Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bubba Gump Peach Co.

On our way down here to Atlanta, we stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina, self-proclaimed "Peach Capital of the World." In less than the ten minutes we promised Richard it would take, we had ourselves a half bushel of delicious golden globe freestone peaches. Even though they were conveniently packed in a range of ripeness, it turns out that 50 peaches is kind of a challenge for the six of us to eat.

Oh, not that we haven't given it a pretty good try--

Peach slices, peach smoothies, peach galette, grilled peaches, and chili lime peach upside down cake have all been on the menu so far, with talk of  peach jam, peach pancakes, peach muffins, and maybe a little peach salsa, but still

That's a lot of peaches!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Dog Old Tricks

My sister's new puppy has been a welcome distraction from losing our own sweet dog. Things that Isabel mastered long ago are still new to Panda, and being around her is a reminder of that canine learning curve. One day in the future, that might come in handy again.

One thing we have been working on teaching her is to recognize her toys by name, and so we got her a little squeaky goat at the pet store today. It is tiny orange velour with a wispy brown beard, and she seems to love it.

It is also kind of fun to tell her, "Panda, get your goat!"

Friday, July 29, 2016

Figuratively Speaking

There were dragonflies everywhere a couple of weeks ago when we went to visit the field of sunflowers famously blooming at a nearby wildlife management area. Darting and wheeling in the washy blue sky, they landed and perched on tall grasses and branch tips like emerald Christmas ornaments in July.

I thought of them today as we criss-crossed Piedmont Park, 650 miles south, scores of dragonflies floating and sailing along overhead. "Look at all of them!" I said to Richard.

"It's an armada of dragonflies!" he exclaimed.

Good one!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Post Glass Ceiling

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Richard asked Annabelle somewhere in North Carolina. We were in the middle of our epic road trip from Virginia to Atlanta, between pop radio stations and Cheetos. 

"An artist," she told him. 

"What about president?" he continued. 

"Nope," she said, "an artist."

"You could be president," he said.

"I know," she tossed her head, "but I want to be an artist."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Sail on silver girl,
sail on by--
Your time has come to shine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I was working as a chipwich vender on the boardwalk in the summer of 1984 when Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. "They'll never win," a friend shrugged dismissively, but having a woman on the ticket made a big difference to me.

As such, I was heartbroken eight years ago when Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama, and it took me a while to get behind him (hello Bernie Sanders supporters). John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate that year did pique my interest just a tad, but crazy is crazy no matter how many x chromosomes you have. And now, tonight, a major political party in our country has nominated a woman to be their candidate for president, and I am elated.

No matter that we are behind Sri Lanka, India, Israel, Argentina, Central African Republic, United Kingdom, Portugal, Bolivia, Dominica, Iceland, Norway, Malta, Philippines, Pakistan, Haiti, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Ireland, Bangladesh, France, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Burundi, Rwanda, New Zealand, Guyana, Switzerland, Panama, Latvia, Finland, Senegal, Indonesia, Sao Tome, Serbia, Peru, Macedonia, Ukraine, Germany, Liberia, Jamaica, Chile, South Korea,  Moldova, Croatia, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Slovakia, Brazil, Kosovo, Thailand, Denmark, Malawi, Slovenia, Latvia, Namibia, all of whom actually elected women to be their leaders.

We'll get there.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Heat Wave?

Even in the hottest days of summer it is possible to find relief in the early morning hours when the sun has not yet risen above the trees, and a warm breeze lifts the chill from your air-conditioned skin as you and your dog make your way slowly up the empty hill with only the birds and cicadas for company. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

You Have Arrived at Your Destination

Today was the point in their annual visit when we had to share Richard and Annabelle with the other side of their family, and so up the Parkway, around the Beltway, and down River Road to Nanny's house we rode.

It was a merry ride, partially because the kids were excited to see not only their grandmother, but also their aunt, uncle, and three cousins visiting from Arizona, and partially because this year, they would be returning to us for a day or two before heading home.

It was also a short ride, and we played our favorite car game, I'm Going on a Picnic, until we were almost there and Heidi began to navigate using the phone. "Turn right in 1.8 miles," she told me.

