Maine on my mind



I have Maine on my mind.  I recently  read, “Maine Farm: a year of country living” by Stanley Joseph and Lynn  Karlin.  In the 1980s, they bought Helen and Scott Nearing’s original farm house and garden in Harborside, Maine.  The book was a gift from Dave Sears who lives summers,  with his wife Judy, on  Matinicus Island, Maine.  The book led me to find a Nearing DVD I sometimes used in class, “Living the Good Life” —  Bullfrog Films, 1976.  It’s still available for $59.  One reviewer wrote, “His laugh and her singing make it magic.”  It brought back many memories from our visit in the early 1970 (recalled in a previous blog, “Down the Atlantic Coast”).



A few weeks ago, Melody and Garret Bonnema from Bethel, Maine visited us in Yardley.  They moved to Maine from Bristol in the early 70s and opened a pottery studio.  This visit they delivered several pottery pieces we had ordered as a wedding gift for Libby Paglione and Steve Vedder.  It’s been years since we have seen the Bonnemas.


Last week we drove to Rockland Maine and spent a night at The Ledges — a great motel overlooking the bay.  Next morning, we bought ferry tickets to Matinicus.  We were off to visit David and Judy Sears who bought a house on the island following retirement.  Diane and Dave taught together back in the beginning.  While waiting for the ferry, We met Martha Trower, from Chebeague Island just north of Portland.  Amazing, she knew the Nearings, had taught at Gould Academy and knew the  Bonnema’s, and knew David and Judy Sears from previous trips to Matinicus. Together we reflected on Maine — it’s amazing mix  of traditional and hip cultures.

Maine  on my mind.

Our first trip to Maine was about 1973.  We were living on Old York Road in New Hope with Barbara and John Paglione.  Although Diane and I were teachers and John worked in a Trenton hospital, our lifestyle reflected the “back to the earth movement.”  Not really a commune but we sometimes referred to our arrangement as an “intentional community.”  Summers John and I worked on two Pineville farms owned by the Daniel brothers.  Barbara and Diane worked in Japan Artisans, a great and missed New Hope shop.

We had a large garden, put up corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables.  Made preserves, condiments, bread, most of our beer (very crude) and wine.  We all cooked and rotated house chores.  We discovered Helen and Scott Nearing through “The Maple Sugar Book” and “Living the Good Life.”  I wrote the Nearings asking if we could visit.  We invited my father to join us and were offered to use a “plexiglas cabin” Bill Lynn from Bristol was building on a small piece of Maine real estate.  (Bill worked for Rohm and Hass and the plexiglas was scrap.)

In the 1930s the Nearings had begun homesteading in Verment.  Scott, an Economist, had been fired from the University of Pennsylvania and another college for socialism.  Helen, some years younger, could have had a career as a concert pianist.  In Vermont, maple syrup was their cash crop.  By 1952, the ski industry was taking over Vermont, the Nearings moved to Maine.

They bought a farm on the Blue Hill peninsula south of  Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor.  Their property was in Harborside, on a small cove off Penobscot Bay.  In the 1960s, the country was being introduced to a new youth culture, alternative life styles, back to the earth, eastern mysticism, gardening, communal living, hand crafts, flower power, and in media language —  “hippies.”  The Nearings were quickly becoming the “gurus” of homesteading.

We left Yardley in two aging VW bugs (one red; the other black), spent the night at Lynn’s “A” frame, just enough room for 5 sleeping bags.  The next day, headed to Harborside.  It had become a “Mecca.”  Our invitation to visit Forest Farm wasn’t necessary, visitors showed up every day.  Helen and Scott sat outside their frame farm house, mending netting they put over their blueberry bushes.  The berries had replaced maple sugar as a cash crop.  Several “in” people sat with them.  Although they had a bowel of grain for lunch, we weren’t offered any although I read that sometimes visitors were invited to lunch.  Some stayed for days, camping on the property and helping with farm chores.

That afternoon we helped Scott cut up some sapling size wood for heating, “warms you twice,” he said with a twinkle in his eye,”when you cut it and when you burn it.”  Later we headed in a pick up truck to Orr cove to collect seaweed to fertilize the garden.  The Nearings grew most of their food in a stone walled garden.  They were vegetarians, “we don’t believe in enslaving animals or people,” Helen explained.

They took us on a farm tour.  Quite proud of a new stone house  they were building  (Helen taped a rock, “it’s solid, strong).  At the time Scott was 90; Helen was in her 70s.  Scott lived until 1983; he was 100.    Helen continued to live in the stone house; she died in 1995, 91 years old.  After Scott’s death, Helen sold the frame house and some of the property to Stanley Joseph and Lynn Karlin, authors of “Maine Farm” mentioned in the beginning of this blog.


Nearing stone house — today the Good Life Center

As evening approached we said goodby to Helen and Scott.  Scott had been extremely open, friendly, constantly offering funny aphorisms, “Pay as you go.”  No borrowing or credit cards for Scott.  In contrast, Helen seemed a bit sour, maybe tired of the constant visitor stream.  They suggested we stop to meet their neighbor, Eliot Coleman, who was establishing (much to the amusement of regular Maine farmers) an organic farm.  Eliot was working in the garden when we arrived — raised beds of rich soil, lush with vegetables.  On our trip to Matinicus, Dave Sears gave me a copy of “This is in Your Hands: one dream, sixty acres, and a family undone” by Melissa Coleman, Eliot’s daughter. On the to-read list with several other Maine books.


Stanley and Lynn and Eliot were not the only homesteaders that followed in the Nearings footsteps.  A few bought land from them in Harborside.  Jean Hay Bright, wrote “Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life.”  She wasn’t always complimentary to the Nearings.   The Nearings may have lead thousands of others, “hippies and homesteaders” that flocked to Maine in the 1960-1970s.

I recently discovered a Bangor Times slide show, “The Good Life.”  It had five chapters —  Seed, Root, Bloom, Harvest, Preserve.  They wrote  “Sixty years ago Scott and Helen Nearing inspired a movement that changed Maine forever.”  Today the Good Life Center,  at Forest Farm, in the Nearing stone house, promotes the self-sufficiency, basic life style in tune with nature and community, the message Scott and Helen lived and wrote about.  The original frame house can be rented.  Maybe a Paglione-Profy Maine reunion.

Our next trip to Maine was in 1975.  Melody Bonnema had gone to Pratt in NYC with Barbara Paglione.  After college she studied with an established potter, Toshiko Takaezu.  Melody  opened a studio in Bristol with her husband Garett, who would leave teaching to become a potter. The Bonnemas were part of the movement of homesteaders and craft artists discovering Maine.  They bought a large Victorian with an attached barn on Main Street in Bethel.  The town was picturesque but not a major tourist stop. There was an Inn across the street and National Training Laboratory (NTL) was headquartered in town.  NTL was known for its T group training that sought to improve interpersonal relationships and communication skills — very 1960s.  Gould Academy was also located in town.   So in the 70s, there was a small flow of outsiders through town.  That would grow when Sunday River Ski resort was developed.

We moved in with the Bonnemas their first summer in Maine.  I did some carpentry work in the barn and the building of display shelves for craft fairs.  Diane worked with Melody, actually learning to throw her signature minature hanging pots.  We traveled with them to several craft fairs.  It was pretty clear we weren’t in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, or the East Coast corridor any more.  Maine was different.

Although Bonnemas worked hard, there was a flowing, rhythmic pace.  Lots of friends visited and I remember Melody (like the Nearings) explaining, “Today is a working day.”  But tomorrow . . . I think we hiked in the Maine White Mountains at least twice, or three times a week.  Usually the Presidential range — Jefferson was a favorite because a road took us  far enough up, that above tree line was reached with minimal effort.  There were also hikes through local forests — I remember feeling lost on one hike.  No houses, no roads, no signs of civilization.  We eventually emerged.

