Ellsworth’s Accident Waiting to Happen

In the Whites, my hiker friends and I would joke that certain trails were “accidents waiting to happen”. I have to say that Myrick Street in Ellsworth and the section of Route 1 between Myrick Street and High Street is a bike accident waiting to happen, as arguably the most bike-unfriendly section of Hancock County. I realize this is strong language. Like the rest of the state of Maine, Hancock County has an ample number of no-shoulder or broken-shoulder roads. Yet in most situations, the road remains navigable to bikers without fearing eminent death.

Myrick Street and the aforementioned section of Route 1 have created a scenario that demands more courage than the average cyclist may possess. If the lane changes are confusing to a driver, they are frightening to a cyclist who realizes she cannot cling to the right side of the road and she must cross multiple lanes of traffic to turn left The hill past the bowling alley feels similarly risky, since the biker has nowhere to go while careening down the hill in front of vehicles also gaining speed.

Bayside is a slightly friendlier route. In fact, the bike path between Birch Ave and North Street may be the best option. Why would anyone bike Myrick Street any way? Just avoid it. Yet functional bikers who have no other means of transportation need to take Myrick Street to reach Walmart. Moreover, as the crossroads of Downeast Maine, Ellsworth is the crossroads of scores of cyclists starting or finishing cross-country journeys or cross-Maine journeys or any number of journeys. If only they all knew
to go the Bayside Road…

As I see it, the Department of Transportation has two options: either include bike lanes when they re-think Myrick Street or post no-bike signs so that they will not be responsible for any accidents or deaths.

Upon Waking….

She wanted to write about the April that she worked at the grocery store and they all ended up homeless by the end of the month, sleeping on couches or in cars.  She wanted to write about the times she had declared herself a freegan, the most glamorous way to declare that she could not afford groceries, and proceeded to miraculously feed herself on scraps.  She wanted to write about how scary it was to careen past Walmart in Ellsworth on a bicycle and even scarier still to try to coast down the hill past the bowling alley without getting herself killed.

Yet from experience, the whole sex-in-the-country theme had always been easier and more popular.  Not just encounters with the opposite sex, but romps in the woods and stories of place and season.  The fluff seemed more captivating, any snippet of how she felt about reality perhaps too familiar, so she was sticking with the fluff for now.

My First Bike Commute of the Year

I wake up at 4am and start looking out my French doors into the darkness of my backyard.  It should take me about an hour, I keep telling myself, the last time I biked from Bar Harbor to the Parkman lot it took me a hair over an hour.  Yet that was a couple years ago, and I am acutely aware of the softness of my body.  I had only rode my bike for the first time the evening before, and I worried what I was about to attempt was more a reflection of my ambition than my ability.  Part of me just figured my ability would soon catch up to my ambition, and I would just let the two work themselves out.

While I waited for a hint of light, I dressed for as if for a winter’s hike: long underwear, layers of shirts to wick away sweat, and of course the red-white-and-blue sweater of legends.  I made myself a freegan breakfast of gifted goat cheese and English muffin, and I took down and folded my clothes drying from the rafters.  Mostly I looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window more and paced.

At 5am, I was rearing to go.  Sunrise was in half an hour, wisps of dawn should be here by now.  I decided I would go for it.  I grabbed my backpack, a rack not yet installed on my bike, and carried my bike out into the chill of the end of April, down the stairs of my deck and out into the backyard that I was only starting to have the time to know.

I had been working 65 hours a week for the past year, and I had not spent much time doing anything other than that, furiously determined to pay back the friends and family who loaned me money for a down payment.  I did not care about the balance on my credit card as much as I cared about keeping my word to people who loved and trusted me more than they should.  As if it were a hike requiring endurance, I paid back $10000 in a year and transferred the remaining $3000 I owed to an interest-free investor who I intend to pay by the end of 2016.  My most pressing obligations behind me, renting out my house in various forms ahead of me, I quit the second job that had consumed my evenings and weekends.  I wanted my time more than the money.  The money would come especially on an island of plenty, but the time to be outside and exercise/exorcise would easily elude me if I let it.

