- Get outside. Breathe in clean air. Walk in the woods. Sit by the ocean and think.
- Take life more slowly.
- Be a little cussed, skeptical, independent.
- Read books by the fire.
- Cultivate your friends. Embrace your family.
- Split wood.
- Drink Moxie.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
- Drinking. The fine glow from a gin-and-tonic or Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy replaces a Christmas Eve service or a successful exit from the confessional. And hangovers are definitely Calvinistic.
- Red Sox. Long, boring hours punctuated by little bursts of energy, just like church.
- Law and Order reruns, especially SVU. Daily reminders of dark nights of the soul.
- The Sunday newspaper. How convenient that it's delivered just in time to preclude church attendance! And lately the two even dwindle together.
- Money. Getting it makes you feel either saved or damned. Ditto on spending it.
- Alternative energy. The number of creeds and postulants and factions is rivalled only by the number of schisms in Protestantism. Each time the world will be saved.
- Nature. The only thing worth believing any more? But what a thing! Is there anything so salutary as Penobscot Bay on a bright, late-August morning? So cleansing as snow-shoeing in dense woods? So holy as a pointed fir leaning over a pink granite ledge? God should be proud of us here in the North.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sen. Snowe, I am extremely disappointed in you (and of course in Susan Collins, Maine's other Senator, as well). There was some hope that you would be a part of the process, be a statesman and not a politician. Was the bill rushed through? Yes, because the Republicans' disinformation machine would have killed it given time. Will it be costly? Yes, but only in the short-term and actually quite cheap compared to the death panels of the Pentagon. Was the process bipartisan? No, for the Republicans have not shown themselves to be worthy of debate.
Maine's state motto is Dirigo - I lead. It doesn't apply to Senator Snowe.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
May I say that if we believe that happiness can be measured by objective measures such as the above, we should change our species name to Homo superficialis.
This study contrasts with a happiness survey taken by Gallup in November that relied only on what people said. Here the top states were the wealthiest and the most tolerant, with Utah first and West Virginia last. Massachusetts was 8th and Maine 29th. Even taking into account people's ability to lie, especially to themselves, these data seem more representative.
It's probably no accident that both studies were published around the holidays. I know that for many the holidays are stressful and depressing, for the hype can't possibly measure up to the reality, and indeed makes it worse when the reality is loneliness, poverty, or ill health. We are told to be happy, that the perfectly cooked turkey or latest-model cell phone will save us if we just try and buy. When will we see a happiness survey based on friendships and family and peace and contentment?
That describes us this Christmas, especially with daughters having safely returned from France. Geographic, scientific, objective, and especially commercial descriptors have little meaning or place. Happiness is decorating a tree with ornaments from a lifetime, angels and nutcrackers, frosted pine cones, homemade Santas, the silly and the corny, the ornate and the plain, the special box of fragile glass pieces that sparkle in the colored lights - all the reminders of growing up together in our own little state of bliss.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
2. Northern France (where both our daughters are) shivers in below zero (Centigrade) temperatures and a couple inches of snow. A nice change from the usual December rain and slush?
3. Maine, usually synonymous with snow, gets almost nothing from the storm. A nice change from the usual December rain and slush?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
1. Three sites off the coast of Maine have now been chosen for the testing of wind-turbine platforms in deep water, the first in the US, including one a few miles from Monhegan. (Monhegan's famous artists George Bellows and Edward Hopper might enjoy such a beast, Jamie Wyeth and Rockwell Kent perhaps not). Norway already has a deep-sea turbine in place.
2. Turbines in southern Maine are not producing nearly as much electricity as hoped. (Sites on undeveloped rural hilltops, and presumably the open ocean, apparently will be fine.)
3. Maine recently installed its 100th turbine. (California has 14,000.)
There was a report on NPR's Marketplace a week or so ago on Japan's efforts to conserve energy since the oil crisis of 1973-1974.
1. 40% of "green" patents are now held by Japan.
2. All Japanese companies must become at least 1% more energy efficient each year, and must have at least one employee overseeing the effort.
3. Every new appliance model must be at least as energy efficient as the latest release from a competitor.
The average Japanese now uses about half as much energy as the average American.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The bedroom windows allow a view of sky and bay and pointed firs of only a few degrees. I should have gone outside for the full 360, but it was 4:00 a.m. and cold. Even so limited, the view was thrilling: the stars are so brilliant and numerous and inspiring anyway in the undeveloped night skies of Maine, and then there would be a silent little pop! of light, then a brilliant little trail, then a little white flame-out. You really did get the sense of stars falling down, and also the slight and thrilling fear that a real star directly overhead (or at least a substantial meteor) would take it upon itself to target the house.
"Thrilling" is a slight over-statement. It's not a spectacle like, say, what the Chinese do for international honor. A shooting star lasts about a second. Its trail is tiny. I saw maybe 10 in an hour of gazing.