The sense of community was amazing.  And it was made up of locals, born in Maine, heating the house with saw dust types,  and the migrants moving in.  Somebody needed to move a piano, a group got together one afternoon, moved the piano, cracked open cans of beer or Boones Farm Apple, guitars came out, and there was a jam.  I think his name was Douglas, was building a log cabin outside of town.  Could we help?  So for a day here or there we lifted logs, forming the cabin walls. Saw my first Moose on one of these cabin building days.

We became regulars at some businesses in town.  There was a small coffee shop, Bonnemas like Sunday morning breakfast out.  The hardware store-lumber supply  was a frequent visit, “Charge it to the Bonnemas.”  Then there was the small grocery where we bought milk and eggs and Boones Farm.  We learned that firewood was important, there was a wood stove (we learned about Vermont Castings) in the kitchen, some of that heat seeped upstairs (needed in the winter).

In the Bethel area in the early 1970s,  there weren’t any organic farms or farmers markets, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, artisan bread or craft beer.  I don’t remember any craft artists except the Bonnemas.  Since then it changed with the new Maine.

When we went to Bethel in 1975, I thought I would write.  But except  for my daily journal, I didn’t write.  In August I saw an ad for a photographic workshop in Rockport.  I could save my artistic honor.  Photography not writing.  The Maine Photographic Workshops were new.  Dave Lyman’s inspiration; professional photographers, talented students and a utopian setting.  We took a sailboat to a small island and spent a week photographing on 35 mm ecktachrome (it could be self developed).  The instructor, Bruce Curtsinger, a National Geographic contract photographer, opened my eyes to light and composition.  Particularly composition.  He taught the traditional rules but pushed us to go beyond the accepted.  Sunrise, sunset, ocean calm and ocean waves, seaweed and rock and rock. Wide angle (Bruce lent us an 18 mm lens), close up.  Color, light, pattern, texture, repetition.

The next year I returned to the Maine Photographic Workshops to take a course with Ernst Haas — color and color,  “Keep your finger off the shutter until you know you want the shot.”  Bruce Dale, “You need to shoot people.”  Both were great experiences influencing my life and photography.

Diane and I have traveled in Maine a number of other times.  I remember driving up the coast, stopping at a roadside stand and having my first lobster, corn , maybe a baked potatoe.  Lobster never made it to Bristol when I was growing up.   Delicious.  I remember horse back riding in Arcadia National Park.  And I have mental images of coastal towns, Kennybunk, Wiscasset, Damariscotta, Friendship, and Tenants Harbor.  One year when Jenny was about 8, we spent a week in Searsport.

We returned to the Blue Hill pensiula several years back when the Kwait Brothers were playing at the Blue Hill festival.  Jenny and Rob with a young Eli camped; Diane and I stayed in a B and B.  One afternoon we took a driving  tour and in the Brooksville historical society saw a sign “Condon’s.”  Diane recognized it immediately, from children’s author, Robert McCloskey’s (“Make Room for Ducklings” fame),  “One Morning in Maine.”  Our guide in the small museum said, “Drive down the road and you’ll be there.”  Within minutes we were in Buck’s Harbor with Condon’s Garage and store just as they are illustrated in the book.  McCloskey has a home on a small island in Penobscot Bay.

I don’t think we realized we were in Nearing territory until we noticed a mail box, “Nearing.”  We drove up to the stone house but everyone from the Good Life Center were off to the Blue Hill festival. We drove next door to Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Farm.  We talked to some interns, “Yes, Eliot still lives here.”  As we toured the farm and small market stand, I noticed someone coming out of the farm house.  It was Coleman and I couldn’t resist stopping him and relating how we’d met 30 years earlier.  Today Coleman is the go-to spokesman when something is happening in the organic farming movement.

Two years ago we planned a September trip to visit David and Judy Sears on Matinicus.  Dave required surgery and the trip was cancelled.  We had credit at the Percy Inn in Portland, so in April 2015 we took a trip to Concord, MA and Portland, ME.  Downtown, historic Portland reflects the “hip” culture that migrated to Maine in the 1960-70s.  Waterfront properties with boutique shops and a lively food scene.  Unfortunately  we couldn’t get reservations at Eventide Oysters — the hot oyster bar — ended up next door at Hugo’s, one of Portland’s first national known restaurants.  There was an expensive, if interesting price fixe tasting menu.  Another evening we ate at Street and Company, a favorite for us and discovered lunch at the dive bar J’s Oyster on the waterfront.

Last year we again planned a September trip to  Matinicus.  This time I ended up in the hospital and my surgeries lasted for months.  This year Dave emailed encouraging us to visit in September, 2016.   I was determined to make the trip.

On September 7 we left for Rockland.  It’s a long drive but the day was cool and clear.  We held off lunch until Kittery, just over the border between Maine and New Hampshire.  We had discovered Young’s Maine Grill on the Portland trip.  Deceptively simple, it’s a great seafood stop on the bay.  Instead of lobster rolls (you know your in Maine) we had oyster rolls.  Crispy batter; juicy, tasty oysters, with an Allagash White — there was a case in the car headed to Matinicus.

For part of the trip up the coast, we drive Route 1.  Although it has its share of tacky motels, chain restaurants, and other tourist attractions, it’s spotted with unique Maine establishments, true craftsmen, potters, woodworkers, iron workers.  There are farm stands and mom and pop (several generations) restaurants.  Some of the cabin- motels from the 40s and 50s even have an appeal.

In Rockland, Dave and Judy recommended The Ledges.  Our second floor motel style room had a beautiful view of the bay.  No need for a B and B.  We had reservations at Primo, described as “the ultimate farm to table experience.”  It’s claimed the chef, Melissa Kelly, started with a garden, a few hens, and a couple of pigs.  Wednesday night in September, the place was packed.  Our 7 o’ clock reservation was pushed to 7:30, so we had a drink at the bar.  Knowing I would have plenty of seafood in the coming days,  I ordered a signature dish, Pork Saltimbocca.  It was quite good.  Diane had a lobster Ravoli which she felt was lacking.  The drinks, beet salad, dessert, homemade limoncello were good but overpriced.  But the fact that Primo exists and  succeeds is a testament to the organic pioneers of the 1970s.

The next morning we did some last minute food shopping.  Judy wanted several quarts of homemade yogurt from a health food market.  We purchased donuts from a recommended bakery.  The ferry only runs to Matinicus three times a month.  And it was out of service for our trip.  We were taking the “island transporter.”  Basically a work boat, capable of carrying several vehicles and twenty-three passengers.  We were told to get there early.  We waited; met Martha; and watched the stream of passengers for Vinal Haven, then Matinicus.  There were family types, older couples, young couples and a few in pick ups, tattoos, and dangling cigarettes, that I couldn’t help stereo-typing as Trump supporters. How will Maine vote?   On board, there were six plastic seats for passengers in a large closet space.


Seas were calm.  Matinicus is 23 miles out.  It’s a two hour trip.  Fog was fairly heavy at times.  In comparison, Nantucket, our summer destination for years, is about 30 miles out.  We arrived at Matinicus harbor in a light mist.  There were half dozen high piers with a fishing shacks where traps are stored and a stern man may live above.  The main pier was crowded with people and trucks.

Dave and Judy loaded  our bags in their truck and gave us an island tour.  It’s about 2 miles by 1 mile.  Maybe 125 residents in summer; 25 in winter.  There are no stores or restaurants.  The school has 3 students.  There is a non-denominational church, town hall, post office, playground, cemetery, airport, recycling station and a new library.  Until recently the library building was a “house of the rising sun” across the street from the Sears.  They bought the property and donated the building to the town.

Dave and Judy rented on  Matinicus for years.  When they retired they decided to buy.  Their house has been renovated, furnished with antiques.  Beautiful.  Dave began painting and with some inheritance built a studio.  They have a big productive garden — if you want fresh vegetables, you grow them.  There are also berry bushes and crab apple trees.

