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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leg of deer

Well, somebody had a good dinner anyway, coyote or crows maybe, fox probably. We woke up the other morning to the sight of a deer leg on the lawn, upper half bare and stripped and gnawed, lower half still furry, with hoof intact.

Of course, we're not sure what a lone leg was doing in front of the house. Haven't seen hide nor hair of anything deer-like lately, definitely no carcass, and certainly nothing running around with only three legs left. Have seen a fox several times though, skulking about between the bank where it lives and the houses which it ignores, hence our theory that a deer has died in the woods behind the house and the fox and family somehow pried off a leg and carried it down closer to the water for a more pleasant alfresco dining experience.

You wouldn't see a stray leg in the city, that's all I have to say, unless of course it was human, on CSI. It shouldn't be startling to see red nature here, given all the wildlife close by, but our lives even here are pretty suburban and it's good to be intrigued again, if not a little frightened. The deer in question looked to be small, not that I'm any forensic expert, possibly a yearling from last spring, which somehow makes this more of a tragedy than any dismembered body simulation seen on TV. The death, probably cruel, of something so beautiful is a fitting close to a long winter. And the sight of the turtles coming out of the pond up on Canns Beach Road to bask in the sun balances that death wonderfully.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Open for Business

A couple of weeks ago Gov. LePage unveiled a new sign on the Maine Turnpike, actually an addition to an existing sign. The existing one says, a little tritely but yet inspiringly, MAINE: The Way Life Should Be. The new sign under it, thriftily fastened to the other's supports, says, OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Fittingly, it's near the Kittery exit. I'd suggest one at Freeport and one at the Maine Mall to complete the ugly trifecta.

There is no new sign that says OPEN FOR LABOR. Indeed, the Guv has had a mural in his Labor Department removed, apparently for depicting working people in their work-a-day clothes to the exclusion of managers and owners and executives in suits. (You will not be surprised that once again the national media has picked up a LePage story.) And he had it removed in the dead of the weekend, when those lazy state employees and pesky media types don't work. The mural's whereabouts are presently unknown, but it's rumored to be headed for Portland, a place with a bit more sophistication and kindness than the mean streets of Augusta.

I guess this is another indication of the open season on ordinary folk, echoes of Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida whose chief executives similarly boast tax cuts for the rich and humiliation for the poor. This one-sided decision-making by CEOs, ruled only by considerations of the bottom line, preferably one's own, is exactly why business needs to be regulated and watched. Greed and power need to be checked. It's terribly ironic that the policies of the conservatives will hurt most, in both the short- and long-term, the very people who make up its ranks. In the sea of business, a rising tide lifts mostly yachts.

It's especially discouraging in a place like Maine, known for, utterly dependent on, the beauties of its natural, undeveloped environment. I blame no one in the desire for a better life; I blame anyone whose desires are contemptuous of the common good.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Judgment Day

On Saturday, as I came through the South Portland toll booth on the Maine Turnpike, I saw five brightly and identically painted RVs lined up at the far-right booth. I was driving through the automatic lane on the left and caught just enough of the messages painted on each - "The End of the World...., May 21, 2011" to look them up later on Google.

Yes, according to Harold Camping and FamilyRadio.com, Judgment Day is scheduled for May. There's a 70-page brochure (I mean, tract) on the website, full of Bible verses and an impenetrable numerology of holy numbers, to prove it. Four such RV caravans are now travelling the country to spread the news. The New England mission included stops in Portland and Freeport on Saturday and Boston on Sunday.

I imagine the urgency of the message requires working on a Sunday. I imagine the lead driver at the toll booth negotiating a discount for his retinue, or perhaps mounting an argument for free passage, since... well, you know. I imagine that the millions to die on May 21 will include me, for driving straight through the E-ZPass lane, for failure to stop and consider my life. I imagine that "Camping" is a great name for this Project Caravan. I imagine Freeport was included because people seeking bargains are particularly suggestible. I imagine that the poor bastards in Japan, for whom May 21 will be May 22, have no chance of being enraptured (as if they didn't have enough problems). I imagine that painting the number 2012 on each RV in a red circle with a red line through it is a Christian idea of humor. I imagine God laughing. Isn't imagination grand?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The term is terribly over-used, but the moon rise last night was indeed super. I lost about a minute of its entire glory, because I was expecting a rise directly out of the east, which would have meant that Sheep Island, or possibly Vinalhaven, would have hidden it for a bit. At 7:10 I got up to look more to the south, and there it was, already risen about a fifth of the way, huge and full and yellow-orange, coming directly out of the sea.

The moon last night was at its orbital perigee and thus closer to the earth than it has been for 18 years. I could tell, have seen a number of spectacular rises over the Bay, that it appeared to be noticeably larger, 14%, the scientists say. I watched it climb for a while, its rays lighting a path to the shore, trying to communicate beauty.

When I regained my senses, I thought about the precision of the numbers that allowed me this sight: rise at 7:09 p.m.; 14% bigger; 50,000 kilometers closer to earth. The moon rise would have been there without me, of course, but I thank science for its part of the experience, and for a thousand other measurements that allow us to swoon so passionately to nature. The way we live now is fragmented, abstract, divorced from feeling; let's celebrate whatever's necessary, even cold facts, to get us back to light, especially at a time when the news around the world, much of it a perversion of science and nature, is so dark.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Well, they're done and good riddance.