"Humbling" is a better word. In order to get all those cliches out of my head (life-is-so-short, blaze-of-glory, what-is-the-meaning-of-life), I tried to calculate how many shooting stars there would be in my life if they arrived once a second for 70 years. The answer, after a certain amount of stops and starts and confusion about decimal places, was about 2 billion (later confirmed by a real calculator to be 2.2 billion). Now that's thrilling. Don't you love the idea of a second of glory?
The calculating, and the humbling, put the world to right, and getting back to sleep until 6:30 (5,400 seconds later, with dreams) was a piece of heaven.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
1. warmth, preventing you from going back to bed or curling up on the couch with the New Yorkers that you're way behind on
2. complexity - lots of flues and vents and baffles, the frequent opening and closing of which keeps your brain alive
3. tangible results and goals, i.e, the thermometer magnetically attached to the stovepipe registers the temperatures ( 400-500 degrees) for "best operation"
4. discipline - it must be lighted first thing in the morning, even before orange juice, the log rack must be restocked twice a day, the wood pile in the garage must be replenished
5. creativity in choosing the exact right log - diameter, length, hard- or softwood - for maximum burn and most shapely fire
6. nostalgia: Baron Wormser lived for more than 20 years with only woodstoves for heat and cooking? Such a simpler way of life.... Also, when you light the stove in the morning, you use newspaper, financial statements, cereal boxes, and old manuscripts and sometimes you read them and get distracted by the past, which leads to the most important point of all:
7. distractibility: getting up constantly to check the burn, open a vent or door for just a little more air, brush wood bits from the floor under the log rack and ash bits from the brick apron in front of the stove, get some more logs from the garage, check the stovepipe thermometer, then your house's, then the outside one and feel virtuous, in fact do anything at all to get you away from the balky sentence, the lame phrase, the description that slithers around like jello, the cliches that just will not leave your brain, the character who sounds like you, and the impossibility of transitions between paragraphs.
All in all, quite a useful thing, the woodstove.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Well, I do. Just like in the real world, the rich gets richer. Those scuttling creatures are already abundant and doing well; stronger shells will make them indestructible. The more we pollute, the more they will benefit. At last they will grow huge and emerge from the sea. The crab will form campaign committees, take over government. Shrimp will school together in giant pods and conquer TV and movies. Lobsters will be the new New Army, or I should say, Peace Keepers, red in tooth and claw. Little helpless things like crabs will have no Hope.
Farfetched? Not nearly as much as headlines that say "President Defends US Wars, Accepts Peace Prize."
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
While low and weak, the sun's influence is still noticeable. Most of the snowfall from the other day is now melted from the tree branches on the north side of the lane. The southside trees are still laden. I take care to walk in the middle of the road, away from snow-covered, overhanging branches, to avoid the sun's little tricks, like suddenly raining a snow-bomb down my neck. Today I could brave the north walk on Ash Point, down to Crockett Beach, for the wind seems much less cold on a sunny day. I don't mind quite as much the continuous ups and downs of war news, market gyrations, healthcare legislation.
Weather is starting to resemble the Internet. You can always quickly find something good to follow something bad, or is it vice versa?
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Except for the sky, which was blue like only a post-storm sky can be, there was almost no color. The evergreens and moss and grasses were obliterated. I had to peer close up at the bushes to see red winterberries. There was one exception: a crabapple tree on Ash Point Drive still had a few red apples clinging to the snow-laden branches. I'd like to think that's the origin of Christmas tree decoration, not Victorian angels or some Visigothic thing involving the heads of enemies. Brightly colored baubles and lights are pagan enough for me. There's enough stuff already cluttering up our winters.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
As I walk I look especially intently at what remains of color in the woods. Besides grays and blacks and browns, there isn't much. The winterberries boast various reds shading into orange. Long grasses in the wetlands have turned into light-colored hay. Short grasses on the lawns are still partly green. The mosses are neon-green this year, from all the rain, and they have colonized rocks on the forest floor, poking through the leaf bed like bright Pacific atolls. A few yellowed leaves cling to the bushes at the side of the lane.
In the morning it will be hard to pretend it's still fall. The landscape will be black-and-white, but choices will become grayer, more complicated. It will not be as easy to be productive, or optimistic.
The danger of winter is living too much in the head. The pleasure of winter is living much more in the head. Animals of all kinds need to hibernate and be refreshed.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I've often wondered about the relationship between religion and conservation. Humans are enjoined to be good stewards, and it should be a natural fit, but so often those who believe in the Bible forget the one in favor of the other, dominion over the earth, etc, etc. There is a movement to revive the relationship but in today's fractured and splintering world, I can't see that the religious right will ever take the earth seriously again.