Five o’clock, wine glass in hand, there is a knock at the door.  A young fisherman, just off his boat is delivering lobsters (8) and crabs (5). With corn from Bucks County and tomatoes from the garden, we had a delicious meal.  Leftover lobster and crabs were the basis of a Maine chowder, Judy made for day two.  Reality check: Sears rarely eat lobster and at a  recent island picnic there was a basket of cooked lobsters; no one ate them.

In the next two days, we walked a trail to a typically Maine rocky coast;  another walk to Condon Cove with the ocean rounded granite stones that are the inspiration for some of Dave’s paintings.  We also explored a beautiful sandy beach, not typical of Maine, one of two on the island.  We went to the harbor and watched a few boats coming and going;  similarly, at the airport, a plane landed and took off with two passengers.

Life on Matinicus is slow, measured.  It’s very different from life on the mainland.  Dave constantly suggests that if you live here you must contribute to the island.  It may be  keeping one of the walking paths cleared or volunteering at the recycling station. It’s small town.  Everyone keeps in touch.  As we drove around the island, we ocassionally stopped to talk — small talk — who is off island?  Whose relatives are visiting?  Is someone back “fishing?”

“Fishing” is used for lobstering.   No one on Matinicus fishes for fish.  They fish  for lobsters.   It’s hard work.  There are regulations on size, number of traps, and where someone with a license can put their traps.  There is a line for instance between Mantinicus and Vinal Haven, a larger nearby island.  It’s important to keep your traps on your side of the line.  If not someone from the other island might cut you lines, losing not just lobsters but expensive traps and line.  But it happens and lobstermen have known to get rough.  There is no police force on Mantinicus, so island standards of behavior and cooperation are regulated by the community.  Punishment can be harsh, including banishment from the island.  A few years ago there was a shooting on the town dock. “Don’t mess with my traps.”

With regulation, in recent years, lobster catches have been good.  Some fisherman  — families have fished for generations — make three figure salaries. They may have a house on the mainland for winter and take get aways in Rockland.  Some even have a home in more southern, warmer shores.  But they work hard for what many  of us experience as the ultimate seafood.

Life on Matinicus wouldn’t be for everyone.  I don’t think I could live there most of the year, year after year, unless like Dave I was painting, writing or involved in some other art.  Bo Bartlett, a painter, whose exhibition at PAFA became the background for Jenny and Rob’s wedding, has a house and studio on Matinicus. They recently bought a large Bartlett print and I have a copy of his new book for their anniversary.

Go to : for more of Dave’s paintings

What I really like about Matinicus is the focus on basics.  You are isolated from the usually hectic, over stimulating, sometimes depressing mainland life.  Islanders sometimes refer to the mainland as “America.”  It’s a different place.  Everything you need must arrive by boat or plane.  You are constrained by the weather.  Some days the planes don’t fly; and the boats may remain in the harbor.  Go with the flow.  This trip we left one day early due to the weather forecast.

I remember teenage dreamy talk about being able to sit on an deserted island (usually under a palm tree), enjoying the sun and waves, sipping a glass of cold lemonade.  There was romance to Peter Pan, Robinson Crusoe, and the Swiss Family Robinson. Matinicus isn’t paradise but has some of those special qualities remembered from childhood.

Maybe it’s  the focus on basics, the time sitting on the beach, climbing on the rocks, listening to the surf, the sights and smells of the ocean,  the seas, storms and calms.  Maybe I would write more; or better.  Maybe I would find the time to develop my photography — my personal Maine photographic workshop.

On Saturday we left Matinicus with Captain George who ferries passengers to Rockland.  On the mainland, we bought some Cod and headed to the Sears new house in Cushing — about 10 miles from Rockland.  It’s an 1990s house built by a carpenter — great woodwork — a basement studio for Dave, large open kitchen, dining room with a view of the river.  A cosy escape from Matinicus in the winter.  That’s not to say  that Maine winters can’t be harsh but when you don’t need to commute to work, snowy, cold days can be spent in front of a fire, time for reading, writing and reflection, maybe painting, photography, or some craft production.

I’m hoping we can spend more time in Maine (and Matinicus).  I doubt we would move there.  But I like viewing life through different lenses.  Maine and Matinicus offer this.  There are lessons that can be brought back to Bucks County.  We may have missed our chance in the 1960-70s to be part of the exodus to Maine but have learned from our experiences there.  Im keeping Maine on my mind.


Down the Atlantic Coast: Maine


So many writers come up with historic, geographic or cultural quests. Follow the trail taken by Lewis and Clark, visit all the sites associated with Henry David Thoreau, climb all the mountains in the Presidential range, drive Route 1 from Fort Kent, ME to Key West, walk the Applachian trail. I read one book where the writer visited the homes of famous people, collected and propagated seeds from the properties. His collection of trees was finally taken over by a non profit.

My best friend JP from Bristol, Pa set a goal to visit all the Bristols in the country; he also drank at 68 craft breweries, the year he turned 68. I believe he is currently visiting all the Presidential Libraries. To-date JP hasn’t written a book.

Last week I re-read “The Coast: a journey down the Atlantic Shore” by Joseph Thorndike. He lived on Cape Cod and decided to walk around the shore of the Cape. But he failed, there were too many harbors, marshes and other breaks. He scaled back and retraced Thoreau’s trek along Great Beach in 1849. (I did read the journal of a guy who successfully navigated the coastline of Manhattan.) Then Thorndike decided to travel down the Atlantic Coast, ME to the Keys.

Although I don’t think I’m going to follow Thorndike on the coastal tour or write a book, I thought it would be interesting to develop a wish list of places to visit along the coast and to recall those that are part of my experience. “Way down east,” Quoddy Head Light and Campobello Island (FDRs summer home) would be a places I would like to visit.

We’ve only gone as far as Arcadia National Park and Bar Harbor. Our first trip was in the 1970s and my strongest memory is horseback riding on one of the carriage roads built by Rockafeller. When he donated the land for a park he stipulated: no cars for so many years. The Park service has continued the policy. On our last trip we decided to take a carriage ride. Our driver mentioned that David Rockafeller still sometimes seen riding in  a carriage. A little later, as if on cue,  the driver announced, “And here’s David Rockefeller’s carriage. A guy riding on the back hopped off to steady the horses as the carriages passed; I quickly snapped a photograph of David, in his 90s, the last of his, the second generation.

Like Newport and Palm Beach, Bar Harbor was founded as a summer resort for the wealthy. We have never been impressed with the town. We stopped and walked around several years ago but found few shops and no restaurants that interested us. That trip we were staying on the southern part of Mount Desert Island called Southwest Harbor (Bar Harbor in in the northern end of the Island.) it’s a quieter town, close to the Park, without the fading pretension of Bar Harbor.


We have special memories of the peninsula just south, Blue Hill. In the early 1970s after reading Helen and Scott Nearing’s “The Maple Sugar Book” and “Living the Good Life” I wrote them asking if we could visit. Scott had been an Economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, fired for socialist beliefs. In the 1930s  Helen (a musician) and Scott bought land in Vermont to homestead. Maple sugar was their cash crop.  When the ski industry exploded in the 60s they moved to Harborside on the Blue Hill peninsula. The Pagliones, my father, Diane and I drove up to visit them in the early 1970s. They had become gurus of the “back to the earth movement.”  There were many  visitors; few had written ahead.


In the early 70s, the Nearings were building a new stone house, gardening (vegetarians), raising blueberries as a small cash crop, and becoming an attraction in seashore Maine. The property next to theirs was being farmed by a young Eliot Coleman who would became a leading spokesman for the organic food movement. As we gathered seaweed for fertilizer and cut firewood, Scott encouraged us to visit Coleman. Visitors to the Nearings were sort of welcomed (don’t think Helen liked it a lot) but they were put to work. Some stayed for days; others bought nearby property. When we left we stopped to see Coleman’s organic farm.


             Nearing House.

