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Friday, November 21, 2014

Riding Aound New England: One November in Maine

     For the love of Maine. On a gray November day, we headed up, to go "down east". In Bangor, we hit snow. Suddenly it was winter. The sky was gray, the trees were dark and gloomy, the snow was white. The air was damp and chill. We cut across, then, to head for the coast. For Calais, for Eastport, for Lubec, for all those towns by the sea. We have been here in the summer. Now we brave Novembers changeling days. It's different now. No tourists. Most of the motels and restaurants and shops are "closed for the season". There is no traffic. We have Maine to ourselves.

       We find rose hips in the snow. Bright red, bright green leaves. The only bright things on a gray foggy day. Across the river is Canada. Here we are, at the edge of our world. The tides come and  go on this river. A bridge goes across. We can see that there it is just as here. Church steeples, buildings of brick and stone, street lights, and cars, docks and boats. Old fishermen and the sweetness of teen agers. Good folks and bad. In all the world. In every country. Life lived. We are all the same.

       We hit the Waco Diner in Eastport for breakfast one morning. The oldest diner  that has been continuously operating in the United States. The rain pours down. We are right on the docks. Inside it is warm and bright. The old men drink coffee and razz the waitress. We have smoked salmon and eggs. And homefries, done the real New England way, and a bagel with cream cheese. The town is quiet. No shops are open this early in the morning.

       We walk off our big breakfast, up one side of the street and down the other. Gazing in the windows. Talking to the man getting his boat ready to go out. Smelling the sea. Listening to the ravens croaking on the roof tops, and the sea gulls mewling as they fly overhead. Checking out the free library. Waiting for nine thirty, when the Hardware store opens.

        The hardware store. Run by this family for many generations. It started out as a ship chandlery, selling goods for the ships going out to sea. Changing with the times. Now selling almost any thing you might need! And, yes, S.L. was an uncle to Henry .

        Eastport is the eastern most city in the country. Here is where the night fades and the dawn comes, first, before it spreads light over the rest of the country. The Indians here were called People of the Dawn. The road goes down a steep, steep hill. Down to the sea. In the rain drops we see the beautiful church, with a gull perched on the cross at both ends.

        We visit the Quoddy Head lighthouse. All white and red. The fog horn booming. The light flashing. The waves crashing and roaring on the rocks. The bell bouy sounding. Its lonely here and wild, and far away. You can feel it in your heart. Then Schoodic Point. We have spent many hours here, before. Now we have it all to our selves. This day has dawned bright and full of sunshine, after a full moon night. It's cold. The wind roars and the sea roars, and the waves blow high against the cliffs. Even the gulls are quiet. A flock of ducks bob and dive, not minding the wild sea, at all, at all.

      We drive slowly. Past all the old places where we have been. The towns, the docks, the sea glass beach, the lobster boats. The wind whipped cemetery, where lie fisherfolk and families, and Katie. And next to Katie, Jean, "like a daughter to Katie". Does any one know, any more the story? I feel the story here, standing in the wild windy sunshine.

       I like these little towns, with colorful buildings, and lobster bouys and narrow streets. I like the town docks, with friendly people, and friendly dogs. With small working boats, and fancy yachts. Where good smells come from the restaurant kitchens. Where you must shout to be heard over the wind and the tide. Where the night falls soft over water and land.

       I like these places, with tug boats and high masts, and bridges to walk across. With smokers cooking barbeque and  lobster traps, all crusty with salt and sea weed.

       I like how inland the blueberry barrens are most beautiful now, all pink and mauve and reflecting the morning sun. We have felt the heartbeat of the real Maine, now in November. The hard working, down home Maine. The shabby at the edges Maine. The beautiful, salty spirit of down east. I will come again, thank you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Riding Around New England Crawford Notch

        In New Hampshire, we have notches. Notches between the mountains. This is Crawford Notch. Along time ago, when I was a small girl who read a lot of books, I read Nathaniel Hawthorne. I loved his stories. The Great Stone Face. The House of Seven Gables. And the short story, The Ambitious Guest. This story intrigued me, way down to my inner core. It was based on a true story. I never dreamed, that small girl on the west coast, that I would ever get to New Hampshire and find Crawford Notch. As far as the east is from the west.
       So life goes, and one day I found myself living in New Hampshire. Raising a family and becoming a real "Live free or Die" girl. Still, down in the southern part of the state, the White Mountains were as far as the north is from the south. It was many years before I finally got there.
        So, all those years I wondered. Why? What would make a man take his family to such a place? Far from friends and neighbors. Only wilderness. Mountains and rocks and trees and wild rivers and wild animals. Why did Samuel Willey go there in that spring of 1825? His wife? Did she like this adventure? Or was she afraid and lonely? His five children? Yes. They must have loved the wild freedom of this place. The two hired men? I guess they needed a job!