I crossed my yard and walked my bike up the road to the social path that myself and the two neighbors share as access to the carriage roads behind my house.  I am always asked the length of it between the road and the carriage roads, and I hesitate, distance never ever feeling accurate to me.  One tenth of a mile? Two tenths?  It is a bumpy tunnel through the woods, including carrying my bike over three or so blowdowns that only the park could remove and they never will.  At the carriage road, I stop and look at my cell phone.  5:15.  I am supposed to start breaking down freight at 630.  I am never going to make it.

I jump on my bike and my delicate inner thighs are still sore from riding all over Somes Sound the day before.  I do not really want the seat to touch my legs at all, and I am only starting my journey.  True confessions: I do not like the endless conifers of my backyard, and I am quite relieved to finally pass the Giant Slide Trail, and soon after slip into the deciduous bliss of the forest before the trees have leafed out.  This is the forest of my childhood, and pre-leafing is my favorite time to notice things in the woods.

I pass Aunt Betty Pond, and begin the slow ascent up the carriage path side of McFarland Hill.  At 4am, I had been dreading it.  All I could think about was the summer–I must have been nineteen or so–when I was riding up the hill past the Southwest IGA and some ten year old boys screamed at me: “you are never going to make it”.  Then I was in the shape of my life, and I could make it without getting off my bike.  Going up that endless hill on Monday morning?  I could not breathe, I had to get off and walk a little.  I did not want to look at the time, I was certain I would not make it.

Once the hill leveled out, I hopped back on and saw that gorgeous view of Sargent, only a few miles further than I last saw it but seemingly much more distant.  I was slowly coming to grips with the beauty that was my life, and suddenly, as I careened downhill towards Bar Harbor, that beauty hit me all at once.

I passed the intersection near the Eagle Lake parking lot where I split my leg open and left in an ambulance, my bike dropped off at my house by strangers.  I have so many memories embedded here, for better or worse, and I am slowly feeling comfortable with all of them.

I did not dare to look at the time on my cell phone until I was at the Duck Brook bridge.  6am!  I was only moments from town.  I could make it in a reasonable time frame.

I pulled into A & B just as the grocery manager arrived, the grocery manager whom I had told to harass me until I rode my bike to work.  As it turned out, I did not need that much encouragement.  Locking up my bike, I asked her the time.  6:15!

All of my 4am worries were futile.  I made it.

Dating Brad Pitt

We eat iceberg lettuce and spoonfuls of your homemade lemon dill ice cream and oatmeal for breakfast, and I leave wearing a soft ll bean button-up that you were going to donate to Goodwill. At that moment, I do not know when or if I will talk to you again, but I do not care.  You feed me the most incredible poetry, not just slow-cooked chicken for breakfast and beef stew for supper, but I like looking at as much of your version of the universe as you have the patience for me to see, even when it is dark and brooding…..

Brussels Sprout

After all the other vegetables had come and gone, there stood the lone Brussels sprout, sweeter than ever from hard frost after hard frost, substantial with or without vinegar. All the others had been such flashy pretty boys, lots of promise but no delivery. He started spoiling her from the night they met, from when he filled the bath and watched her sink to a state of relaxation she could not remember the last time she felt. He visited her at work, and took her out on real dinner-and-movie sort of dates. When she told him she wanted to transform her shed into a tea room, he offered to bring his tools over and start moving the door around immediately. On the one hand, the spoiling felt old-fashioned and timeless; on the other, she had never experienced anything like it before and she craved it….