About 7 years ago, my son-in-law’s band, Cabin Dogs,  was invited to play at the Blue Hill Festival. They camped; Diane and I stayed in a B and B for several days. The Nearings were both dead (Scott was in his 90s when we visited) but their property and buildings they constructed with volunteer help were now The New Life Center. We walked around but the staff were all at the Festival. We did talk to them there. Such fond memories.

We also stopped next door and as we toured “Four Seasons” (Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch’s farm), Eliot came out of the farmhouse. Much to Diane’s chagrin, I approached Eliot and told him about our visit in the 1970s when he was just getting started. I don’t think he was impressed but I was so pleased to renew with a place and individual that had influenced my life beliefs. At home I ordered a Coleman organic gardening book. I also discovered a book, “Living Next to the Good Life” by Jean Hay Bright. She and her husband had visited like us but ended up buying a piece of land from Helen and Scott. Her account of them is pretty critical at times.

We had other associations with Blue Hill.

“One early fall morning in 1949, E.B. White walked into the barn of his farm in Maine and saw a spider web. That in itself was nothing new, but this web, with its elaborate loops and whorls that glistened with early morning dew, caught his attention. Weeks passed until one cold October evening when he noticed that the spider was spinning what turned out to be an egg sac. White never saw the spider again and, so, when he had to return later that fall to New York City to his job as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, White took out a razor blade and cut the silken egg sac out of the web. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.”

Michael Sims, the author of “The Story of Charlotte’s Web” reveals how that spider became the inspiration for a delightful children’s book. (See NPRs Maureen Corrigan’s, “How E.B. White spun Charlotte’s Web.”) For years White had a house, lived and wrote, in Brooklin, on Blue Hill Bay. It’s written that White didn’t like visitors.

As we drove around we stumbled on a local historical society; it was opened; staffed by a friendly local. We spent quite a bit of time looking at artifacts and talking with our guide when Diane noticed a sign, “Condon’s Garage.”  Our new friend quickly informed us that it was the real sign and Bookesville was just down the road. We were off to check it out.

One of our favorite children’s authors, Robert McCloskey summered on an island off Blue Hill. Several of his books are set in Maine. In “One Morning in Maine” father and daughter, Sal, arrive by boat at Buck’s Harbor to go to Condon’s Garage. Sal who has   lost a tooth in the morning enjoys a treat from a small store in the village before returning to their boat and home. Amazing seeing the source of McClosket’s drawings.

McCloskey’s wife  and eldest daughter are models for the classic story “Blueberries for Sal.” And “A Time of Wonder” is another book set in Maine. McCloskey is most famous, however,  for Caldicott winner, “Make Way for Ducklings” set in the Boston Public Gardens.   Several years ago we bought Vivienne a Boston street artist’s drawing of the ducklings.

We did goto the Blue Hill festival.  The Cabin Dogs were the last band to play.  They got the crowd up and moving. A great evening.

Furthur down the coast is Searsport.  In the early 80s we rented a older,  in need of repair house, across railroad tracks on a small spit of land overlooking Penobscot Bay. I recall raising a flag with Jen most mornings, walks, touring the local seaport museum, and drives exploring the rocky coast and other towns.

My real introduction to the Maine Coast came in 1974 when I did a week of photography  at the Maine Photographic Workshops.  They has been just established in Rockport by David Lyman.  The workshop I attended was a bit of Outward Bound.  We were given a sheet of plastic and showed how to construct a shelter in the wild.  Sure!  Our photography instructor was, Bill  Curtsinger, a contract photographer with National Geographic.  About 12 of us sailed with Bill  and a ship’s Captain to an island where we established camp. Food was provided.  The first night I tried to sleep under my plastic and a rock outcrop.  It was very uncomfortable.  The second and subsequent nights I slept on the sailboat after making friends with the Captain over a bottle of Hennessey’s Cognac.


For a week, Bill opened our eyes (certainly mine)  to composition and light.  Using ektagraphic slide film (we could develop this at labs in Rockport) we shot sunrise and sunset (bracketing), passing sail boats, shore lines, and each other.  But most images were nature — rock formations, individual stones, trees, plants, sea shells, life in tidal pools, barnacles and birds.  We used telephoto and wide angel lenses.  I recall Bruce had an 18mm lens he shared.  For geographic photographers, film was cheap. Shoot, shoot and shoot more.  Bill wasn’t much older than me, in his late twenties.  His speciality was underwater photography.   Over meals and evening campfires we talked photography.  Bill’s  comment that he would only have so many shoots in his career has always stuck with me.

After 5 days on the island, we returned to Rockport, rooms to sleep and eat in and  labs to develop our film.  The last day we sat around a slide projector, sharing and critiquing our work.  It was quite an experience, so I returned to the Maine Photographic Workshops the following summer.

In 1975, I took two workshops.   The first was with National Geographic staff photographer, Bruce Dale.  The difference between staff and contract photographers is that staff photographers are paid a flat salary for all their work.  Contract photographers retain rights to photographs not used by the magazine and are paid based on what is used.   Interestingly according to Curtsinger/Dale photographers at Geographic headquarters got the basement; writers were upstairs.  Bruce looked at my portfolio and said I needed to learn to photograph people.  So I did.  I spent several days  in Rockland on the street, photographing people.

My next workshop with Ernst Haas presented different challenges.  The first full day, we sat in a studio and discussed color.  Haas said there should be a nail at the shutter — push when you know it is  a  photo you really need to take.    So different from the National Geographic philosophy, shoot, shoot, shoot.  One morning, with Haas we went early morning to a typical rural Maine fair.  Carnival attractions, live stock, and people filled our frames.  Focus, light and color.  Forty years later the Maine Photographic Workshops offer college credit, video, digital, and  a colorful catalog of  courses.  I suspect I experienced its most exciting years.

At least one year we took a sail out of Rockland.  Only a day trip but I’m adding to my new to-do list a Maine Windjammer cruise.  On day trips along the coast, we passed through or visited Friendship, Damariscotta,  Wiscasset, and other coastal towns.  I  always  liked those with fishing or lobstering fleets.

Portland.  Spent several overnights there, on our way north or as a destination.  The harbor area is gentrified — quaint shops and restaurants.  On our last visit, a few years ago,  I made reservations at Hugo’s.  As  we later learned Hugo’s was the first restaurant on Portland’s foodie map but now next door was the innovative and  hip, Eventide  Oyster Company. Unfortunately, we were stuck with our Hugo reservation and a price fixe menu; no openings at Eventide.  The next night we ate at Street and Company — a known favorite.  We’ve only been in Portland for two night visits.  Not enough  time to explore more than the historic harbor.  We need to revisit.

We’ve driven Route 1 south of Boston to Portland many times.  My first encounter with lobster  was at a  roadside stand — I don’t think I ever had it before that.  Crabs maybe; not lobster.  Delicious — fresh lobster, corn and baked potato — I was captured. But south of Portland, there was too much traffic, too much Route 1 landscape despite a touch of Maine.  We need to do more exploring  along the Maine coast and hopefully will visit friends who have a summer house on Matinicus island.

For now I’ll blog down coastal Massachusetts.


Cape Cod Sunday Slowing Down


Sunday morning. Overcast but no rain yet.  Arey’s Pond is quiet.  It is a sheet of glass.  No activity in or from the boatyard. Even the feeder is quiet (but needs filling).  We’ve had a small flock of Blue Jays, cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees, goldfinch, titmice, and nuthatch; Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers feeding the past few days. Chipmunks scurry beneath the feeder; and I’ve seen one gray squirrel.   Osprey have flown overhead; maybe a marsh hawk.   A swan makes its home across the water; sharing space with at least one seal.  It’s not hard to find solitude and peace here.

I am reading “The Salt House: a summer on the dunes of Cape Cod” by Cynthia Huntington.  She writes, “I wished quickly for what I always wish: to be given another summer after this one, to be able to come here all our lives, to keep making this our home.”  Cynthia (a writer) and her husband Bert (a sculptor) were fortunate.  Hazel Hawthorne Werner, as part of a small artistic group,  had spent her summers in the dunes near Race Point Proviencerown from the 20’s into the 1060s.  Her group included Agnes and Eugene O’Neill who lived in beach shacks that had been built around the Peaked Hills Life Saving Station.  Hazel now was in her 80s, would Cynthia and Bert like to live in her shack, Euphoria?  “We said yes without taking a breath, ” Cynthia wrote.