        When I finally got to Crawford Notch, though, then I knew. I knew exactly why he went there. I sit there now, on the foundation stones of that little house, and I know. The mountains are a presence. You can feel them. Down in the notch you can feel the great height. You can hear the great echoing silence. If you were blind, you would know that you were small and insignificant. That you were surrounded by something mighty.
        Here the Saco River is small and it curls around the boulders and runs chuckling over the rocks. Waterfalls roar down the steep mountain and crash and roar into the  little river. I know. Further down the Saco widens out and deepens and is a mighty river. Here it is gentle and lovely. On that night of August 28, 1826 they say the river rose twenty feet. I try to picture it, but it's impossible.

            You can see where there have been recent landslides. Where the rocks and earth have slid down the mountain leaving great, bare gashes. I've tried to imagine what it sounded like that rainy summer night. The Willey family snug and cozy in their little house. Reading in the fire light. They say the Bible was left open to the 18th Psalm. That Psalm, that speaks about thunder and lightning and shaking the foundations of the earth. I picture Samuel reading those words to his family. Reading them while the rain poured and the river rose. " Thou hast given me the shield of Thy salvation; Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great."

       They had seen many slides. Samuel had built a cave as a safe place for his family to go to if one came near the little house. This night when the earth shook and the mountain roared, they tried to go to their safe place. But the big rock behind the house parted the land slide. It divided and made two slides. One on either side. And the little house stood. All calm and serene and safe in that sea of rocks and trees and mud. And they were all crushed  and gone. When searchers came to find how the Willeys had fared, the fire still smoldered in the hearth. The table and chairs sat empty, The dog whimpered in the stillness.

           "All things comes to him what waits" said my old friend Pete, when I told him that I had finally found Crawford Notch. I have been there now many times. In the summer when it is crowded with tourists. In the fall, when the mountains are misty and half hidden in the clouds. When the leaves are umber, and mahogany and gold. When the snow is high and the mountains are white. In the spring, when the water rushes and the wind blows cold. Always I sit on the wooden steps of the forest service building and drink my cup of hot black coffee. And I listen. I listen to the silence and the majesty. I listen to the shrouded past. I feel the smallness of life. I leave refreshed.   "Thou hast enlarged my feet under me, that they will not slip."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Riding Around New England (Lost Nation)

       Some just happens. You might have a different name for it. But I call it Magic. I mean - if you suddenly came upon this sign? There is nothing else you can do. You follow the arrow! It's so delicious. I say it over again now and then, to myself. "Lost Nation". It's a narrow little road. It goes up hill. Around every corner. on the top of every crest, I am holding my breath. What will I see? What will I find? In a Lost Nation? 

       I don't know about the rest of the year. But in October the Lost Nation is made of gold. The bright reds and oranges are gone past. But the gold! As if old Midas has swept through. The Tamaracks. Golden trees. The only needle tree that turns color and loses its needles in the fall. The ferns. The sedge grass in the swampy places. The little birch leaves, dancing in the wind. The wild apples. All along the road are wild apple trees. Loaded with golden apples. We stop and pick one, eating it in the cold mist. It's sweet and juicy, and every bite has a savory tang that you will never get from a domestic apple.

       We don't meet any cars. We don't see any people. We're all alone on the road to the Lost Nation. Is this is? Is this all there is? Just the wind, skirling through the treetops? Just the river, purling along beside us? Just the clouds, hanging low over the mountains? Just the mist keeping the wipers swishing across the glass?

         Just an old barn and a few scattered out buildings, leaning forlornly into the wind? The road is rough, with pot holes and rocks and cracks. We joggle along, enchanted. We come upon a For Sale sign. Just sitting there. On a steep gully. With a dirt drive wandering out of sight. Almost, we miss it. " Can we back up?" I ask him. We can. It's the tiniest house we've ever seen. Half hidden by the birches. It's golden, too. I DO believe in magic!

