothed, with bamboo pole; now he's merely arrested for fishing without a license and fined $100.
Such loss is not confined to Maine. Our local paper in Massachusetts used to have clever headlines and a little humor in the Crime Log (at least they still have the little map of town, with numbers showing where the miscreants are). Now it's just 1. Larceny, and 2. Rash of Car Breaks in Lower Falls. Lawyers must have gotten to the Editor.
Something is lost when we don't know if the scooper victim required a tetanus shot. But it's still better than reading yet another "On the Campaign Trail" column in the Boston Globe. Nothing squelches imagination like indignation.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It's pretty easy to guess what they talk about officially. Of the five Resolutions resulting from last year's conference (1. Energy and the Environment, 2. 400th Anniversary of Quebec City, 3. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, 4. Economic and Social Impacts of Demographic Issues, and 5. Oceans) I could have predicted several without looking. Not that I know what the fourth Resolution is: like any organization, NEGC&ECP has its own jargon to hide some inconvenient truths. Maybe they'll explain this year.
What they talk about unofficially will be much less interesting, I predict - the Canadiens, the Red Sox, the weather, the golf on day 1, maybe a little politics and some job networking like normal conventioneers. Gov Rell of Connecticut is female and Republican and perhaps will be asked to explain a certain phenomenon from the other side of the country.
In true convention spirit, I do hope they all wear name tags and have to stand in 10' x 10' (3.3m x 3.3m) booths to hand out little tschotckes (cadeaux). Also, in the usual spirit of things, I hope they get quite frustrated at meeting in a beautiful place and seeing only the insides of a conference center. Finally, in the new spirit of the times, may I suggest their next meeting place not be fancy resorts in places like Brudenell, PEI, Newport, RI, or Bar Harbor, ME but in a truck stop (arret du camion) just off the interstate.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I'm reminded of the essay "Dog Training" whenever I walk ours. EB receives a book to review and says, "Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor." His Fred even "disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do."
Our poodle disobeys us only when there's something else she wants to do (sniff, chase, lick, sleep); otherwise, with no scents or squirrels or grandmothers or hassocks available, she's reasonably attentive to treats and head rubs.
The dog training book's author, a Mr. Wm. Cary Duncan, discusses housebreaking at some length. Apparently, he says dogs don't like to be stared at when doing their business. Not of course true at all - Mia inevitably squats on the busiest street in our neighborhood. And don't look disinterested; as EB says, "Nothing is more comical than the look on the face of a person at the upper end of a dog leash, pretending not to know what is going on at the lower."
Maine seems to bring out the lyrical and the humorous in writers, of which EB White is the prime example. I also think of Bernd Heinrich's A Year in the Maine Woods, a lovely book. I've seen he's written One Man's Owl, obviously something to look forward to.
And I need to read Baron Wormser's The Road Washes Out in the Spring, and Wesley McNair's new anthology, A Place Called Maine. There must always be a breath of fresh air on my bedside table.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
All this happens (is necessary?) because the farm's last owner gave it to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
It does ask the question about the father(s). I shouldn't be so sexist as to assume he wasn't doing the baby-sitting, but I'm afraid it's probably true. We never see male deer around the houses here. They must be off in the deeper woods, protecting the seed, while the womenfolk get civilized.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
We make quite a fetish of our corn these days. We compare varieties and years as if they were fine wines ("Remember the '07 Sugar Snow?"). One friend of ours rates corn on a scale of 1 to 10; he never awards a 10 and almost shies away from ears of unknown provenance for fear of not even getting to 7. And not only sweet corn is on our minds: field corn seems even more precious, linked as it is to ethanol and our misfiring efforts to declare energy independence.
The stand of corn in the photo below must be sweet corn. I don't think the owner is distilling Freedom Oil in his basement, and there don't seem to be any hogs around. There easily could be though. This scene could be any one of countless fields and gardens in the places of my youth, except for the odd difference in varietal heights, signifying some kind of Eastern liberal tolerance for differences, and the fact that just a hundred yards away, behind the photographer, is the magnificent shoreline of the harbor in Rockport, Maine. There's a culture clash for you.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
12:40 pm: eat tomato sandwiches with departees, student departee adds cheese, turkey for protein, final nutritional example for parents, wife departee adds peppermint for dessert.
1:05 pm: hug daughter good-bye, sit with dog on porch, watch remaining family drive off.
1:07 pm: wait for news from New York. Walk dog. Call mother, discuss Palin. Sweat. Read. Watch soccer. Look at essay. Concentrate! Too much stuff in head. Wait. Drink. Hanna has struck, they're splayed all over the Pike. Dog naps.
6:23 pm: wife returnee calls, all is well, coming home. All stuff safe in room. Hannah rains, now worry about splaying on Pike eastward.
6:24 pm: It will be OK.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Which leads me to Sarah Palin. It's only been a few days but even if only 10% of the stuff coming out about her record is true, she's already approaching Mitt Romney's record of most issues reversed. Again if the rumors are true, she could hardly manage a small town, let alone the governorship of Alaska.
I imagine she was chosen not only because of her sex but because she's telegenic and speaks well. The same could be said for Obama, but he was chosen by people, lots of them, not by some panel of political consultants who look only at video and gut issues and polls. Do you think they considered Collins or Snowe? How long would a woman like Smith have lasted in the Republican politics of today? No way, and not at all: they seem to be women of principle. It's hard to imagine that Palin believes anything at all - another point in her favor with the panel, obviously.
And in Skowhegan, home of sensible Maine people, and a political backwater (thank God!), Sen. Smith is rolling over in her grave.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
8:55 am: leave house, drive familiar route north.
10:01 am: enter State of Maine space, rejoice silently.
11:15 am: arrive Bowdoin following many fine examples of indie rock, French pop. Daughter lucky to go to school in Maine. Worry about getting stuff to room on 13th floor, but large laundry thing on wheels appears, dump stuff into it and breeze up elevator to room. Stuff no longer looks protean, as daughter now senior and has private room to fill.
11:35 am: unlike Raymond Chandler, not a fan of long goodbye, so leave before things get mushy. Go south on Route 1 - noooooooo! Owls Head just one hour north! But yes, said I'd be in MA this week.
12:30 pm: feel rebellious, stuff stomach with cotton batting and lard for lunch, suffer recriminations and lack of Tums.
1:16 pm: cross back into NH, spent only 195 minutes in state of grace. May not return for as many as 8,640.
2:20 pm: arrive home, hug daughter to relieve pangs of several sorts. Dog cries in my face. Back to computer.