Sunday, April 29, 2012

The old Adirondacks

A neighbor in Massachusetts was throwing them out - big, ungainly, wooden things weighing at least 30 pounds each. We rescued them and brought them to Maine and they continue to live and serve, some 15 more years now. Each year, however, they show their age and today, when I took them out of the garage, one more or less fell apart when I brought it down to the edge of the bay.

This is not the first time. For a few years now, I've been enduring smiles and laughs and discussions of liability. I keep wanting to repair these old chairs - I'm not interested in shiny new red things made from Coke bottles. I love these gray, heavy pieces of wood, all articulated together with dowels, not bolts. Well, there are a few bits of metal: each chair was originally made with a couple of large construction screws holding major parts together, but that's it, everything else is wood, except that now, in the course of their various rehabilitations, I've put in small screws in place of dowels, rather like surgical screws replacing ligaments. This year, however, the situation looked grim. Limbs fell off completely. I dragged the pieces back up to the garage and contemplated.

I admit I almost gave up. But the thought of just one chair down at the water, without companion, was too much to bear. With some effort and a few swears the Adirondack was repaired and joined its mate. I actually sat in it for a while, feeling the aches in its and my joints. It seemed solid but I knew that it might not tolerate sudden movements, or much more metal, or too much more of the modern world.

The wind down at the water was cold. But the sun was warm, and spring was here, summer was coming, the snow and hail and gales of winter were far away. We can emerge from our garages and sweaters, we are repaired. We might just last another season.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Peace is the bottom line

For the 11th year in a row Maine has topped the US Peace Index.

http://www.visionofhumanity.org/uspeaceindex/

For the second year in a row, Maine bottoms out in the Forbes business rankings.

http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2011/best-states-11_rank.html

Gee, do you think they are related?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Domestic violence

I'm not known as an admirer of Maine's Governor Paul LePage, but I'm very happy that in the last week he has signed three bills against domestic violence. It was one of his campaign promises, and he's followed through.

This is the dilemma of right-wing politics: I find that when an opponent of big government actually has happen to him or her a particular evil or problem that legislation is trying to cure - say, an aging parent needing end-of-life care, or a child with a rare and fatal disease, or a brother out of work, or a sewer line, or streetlights, or almost anything - then suddenly the opponent becomes a proponent. The Governor grew up with domestic violence and quite rightly wants to help. Why then cannot such a person see past his own needs and apply charity more widely? I'll never understand how people can vote against their own interests, e.g., taxing the poor, limiting healthcare, denying human rights, even in practical and sensible Maine.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I dreaded that first Rainbow, so

On these April mornings the clouds blast across the sky, looking shapely as thunderheads in July, then dissolving into a gray winter fog. The winds, now warm, now cold, ruffle the bay in a patchwork of herringbone. Rain pelts down; the sun comes out five minutes later. The weathervane swirls, helpless to offer guidance. Inside, north and south thoughts swirl. Minute by minute in April summer approaches and withdraws. I’m thrillingly called to be outside, to escape wintry traps of the mind, but if I go, it will be cold and wet.

That’s what summer in Maine builds on, the chill and wet and bluster of spring. It’s not helped this year by that aching week of false summer in March, raising expectations of months of warm sun on bare skin, sinking them unbearably a few days later. These days I desperately want the thermometer to stay in the 50s for more than 10 minutes and the weather vane to stop pointing north and the green leaves just to grow, damn it. I want to open the panes of glass to the embrace of air. In April glass is a prison, not a protection.

But for penance there is a reward. At the end of the day, a day particularly full of pelting clouds and bashful sun, a rainbow appears, promising grace, arcing halfway across the sky to the place where the cloud edge ends sharply in blue. And just to the north a double arc, small and faint and cold, shadows its glory.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A modest proposal

The news today is that the State of Maine will be funding a feasibility study for a new east-west highway, to connect Calais in the east with Coburn Gore in the west. This 220-mile privately owned toll highway would hugely benefit the people of Maine, says the Governor, construction company CEOs (well, one in particular), loggers, truckers, and Republicans.

One look at the map shows whom it would really benefit - the Canadians. Calais borders New Brunswick and Coburn Gore borders Quebec and the highway would be a much straighter shot for the products of Atlantic Canada to reach the consumers of Ontario and the American rust belt. Oh, I suppose a few dribbles of stuff might escape Maine too, but since Canada has everything Maine has, and a lot more of it, please prepare to see foreigners driving their semis loaded with blueberries and maple syrup and lobsters and logs through the Great North Woods, and not stopping to spend or build or recreate or appreciate. Well, maybe a coffee and a donut at Dysart's.

For, besides temporary road contractors, those are the kinds of jobs that Maine will get - waiters, gas jockeys, 7-11 clerks - from this boondoggle. Proponents says lots of new tourists will come, but the huge majority of tourists come from the south, on well-established roads. What sensible Canadian tourists will come to the wild woods of Maine when they already have what we have?

So I have a modest proposal. Just make the northern part of Maine the fourth territory of Canada. It already sticks up rather awkwardly into the gut of Quebec so just round it off. Portland and environs could stay. Also LePage. In trade the US could annex southern Ontario, which is basically American anyway, sticking rather awkwardly into the gut of the Midwest and poking Detroit in the eye.

Welcome universal healthcare, sensible politics, pacifism, and the loonie! One highway coming up!

NB - Not discussed here are pollution, eyesore development, noise, interruption of wildlife migration and breeding, ugliness, greed. I'm saving that for next January when the feasibility study will be finished.