"Turn right in 1.8 miles," Richard repeated. "Didn't I sound just like a GPS?!" he asked.

"That was pretty good," I admitted. "I think you may have a future in GPS voice work!" I teased him.

"I don't know," Heidi said. "What other accents or voices can you do? People like that feature for their devices."

"Yeah," I agreed, "like can you do it in a YouTuber accent?"

"What??" he said.

"You know, like, Hey guys! Today we're going to Nanny's and we have to turn right in 1.8 miles. It's going to be AWESOME! So let's get started!" I offered.

"Or what about the Backyardigans style?" I asked. "Can you do that one?"

We're going to Nanny's, gotta turn right in a mile! we sang.

"Now, what about the bunny in Secret Life of Pets?" I suggested.

"They're turning right in 1.8 miles! Get 'em!" Annabelle said in a pretty good imitation.

"How about Batman?" Heidi said, "Oh look! We're here."

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fort Richard

Richard has been a little frustrated that we moved our furniture since the last time he was here. Our old arrangement made it easy to build a cozy den behind the couch, and last summer he spent hours there playing on his iPad. He even slept in it at Thanksgiving.

Oh, he gave it a good try, but with nothing to drape the blankets over, the first fort he built was generally unsatisfactory. In fact I didn't even think he was in there this afternoon when I told Annabelle that it might be time to take it apart. He popped his head out at the end of the conversation and shrugged. "Go ahead," he told me and headed upstairs. That made me a little sad. The day is coming when Richard will set aside his fort-building, but I was sorry to hasten it.

Sitting on the couch a little while later, I tried to problem-solve. We had looked for alligator clips to fasten blankets to our bookshelves the day before without success. What else could we do? I pondered the puzzle when a Eureka! moment struck. There was a length of climbing rope with carabiners at each end in the car. We got it years ago in Maine to allow Isabel to run the clothesline (instead of running away!) in the yard of our rental house.

Richard and I went out and fetched it and then fastened one end to the curtain rod and the other to the railing separating the dining room from the living room. A few cushions and several pillows and blankets later Richard had built a nifty little tent fort into which he crawled happily.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Against the Odds

"Oh no! I lost my earring!" Annabelle cried at the pool this afternoon. The other three of us frowned. We knew that she treasured those earrings because Aunt Emily had just given them to her the other night, but we also knew that she had been all over that pool in the last hour and a half.

"I'll get my goggles," I told her, "but I'm not hopeful."

Annabelle's face fell.

"I can hold my breath a looooong time!" her brother Richard proclaimed. "I'm sure I can find it!" he assured her as he swam to get his face mask.

Heidi, already in goggles, began to search without a word.

The water was warm and blue in the shade as I made my first pass, and filtered light dappled the pool in fishnet patterns as I scanned for a tiny blue glass flower. It had been a long time since I had swum purposefully under water, but regulating my breath and flotation came back to me as I kicked along in the shallows. I had not noticed how many little bits of leaves and bugs littered the bottom, but knowing the odds were against us did not make a difference. In the emotional waves of the last few days, the clarity of searching the aquamarine silence for a single, concrete thing, no matter how small, was comforting, and I wasn't surprised at all when I found it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


There was a little sibling bickering at the pool this afternoon between Richard and Annabelle, followed by a philosophical discussion about treating people the way you want to be treated, rather than as they have treated you.

"You must want me to grab that noodle right out of your hand!" said Richard to his sister, "Since that what you did to me!"

"You must want me to hit you in the face with the noodle!" replied Annabelle, "Since that's what you did to me!"

"No no no," I told them both calmly.  "That's a rule for each of us to follow for ourselves, not to use to judge others."

"I want people to treat me the way I want to be treated," Richard said innocently. "How do I know by how they're acting that that's not what they want, too?"

He's a smart one, that kid. "Have you ever heard of reverse psychology?" I asked him.

And that was another conversation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Batchin It

Heidi's been out of town the last couple of days, back in Buffalo to visit with her folks and brother while I stayed home to take care of the house, the garden, and the cat and dog (in reverse order of concern!). It turns out my version of the single life involves eating at the kitchen counter and falling asleep on the couch with the TV on.