“8 Peck’s Way” on Arey’s Pond or “Rattlesnake Bank” on Nantucket where we stayed  for over 10 years aren’t quite as isolated as the Cape dune beach shacks, but the Peaked Hill shacks are now owned by the National Seashore and a lottery determines who can reside there for a period of time. We need a different address but I should explore the lottery.

Arey’s Lane is a dirt road off of route 28.  “8 Peck’s Way” is just beyond the Arey’s  boat yard (beautiful custom boats, check out their website).  Driving to and from, both Rob and Diane have taken to coming in from the other direction off  Monument Road which leads to a maze of private dirt roads between Pilgrim Lake and the Namequoit River.  It’s dusty single lanes and its not unusual that cars need to pull aside for others to pass.  One party pulls aside, and as the cars pass, both drivers wave.  Time for slow and neighbors.  I love the posted sign on Arey’s’s:  “drive wicked slow, 15 mph.”  IAnnoyed at first, I eventually decided that this approach contributed to my-our sense of seclusion — we are hidden in the woods.

Although I like the idea of serendipity and spontaneous activity. Some planning is necessary when 6 people of different ages are traveling/vacationing together.  Can we satisfy all; can we come up with a mix of the planned and unplanned?  This morning, Jenny called a family meeting.  There are so many option of what we can do in the coming week.  And we all have our likes and dislikes.  Some activities are weather related.  Some get sold out if you don’t get advance tickets.

Most years we take a boat trip and we came to a decision.  Mass Audubon 2 hour Thursday explore (buckets and nets on a sand bar or island) out of Hyannis.  Another decision: lobster dinner tentatively scheduled for Tuesday; in the morning we have a National Seashore ranger led nature explore and there is an evening lecture on whales.

But not everything is agreed on and planned.  Diane wants to try some clamming and she bought an official pail. But it involves open areas, tides, and a day permit.  All vary from town to town.  More research is needed for a commitment.  “Grease” would be fun to see but tickets we placed tickets  on hold.  How would it impact beach time and dinner?  Today we may walk at the National Seashore, Skacket Beach at low tide around 4, Rob and Eli going to a baseball game, probably pizza for dinner.

Shore life, in general,  tends to be slow.  Most serious boaters (I’m not talking speedboats and jet skis) move slow.  Their rhythms follow winds and tides.  Right now in front of me on the pond is a sailboat coming in to dock, they cut the engine and slowly drift-motor to a mooring. Another boater is rowing  (slowly) to dock.  Canoeing, kayaking and rowing usually follow a peaceful rhythm. There may be times when energy and fast motion are desired or needed but it’s not a constant commute on an Interstate highway.


Activity on the beach also tends to go slow.  Some just sit in the sun, or hide under an umbrella, nap, read; others walk along the shore stopping to watch sanderlings, gulls and terns.  There are beachcombers collecting shells or whatever else may wash up their way.  A few swim and there are a more active groups of surfers (usually young).  But for the most part the beach, sand, and sun contribute to a quiet slow, relaxed time.

Most fishing tends to be a quiet peaceful activity, frequently solitary, a waiting communion between fish and fisherman. Think “Old Man in the Sea.”  I also see images of individuals casting long, staring out to sea. Casting and waiting.  In late afternoon, sipping from a can of beer.  Or there in the row boat — one, no two, it’s a father and son — poles dipping into the water.  Waiting, reflecting, relaxing.  Even fishing from a boat in bay or ocean can involve slow, quiet time punctuated with the back and forth pull of a catch.  The bigger the fish; the more strain and fight.  Reeling in requires a measured, calculated pace.

This evening I’m watching the sun set over Arey’s.  According to plan, Rob and Eli are off to an Orleans Firebirds game.  Hundreds turn out to watch college players representing different towns.  It’s been happening 100 years!  Baseball isn’t your fastest sport.  There is some running but a lot of watching and waiting. A perfect Cape Cod sport.   I enjoyed my time at a game a few nights back; wouldn’t even have considered watching a game in Yardley.  Diane, Viv and Jenny have just returned from several hours at Skaket Beach — low tide.  Viv netting crabs, alive and dead; walking slowly through the sand and low water.  Jen meets and talks to a oyster farmer. They clean up, no rush.

Tonight we’ll have take-out pizza for dinner. Cooking takes time and planning.  And tonight we all move “wicked slow.”




Traveling; Vacationing


Why do we travel?  Why are vacations so important?  Sometimes it may be just a weekend, field trip or night away. I’m sure there are many reasons. Some of us enjoy seeing and exploring new places. Having new experiences.  New or favorite foods.  It’s usually a change of pace. We may get to spend more (or less) time with family.  Our daily life traveling, on vacation is different.  Usually no work or as many (if any) house chores.  I’m pretty sure a recurring reason is “to recharge.”  This was certainly always heard in the faculty room justifying teachers’ summer vacation.

Last summer Diane and I spent two weeks in Cape Cod with Jen, Rob, Eli and Viv.  My surgeries started in September, then March and May.  For a year there was no travel or vacation, few field trips.  Now a year later we are back on Cape Cod for two weeks.


Our rental is different this year but both are waterfront.  Right now I sit on our screened in porch looking out on Arey’s  Pond.  To the right is a boatyard.  The pond is about a third as big as the Pilgrim Lake cottage ( 5 minutes away) where we rented for three years.  The big difference is the Arey’s leads into the Namequoit River, Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Pilgrim Lake was a kettle pond, formed by a melting block of glacier ice. Kettle ponds are freshwater; Arey’s is salt.  Fishing is different.  Arey’s is tidal and we can walk along the low water shore line to a conservation area with a trail.  Nice for a short walk.


Each house has some special features. I like that we have some history of 8 Peck Way (three sisters, owners name) on Arey’s.   In the 1950s, the girls parents,  Samuel and Marion Peck bought 16 acres of woods on Arey’s Lane with a quarter mile of shoreline along Arey’s Pond and the Namequoit River (what the girls called “The Creek.” Other family members had a cabin across the pond.  In 1951, a small cabin (still on the property) was trucked from Sharon, MA.  Sam’s father was a house mover.  Sam was a teacher and for the next few years, the family spent summer vacations in the cabin and a tent.

In  1954, house construction began and was interrupted and destroyed by hurricane Carol.  The house was finished over the next dozen years as finances permitted.  Sam believed in an efficient, classic Cape camp preserving the habitat surrounding the house.  In 2006, some of the property was sold to the town of Orleans creating the Samuel W. and Marion Hadley Peck Conservation Area. The nice short walk.

We like dealing directly with the owners who wrote in the house history I just shared. In updating the house, they wrote  “our goal while trying to make the house convenient and comfortable, is for it still to feel like a classic Cape summer home that features the natural surroundings we come to the Cape to enjoy — the breezes, the Salt air, the sand, the pine trees, the water — and the wonderful wildlife whose habitat we share.”


For me this year on the Cape is about recharging and testing limits.  I am still weak and have some permanent medical issues. The question isn’t just what do I want to do but what can I do?  Today, in the near future.  I’ve been walking for several hours a day, starting to do a little upper body exercise.  One big guestion until this morning was kayaking. I bought an LL Bean kayak when I retired.  We traveled so much year one, that I never used it.  Rather than bring it to the Cape last summer, we rented a canoe.  This year we bought a rack and have the kayak.  This morning I carefully lowered myself in, Rob pushed me off, and I spent an hour plus exploring Arey’s Pond.  The seat was totally comfortable, the paddling felt good.  I enjoyed the breeze, the splash of jumping fish, clanging halyards, and ocassional shout or laugh of kids in row boats or paddle boards.  The current was gentle easing the kyack through the maze of sailboats. Of the many interesting or fun names, I voted for the green hulled, “Spinach.”  Getting out was difficult but I did it,  only falling once.