Religion aside, the life of the Amish is very compelling. They make wonderful furniture. They believe in books. They grow organic food. They build windmills to run their compressed-air engines, or charge battery packs. Family care is paramount. A sign in one of their houses in Unity reads: "To be content with little is hard, to be content with much is impossible.’’
Lifestyle aside, the religion of the Amish is not very compelling, mostly I suppose because it's similar to the dark Calvinist tradition in which I was raised. But the Amish have managed to bring light into the gloom. They've done what few can accomplish, marry word and deed.
I already think of Unity fondly, since for about 10 years my parents had a camp on Lake Winnecook, known also as Unity Pond. And now that the Amish are there, it's a small but poignant connection to my diminished family, for the last time I saw my father alive was at his 60th wedding anniversary party at the Blue Heron Farm Retreat, near Amish Country in eastern Ohio, where for a weekend our family eschewed doctrine in favor of living.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
For me, the sight of those awkward, low- and slow-flying planes in the skies over Brunswick was bothersome. They seemed to be on perpetual training missions, or up there just for the hell of it, burning gas in pointless loops over the Androscoggin River, the islands, the ocean, the woods. They were incongruous in these settings, warbirds where there should only have been eagles and egrets. The implements of war seem especially out of place in a place of such beauty.
So there will be more than 3,000 acres freed of the Pentagon's grip. From what I've heard of the plans, considerable open space will be preserved, nearly half the base. The remaining will be mixed-use, housing and offices and light industry and, naturally, aviation industries, given the existing buildings and experience, not to mention twin 8,000-foot runways that the Navy (a parting gift?) recently resurfaced. A better parting gift might have been to return the runways to meadows, but one can't expect everything.
If the redevelopment is successful, it will soak up a lot of capital and ambition that might otherwise have looked elsewhere in Maine to slake its thirst and destroy the land. A couple of thousand acres in Brunswick should save trees for a few years in Moosehead, don't you think?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It's a rare event also. The only other sighting in our area that I can recall in the last 15 years was in Owls Head village, in the little pond across from the general store, well before the fame of the store's hamburgers brought the Volvo wagons to town. Well, there was also the mystical sighting in our own yard, I'm ashamed to admit, and I'm ashamed because the sighting was a supposed moose print in the garden, and the sighter was our real estate agent who pointed it out with some drama as we were considering buying the property. Somewhat later, I wondered if she had a certain implement in her trunk to seal deals with flatlanders.
Much better that folks rush around with cameras than with guns. Of course moose hunting is not allowed along the coast southwest of Belfast, so the Ms. in the swamp was in no danger. Or maybe she was escaping the carnage in Wildlife Management Districts 15, 16, 23, and 26, for those WMDs hovering over the midcoast allow moose hunting in November. It's not that far, maybe a 30-mile amble down Route 17 from Augusta (WMD 23 actually seems to contain the state capitol, but I didn't see politicians on the lists of game to be bagged) towards Rockland and then south; maybe Maine's entire herd of 30,000 should make the trek, giving thanks all the way for one of the few benefits of development, and then, on December 1, retreat to those north WMDs with the low numbers.
So I think the shy and quiet moose should be the symbol of Thanksgiving, not the bad-tempered turkey, for Thanksgiving is a holiday mellow and kind even though the Pilgrims weren't. The moose is already the state's animal, and keeps continued good health. There's still enough wilderness to sustain them, even apparently in Thomaston, and isn't the bounty and beauty of the land what we really give thanks for this week?
Monday, November 23, 2009
Meanwhile, the state's health is deteriorating. Health care expenses, and health insurance premiums, are among the highest in the country. Maine has the oldest population in the country, and is among the poorest. Many people do without insurance, doctor visits, and medication. They wait for Medicare.
The Times has all the grisly details. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/health/policy/11maine.html?_r=2&hp
I'm sure it's not fair to pick on one government program during what the Governor is calling "our Depression." But Maine seems committed to the sexy stuff - all the alternative energy projects, for example, and remember the laptop program for middle school students? It's expanding to the high schools - at the expense of the basics. And where are all the recent budget cuts hitting hardest? Health and human services.
It's wonderful that the state is trying to think creatively about the future. But the present is pretty damn important also. Think of all the energy being poured into grant applications for stimulus money (my favorite project still is the $9 million walkway connecting two parking lots near Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, owned by the billionaire Krafts) - why can't the country unite for health care?
Speaking of the present, Maine senators Snowe and Collins hewed their party line in voting against allowing health care legislation to come to the floor for debate. They say they're against the public option; I suspect immense political pressure from Republicans. There will be many more opportunities to vote, I know, but please Senators, do the right thing when the time comes.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I have no problem with hyperbole at these exciting moments. It was a great day for the islands and for the future of Maine, which is admirably determined to exploit the wind and the ocean for all the green they are worth. Now Camden is starting to think seriously about a project on Ragged Mountain.