Thank goodness she'll be back tonight!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Boxing Day in July

On the last day of school I still had kids writing to make the 100 Day Challenge, and I think that's awesome. I'm only sorry I have to draw the line somewhere and disappoint those writers with 96 days. Oh, one could argue that they had plenty of time and notice, but sometimes it takes a while to get going, and they definitely got going. (Plus, they are only 11 or 12 years old and that planning thing is definitely an emerging skill.)

When all was said and done, I had 12 kids who got the prize of ordering the whimsical t-shirt of their choice from a popular website. Since I waited to the end to see who made it, I also had to wait to the end to put my order in. Most of the shirts are custom-printed, and they finally arrived last week right before I returned from vacation.

I've developed a system over the years where I give kids an order form to fill out with their selection, size, and address, and then when I mail the shirts in the summer I write a personal note on the back of their form and include it in the package. Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up the boxes and labels, and today was the day when I sorted the order, composed the notes, addressed the labels, and boxed everything up.

Tomorrow, in literally my last official duty of the 2015-16 school year, they will be sent on their way. But for an hour or so on this hot, hot summer day, I considered each of those twelve writers fondly, admired their clever t-shirt choices, and strived to compose the perfect note to capture how proud I was of their accomplishments.

Monday, July 18, 2016

GoPro or Go Home

I got a GoPro for Christmas a couple years ago, but until a week or so ago I had not used it. I think it's because on the one hand while I'm flattered that anyone thinks I do exciting enough things to warrant recording them, I don't always see it that way, and on the other hand, it seemed kind of complicated to figure out how to use it.

I did see a movie not too long ago where one of the characters was an aspiring moviemaker, and he definitely used his GoPro to film anything he thought was good, which gave me another perspective on my little video camera. I also happen to store it in the gear bag for my other camera, and so it was that the GoPro made it to Maine with us in early July. Not just there, but actually strapped to Kyle's pack as we climbed the infamous Beehive of Acadia National Park and recording our great adventure for posterity!

It turns out the GoPro I have is kind of complicated (at least to me!) and I did not have the proper equipment to view the footage of our conquest until I got home. To be honest, it wasn't at the top of my list then either, but this morning serendipity struck when I came across both the cable and the camera in a free moment and plugged them into my desktop. The on-screen message alerted me that it would take an hour to download, but that was okay, too, because I was on my way out to run some errands. (Don't worry, the 8 second recording of me squinting cluelessly into the lens downloaded immediately, and so I was able to confirm that I'm an idiot right away.)

Anyhoo, when I returned home a few hours later in a horrific thunderstorm, once my soggy groceries were put away, I sat down to watch Kyle's perspective of our climb ten days ago. WOW! First, it was a lot scarier on video than in person-- my palms were sweating just watching it. Second, do I really look like that when I'm hiking? It wasn't bad, but I didn't cut quite the mountain woman image I imagined, either. (Emily and Heidi looked fantastic, though!)

And last, I really wish I was back in Maine.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lucky Thirteen

We took our dog swimming for her 13th birthday today. Truth be told, she has been rather slow and lethargic over the last few weeks and we were hoping that one of her favorite activities would perk the old girl up.

It's hard to find clean swimming spots in our urban area, and so we were more than willing to give a new place about 30 minutes from our home a try. It was primarily a new-agey kind of rehab facility for older and injured dogs, but they had open swim time in their chlorine-free pools, too. The place was empty when we got there, but the set-up was not what we expected.

An employee in a wet suit led Isabel away to suit her up in a canine life jacket while the owner of the establishment made small talk with us. Once she was in the pool, we were allowed to go back and watch, but the attendant would not allow her to get in and out of the water at will. She paddled around a little while, fetching a floaty and a tennis ball, but she never really got into it.

Towards the beginning of her swim, the owner came over to watch as Isabel made her way serenely around the perimeter of the small lap pool. "Her energy!" the woman said. "It's so, so? So... wonderful!" she finished.

That it is, I agreed silently. Happy Birthday, Isabel.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

LAzy Dayz

There's something about having a bunch of time off that makes doing the little jobs a little easier. Since we have been back home from our trip I have diligently watered my hanging baskets, sorted through all the magazines, made a bunch of phone calls, and cleaned out several drawers. To Heidi's amusement, I also organized the sea glass.