Eli and Rob are fishing.  Diane followed me in the kayak. Viv is working on a craft project.  Jen unfortunately has some free lance.  In our two weeks here, we will enjoy some familiar beaches, trails and restaurants. We will eat a lot of seafood and  Eli will continue to try clam chowders.  We will explore new places and activities. Parents, grandparents and kids will spend some special moments together.  And I know we will  all recharge.


I smell some bacon frying for lunch BLTs.  Not sure what will happen this afternoon.  But i’m not worried; I’m on Nantucket time.




Cape Stories – Politicians?


My first story takes place in Nantucket.  It’s not Cape Cod but one of several off shore islands associated with the Cape.  We vacationed there for over ten years until our rental cottage was sold for 2 million (well the land, not so much the cottage).  That’s when we started to spend more time on the Cape.  The story also seems quite appropriate in this election year.

“During the summer, Nantucket harbor is filled with more than a thousand boats, doubtless many times what the whaling fleet was in its glory days.  For an overnight stay (in the 90s) at the marina, a forty-foot boat pays $90, for a full season $10,000.  On only one occasion has a yachtsman found the harbor inadequate.  That was when Donald Trump learned that the channel, now dredged to seventeen feet, was too shallow for his Princess. Trump sailed away, I was told, promising to return the next summer with his own dredge.  Before that could happen, however, Trump himself ran aground on financial shoals and the Princess was put up for sale.”  From “The Coast” by Joseph Thorndike

Since we started with a story about a Republican politician, I should share a story about a Democratic politician.

Elizabeth Warren Former Students Refuse Comment   by Bill Carson
(Mattapoisett Massachusetts)

Elizabeth Warren Former Students Refuse Comment

Imagine taking a college course and having Elizabeth Warren as your professor ? In hundreds of pictures in the news she always looks mad at the world ! It’s hard to picture Elizabeth Warren as a teacher with that plastic sardonic smile on her face.

Are there any former students of Elizabeth Warren? Did she actually ever teach a college course? While teaching what did her students think of her teaching methods ? Did she mock her students and talk to them in a sarcastic way to put her students down ?

The professor had said recently with a scowl she has always been a teacher and worked hard at that job.

It has been reported that the professor won awards from her students.Who, What ,Where and When and How were these awards given to Elizabeth Warren ?

We need to hear from of the former students of the professor ! Why hasn’t Elizabeth brought a few students up to talk about the great job she did as a teacher ?

John Kennedy is the President most associated with Cape Cod, walking on the beach, sailing, playing touch football on the lawn of the family compound in Hyannis. Here’s one tale.

HYANNIS — John F. Kennedy learned he had won the tight 1960 presidential election at his summer home in Hyannis Port when, as the story goes, his 3-year-old daughter Caroline woke him up the morning after Election Day by saying, “Good morning, Mr. President.”

1961 – John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States and the youngest president ever elected. Hyannisport and Hyannis are put on the map and his family compound becomes a new haven for tourists. Tourism on Cape Cod increases by 40%

In my experience, Democrats are frequently associated with the Cape, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  The Clinton’s and the Obama’s have vacation on the Vineyard.  I photographed Hillary in downtown Nantucket while Bill played golf.  When John Kerry was running for President, I watched a woman driving a car with a “Heinz” license plate  daily on a dirt road across the street from our rental house.  There was construction work on a bay side house.  Theresa Heinz Kerry had a house downtown.  Could the Kerry’s be planning a summer White House out of town?  I wrote her.  She responded that it was someone on her staff using the car, the house wasn’t for the Kerry’s.  I like to think if John won the election, we’d vacation across the street from the President.

A more recent story. This time Hillary.

WaveProvincetown Welcomes Hillary

There was a large flag with Hillary’s campaign logo of an H-with-an-arrow logo flying off a house in the West End. And way down at the private house where the event was held, there was a long line of people waiting to cash in on their donation and get into the tent to see Clinton in person.

The symbolism of her timing and the message of her visit seemed unmistakable.

Flying the flag.
Flying the flag.
“It’s such a propitious time for her to be here, with the Supreme Court decision (in favor of gay marriage) just being released,” said Mark Wisneski of Provincetown and New York, as he was waiting in line. “She has an important voting base here in Provincetown.”

Wisneski said, “I doubt I’ll get close to her, but if I did I’d ask how will you work to move gay, lesbian and transgender rights forward.”

Here is the remarkable thing: The odds-on favorite candidate for President of the United States Of America visited Provincetown, known as one of the top gay destinations in the world.

Ponder that for a moment.

It shouldn’t and should never have been ponder-able except for the fact that Provincetown is a really small town. It sure must be an important small town, huh?

Richard Hanson of Provincetown said, “I think she is the first presidential candidate that ever showed any interest or pride in our community.”

Hillary“I think it’s great that she’s paying attention to this community and to issues of gay and lesbian equality,” said Adam Welch of New York. “It’s a political tactic for anyone. But it’s fantastic that she’s being bold.”

And Joe Bolduc of Provincetown said, “As a gay man, I’m thankful that she’s coming to Provincetown. Provincetown is a great place for her to be.”

This blog started with Trump, so we will end with another Trump story.  I’m not sure if he ever visited Cape Cod but he has spent time on Martha’s Vineyard.  Once upon a time, not so long ago.

“Back  in the summer of 1988 while Donald Trump was publicly basking in the success of his book, The Art of the Deal, he quietly came to the Vineyard with a little known blonde model, and former Resaca Beach Poster Girl from Dalton, Ga., with whom he was having an extra-marital affair later dubbed “one of the biggest sex scandals of the 1990s that triggered the divorce of the century.”

At the time, rumors of his “seismic marital rift” whipped around the social circuit. An Atlantic city photographer had already threatened to release photos of Mr. Trump’s clandestine partner. Yet despite speculation in the tabloids and gossip press, the identity of the Donald’s paramour still remained a mystery.

It would be another 18 months before New York columnist Liz Smith broke the story of his season of infidelity. When Marla Maples was finally tagged as the other woman, the liaison had been four years running. The winter after her husband’s Vineyard escapade, Ivana Trump learned of the pair’s affair and confronted Marla at a ski resort in Aspen with her famous line: “You bitch. Leave my husband alone!”

Mr. Trump soon announced the end of his 12-year marriage and subsequently married Marla following the news of her pregnancy with their daughter, Tiffany.

In the past three decades, the events of Mr. Trump’s tryst with Marla have been reported ad nauseam. Curiously absent from all the coverage, however, is any mention of the fact that the Donald and Marla had a secret liaison on July 4, 1988 right in the heart of downtown Edgartown amidst the crowds gathered for the Island’s annual Independence Day parade.”  (From : Vineyard Affair, the Donald, Marla and Me by John Rosenmiller)

It seems that politicians have many different types of associations with the Cape, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.


Private Property: No Trespassing



Yesterday I was looking for some new walking trails near our rental on Arey’s Pond, Cape Cod.  Just down the drive is a conservation land trail leading to the river.  The tourist brochure mentioned Sea Call Farm on Tonset road (town cove), Baker’s Pond in Nickerson State Park and  Namequoit Point.  When traveling or on vacation I like a mix of the familiar and the new.  All of these sounded like new walks.

More exciting was a new area of the National Seashore.  Typically the accessible Seashore is north,  Eastham to Proviencetown.  Beaches, trails, visitor’s centers.  But here was a narrow spit of land heading south between Orleans toward Chatham.  On Google there seemed to be a road with one access — Pochet road.  This was a place to explore.  We found Pochet road, winding through a residential neighborhood.  As we got closer to what the GPS and Google labeled National Seashore, we encountered a sign —  Private Road.  We continued.  In a quarter of a mile we encountered an older guy sitting at a table by the side of the road.  He had signs which basically communicated only certain people could proceed.  I told him I was looking at a map which showed National Seashore ahead.  He assured me that since the restaurant about a mile back, all was private property.