I'd just like to point out that, according to the information sheet that comes with my Central Maine Power bill every month, wind power's share of power sources for electricity currently totals 0.0%. (Hydro is 40%, nuclear 20%, gas 24%, oil 5%, coal 9%, biomass and waste burning 2%.) There's an awfully long way to go and I'd hate to see conservation efforts, which are much more efficient at reducing consumption, be sidetracked.
Then there's the esthetic side. The people of Vinalhaven seemed charmed and happy with their turbines, and I suppose that turbines on Ragged Mountain, which already has the Snow Bowl's ski lifts and a radio tower, wouldn't be overly hard to take. But to overtake fossil fuels, just how many turbines will we need? Some folks in the western mountains are already complaining.
Of course I'd rather build wind turbines than burn fossil fuels. But the prospect of a mountain top like Ragged bursting even more with tall mechanical things and sitting right next door to Coastal Mountains Land Trust's heroic efforts on Ragged and Bald to preserve and conserve is rather jarring.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I wonder if we know how blessed we are in the Northeast. Water is not yet as valuable as oil (although if you buy it in fancy bottles, it costs more) but it will be. Some say that New England's last great economic resource is its way of life. If this is true, it is due in large part to our lakes and rivers, the way rain is attracted to our hills and valleys, and to our huge, pure reservoirs as valuable as Canadian shale or West Virginia coal. We just haven't yet put a price on it.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Why aren't we in a state of perpetual mourning for our dying soldiers? Is Veterans Day the most forgotten of holidays? At least the Portland Press Herald carried a prominent picture of the Portland parade, and several articles about vets. Disgracefully, The New York Times home page had no mention at all of Veterans Day, although if you scrolled down past the fold, you got a link to an article about the French and Germans marking Armistice Day. The Boston Globe's page had a feature on the parade in Boston, but again it was below the fold. Above the fold were articles typically pandering to "demographics": a report critical of the Boston Fire Department, a piece on a missing woman, and in prime position, "A fall sampling of season's sipping," adorned with a picture of the Concord Grape Cobbler as featured by the bar Drink.
I'm about as far from a military man as you can get, but even to me the lack of respect for our veterans and the way the government ignores them when they return home is shameful. I applaud Obama's actions in Iraq and Guantanamo; I can't understand why he's dithering about Afghanistan. Bring our soldiers home and take care of them when they get here. Why is this so difficult for our leaders (and our urban elite) to understand?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Your goal for the week is not to turn the thermostat past its minimal setting. This should not be difficult, with the current mild weather, although night-time frost is forecast for later in the week. Your neighbors usually have their stoves going at this time of the year, providing a homey scent to your walks, but today's weather must be too warm to waste the wood. Not a concern for you: you have stacks of split wood from all the trees that fell last winter, and stacks more to split, you need to feel you're circumventing the oil cartels Arab and Texan, you must have that tang of smoke in your nose, even though it makes you sneeze.
You come back in from the walk down Ash Point. The fire is still burning brightly, and after a few minutes, your lungs are used to the insult of its particulates, and the smell of woodsmoke is engrained and enmeshed in your clothes and your being, and you don't smell it anymore, and you are home in Maine.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
VillageSoup http://knox.villagesoup.com/ : local news in all its glory; the weather (every day when we're resident and some days, out of longing, when we're not)
DownEast http://downeast.com/ : trivia (today's answer is 611 miles - see the site for the question - or if you're reading this later than today, see below*); blogs; (for everything else I get the magazine)
Press Herald http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/ : general Maine news; Bill Nemitz
MPBN http://www.mpbn.net/ : news stories that I as an effete liberal snob am likely to like.
The sites are especially useful when we're not in state, useful for crying and moaning and wishing and hoping, that is. Do we use place-based websites differently depending on the place in which we access them? I think so: I'm especially hungry for information when I'm elsewhere. It got bad enough the other day that I clicked on the Ultimate Maine Wedding ad on DownEast just to see the pretty pictures of the coast I figured would be there. It's like carbo-loading: I've been out of Maine for more than a week; and tomorrow I'll load up on eye candy and facts fat and empty trivia calories especially greedily, for in the evening we're going to France to visit our daughters, and except for the coast of Britanny, which apparently resembles Maine, I expect to go cold turkey on the sights and sites of the Pine Tree State.
*the length of the Maine-Canada border
Saturday, October 24, 2009
One guess for the state with the highest rate.
2. Maine is also right up there in religion, or lack of it, tied for fourth in the country (with Washington, after Vermont, New Hampshire and Wyoming) for the highest percentage of people who say they have no religion. Phone polls conducted by researchers at Trinity College say so. (By the way, can you imagine being called to the phone, during dinner of course, and asked if you believe in God? Would your response be different if your burger was burned? If you had a bad day? If you just won the lottery?) There are absolutely no data that could explain this and I haven't seen anyone try.