Even though when I look it at in terms of what's on the calendar it seems like summer will be over in a hop, skip, and a jump, when I take things day-by-day?

The days have it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Home Movie

I was looking forward to seeing Free State of Jones for several reasons: I like a good historical drama; I have long been fascinated by the American Civil War, and the main character happens to be a distant relation (my great great grandfather's first cousin). Unfortunately, I was disappointed when I saw the film today.

To begin with, it was very graphic in terms of violence, which is not always a bad thing, especially when trying to convey the horrors of history. Still, the carnage in this movie did not add anything to my understanding of the events of that time period, and since the story was merely based on true events, the imagined atrocities seemed a bit gratuitous.

Secondly, there was no moral center to the movie-- everyone was either entirely virtuous or completely reprehensible, which made the plot flat. I happen to know from my own research of our family, that Newt Knight had many relatives living in the area at the time, many of them who held enslaved people.

Exploring such moral ambiguity may have made for a more dynamic story. For example it was not just some evil planter, but rather Knight's own grandfather, Jackie Knight, one of the largest slaveholders in the county, who enslaved Rachel, the African American woman who became Newt Knight's common-law wife.

To me, that fact alone introduces the complexity of race relations in the antebellum south, and makes for a much more interesting exploration of the time that could ultimately lead to a deeper understanding. A better movie might have addressed such concerns rather than glossing over them with stereotypes.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Good Soil

After two weeks away from my garden I was eager to see how it was doing, and so I headed up there first thing this morning. The good news: everything is growing well!

The not-as-good-news: including the weeds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2x2 Sight

Homemade ratatouille in the freezer and cold beer in the fridge? That's what I call advance planning!

So happy to be home after two awesome weeks away!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Direct Object

Part of my vacation so far has been spent encouraging my high school-aged nephew to do his "modules," two online courses that take the place of brick and mortar summer school down in his Florida district. Consisting of standards-based pretests, subsequently tailored instructional activities, and post test, it is every teacher's nightmare of education of the future: sterile, unengaging, and yet "individualized" and oh-so-measurable, brought to you by who else? Pearson.

He has muddled through compliantly, if apathetically, scoring 70s and 80s, and to be honest, I have approached the task with little more than a check-the-box attitude myself. That is until today, when he got a 60 on an English module. Wait a minute! I thought. I'm an English teacher! Maybe I have more of a role to play here!

And so it was that this evening he read the questions out loud and we worked through them together, I clarifying any questions he had or didn't even know he had, and he choosing the best answers. Thanks to Pearson's trusty algorithm, the concepts and standards make appearances in more than one place, and so it's easy to gauge if he is actually "learning" them or not. As for true mastery or real-world application?


Monday, July 11, 2016

Gotta Catch 'em All

So this is how viral happens.

First you read a cryptic reference to some sort of game your nephews played back in the 90s. Then you see an article from some tech blog that a friend shared on facebook. Next your nephew tells you that his other 50-something aunt has been playing the game. In addition, he seems unusually excited about going down to the city waterfront for lunch and shopping, mentioning something about water Pokemon.

On the way there, your mother-in-law shares an anecdote she heard on the Today Show about some hackers who used the app to lure a guy to a vacant parking lot to beat him up and rob him. "Ha, ha!" you quip, "he was Pokemugged!"

But, not long after that, frustrated by your nephew's inability to figure out how to find and catch a Pokemon that he insists is, "right here, somewhere!" and his misguided attempt to save battery by refusing to brighten his phone screen, you download the app yourself, and suddenly you notice all these people staring at their phones, randomly flicking their index fingers, because you are doing it, too.

On the way back to the car a young man stops across the street from you, pointing and laughing in delight. You look up from your screen just in time to hear him shout, "Are you playing Pokemon Go? For realzzz!!?"

Later that evening, both your local news website and NPR have lengthy pieces about the phenomenon, but you just skim them, because you need to level up to five so you can get to the gym. Whatever that means,

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Personal History

Ten minutes north of Pittsfield is the tiny town of Lanesborough, Massachusetts. When we were searching for places to stay last night, that name rang a bell, and a quick search of our online family tree reminded me that my four times great-grandfather Lewis moved his family there from Adams, MA. in 1831. His grandson, Charles, was actually the first of our line to make his way to Little Falls, NY, the town where my dad, his seven siblings, and myriad cousins all grew up.