First Winter for the Hermitess

During the colder weeks, when she had left all of her faucets dripping during the day, she would come home to that sound and know that at least she had learned from last winter. Then, in the face of an apartment rental gone bad, she had retreated to her mother’s house and waited for something better. She knew that she had found it, she knew that she lived it every day, so she could accept anything that felt difficult about her circumstances.
She had spent months planning for that winter. Everything she had done since the day she had moved in was driven by her determination to live there any time of the year. In her first days in the house, she would have electricians and plumbers and the like come over and they would say, “Is this place even INHABITABLE?” For her, it was. Even when she had to shower at the Northeast Harbor marina and she stored her perishables in a finicky Fresh Samantha cooler from the Cleonice’s basement, she considered the house inhabitable simply because she finally had a place to hang her exotic fruit posters and a mattress to sleep on.
Slowly, over months, sometimes with her dad’s help and sometimes without it, it all came together: the bathroom, the roof, the hot water heater, the refrigerator, the storm windows, the heaters, and finally the driveway. She spent the entire fall studying the forecast, and waiting for the construction company to confirm a date, and occasionally emailing the secretary to remind her that she was still alive and kicking. She knew it could snow any time after mid-October, and with a roommate living with her to help pay the bills, she needed off-street parking on that busy stretch of 198.
The driveway did indeed come, the first week of December, before any snow. Within a month of the driveway’s installation, the roommate left and she faced tighter finances than planned.
Every penny accounted for, she would cash in any returnables she could find for gas money. She had stopped spending money on food, and lived on expired food from the store, mostly stale bread that she would freeze and reheat. She delighted in any produce she could squander, most notably accepting pounds and pounds of carrots from a farmer who had grown too many. She moved into the warmest bedroom in the house, and turned her heat down further.
She dreamt of the day she would own a dog, but knew she needed to fly solo this winter. She had always had a strong will to live, to act in her albeit stubborn best interest, but now she even impressed herself with her tenacity. She would shovel her own driveway, just like her grandfather who kept shoveling post-heart attack, and feel wildly self-sufficient. She might not have had much time to write or climb mountains or start seeds, but the more she supported herself, the better she felt.

things to be happy about 1/10/2016

finally venturing down a trail i have always seen from the carriage roads and wanted to explore, a companion who encourages me to go further than i would alone, free smoothie ingredients blended together in a free blender, rediscovering a forgotten box of hand-me-down clothes, mother rediscovering blossoming tea that i bought her five years ago and it still bursts open in a cup of hot water, homemade vegetable lasagna, $3.50 in returnables, listening to my favorite radio programs and a fierce wind at the same time, making a case for turning my shed into my writing space…

my latest attempt to express my self-love

at thirty, i have never been so happy, and so poor, and so in love with who i have become.  i am happy to be a produce girl, and a home owner, and, secretly or not-so-secretly, a cold, calculating, driven woman.  most people do not know that i sleep with my budget every night.  hopefully, the universe has noticed that i do not take “no” for an answer until i have exhausted every other option.  undeniably, i have expensive taste, yet an unusual amount of glee in dump runs and returnables and stale bread revived in the oven.  i do not need to spend money, i can live out of a backpack and fall asleep staring at the orange ceiling of my one-person tent, but if i am going to spend money, i want whatever i buy to last at least a decade if not five.

The Skinny Ditch

On the morning after she started diabetes prevention classes, her friend’s friend had brought beautiful potato doughnuts from Portland as a gift. This new acquaintance did not know about her carbohydrate-loving, sugar-addicted, compulsive overeating, completionist ways. She did not know that she could devour both doughnuts in one bite and be on a binge that lasted all week. She had never met her hostess, she wanted to do something kind.  For some unknown reason, people love to make random acts of kindness out of food.  This particular gift just happened to be something that her brain could not handle and could not have in the house without feeling wildly distracted.
The hostess did what she had never done before but had been done many times to her throughout her life: the skinny ditch. Usually these healthy beautiful women with self-control will rip off one piece of a Whoopie pie and hand the rest to the nearest unsuspecting fat girl who says, “oh yes, I would love the rest of that” and devours it Cookie Monster style. These unsolicited but welcome calories add up.  She was beginning to realize that they hindered her from being deliberate and discerning in her food choices.
This time, she passed on the skinny ditch. Rather than consume them with pleasure and feel lingering guilt, she left them in the break room at work, and began a new chapter of her life in which she mostly said “no” and on a few rare moments of the day said “yes, yes, I want that.”  She had begun to make a joke of it by saying, “I am not putting that in my mouth,” and the further she was removed from the death grip of sugar and flour, the easier it was to walk away.