My guess? You don't need religion so much when some of the most beautiful places in the world are all around you.
One last speculation: does any of this have anything to do with Question 1 on the Maine ballot this November? Earlier this year, Maine became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage, but opponents got enough signatures to try to repeal the law by referendum. Well, it's no accident that in Vermont now and New Hampshire as of 1/1/10 same-sex marriage is legal. Vermont and New Hampshire also have divorce rates well above average. To keep pace with its distinguished neighbors, Maine really must vote No on Question 1 and preserve the evil reputation of northern New England in the minds of Mississippi Baptists and Minnesota Calvinists and the Catholics of southern California.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The appeal of islands is obviously strong, but I confess I don't fully understand why. The beauty is compelling, but it implies the desirability, the need for isolation. The rich apparently need to escape the pressures and importunities of the business and professional worlds just to stay sane, but who would want that life the rest of the year? Regular folks need to get away too and I understand that (retreating and escaping is a character flaw), and an artist's need for solitude I get, but think about it: once you've retreated to an island, to a hotel room for a weekend, or a cottage for a few weeks, or a house in retirement, where else can you escape? It's just the ocean, brothers and sisters, and that is an environment hospitable only to water-breathers, sailors and other irrational beings. I'd rather be on the edge of the land, escaping just enough, keeping my retreat options open.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I'd like also to use words like joy and pleasure, and that's fine for me but not for them. Even if a gull could suddenly speak English and describe what he's doing, I still wouldn't understand him. I don't know how a bird weighing a few pounds can glide seemingly without effort into a wind gusting to 25 mph. I don't know why they're all going north and none south. I don't know what new marvelous perspective they get on rocks and waves each time they twitch their wings a bit to take advantage of some unknown lift and drag. It's a miracle.
Airplanes used to seem miraculous until I had to fly too many times in them. And now they're just fearful, roaring, groaning, crude approximations of flight. I suppose the gull and the plane use the same principles of aerodynamics. But one is grace and the other grease.
The next time those beasts using Knox County Regional haunt me, the sightseeing prop that needs a muffler, the antique biplane buzzing joylessly in some airshow, the commuter jet bringing people from Boston for the wrong reasons, the rich-boy Gulfstream that roars in the middle of the night, I'll remember the northeast wind, and laugh.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Most people want new, of course (lots of other adjectives also apply: shiny, mine, virgin, improved, not-yours). It's the same impulse, I guess, that builds malls and houses, sells new cars, promotes the latest fashions, and re-brands tired tubes of toothpaste. Has the recession helped make us less infantile, drool less, save more, want less? Maybe. For how long?
I wonder if that fabled 70% of the economy that consumers supposedly control applies to Maine. If we buy used and recycle old, how many points of GDP does that count? Has anybody ever measured that part of the economy?
I'm reminded of the book by Rosamond Purcell called Owls Head, a tribute to William Buckminster and his incredible eleven acres in the village completely filled with "junk" like scrap metal and lobster traps and windows and birdhouses and clocks and chandeliers and pretty much everything under the sun, all busted and gently decaying in the rain. Like any good New Englander he never knew when he might just need that iron wood-burning cookstove, or better yet, when someone from "away" would buy it from him. Does Goodwill have an "antiques" section?
Friday, October 16, 2009
Maine is the whitest state in the nation.
Maine has the oldest population in the nation.
Maine has the highest cancer rate in the nation.
I don't know what these mean, if they are related, if they're significant (other than the obvious: send us some young, healthy people of color!). Statistics are often damned lies, at the selective, hypocritical beck-and-call of politicians on the air. Yet this particular group of stats makes me think of Olympia Snowe and the heroic effort she's making to keep calm in the middle of the lies. "It's an historic moment," she says, implying that even in the face of an aging population, intransigent insurance companies, conscience-less lawyers, overpaid doctors, and 50 million poor people at the mercy of disease, even then the huge majority of politicians will not see past their parties' rhetoric, their re-election campaign, their donors and benefactors. I'm no Republican, and actually disagree strongly with Senator Snowe, but what other lawmaker is actually thinking about the people? The President is, I believe, but on the floor of the Senate, there never has been a time when Ted Kennedy is more missed.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Clearly, a moving car spooked them but a stopped car did not. Or could they see me through the glass, even recognize me from previous encounters? They didn't care about the human or canine smells about the place (our poor hostas have proved that all summer), they apparently think a house and a garage are as dangerous as a tree.
My dictionary defines "insouciant" as "marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant." It could have inserted a picture of these two deer and achieved the same result: the stare, the nearly haughty lifting of the noses, the jaunty ear-twitching. I moved the car. They moved into the woods.
The definition begs the question, unconcern about what? It seems like deer have reached that state with humans, or at least are getting there. (I doubt they would be so blithe about wolves, should we be so lucky as to get them back in Maine again.) Also seagulls, who go about their business more efficiently than any animal I know, who are nonchalant towards any species you might name.