I have seen pictures of the small cemetery where Lewis, his son Marshall, and Charles are all buried, and being so close, I wanted to visit the site myself. The Berkshires were foggy this morning as we headed up Route 7, and I examined the houses along the way, wondering which may have been standing 150 years ago.

Lanesborough is built on the shores of Pontoosuc Lake at the foot of Mount Rockwell, the highest peak in the state. Despite its lovely setting, there are really only a few businesses and houses lining Route 7, which is Main Street through the town. The cemetery was small, and unmarked, with no parking to speak of. Since it was Sunday, we pulled into the lot of the closed realtors next door and cut across the damp lawn into the burial ground.

Built on a hill, the grass was freshly cut, but there was nothing else to indicate that anyone head visited recently. Many stones were too old to read, some were sunken, and others tipped this way and that at crazy angles. There was no directory, but I had a picture of our family marker. It still took some time to find the tall obelisk about half-way up the hill. Just as I reached it, the gray skies opened and rain poured down on me so hard that I was worried my phone would be damaged as I snapped a few quick pictures and dashed back to the car.

It was time to go, but I felt like I had some unfinished business in Lanesborough. That sense only grew when the sun came out for the first time in days not 5 minutes later. Our route took us east and up through the hills past some little farms that I imagined might resemble the farm my ancestors had. It was awfully beautiful, and I had the feeling that I would be back.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pittsfield Pitstop

The road home from vacation has a few stops for us this time. We wanted to see our newly-retired friend Trudi in her new digs outside of Albany, and since we were traveling from Maine to Virginia via Buffalo (and why not, really? Don't teachers have the whole summer off?) this seemed as good time as any. Still, Trudi wasn't equipped to put all three of us and a dog up for the night, so we needed to find a good place to break our trip.

Since Treat is working for the summer in the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts seemed like a natural place-- 6 or so hours from Mount Desert Island and maybe one from Albany-- and we could spend an evening with him. Well, then it was obvious that Bill and Emily and Sonic should plan to stop there also, for after all he is their boy.

And so a plan was hatched, and after a few hotel misses (economical and pet-friendly on a Saturday night is not an easy find) we found ourselves on the sixth floor of a place in Pittsfield, MA, in a couple of rooms across from each other at the end of the hall. Isabel had never ridden in an elevator before, and her doubt upon entering the tiny little room turned to disbelief when the doors closed and pure shock when we started to go up.

Once in our little corner of the hotel, the dogs ran back and forth between the rooms, until Sonic drank water and promptly barfed it up on our carpet. Isabel took advantage of that distraction to head around the corner, where I found her a minute later being shooed away by an Indian family who didn't think she should go down the elevator with them. We were still hub-bubbing when Emily came up from parking the car, but, never fear, Sonic greeted her at the elevator. A little while later Treat and I carried the easy chair from their room to ours and Bill rolled the desk chair in, too. The dogs found quiet corners, and with a collective sigh, we all relaxed, happy to be together again.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Island Life

It was a misty walk down the tree-lined path to Wonderland beach this morning. As we emerged from the woods the cold Atlantic Ocean Lapped quietly at the edges the wide granite ledges that led us to a cuticle-shaped cove of nearly perfectly rounded cobblestones. While our two teenaged boys scrambled as far along the coast as they could, the dogs waded into the gentle surf, and the adults in our group admired the stones-- stacking them, skipping them, comparing them, but not collecting them-- oh no! For that would be, as we reminded each other several times, a federal offense.

Having had our fill of that natural beauty, we piled in the cars and headed northeast toward Southwest Harbor looking for a lunch location that would accommodate eight humans and two dogs. A roadside seafood shack with picnic tables was just the place, and despite the warning that our meals might take half an hour or so, we took a place near the wood stove and lobster pot. It was a chilly 60 degrees, and we welcomed the extra warmth. As we waited, the owner introduced us to Grover the goat, a tiny fellow staked on a long rope in the adjacent field. "He loves playing with dogs!" we were told, and Bill took Sonic and Isabel over to meet Grover. They were curious but rather polite, touching noses with the goat before he danced up on his hind legs and scared the bejeezus out of them. 

