The End of Fair Season

i. Skowhegan

We had said that we just wanted to look at the animals.  After arriving at dusk, the demolition derby just starting, every ride lit up and inviting, we bought wrist bands so we could go as many as we wanted.  I could not stop smiling, my first fair dating an electrical engineer who told me everything was safer than it looked.  I believed him, believed him as our Ferris wheel tea cup rocked at the tippy top, as we were spun and jolted in every direction.  With him next to me, I had no fear.

ii.  Blue Hill

“There’s no poultry barn?!”  He wanted to leave upon arrival, not quite sure he could take the place seriously.  We headed away from the dust and the heat and the crowds, across the road and up the hillside.  I led him slightly off trail, to a spot where the blueberries had not yet been picked, and we gleaned what was left, the berries still sweet but drying up.  We listened to the pulse of the fair and spoke of businesses that we had dreamed of birthing, our ambition and imagination equally matched.

iii.  Unity

Every year, at 1pm on the Saturday of Common Ground, I return to the Folk Arts Tent to hear the Balkan Women’s Choir.  Each month has annual pilgrimages that I may or may not choose to take depending on the year, but I always try to make it to the reunion of this particular tribe.  This year, I brought him, perhaps to offer him an out more than anything else.  This is my life, this is all I have ever known, I did not choose it but it is mine.  He took my hand and danced with me, and I did not worry if my steps were in time to the music.

iv.  Fryeburg

We watched the video on logging drives, and smelled the peanut butter fudge just out of the oven, and admired the equipment of years past.  We had each chosen separately to live here, but loving the same sprawling wild state made us closer to each other somehow.

The way life could turn out

My house is on the hit list of properties that the park would like to acquire based on a boundary delineated in 1986.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have wildly strong thoughts and feelings about this.  In my mind, my house is the most beautiful piece of architecture in the state of Maine, each room homage to a different era of the last 100 years.  I can leave my front door and climb Sargent Mountain or dive into the cold waters of Somes Sound.  Yet for the most obscenely high price, I would indeed take Roxanne Quimby’s blood money and I would put it where she should be putting it all along, towards Maine’s small business and industry.
There is a limit to the benefits of tourism, and I believe we have hit it.  I believe we must develop other sources of income.  I am also tired of all the tourists being concentrated in one place.  I would much rather have a couple at Cooper Brook Falls, a couple at Gulf Hagas, a couple at Chesuncook than the clusterduck that is Cadillac Mountain or Sand Beach or Thunderhole.

The tourists are not keeping the best and brightest in the state of Maine…..but well-planned and strategically located businesses could, businesses chasing the latest technology.  With all the engineers UMO pumps out, why isn’t Maine the Silicon Valley of Northern New England?

Should I ever be financially persuaded to abandon a property entwined with my heart, my husband and I would be investing our money in places that would pack a punch, not flushing it down the vacationland toilet.


Her guests had left two pints of hand-picked blueberries in the fridge.  They had laid a napkin across each container, and she believed they must have been forgotten rather than left as a present for her.  She had already bought a fresh pint of blueberries for the guests arriving that day, wild organic Maine blueberries able to impress and please any visitor.  She stashed the berries on top of a laundry basket of linens that she would not use, and she hustled along with making beds and vacumning and shining up the place in a way that became a consistent product.

She did not think twice about the berries until she reached the Mount Desert transfer station.  She started trying to find the trash and recyclables that she had stashed alongside the laundry baskets and duffel bags of clothing, alongside her box of bathroom items and her sleeping bag and tent.  She opened one of the back doors and her gaze settled on the upsidedown berry containers.  The berries pooled up behind her hiking boot, and snuck in every layer of folded towels in the laundry basket, and made their way underneath the seat that had been folded down.

She stood in shock at her open car door before she started grabbing fistfuls of whatever berries did not look contaminated.  She sold berries as part of her produce gig, and this was exactly the sort of drama she associated with the sweet irresistible fruit.  She had seen the aftermath of so many berries take a tumble and roll in every direction on the floor, and it seems like you can never quite find them all.  They tend to either dry or ferment in the corners of produce sections across the state of Maine, and the fruit flies will find any the produce girls cannot.  Sure enough, now the blueberries would find every corner of her car.

She continued to pick at what could be salvaged, taking up a prime parking space in a dump open 24-7 and busiest on weekend afternoons.  She decided she could not thoroughly clean the car until she reached her mother’s driveway.  She would have to rewash her towels and the bulk of her laundry.

This was a catastrophe of Maine proportions, but also a result of her good fortune.  She thought of all the abundance that had led to this minor topple.  Perhaps only because she had hit rockbottom more than once in her life, only because she had lost everything and rebuilt herself did she see this accident as a product of an embarassment of riches.  She had bought the house that had been left for dead, ice on the walls and snow coming in through the windows, and transformed it back into the cozy abode it was meant to be.  It had become the host of Thanksgiving dinners and summer barbecues, of young love and old love and ten year old girls who had left behind blueberries picked on top of Sargent Mountain.  The blueberries had spilled in a car that she bought sight unseen, a car that when she finally drove it she screamed “this is not my car, this is not my car” for months afterwards.

As she plucked berries from every nook and cranny, she strangely hoped this would not be the last berry spill in her backseat.  She had a glimpse of the future in that moment, of trying to clean up the spills of her children in the backseat.  You see, her greatest fortune had happened right there at the Mount Desert transfer station, on her first date with the man with whom she wanted to spend the next 970 years.  She took him to the dump, and he was so smitten with her at the moment that he too became convinced they were soulmates.

She knew that along the way, their love and the children they wished to have could stumble into these messy moments, but she hoped she would feel as much gratitude then as she did right now.

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…