And Homo sapiens? We might be the only species that practices insouciance on itself. We pretend to ignore the animal world, but secretly fear it; the plant world is altogether beneath comment; and any power greater than Homo sapiens is either slavishly courted or angrily denounced. I vote for the deer's approach: most things are neutral until proven otherwise.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Salmon Pond is small and undistinguished; Great Pond is large and semi-famous, for clean water and lovely resorts, for fishing, although the glamorous species of salmon and trout are rapidly yielding to that cultivar of modern lake life, the voracious northern pike, and the inspiration for "On Golden Pond," although the movie was shot on Squam lake in New Hampshire. Hence the big effort by the state. Milfoil in Great Pond would be a PR disaster. Oh, and an ecological one too.
We used to have a camp on one of the Belgrade Lakes. In some ways we felt more than an invasive species there than we do now on the coast. North Pond seemed largely a place for the camps of Mainers, and our few weeks a year didn't exactly qualify us. It had jet skis and motorboats and water-skiers, and even a pontoon party boat that putt-putted along with its freight of old folks. We liked canoes. We didn't shampoo our hair in the lake.
Not that being a real Mainer is ever in the offing, although one tries. I spend half my time now in state, and have progressed as far as receiving a nod, but not yet a wave, from the local patriarch down the shore. Of course, we're all foreigners in fact, invading from somewhere. And for all the good we've brought to the land since Columbus, we might profitably dive down into our souls and uproot some tendencies. I might go so far, if I could have, as to apply a good strong dose of 2,4-D to Christopher himself.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Why don't more people get off the beaten path? Why do we all travel the same routes, clutching our guidebooks? Some answers:
- Lives are run by the clock.
- Do they speak English in Maine?
- Tours take care of us, we don't have to worry.
- There's not enough time to get lost.
- We might not get good pictures if someone hasn't already been there to tell us about it.
- Gotta get home - NCIS is on at 8:00.
- We like the pre-paid chicken pot pie at Old Harry's Green Mountain Eatery.
- You went where for a color tour?
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
When I see sun and rain together I always think of a Korean phrase. "The tiger came," they say, nodding wisely, from the slants and stripes and variations that falling rain makes in sunlight and from, no doubt, the foolishness of the tiger in their folklore and art. The phrase also implies the happiness and marriage of elements coming together. I think the tiger just likes standing in the rain waiting for treats.
When we were done playing and went inside, the shower was over the islands and the human treat appeared. A rainbow is such a happy thing in spite of its turned-down mouth, so rare and colorful, so full of happy metaphor like harmony and coalition and pots of gold. And it's at its most beautiful when you don't think of ROY G BIV or Jesse Jackson or leprechauns but just stand quietly in the moment, mouth upturned in a smile.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I looked out the window to see if it was out there, cruising up the bay from Portland and Boston - could barely see the water, let alone a fantasy.
Calmly, I went about my morning routine, even though this was the biggest THING TO HAPPEN IN ROCKLAND IN YEARS. After lunch (since I was going to town anyway for books and food), I thought I'd just see what's what. The fog had lifted slightly in OH but it turned out to be worse in Rockland, an occurrence itself worth a press release. No large white thing anchored near the breakwater could be seen. Good - I wasn't sure I was ready for Rockland's future. But of course it was there, just secreted away in the fog, and the town was full of its passengers.
Random observations, overheard conversations, and sights from walking through town:
- A brass band greeted the cruisers as the shuttles landed, to scattered applause.
- Lots of people and conveyances in Harbor Park, tour buses, the town trolleys from the Lobster Festival, taxis, Chamber of Commerce folks, all flocking together to provide interesting ways to relieve the tourists of their money.
- The Rockland Cafe must have been well-written up in the hand-outs - customers were lined down the street for lunch.
- Lots of couples, lots of older couples.
- Overheard:"The biggest sales opportunity of the year and I haven't sold a picture yet. But I'm not discouraged."
- Overheard: lots of southern accents.
- Overseen: lots of sweatshirts from Texas and Michigan.
- A fair sprinkling of orange stickers signifying the purchase of an ticket to the Farnsworth, so not all shopping and eating (my vision of cruises).
- Judging by the number of colorful plastic bags being carried around, the local merchants did well. There were as many as 2,500 opportunities, after all.
- Watched the disembarking of a shuttle from the ship (very fancy shuttle, could have been an Amsterdam canal boat). The load looked like a bunch of normal Americans, coupled up, of course, and quite white, and a little older than your average mall crowd, but a surprising number of young folks and people of color, and even a few kids. Several wheelchairs brought up the rear.
TJOTS supposed to be back next year. Did Rockland make grade? Did the stores make enough money? Was the fog to be judged quaint? Or yucky?