"Ides" was merely the Roman calendar name for a day in the middle of each month (more or less corresponding to the full moon), either the 15th or the 13th, depending on the month, and the several days preceding it were described as VI Ides, V Ides, IV Ides, etc. So Ides is plural for a reason, not least of which seems to be to allow maximum bad news for the period, especially in March - and the news this March has been bad, from the terrible hourly shocks from Japan and Libya to the brutal cancer discovered in the brain of a dear friend.

I shouldn't be surprised. March is named after the god of war; Brutus and conspirators killed Caesar in March; March weather stinks; one gets a year older in March; there seems no reason to believe that a God could possibly exist. For the Mediterranean Romans March was the first month of the year, the beginning of their spring, perhaps the beginning of another season of war. The Roman Empire was hardly known for living in harmony with nature.

An earthquake seems random, a cancer seems personal. That's the trouble I have in sorting through the evils of the world, trying to decide, or even if it's possible to decide, between Fate and God. How much are we to blame for building nuclear reactors on a coast near a fault line, how much can we blame fate for individual suffering? How much is evil and how much is bad luck? A belief in the terrible beauty and brutality of nature helps with these questions, especially in a place you love, but just barely. Rome was not burnt in a day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dog Days of March

March is not my favorite month in Maine, this admission from a man whose devotion to the state invokes wonder and snickers among his friends and family. March is cold, yet inconstant; icy and muddy simultaneously; has maddeningly brief hints of spring; boasts rain and snow and sleet and thunder and fog often on the same day. Further south one assumes that any lapse into winter will be brief; in Maine one assumes nothing, ever.

This brings me to the dog. She spent a number of days in Owls Head this month, and hated it even more than usual. Her tenth year has featured a ever-strengthening fear of the car; so 200 miles and some 3 hours means much trembling and panting in anticipation of the horrors to come. Once arrived, she combats the usual odors of predators, i.e., other dogs; from vantage points at the French doors and the top of the couch she keeps watch for deer and UFOs; she complains about the little weird red squirrels and the territorial crows. But the ultimate horror is the twice-daily walk. Not only do fearsome dogs bark at her from inside their houses, or even affront her dignity and personal space by sometimes appearing outside. Not only does she stop and look back every 20 feet, hoping for rescue. Not only does she dislike cold and rain and the harsh north wind that blows her ears straight back like ropes. But also there is ice!

Cryophobia has been building for some years. In the past I might slip a bit on a patch and she would notice and look slightly concerned before continuing to sniff whatever minute particle of news she was currently being distracted with. (I should have understood the depth of her neurosis when she would remember with a worried look the very spot of that slip for months to come.) But now, in Maine, in March, the dirt lanes have thawed and frozen several times and the ice is thick and one stretch of our walk is at least a hundred yards of hell. She stops and cowers and her tail is so far between her legs that she could almost chew it. To make any progress at all I have to coax and simper and yell and yank.

It's both pathetic and touching, this concern for my safety, this fear for her dignity. But then she's a pure-bred, nothing startling for us royals, please, let's just do the same safe thing every day, preferably in balmy, summery Massachusetts; while I am a half-breed, insisting in spite of my official address that the wilds of Maine are good for the soul. So winter battles spring, man battles dog, country battles city, and we all hope for August.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coastal mountains

I've seen them hundreds, maybe thousands, of times by now and it's always thrilling. Whether from Route 1 in Warren, or Ash Point Drive in Owls Head, or Route 17 in Rockland, or Park Street in Rockport, or Barnstown Road in Camden, the sight of Ragged and Bald, Megunticook and Battie and Beech reminds me that the Camden Hills are a special place. I can't say they're spectacular, like the Pacific Coast Mountains. They're not outsized, larger than life, perpetually snow-capped (except maybe this year). But if you've been away from Maine, or preoccupied with the ocean, or stuck inside by furious winter or capricious summer, that first glimpse of the hills brings you to your senses. They're so close to the sometimes frantic activity on water, traffic jams on Route 1, banks and restaurants and gas stations, and yet so far away, in another world of trails and trees and views and peace. People go to the tops of mountains for all kinds of reasons but the principal one must be to reanimate a clarity of vision.

At a time when forces seem to be gathering against clarity, against peace and quiet, against the environment, the preservation of these coastal mountains and places like them is paramount. Join Coastal Mountains Land Trust ( http://www.coastalmountains.org ) like I did, contribute time and money and energy. It's impossible to be mean-spirited at the top of Beech Hill.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Around 4 pm the sky darkened. A bank of clouds raced in from the north and east, hanging over the bay with that peculiar look of a storm, hanging down in frills and shards. As the wind changed directions, from south to north, and picked up speed, the foghorn started to sound. The clouds quickly overtook the shore and the temperature dropped and the precipitation fell, lightly at first, then heavily and thickly. Twenty minutes later the clouds passed and the sun came out. The day had completely changed.

Fantasy helps in March in the north. For I deliberately thought of yesterday's snow as rain, of the horn announcing fog instead of dark, of the north wind bringing cool relief, not more zero-degree readings overnight, of this March squall if it were really a August summer fling, of urges and longings as if they were right around the corner.