“These people pay thousands in taxes,” he explained. “They want their privacy. That’s why they hire me.”  I replied that I understood but the map showed National Seashore ahead.  “No, it’s all private he continued.”  We complied and turned around.  Was Google Maps wrong?

We spent several hours checking out two of the other new trails.  Back at the house on the Internet I looked at the National Seashore’s official map.  Yes the barrier spit in question was National Seashore.  Wish I had a brochure map to share with  that guard.  I searched the Internet.  There wasn’t a lot of information. One interesting article said that the Feds were evicting and tearing down about six beach shacks on the spit across from Chatham.  Seems people paid about $7,000 or so in federal taxes.  Access was only by boat.  Locals were enraged.  When the National Seashore came in the 1960, local culture and tradition was suppose to be maintained.  But it was National Seashore.  The road shown on Google Maps may be for property owners, or vehicles with beach driving permits. I need to do additional research.

I’ll admit I was annoyed not to have access.  I don’t like the Private Property, No Tresspassing signs that announce our limited access to the sea — particularly beaches along the oceans. I’ve driven down too many bay side and ocean roads lined with houses. No access.  My beach walking has been stopped too many times by a  sign and maybe fence,  Private Property: No Tresspassing.  I’ve always been startled by the difference between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  The former, private estates, limited beach access; the latter more public beaches and access.


Later in the day, I began a re-read, “The  Coast: A Journey Down the Atlantic Shore.”  In the 1990s Joseph Thorndike walked Cape Cod and then decided to explore the whole Atlantic Coast.  His book is like a State of the Atlantic Coast — some history, the present and future.  In the introduction, he writes, “At the same time more and more people want to get to the shore, more and more of the shore is being closed to them.  If in time we learn to restore and protect the coast, whose coast will it be?  Everyone’s or only the shorefront property owners? ”   Only 6 % of the Atlantic shoreline is public; increasingly along the rest read  Private Property: No Tresspassing.

If interested you can check out English enclosure law; or colonial and state laws that reference high water and low water property rights.  Difficult access, however, is not a new thing.  In 1909, Holman Day wrote,  “Cove and cape, the coast is pretty much monopolized  by non by non-residents.  ‘No Tresspass signs are so thickly set that they form a blazed trail.”  The non-residents were summer vacationers.

Its increasingly difficult today to get to the water. We need a movement.  Open, free beaches for all.  Join me.



Cape Cod Bound



I’m packing, basically packed for our annual trip to Cape Cod. . I’m worn out.  This will be our fourth year with Jen, Rob, Eli and Viv in Orleans at the elbow of the Cape. Previous years we rented on Pilgrim Lake.  Perfect rental for fishing, swimming, sitting in the shade.  Rather than bring a kayak or canoe, we rented.  This year however, Diane was determined to bring our new orange L L Bean, so last week we purchased a Tule kayak rack.  Jer Taylor helped me secure the kayak to the Highlander this morning.  Then there are paddles and where are the life preservers?

This year’s rental house is a classic Cape Cod (actually only a short walk from  Pilgrim Lake) on Arey’s Pond, leading to the Namequoit River, Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean if your into water adventure. The kids have their own fishing poles but I’ll take one and a small creature net.

Diane packs several boxes of food and cleaning staples. Over ten years vacationing on Nantucket taught us to avoid super markets and empty out the pantry. That way food shopping can be to the bakery, fruits and vegetables from a farm or speciality market and of course fresh seafood.  One of the advantages of returning to the same place is that we know the best bakery (maybe it’s the only bakery), where to buy fruits and vegetables and our favorite seafood markets.  Tomorrow morning we will pick some vegetables from our garden — eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers. Put several jars of homemade pickles, canned green tomatoes, cheese, and leftovers in the cooler. Might be room for several bottles of Saviginon Blanc.

It’s fairly easy to get toys togehther. Two pairs of binoculars, bird scope and tripod, camera. Later I will add laptop and I-Pad. Although I will probably buy one or more books (nice little bookstore in Orleans), it’s well to bring a few from home. I get Beston’s “Outermost Banks”(environmental classic), “The Salt House: a summer on the dunes” and “The Watch at Peaked Hill: outer Cape Cod dune shack  life, 1953-2003.” The latter I discovered on Amazon this winter.  I throw in a general book on the Atlantic coast and one on cranberries.  (Viv laughed when she read the title of the cranberry book.).  I’ll take several journals —  my daily, a book to create lists and what I call my “highlights” journal.  I don’t expect anyone will read all my scribbling but maybe they will like excerpts — highlights– the best stories.  Started it in Nantucket years ago, while Diane cooked, we recalled “stories” we thought kids/grandkids would enjoy.

Since I lost 50 pounds, I’ve been getting rid of clothes and buying new.  Shirts, shorts, pants, belt, suspenders, underpants, t-shirts, socks — all new.  Do I need all this footwear — crocks, sneakers, sandals, clogs and new dress shoes I want to break in. Then Diane tells me the cat in a fit of rage sprayed my suitcase.  It was my favorite suitcase bought for the trips to Nicaragua.  She gets one of hers.  A bit smaller butpacceptable.  I’m going to have a  hard time trashing the Timberland.

I count out pills and put them in small wooden travel boxes (actually bought the pill boxes on the Cape years ago).  My travel toiletries  are usually together in a travel bag.  But this year I fill a canvas boat bag with osteomy “supplies.”  Maybe the most important thing I pack.

I start to carry food boxes, canvas boat bags, my suitcase to the car. Some are heavy.  Diane has filled canvas bags with beach towels, sun screen, bug repellent and personal items.  Her suitcase is twice the size of mine and twice as heavy.  Will all this fit?  In the garage I’ve assembled beach chairs, an umbrella, an ice chest.   Diane has purchased a cart to haul stuff from car to beach. It looks big.  Will it fit?

Its been in the 90s this afternoon.  I’m still surgery slow and weak.  But tomorrow morning we are Cape Cod bound.  I will get the car packed.  Diane takes the cat to the kennel.  Up and down; up and down.  Wow, everything fits.  Tomorrow we will pack a soft ice chest with vegetables from the garden and picks from the refrigerator.  Computer and I-Pad fit into a black leather carrying case.  “Let’s  go!”

But I know. Despite our planning and careful packing, when we pull out on Delaware Avenue, we’ll have questions — do we have a phone charger, did I remember the good filleting knife, extra reading glasses, is the AC off, water heater turned down, do we have some fresh CDs for the trip . .   I repeat myself, “Let’s go!”


Slow cooking


I’ve been home from the hospital two weeks.  Haven’t done much.  Just feel tired, washed out.  Might be a bit mental.  I’m just tired of the entire recovery routine.  Haven’t felt like house walking for 15 minute stretches.  Appetite has been limited.  No cooking or baking.  Don’t clean up dinner dishes.  Then I began with some low grade fevers. Several were on days that I had sat in the sun.  Wednesday, no sun but fever in late afternoon.  Kovell recommended Penn’s ER.  No surprise, a urinary track infection.  Antibiotics.  Didn’t get discharged till after 1 am.  Thursday was nap, nap day.

Yesterday a PT came.  First visit since this surgery discharge.  She went through the routine.  And it helped with motivation.  Walked more.  Did a few minor projects.   In the mail got a new SCOBY for making Kombucha; believe we have milk to make yogurt.  In the kitchen, slow cooking.

When I people watch, I wonder.  At the beach, in a kayak or canoe, riding a bicycle, hiking (not just walking the canal, but climbing some elevation), full gardening, house projects — will I be back doing any of these activities.    How easy will it be to care for my appliances?  Travel, dressing normally?  I booked a Hampton in Ann Arbor for Libby Paglione’s wedding in mid August.  Will I be ready?