Saturday, October 3, 2009
- one parole violation (how did they know? someone's bad brother-in-law?)
- one marijuana possession (any spliffs in the glove compartment, sir? Or, that dog must have been really good)
- a couple of traffic summonses (who in the world breaks a traffic law with all those police hanging around? oh right, it was early, probably still dark, and the officers were hiding in the General Store)
- and some safety warnings (you really shouldn't drive with lobster traps in the front seat).
Methinks there was a tip in the battle against drugs: lobster guys doing a little more than fishing.
I'm glad I wasn't out and about yesterday morning (side question: who knew so many people drive through the village at that hour?) I might have been stopped for alien behavior (Mass. plates). But the chances were slim to none. When I'm here wife-less and dog-less, I'm also car-less, that is, it's a badge of honor in the battle to save the earth to see how little I can use it, manfully ignoring the siren calls of the foliage (wait for wife on Sunday), the library (read Tony Hillerman again), and food (shopped on the way up). What else does one need? Besides, it's dangerous out there.
Friday, October 2, 2009
You can walk on elderly sand beaches, like Old Orchard or Miami. Go ahead if you want to go gaga a little faster.
The cure assumes you keep moving. Stopping to look at islands or loons or that really nice house just ahead is right-brain stuff, never proved to be of any use in business or neurology. Trying to do both, looking and walking, gets you into trouble, not to mention silly arm-waving and staggering from unbalance before you land safely on something at least a ton and stop nonchalantly, pretending to look out to sea. Don't chew gum while you walk - it will definitely be too much.
Your ankles are unexpectedly sore when you get home. How much of your right brain did you actually indulge? Will you remember this beautiful day on the shore or will you just plow along, head down, looking for safe landings?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
I speculate about males and females, dominance and survival. Four of the gulls look more or less identical, and when lunch is over, sit separately, all looking in different directions. Is it a harem? The avian equivalent of a Boy Scout troop? The Scoutmaster is clearly different, bigger, bolder, etc, and may even be a different species. I go into the house and pick up Sibley for the ID, and am confronted with pages and pages of birds that look remarkably similar. Sibley devotes a long, high-lighted box to the problem of gull identification, and starchly says: "A casual or impatient approach will not be rewarded."
I am rebuked, gulled (if you will) by a crab. My 20 amateurish minutes of pseudo-science and pleasure in the sun have not passed muster, and I retreat to my own lunch of tuna on wheat, and an hour of fancy with Bernard Cornwell's Excalibur.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I should have realized this long ago, for when we had our camp on North Pond, the dam that prevented North Pond from emptying completely into Great Pond was periodically blown up (somebody needed water for his cows, it was said). And just looking at the cover of The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer should have made it obvious. The lakes are all slender and sinuous and point to the ocean, really just gloried rivers most of them. But what magnificent rivers faux!
The dams were mostly made, not for our personal wonder at fir-covered points and land-locked salmon and loons diving ahead of kayaks, but for power, power for sawmills and leather factories and pulp mills and now hydro-electricity for our camps. The prosaic becomes spectacular, rather like open hay fields on a hillside make the trees that much more beautiful. I'm still not sure, though, about what to do with the knowledge that Flagstaff Lake, so remote and undeveloped, in the tourist photos so exquisite lying in the shadow of Sugarloaf, is mostly a flooded section of the Dead River, shallow like a lake in the Midwest, in which you can still apparently see remnants of flooded villages. Even in Maine you sometimes need imagination to caress the face of facts.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Millions of Cats
Blueberries for Sal
Farewell to Shady Glade
Only One Woof
Just a Dream
Two Bad Ants
The Polar Express
The Widow's Broom
Make Way for Ducklings
Ride a Purple Pelican
These are the books the girls wanted over and over. We might have read them hundreds of times. There are thousands of parent hours in these pages: paper a little crinkly from just-bathed hair, memories of cute pajamas with feet, poems from Ride a Purple Pelican recited, even bellowed, in unison, children cuddled on our laps in a perfect pieta. I've brought the whole collection (54 in all) up to Maine and probably will read them this winter, in a blizzard of emotion. Or should we read them to ourselves, out loud, and remember?
Bullfrogs, bullfrogs on parade,
dressed in gold and green brocade,
scarlet buttons on their suits,
fringes on their bumbershoots.
See them tip their satin hats
as they bounce like acrobats,
hear them croak a serenade,
bullfrogs, bullfrogs on parade.
I'm not quite sure why I brought the books to Maine. Probably something to do with the hope of grandchildren. For now, they are in the shelf just above our even older collection of LPs, but something tells me the books have a chance of getting used again, perhaps even tonight (there are 3 volumes of Calvin and Hobbes awaiting).
