Saturday, September 27, 2008


on vacation (not in Maine!) - I'll resume in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First Week of Fall


The days have been sunny and cool this week, the nights clear and cold. It's a little strange to be outside the rhythm of changes that fall usually brings, to be able to enjoy these perfect days without too many distractions. And life gets slower up here the closer we get to winter: far fewer boats in the bay, cars tooling down to Ash Point, airplanes landing, tourists window-shopping. You can see the slow natural changes, like trees changing color, people getting wiser, even as the unnatural ones (schools, jobs, 5-year plans, bail-outs) pick up the pace elsewhere.

The Japanese maple is a small reminder not to worry about the calendar too much. Some varieties, like this one at Vesper Hill, blaze even in June. To me that's comforting. A tree is free from the curse of locomotion. It doesn't have make progress to make a point; it's magnificent in its own right, in all seasons. Yet it has a spirit that transcends time, subtly in most cases, blatantly in others. The Japanese maple is particularly wonderful, for it also travels in space, the contemplative focal point of countless gardens around the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Maine Atlas and Gazeteer

...is clearly one of the best books ever published, good for hours of daydreaming, armchair adventures, and general baby-boomer innocence, not to mention a pretty good companion when you're out and about in the state. I love the way all the hills are named, like the native Americans used to. I love the six different line styles for roads, from limited access highway to trail, with the ominous and exciting empty circle signifying a permanently washed-out bridge or road. I especially love the red gazeteer icons symbolizing places of interest, from proud lighthouses to humble nature preserves. I'm proud to be on the spread of maps 8 and 9 (almost entirely ocean, includes the mythical islands of Monhegan and Matinicus, also the Ragged Island of Elisabeth Ogilvie).
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

Sunrise

At about 5:30 there's a faint red blush in the sky over Vinalhaven, and then not much happens for the next hour. Each morning's dawn is slightly different. Yesterday there was a brisk breeze from the north, and streams of seagulls sailed into it. I didn't see any going south but they must have returned, perhaps out of sight over the land, flying in a grand circle, all for the show-off pleasure of maneuvering straight into wind without flapping their wings. Yesterday's sky was also mostly cloudy except for a band of clear hugging the east horizon, affording just enough room for a full concentrated red rise. This morning's sky was cloudless; I was surprised to see how much red tinted the blue unhindered.

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

Dog Napping


The usual sequence of events that takes the dog from vertical to horizontal on the trip across state lines is as follows:
  • 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

While Not in Maine

In the great tradition of university writing of the late 20th century, I now write about what it's like to write about a place without being there. I haven't been in Maine for more than a week now, so I'm served by memory or imagination (or both mixed up) and not the waves and stars and snoopy deer. Needless to say, it's a little more difficult to get inspired at a distance. And the kind of writing that deliberately denies a sense of place and character has to be served by word play and irony. Failblog!
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

Local News

For nearly 3 days, the most emailed story on VillageSoup was "Man charged with pooper-scooper assault." This afternoon it fell to second. Unlike the old days (when we had a camp on North Pond in Smithfield where the highlight of each vacation week was reading the police logs in the Waterville Sentinel), there's very little detail to these reports. It's frustrating to know only that the assailant (name, age, street and town given) hit someone (name, age, street and town not given) with a small shovel used for scooping poop.
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

Governers and Premiers

I see that the New England Governors and the Eastern Canadian Premiers are meeting this week in Bar Harbor. I wanted to understand what they're up to, so I looked online only to find almost nothing - no program, no pre-meeting seminars, no headquarters hotel, no pre-registered attendees list, no opportunities to sponsor a coffee break, no continuing education credits. Obviously not the kind of convention I've attended (in the hundreds), this one appears to be by invitation only.

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

Authors

Just finished reading One Man's Meat for the umpteenth time. I can pretend to be in Maine without actually being there. It's going to be an annual thing, like reading Country of the Pointed Firs.

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

Aldermere Farm


We've driven through and walked next to Aldermere Farm in Rockport hundreds of times by now and have yet to stop in. If you are a habitue of the mid-coast, it's locally famous; if you are interested in the cattle called Belted Galloways ("Belties"), it's internationally famous. I look at the website ( http://www.aldermere.org/ ) and say, "We really ought to participate somehow."

Not that we're all that interested in farming, but then this is not your grandfather's kind of farm. It really only has one product, the meat and semen of the Belties. In addition, there are art shows and art workshops. There are gardening programs, nature walks, and moonlight ski tours. It borders on Penobscot Bay between Rockport Cemetery and Megunticook Golf Club, on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. A wind turbine generates electricity. It does, in at least a little bit of tradition, host a 4-H club that centers around Beltie calves.