This morning I have something like a stomach cramp; gas pains.   I suspect activity in my colon.  Always something to make me uncomfortable.  My skin dries out and becomes itchy.  The chest incision from heart surgery is not totally healed.  Need a dressing now which I didn’t need a month ago.  Part of my left hand is still numb, another legacy of heart surgery.  Despite my anxiety, annoyance, I realize there are people with more serious, critical health conditions.

We have a house rented in Cape Cod the last week of July, first week in August.  It will be the 4th year on the Cape with Jen, Rob, Eli and Viv.  I feel confident I can make the trip.  Also we have airline reservations for Seattle in October to visit my sister, Marylee.

Everything moves slower.  In the ER the other night, there seemed to be an hour between every event — check vitals, take blood, an IV, see the ER doctor, see a doc from Urology.  I don’t watch TV.  I wait, think, question, plan.  Diane would say I worry  and sometimes I do.  At home I wait for the home care nurse.  I eat slower; and walk slower.


Several days I have sat on the back deck.  Sun, warmth, some birds pass through the yard from tree to tree.  A light breeze moves through the wind chimes.  The sound of the large Woodstock recalls Nantucket.  One year the chime was missing, we immediately went out to purchase a replacement.  Depending on the time of day, I look at a  palette of greens.  I recall the Irish landscape, brushed with every shade of green.  Slow isn’t always a bad thing.

One or more times each day, I lay back, eyes closed, attempting to peer into the future.  I need to be self-sufficient.  The strain on Diane this past year has been too much.  I need to get back to year 1 of retirement.  In the early 1970s, I took a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer, Bruce Curtsinger.  In his mid 20s, Bruce was only a few years older than me.  Around a camp fire on a small Maine island, Bruce shared how in his lifetime he would only have so many photo assignments.  Some, shooting wolves in Alaska for instance, might end up taking one or more years.  He needed to choose assignments carefully.  This led to a discussion of limits — travel destinations, books read, movies seen — always limits.

Maybe the past year, this pause, has given me time to reflect.  I have many fewer years   than I had around the campfire in Maine. I need to make choices.  Slow cooking maybe ok for now.



The case of the stolen red canoe


It was our last full day of a family vacation on Pilgrim Lake, a small glacial kettle pond, in Orleans, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  We got up early since we had scheduled a nature explore on a pontoon boat with the MA Audubon Society.  The kids, Eli and Viv, were excited —  a boat ride and discovering shore life.  We left the house at 9:30.  The 2 hour ride was delightful; we saw some shore birds — terns, egrets, laughing and black-backed gulls, cormorants — we pulled up traps, no lobsters but crabs and a baby flounder.  Captain David, a classic Orleans salt, dropped us off on a tidal flat for an ocean explore — horseshoe crabs (a species that lived with the dinosaurs), green crabs, various clams, moon snails.  The kids gathered around our young guide to see, touch and learn about the creatures.

About 12:30 we got back to the house.  I went out on the back deck and gazed at the pond.  I blinked, our rental canoe which had been tied up to the dock, resting in the grasses,  was gone.  I ran down to the dock and, yes, no canoe.  The rope that had been tied to the bow of the boat was crudely coiled on the dock.  I scanned the lake, no sign of the canoe.  I had used the canoe the previous night.  At 5 o’clock, the wind was strong and I felt lucky getting back to the house.  But about 7 o’ clock, the lake was a a smooth sheet of glass.  A beautiful time to canoe.  A few teenage kids in the house next door were out on paddle boards.  A bit rowdy, but a  parent sat on the shore attempting to limit their antics. I canoed around the entire lake.

I know that I tied the boat to the dock when I returned.  In fact it lay behind the dock in just several inches of   water.  Even if  wasn’t tied, I doubt that it could drift away.  But it was gone.  And strangely whoever took it, left behind my rope — about six feet of 1/2 inch nylon rope.   How strange?  Was it a slap in the face, here’s your rope?

We considered several possibilities.  Someone in a boat — possible kids — took the canoe.  Was it a joy ride?  Was our canoe abandoned somewhere on the lake?  Unfortunately we had no way to fully check that hypothesis.  Did they have a car parked at the small beach across the lake from us — loading the canoe on their car?  Or maybe they were regular canoe thieves who drove up to the house, seeing no one home, loaded the canoe, life preservers and paddles on their car and then gone?  These were all possibilities.  But why had they left my rope coiled on the dock?

I called the local constabulary and outlined the situation.  My daughter, Jenny, drove to the sandy beach across the lake to see if there were any witnesses.  Officer Higgins arrived at the house on a motorcycle in about 20 minutes.  He pulled out a notepad, wrote down name, address, telephone, hours we were gone, details about the size and color of the canoe (12 feet, red).  We never noticed the brand; nor did we see the name of our rental provider, Goose Hummock, on the canoe.  I assured Higgins that the  canoe had been tied up and that it was there at 9:30 when we left for our boat trip.  I explained that the thief had left our rope coiled on the dock.  He didn’t even walk to the dock.  “Usually turn up in Town Cove,” he said.  I asked about a police report and he informed me it would be ready in several days.  Before Higgins left, Jenny returned.  No one on the beach had seen anyone load a canoe on a car or noticed any unusual activity at our dock.  Some people had been at the beach since 9 a.m.

I had read in the local paper that the English detective, Sherlock Holmes, was visiting Orleans.  He was staying at the Nauset Beach Lodge outside of town.  Could I call Holmes?  Well, it was worth a try.  For many years, I have been a Sherlock Holmes follower.  Maybe this was my chance to meet the great detective and even witness him solve the mystery of our stolen red canoe.  I looked up the number of the Nauset Beach Lodge on the Internet and dialed.  The voice at the other end of the line initially claimed that Mr.  Sherlock Holmes could not be disturbed.  I lied and said that I was Doctor Watson, a close friend and chronicler of Holmes’s many criminal investigation.  If he did not transfer me to Holmes; he would pay the piper.  I never quite understood what that meant but it worked.

Holmes said that he was resting in Cape Cod after a severe bout of depression and addiction to a 7 % solution. But he said a good mystery always helped him engage his mind and overcome these  dreadful conditions. He would visit us at Pilgrim Lake.  Holmes arrived in a 1950s dark gray studerbaker.  His dress didn’t conform to the usual Cape Cod attire — stripped woolen pants, a checkered cape and deerstalker hat.  We retired to the back deck overlooking the lake.  “Now tell me what happened,” Holmes began.  He drew from the cape a pipe and pouch of tobacco.  As I began the narrative which is recorded above, Holmes packed and lit his meerschaum pipe.  I told my story.

Holmes questioned, “Now let me be clear.  You rented the canoe from Goose Hummock on Sunday, for a week.  The following Saturday, you called Goose Hummock and asked to extend the rental.”  I responded that this was correct.  We had planned to return the canoe later today (Friday) or early tomorrow morning before the two week due date this Sunday.  “And,” said Holmes, “Let me be clear, you used the canoe last night, about 5 o’clock in strong wind and later when the lake was like a sheet of glass.”  “Yes,” I said, “It was  a beautiful evening on the water.”  Holmes continued, “You tied up the canoe, saw it this morning before you left the house.”  I assured Holmes that he had all the facts.  “And most important,” said Holmes, whoever took your canoe left your rope coiled on the dock.”  “Yes, yes,” I said.

Holmes drew on his pipe. “I think I can explain what happened?”  He asked for a pen and paper and my I-Pad (I never imagined Sherlock Holmes using an I-Pad).  “Call this number” he said a few minutes later, ” and you will find out who took your canoe.”  “Holmes, you are  amazing” I said.  He smiled and took another draw on his meersham.  “Not at all, just look at the facts. If my friend Doctor John Watson recorded this case, he would probably title it “The case of the Coiled Rope” instead of “The Case of the Stolen Red Canoe.”  I was a bit confused but I called the number, 508-255-0455.

Do you know who took our canoe?  Do you know whose number I called?  And of course, how did Holmes solve the mystery?