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
As we were waiting for the ferry, the base for the final turbine for the new Fox Island Wind project was being barged in. Is this the connection to the giraffe?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
One daughter is still in college but is spending the fall in France. Hers was a relatively simple delivery (not to mention the stuff, of course) from our arms to the safety of a host family in Rennes. The other daughter's trajectory has started on a new course. She too is now safely in France, but as a college graduate in her first job, her first apartment, the first exciting blush of a new and independent life. The goodbyes to her at Logan took on a very different flavor this year.
For the week or two before they left, we could not think clearly. The house was full of their leaving. We were worried and anxious, they were excited and afraid. Every piece of furniture held a story nobody really wanted to speak aloud. All of our labors- ours to raise them, theirs to raise us - were successful. The future was overwhelmingly on offer.
Being here now in Maine, we're calmer. That the old house in which they both spent their whole lives is temporarily quiet and memory-less helps. That they are safe and sound helps. That the weather today is as gorgeous as is possible helps. That the first wrench of separation is over helps tremendously. I look out over the water (there's only 3,000 miles of Atlantic between us!) and feel closer to them than in the last hectic, unnatural days of their departing. I hope on Monday they remember for just a moment the blessings in Maine of family and peace, of days of work and nights of rest, and then get on with the education of their lives.
Monday, August 31, 2009
I happen to think Camden is a pretty good town, a little crowded downtown in August, a little precious in its pretensions, but full of good people in a beautiful place. There's still lots to do to fill and renovate and and modernize and green-ify, and I doubt if its fame and appeal would be enhanced by new industry, however clean. The Committee should buy new glasses to correct its hyperopia.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
I would have liked the shore yesterday. The power of the water is stirring. Big waves seem to bring a message from the ocean: "This is what I do, I am alive and powerful." To me this is comforting. A still ocean is more frightening than a rolling one. As long as it's flexing and bending and moving, I don't really think about doldrums and emptiness. I think about life, even though it can be dangerous.
Friday, August 21, 2009
On second thought, if we enforced the law in Maine, I wouldn't have had the pleasure a few weeks ago of an excellent example of cycle mentality. Traffic was inching into Brunswick from the north, along that stretch of Mill St. just before the right turn on to Pleasant. A motorcyclist on the dangerous side of 39 was directly in front of us, ambling along in half figure-eights, side to side, merrily vrooming every once in a while. We approached two people tending their lawn. One was a blonde, in shorts, and our Lothario in leather immediately gunned his engine, vrooming like there was no tomorrow. His turns got tighter, his stare more intense, his face redder. He of course wore no helmet. I'm surprised his head didn't just pop as he drove past, slowly leering.
The woman, to her eternal credit, never even turned from her flowers.
Legislators in Portland, go at it. But first, let's get those folks in Augusta to pass a helmet law. If you're just another anonymous helmeted dude revving up, what's the point of showing off your pistons?
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The ospreys, however, weren't there even though the conditions were good for patrolling the calm, warm water. In fact, we've only seen a few osprey this summer, and zero thrilling dives. I had to be content with the gulls and terns and their insolent flights overhead, and the fast-cooling air, and a cadre of dragonflies canvassing the space above the lawn.
These last are the 5-inch monsters that look like they too could plunge into the water and snatch up fish for the little ones back in the nest. But presumably they're after smaller fry like gnats and the tiny vicious mosquitoes of August evenings. They look agile enough to catch anything, with tremendous zigging and zagging, speed to burn, stopping so quickly in mid-air that they look like they're going backwards.
I used to marvel at the endless hours of work expended by the osprey in circling and flying and diving, just to catch a mackerel or two. Now I wonder about dragonflies. Are they such perfect machines that endless work does not tire, that bugs in quantity do not sate, that acrobatics are passe? Do they never rest on branches and just sit back with a drop of dew and watch, say, the finches fly for fun?
Monday, August 17, 2009
For several days now the breeze has been as quiet and the water as calm as I can remember. The kayakers are out in force. Children's voices carry over the cove from Crockett's Beach. Not much else moves, including the brain.
Walking in the heat up on the road, suffering, we might as well be wearing black like Haze Motes, in Wise Blood. We might also be preoccupied, like him, by matters mortal. We come back to the relative cool of the shore, of the imagination, of words. They help lift us out of the doldrums.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Across the bay on the mainland, the Maine Supreme Court has just ruled that the town of Lincolnville, after 4 years of litigation, must allow a 195-foot cell phone tower to be built at the base of Bald Rock. Bald Rock, of course, affords one of the finest views on the entire coast, which, for most of its hikers, will now be marred for the sake of a few phone customers.
The towers on Vinalhaven, taller at 250 feet and three in number, are carefully situated to be least obtrusive; the tower in Lincolnville singly achieves maximal obnoxiousness. Will the owner of the land on which it is to be built come to his senses and remove the blight of steel from forest and sea? Not unless there's a Supreme Court of Beauty.