All this happens (is necessary?) because the farm's last owner gave it to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

My grandfather's farm in Minnesota was a little different. Yes, it had black-and-white cows, but they gave milk, not semen. It had chickens. It was muddy. The fields weren't picturesque meadows bounded by ponds and bay and rock walls, but were planted in pedestrian rows of corn and swatches of hay. The barn was partly falling down. The house featured tar paper siding. The roads defining its quarter section were gravel that had long ago lost their gravel. We walked them looking for agates, not Belties. The windmill pumped water. I expect the farm is now swallowed up by a corporation.

Is this the fate of all small farms, selling out one way or another? I'm sure it's true for salt water farms, which spawn subdivisions of big houses with fake widow's walks, for the views, don't you know. A beauty in Lincolnville succumbed last year. But our grandfather's farms, let's hope that the local food movement can help them survive the agribusinesses. As much as I love forests and woods, Maine would not be the same without the undulating fields and white barns and prickly independence of its small farmers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forests and Woods


When you fly over or drive through Maine, the trees seem ubiquitous, forever, an endless resource. It's hard to believe that there is little old-growth forest left. Almost all of Maine has been logged.

An old-growth forest is usually around 200-300 years old, so any parcels left predate the huge logging operations of the 19th century. I doubt I've ever been in one, but I can imagine the richness. What have we lost?

I cringe, heart aching, every time I see trees cut down, for they have souls that have more value to us, both practically and spiritually, than we can know. Patiently, they supply shelter, oxygen, beauty, and poems; stoically, they give up their lives, some to live on in the paper on which we write poems; then they grow back.

But what they grow back into are woods, not forests: quite tame, utilitarian, beautiful and inspiring and necessary but not fearsome or profligate. I love our woods, but when I walk through them, I can hear only faint echoes of the great white pines, Maine's own ents, that once ruled the land before they were needed for war.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cocktail hour

We had a surprise guest last evening for nibblies. I had my gin and tonic, Cindy a glass of wine, and this lovely a few windfall crabapples. The crabapple tree practically brushes the windows of the living room, and the deer calmly stood and chewed while we scurried for the camera. If she would have permitted it, we could have reached out a hand through the window and stroked her supple neck.
I expect she was the mother we saw on Monday crossing the road with her two fawns (and not the mother I saw last month with her three fawns, which were considerably bigger). Maybe there's kind of a baby sitting cooperative among the neighborhood deer, allowing each mother some personal time to herself. This would explain the single doe I saw eating our neighbor's rose bush a couple of weeks ago. The deer certainly seem to have adopted human ways, or at least they've lost some of their fear of the two-legged monsters. Apples and roses seem to be worth the risk in spite of the humans in their clapboard cages.
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

Corn

When I was growing up in the Midwest, corn (not to mention food in general) was not particularly special. The varieties available in the summer for "corn on the cob" were not that much different from the canned and frozen stuff we got served on ordinary days (except that the rules governing excess butter and salt mysteriously slackened). It was very yellow and a little tough and you could spend a half hour afterwards happily picking your teeth. Most serious vegetable gardeners had a row or two out back, so August and early September evenings generally featured corn. Good tomatoes too, which were so common that reverence had not yet entered the culinary picture, and "heirloom" applied mostly to furniture.

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

Rocks


One of the reasons I love this part of the coast so much is that it's all rocks. Not necessarily rock, i.e., the classic Maine shelves of granite that slope into the sea, but single rocks, lots of them, the kind useless for almost everything except pilfering for the construction of stone walls. We have some granite, but only scattered colonies, which makes them all the more interesting for their rarity. We have a few sand beaches, but they are almost always shingle beaches, the sand covered at high tide, and you have to watch your tide clock in order to run the dog to her satisfaction, or stretch out on your blanket in comfort. The rest of the shore is rocks. One stretch from Ash Point to Lucia Beach seems to have been organized. There are half a dozen stretches where all the rocks are about the same size: first, a hundred yards of brains, then quite a lot of lima beans mixed with apples, then a few feet of walnuts, then a tongue of pink granite, then the sugar sand of Lucia Beach. I have no idea why rocks would group together this way, probably something profound along the lines of crowd behavior or mob action or the littoral equivalent of paranormal crop circles.

