Thursday, November 7, 2019

Day of the Dad

It is said that in November the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead grows thin. In Mexico, November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, a festive celebration to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. I admire this tradition, as the taboo of death in American culture makes loss and grief more isolating.

I'm not especially religious, nor do I subscribe to any woo-woo philosophies. Despite efforts to embrace both of those idea sets at different times in my life, my thinking remains pretty firmly evidence-based. That said, no one can say for sure if there is or isn't a next life, and it can be a comfort to think there might be; that out loved ones are not lost to us forever.

My Dad passed on January 1st, 2001, a single day into the new millennium, by some accounting. If time is a dimension, like spatial dimensions, in a way he is not gone, like a person who is spatially out of sight is not gone. Anyway, sometimes I want to talk to him. I can do that anywhere, I suppose; if there is a next world it's unlikely our spirits would be tied to the resting place of our physical bones. Nevertheless, sometimes I go to the Scarborough Marsh, where we scattered his ashes, to visit. I stand on the footbridge and talk. The first few times I felt silly, but it comes more naturally to me now.
I visit a few times a year, kind of randomly; a couple years ago, I did because we were having a solar eclipse, and my dad was blessed with a great intellectual curiosity, and I deeply wished he were there to see it with me. 
It's a beautiful place, never more so than on a sunny day in late autumn, when the colors are gold an
bronze vibrating against the blue sky and water. It's accessible via the old Eastern Road, now a bike/walking trail with entry points at Black Point Road and at Pine Point Road, among several others (it's a pretty long trail, nearly 30 miles from South Portland to Kennebunk.) It's a flat, easy trail - easy to walk or jog, and you can ride a street bike on it, and it takes you through some of the most beautiful landscape in Southern Maine.
Don't let your outdoor activities end in September! Late fall landscapes have an austere beauty all their own, and cooler temps are quite conducive to delightful hikes.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sometimes you're driving down a road in Maine...

...and the cars ahead swerve out of their lane, but you can't see anything in the road. When you get up there, you see why: a snapping turtle is trying to cross!

This happened to us on Saturday. I find them to be fearsome beasts; luckily Doug is braver than I & gave this grande dame a lift across the road. If there was any doubt where the name comes from, it became very obvious, as she tried her damndest to bite his fingers off. He lifted her by placing his hands as far back on her shell as possible, just forward of her hind legs, and still she almost got him.

Once safely across the road, she continued to glare (in a dignified way) but stayed long enough for a photo before lumbering away.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Barrens in August

My mom grew up in Cherryfield, a small town Downeast. As she hates when I tell people, she was the Maine Blueberry Queen of 1950! Who even knew there was such a thing.
For the past few years, my husband & I have been spending some time in the area. We reserve an adorable cabin on the Machias River, (gas lights & cooking! I've done plenty of campfire cooking, and while I wouldn't rule it out in future, I do like my camping on easy mode.) The way passes through miles of blueberry barrens, the late-season red foliage of which gives the town of Cherryfield its name.
These are wild blueberries, the fruit small & intensely flavorful, which grow nowhere so well as the Downeast region of Maine. They are not to be confused with their high-bush cousins, the fat berries you see in the supermarket.
(Free opinion: it is a waste of good blueberries to put them in a pie, full of cornstarch & sugar. It renders them gloppy and the flavor insipid, and also turns your teeth purple.Pancakes, yes; muffin, yes; yogurt and salads and cream cheese, yes; by the handful YES PLEASE.)

The soil of the barrens is a highly acidic thin layer over ledge. It's called a "barrens" because not much except the very low-growing wild blueberries can thrive there. The proximity of the Atlantic keeps the air humid, which helps the shallow-rooted plants survive. The image above is in mid-August, during the picking season. The bushes that have not yet been harvested are heavy with fruit. I imagine this place before colonization, what a blessing this wild abundance must have been, and just below it, Wigwam Falls, popping with Atlantic Salmon, back in the day. (Atlantic Salmon are far rarer now, but there are groups working on their restoration - the Downeast Salmon Federation has a hatchery in East Machias where they raise salmon the the parr stage and then release them into Maine rivers - salmon return to their home rivers to spawn.)

Here's my favorite blueberry recipe:

Blueberry-Banana Smoothie

In blender:
3/4 cup wild Maine blueberries
1/2 banana, frozen
3/4 cup orange juice
Quick shake of nutmeg

Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Label Looking for its Craft Brew

My husband Doug is a man of many talents. Just lately he's been teaching himself to paint! After finishing one he commented that it looks like a craft-beer label...so I tried it on. I put it though a couple of processes in Picasa, Google's now-retired image manipulating software. And you know what? He's right! It would make a great craft-beer label! And, conveniently, Maine is the craft-beer capital of the world. The river in the image is the Presumpscot, that divides Portland from Falmouth. There is no Presumpscot Brewing, yet, but when there is, we're ready for them!