        A golden house, tall and slim, with a cupola and a small red chair. With windows, for the sunlight and moonlight, and a door for friends to come in. We sit for a while and feel the hominess of it. Little lost house in the Lost Nation. So, we travel on. To one more magical moment. There is a small church. Here. Where we have found no people. Its' so tiny, and well kept, and charming.

       No parking lot. Nothing but the peaceful green meadow surrounding it. The cheerful red door. The clean white steeple. The sparkling windows. The drifts of fallen leaves. The misty mountains in the distance. We read the sign.

         We have found Lost Nation. It's right here. It's a winding road. It's thing of great, golden beauty. It's apples. Its the kiss of rain on our faces. It's a tiny house with a red chair. Its a little church in the valley. It's in our hearts, from now on.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Listening Point

       Everyone needs a listening point. A place where you can hear silence. A place where you can be still and know God. A place where you can hear when He speaks in a still, small voice. A place where you can hear the whisper of your own heart. Life is so noisy and busy, some times you can't hear any thing. So you go to your listening point.
      I found mine a long time ago. I had permission from the owner. I would take my coffee and go listen. They called it Reflections at Turtle Cove. I called it Moonlight Cove. Long before they named it. Long before they built a house there and I couldn't go there anymore. It's still Moonlight Cove to me.
     Because, you know, when you find your self some where on a full moon night. When the air is warm. When there is no wind. When there is not a ripple on the water. Only the huge moon above you, and the water is golden and there are no shadows and you can see the past and the future. Then you fall in love with that place. It will always be yours. Though you be far away, though you cannot go there. It will forever be in the very core of you.
       I know why they called it Turtle Cove. I saw them there. All summer and spring and fall. Turtles. Big ones and wee baby ones and in between ones. They hung out there, like teenagers in a parking lot. Little fish darted there. Frogs boomed and caught unwary dragon flies. Dragon flies with iridescent wings. King fishers croaked from the trees.
      In the mornings the water was gauzy with mist. Mist rising with the warmth of the sun. Mist hiding reality and making it swirl. Then the sun would slip up and the mist would rise, and there would be the shore line reflected in the mist and in the water. Three paintings, beauty tripled. Then the morning breeze would break up the painting. Pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. Just before it disappeared.
      The afternoon sun . Once I saw it turn the pickerel weed golden. Shimmering golden in the blue water. I reached out and picked one, but in my hand the beauty faded. Evening has mist, too. Eerie mist. Then the geese talk, but you can't see them. Only their voices float over the mist. Bats dart, and swallows.
       Starry nights. When the sky is velvet and there is no moon. When the owls talk. And the coyotes call. Sometimes the wind whispers in the pine trees. Some times the rain dimples the water. Sometimes little wavelets splash, splash against the shore. Sometimes boys skinny dip on the other side of the point. I hear them running through the woods, and I turn my back on them. They never know I am there.
       I tell the owner my adventures, and he loves them with me." You should have seen last night," I say. "The moon was so beautiful, reflected in the water." Later when he lives there, we have coffee and he says" You should see, Annie. Our Christmas tree is reflected in the water at night. It's beautiful." We laugh, he and I, because we both have this place in our hearts.
      Now he can no longer be there. At Turtle Cove. The house is cleaned out. It will be sold. I go for one last tryst . When I know no one is there. I walk out to the listening point. It is fall. The trees are a blaze of glory. The water is still. The spot where I sit is shadowy. The old magic is still there. I can hear the silence. I can feel God. I can hear my heart. My heart sings a song. About moon light cove. About years gone by. About old friendships. About the times and the seasons. About reflections. Good byes are only reflections of hellos. Sadness is a reflection of joy. Here my heart will always find a listening point. Because it is here in my heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Adirondacks. What More Can I Say?

       Septembre! Beautiful month to hit the road for a few days.
        Saranac Lake. Where the morning sun lies warm over the water. The sky and the water wear the exact same color. The loons yodel to offset the stillness. The little waves whisper to the shore.
         The mountains rise up and surround you.
        The leaves also whisper, "Septembre. Septembre."
       Tupper Lake reflects the heron and the clouds.
        A little bridge, over tumbling water.
        An old and weathered barn leans into the trees.
        Is this the place of castles and romance?
        And church steeples from afar?
         A beautiful duck, with his one spot of blue.
       And a Pirate ship. "Don't tread upon me." and "Don't give up the ship" say her flags, snapping in the stiff breeze.
         Wild flowers every where.
       Drift wood on the shore.
             Need I say more?