There was also a little wiffle ball diamond set up just past the tables, and so Kyle and Bill and I played a little ball to pass the time away. Soon enough our names were called and red and white paper baskets filled with fried seafood blanketed our table. As I returned to the pick up window to fetch some ketchup I overheard an older gentleman in conversation with one of the young cooks. "How much is a lobster?" He inquired.

"5.95 a pound," the cook replied.

"5.95 for one lobster?" The man asked.

"No, 5.95 a pound for the live lobsters," the cook told him politely.

"I can't eat a live lobster!" The man was very alarmed. 

"We'll cook it for you right there," the young man gestured toward the pot, "but we'll weigh it first."

"Can I have all I want?" The man .

"Sure," the cook said. "It's a big pot!"

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Cold Day in July

The day dawned cool and rainy, but after some discussion we decided to make the best of it by heading to The Big Chicken Barn, an impressive emporium stuffed with junk about half an hour away. There I was able to indulge my new hobby, searching 45s for recording gold. I am partial to big band and other music from the 40s, because to be honest, the scratchy quality of the vinyl actually enhances the sound. The Chicken Barn did not disappoint, and after an hour or so of poking around, we came away with a few interesting items.

From there we headed home through Ellsworth, another of our favorite towns in Maine. After a great lunch at a cute little place on Main Street, a stop at the LL Bean outlet was a requirement, because despite my jeans and double t-shirt, I was freezing! Fortunately, I found just what I needed right away, a fleece lined flannel shirt that just happened to fit me perfectly. It was so cozy I wore it around as everyone else shopped and only took it off so that the cashier could scan the tag.

After such a satisfying day, I was almost glad that it was raining.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Return Trip

We decided to take the mail boat from Northeast Harbor over to the Cranberry Islands today. Situated just a couple of miles south of Mt. Desert Island, the tiny Cranberries have had permanent residents since 1768, mostly fisherman, farmers, and artists. These days in addition to lovely clapboard and cedar shake houses, there are a few shops, a couple of casual restaurants, and some easy rambling trails that lead down to cobble stone beaches for curious mainlanders like us who are feel the pull of island life.

Truth be told, I had visited Great Cranberry Island before. Being lucky enough to have an old friend who has a summer home in these parts is what brought me up here in the first place 20 years ago. My visits were a few days in the summer, staying in my friend Ruth's guest room. How awesome it was to have a guide and hostess all in one! It was only when my nephews were old enough to bring along that I had clearly outgrown that little room under the steps and started renting a place of my own by the week.

It was in those earlier years that I last boarded the mail boat with Ruth and her husband John bound for Big Cranberry, making sure to bring plenty of water and food since there were no commercial establishments on the island. "Pee before you leave!" Ruth's mom warned me. On that trip we hiked to the end of the only road to reach the beach all the way at the opposite end from the pier. Emerging from the scrubby pine, lupine-filled fields and seaside roses, we found ourselves alone on a vast expanse of rocky beach. There we wandered for hours, filling our packs with at least ten pounds each of perfect stones.

I thought of that adventure this morning as we sat on gray benches in the small cabin of the mail boat waiting to set off. "There's a general store there now?" I asked rhetorically, reading the brochure. "Well," I shrugged, "I guess things change in twenty years." I paused, because it didn't seem possible that so much time had passed.

"Well everything except me, that is!"

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Peak, Crest, Crown, Apex, Pinnacle

What could make me practically skip up hundreds of feet on switchback granite steps clinging to the the side of a mountain in Maine? Was it the warm pine air punctuated by cool maritime breezes? The promise of wide granite ledges with amazing ocean views to the left and incredible mountain vistas to the right? The wild blueberry barrens with the first ripe fruit of the season lining the descent? The alpine pond filled with lilliputian water lilies and ringed by three mountain peaks?

Nope. It was just the chance to be hiking with people I love in a place I love, too.

P.S. Don't think you're off the hook... I still hate you, Maine!