The key point here is that the rocks are useless. Ergo, no hordes of people ala Old Orchard, no fancy marinas, no fish processing plants, no motels. Just houses sitting quietly on the bank above the water, and enough wild conservation land at Ash Point to transport you to another time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stuff (II)

12:35 pm: car is packed, no room for any other stuff (mine), but OK, not driving this time. Sweat instead, Hanna approaches with mucho moisture.
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

Margaret Chase Smith

In this year when women in politics have made quite a splash, I'm reminded of the service of Sen. Smith of Maine in the 50s and 60s. She was diplomatic, quiet, steadfast, beloved in her four terms; in great honor, she stood up publicly against her fellow Republican Joe McCarthy. She was the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the US Presidency (1964, defeated by the Arizona Senator of the day, Barry Goldwater). Maine continues her fine tradition by having two women Senators at present, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both moderate Republicans of the sort nearly extinct in 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

Live Lobsters Shipped Anywhere in US!



It's kind of like shipping seafood, this business of sending out essays. Today I sent out some four dozen copies of various Maine essays I've been working on over the last year or two, a few by email attachment, a couple through an actual submission system, but most through snail mail. Most editors like their work fresh, I guess, like lobster, made of something real, even a bit snappish. Pixels are boring, they don't bite. I do hope the work is fresh - I didn't wrap it in gel packs.

So I imagine little bits of Maine - lupine, crabs, moss - now winging their way to all parts of the country. Essay writers generally have a bit of preacher in them so I hope what I sent sheds a little light into a range of benighted university towns. I like the idea of proselytizing for Maine, or more correctly for a Maine state of mind. Surely, Mr. and Ms. Editor, the readers of all of your magazines and journals I'm presuming upon will agree to be enlightened.

I worry, however, that the pen is not mightier than the claw or the tail. Maybe next time I'll strike a deal with The Lobster Guy and include dinner with each of my submissions. A trifle more expensive that way, but worth it when you're trying to save the world.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's only partial madness to post this reminder of a cold and foggy day in Maine when here in Massachusetts we're enjoying a stretch of the most perfect weather - highs in the mid-80s, lows around 60, low humidity, strong sunshine, with a few cottony clouds for effect - this side of Santa Barbara. It's enough to make a man believe he could be happy anywhere.

The method here is to suggest that contrast might be the real key to happiness. A place like Marshall Point Lighthouse offers dramatic examples: the hard life of a sailor vs the welcoming beacon, the surf crashing against the impregnable rock, violent storm easing to calm fog. But there's no reason why equal drama can't occur here in my back yard: the huge rustling oaks masking the distant noise of traffic, the crab grass of late summer taking over and looking almost respectable in the sun, ants constantly re-building their hills in the crevices of the brick patio, peace and quiet winning out even in the middle of a metropolitan area of 3 million. It seems to me that beauty is as much a matter of peaceful resolution as it is of perfect form. It just happens to be easier to see in Maine, and easier to forget that we live in a complicated world that requires constant attention.

And as the Republican Party meets in St. Paul this week, I hope that the principle of contrast will be made stark, that our happiness in November will be complete as we throw out the bastards.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stuff

8:53 am: car is packed (daughter has a lot of stuff) although room for one more bag (mine) if selfish gene listened to. Daughter runs upstairs, wakes up younger sister for goodbye, comes down, hugs mom and dog. Other daughter goes back to sleep.
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.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Farm stands


Based on the recommendation of a neighbor, we've now shopped a couple of times at Beth's in Warren. It's the kind of place where nearly everything for sale is grown on-site, where half-a-dozen chickens run around the aisles, where the fruits and vegetables are beyond luscious. Like farmers' markets and the slow food movement, farm stands are becoming quite popular. Beth's is located some 5 miles off Route 1, in the middle of nowhere, and yet the parking lot was full and there were several people in line at each of the two registers. The true test of any farm stand is the corn; Beth's is the best I've ever tasted. It is almost yellow, not white or pale like some of the new varieties, and it actually tastes like corn, not chewy sugar.

This morning we went to an honorary Maine farm stand that happens to be located in Needham, MA. It is such a pleasure to go to Volante's: no crowded aisles full of bumper-car shoppers, no fluorescent lights, no 57 varieties of depressingly packaged cereals, no refrigerator cases so cold that you really should put on long pants just to get milk; just heaps of peaches and apples and beans, mums in the greenhouse, a 25-foot table devoted solely to corn, open-air building. If we ignore the ranches and Colonials and their chemical lawns on the drive there, if we close your eyes against the Audis and the SUVs, and look only at the gorgeous produce, and the fields sloping away from the greenhouse, we could be in Maine. No live chickens, but pretty damn good for suburbia. And for the duration of the fall, I vow to buy no supermarket produce whatsoever, MA or ME.