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Cairn and a Blaze

On the second day of our vacation, Emily chose the hike. Her goal was to find something new to everyone that was also a fit for our entire party, ranging from 16 year old lad to 54 year old lady. Of course, we also wanted it to be beautiful, but that's pretty much a given in Acadia National Park.

Her choice was a home run. The Goat Trail to the top of Norumbega rises steeply for six-tenths of a mile through a cool and shady balsam forest and then up some big stair-steppy boulders. Once above the tree line, we had sweeping views of Sargent Mountain to the east and Somes Sound, Acadia, St. Saveur, and Flying Mountain to the west.

Close to the top, I found myself in the lead of our party, which is a rarity when it comes to hiking. In general, I am the person who takes the back, making sure everyone is with the group and doing well. It is an important role, but always a little galling when I pull up last for the rest break when everyone else is itching to go. This time, I was walking with Kyle and we approached the summit shoulder to shoulder in good natured competition. Spying a wooden marker, he sprinted ahead, but he guessed wrong, finding himself at a trail marker. One step behind him, I saw the actual summit marker to the left, and jogging up a wide boulder, I tapped it first.

Marked by cairns and blue blazes, our way sloped another three-quarters of a mile southward along warm granite ledges toward the Atlantic Ocean, before descending gently back into the conifers. At the bottom we found a nearly pristine Hadlock Pond, source of some of the island's drinking water.

After a picnic lunch near the pump house, our path meandered through the woods along the pond's eastern shore and then up and  past some mossy, massive rock formations until finally delivering us back to the parking lot, 3.1 amazing miles later.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I Still Hate it Here

I distinctly remember one moment of my first visit to Maine, over 20 years ago now. I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend's minivan bombing along the twisty wooded roads of the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. On this early August afternoon the sky was a watery wash of cloudless cobalt and a cool breeze blew in the open windows. Mountains and sea filled our view and the tang of balsam filled our noses. "I hate it here!" I shouted over the rushing air.

My friend looked over, eyebrows raised.

"Because it's so perfect and I have to leave tomorrow!" I finished.

"Yup," she said and kept on driving.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


It is impossible to be grumpy about anything, even being stuck for hours in holiday weekend traffic outside of Boston, when you are able to watch the sun set over Western Bay, eat soft shell lobsters for dinner while early fireworks sparkle over the island across the way, and then be perfectly gobsmacked by all those HUGE stars smeared across the black velvet sky.

Hello, Maine!

Friday, July 1, 2016


Rain made us cut short our bike ride this morning, but truth be told, I didn't mind all that much. After several hours on the road yesterday and a lengthy road trip scheduled for tomorrow, a day of relaxing at home seemed like a good idea. Oh, we played some cards and even a few rounds of bocce when the weather cleared up a bit, but it was around noon that I found the focus of my day.

Knowing I would be away from home for a couple of weeks, I packed up my newest toy, the turn table, and all of my records to bring along with me. We hadn't been in Heidi's parents' house more than half an hour when I pulled it out and set it up. It was a big hit. "We have tons of records upstairs," her mom told me, and she was not exaggerating.

Over the next day, we hauled at least 300 45 rpm discs down to the kitchen. I cannot tell you how much fun it was for me to sort through them and listen to the ones I knew or wanted to hear. Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that they should be sorted, and that is what I ended up doing today.

On my first go round, I simply separated them into 24 alphabetical stacks by artist. As I worked, I tried to match the sleeves with the 45s, too. After that, I put all the records by the same artist in any particular letter group together.

While that might seem like a lot of work, for me it was an awesome afternoon. I put my hands on every single record, read the title and artist, and played the ones I wanted to hear. The collection spanned four decades from the 40s to the 80s, and included a few on the Sun label by Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. There were copies of 45s I owned myself, including Tracy by the Cufflinks. There was also an early recording by Carol King, several from the Shirelles, lots of Sinatra, the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Brenda Lee, and Elvis.

There was a perfect little gem I was happy to blast called Birthday Party, some awesome big band, a couple of jazz combos, and a Crystal Gayle tune I hadn't heard in ages.

When I was finished, we stowed them all in new bins, ready to be explored again soon, but also organized for anyone who might be looking for something in particular, like maybe anything Jackie Wilson ever recorded. (Bottom bin, in the back.)