Saturday, February 17, 2007

Valentine's Day Blizzard

A fresh foot or more of snow descended upon Central Maine on Valentine's Day. In the morning, it fell quietly and rapidly in white swirling flakes. I looked out the window, admiring the millions and billions of flakes plummeting to the ground, noiselessly, and thought to myself, "did someone look out a similar wintry window and coin the term white noise?" It turns out after a glance at the wikipedia entry on white noise, my supposition was way off base, there is actual noise involved, but I still like the metaphor.

As the day progressed, the storm evolved into a blizzard. An icy wind tapped the window with sleet and freezing rain. From serene and peaceful to noisy and turbulent: howling winds, plows scraping, shovels digging. A perfect day to sit inside, drinking hot cocoa, reading, watching the flakes fall from the sky.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

winter blues?

Greetings from Maine, where the mercury has dipped to zero , and with wind chill, a balmy -16 degrees! I know my fans out there--there are about two of you--have been incredibly disappointed about the lack of posts to my usually prolific blog in the last three months. I have a couple of excuses:

1. I got knocked up. Right around the time I last posted I felt crappy, nauseous, tired, and all I wanted to do is sleep. For about three months. But, I've turned a corner, and have a feeling this blog may take a new direction. Less complaining about life and more praising of life's tiny miracles.

2. Its winter and its been dark. In December it seemed like dusk fell at 3:30 p.m. in these parts. (Who wants to read a blog about falling asleep at 7 p.m. at the dinner table??) But now its actually light when I leave work at 5:15. We've turned another corner people!

3. I received an mp3 player for Christmas onto which my hubby downloaded seasons 1 & 2 of Desperate Housewives. I cracked out on that, and sadly, I have also fallen victim, once again, to bad Fox television, namely American Idol and the O.C. (Should I even be admitting this?)

Boredom begets procrastination begets laziness begets a major case of writers block. You get the idea. So, I'll attempt to break the streak and keep you posted on winter life in the north country. Here is to new beginnings!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Am I the only person that has "issues" with Halloween? As a kid, it was easy. My mom hooked me up with some great costumes - a leopard outfit she crafted on the sewing machine, a Raggedy Ann costume I wore in Nursery School that I think was just a gingham pinafore and one of those plastic masks with the elastic strap. I really hated those masks - they made my face hot and moist from all those trapped exhalations, and the elastic inevitably pinched my head and my ears.

As I hit the teenage years, the pressure to come up with a really good costume made me anxious. I would usually put it off, then I would run out and throw something together at the last minute. I tended to find something wacky to wear--my favorite was a crushed purple hooded dress I found at a thrift store, with embroidered flowers around the neck, hem, and sleeves. It was floor length, had slits up to the knees, and was form fitting. (Damn, what happened to that dress?) My idea was to get decked out as Mrs. Roper, the tacky landlord's wife (or was she technically the building manager's wife?) on Three's Company. But unable to find or figure out the necessary acessories to finish the outfit, it was simply just a wierd dress, and I felt naked. People kept asking me, "what are you?" and the reply was "well, i was trying to be Mrs. Roper..." But do not fear, what I lacked in "costuming skills" I made up for with a considerable talent for beer consumption! I have never been, dear reader, afraid of some fun.

Now that the pressure is off in the costume department, its on in the homemaker department. People around here are really into Halloween. Stoops and lawns are festooned with stuffed scarecrows, staged death scenes, orange colored christmas lights, ginormous cobwebs, giant inflated pumpkins, and some really wierd pumpkin people! For example, along the road I travel to and from work, there is a dude stuffed with leaves, wearing denim pants and a flannel shirt, on his hand and knees, with his pants lowered to reveal two pumpkin butt-cheeks. Pumpkin plumbers crack! I prefer the understated approach. A jack-o-lantern and a bowl of candy will do just fine, thank you very much.

Tonight our block is relatively quiet--there is a haunted house a few blocks down that is pulling the candy cravers away from here. But every now and then there are waves of laughter and screams on the sidewalk, and little knocks at the door. I gotta say, I haven't paid too much attention to the costumes, but I couldn't miss the giant, inflated, sumo wrestler, his girth created by an internal fan.

So, happy halloween. Here is a cute picture that an old friend just sent me. I think the costume we were shooting for was "babies", but as my friend described it, we're "little girls dressed as little girls."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Autumn Nears

Or maybe its already here. August has slipped away, and we are on the verge of September, but the entire month seems to have been a prelude to Autumn. The light has shifted from a glare to a warmer golden hue. The air has gone from steamy to dry, and on a clear day, the sky is so achingly blue that you can see the outer edges of the atmosphere. But overall, it is noticeably cooler, "brilliant skies and frigid nights," as Maine weather man Lou McNally declared on the radio this morning. I've even noticed maple trees starting to turn, shedding just a few crimson and copper leaves onto the ground below. So much for the dog days of summer.

The air conditioner we bought in a mad rush at Home Depot one evening in early July--a hive of panicked consumers buzzing around the ransacked display--has been quietly resting, and blankets have come out of the closets to grab in the middle of the night as temperatures drop. Flip flops are making room for clogs, (I haven't even painted my toes once this summer!) tshirts and tank tops are making way for layers, and (gasp!) fleece. Yesterday I popped over to Reny's, my favorite local discount store, where I saw racks of parkas, hats, ear warmers, gloves, and ski pants. Sigh. Even though there are officially three weeks more of summer, it is unofficially over.

So, even though there is a lot to look forward to, warm indian summer days (please!), cozy sweaters, a walk on a crisp night amidst the smell of home fires burning, I still feel a certain bittersweet longing. Its a feeling that always returns this time of year. When I was younger, it was the sadness of having to give up carefree summers for the rigor and discipline of school (tempered, however, by back to school shopping and a parade of new outfits.) As I've grown older, I experience twinges of nostalgia, a longing to be released from the cumbersome grind of work and adult responsibilities to return to those carefree school days and childhood friendships.

In Maine, where the boundaries of the seasons are abrupt and the shrinking days are measured, I wonder if the sadness one feels this time of year is indeed a chemical and hormonal response to light and heat withdrawal, a "seasonal affective disorder". Many people I've spoken to feel some sadness that the summer has faded away. They have an inventory of projects not started or finished, days not logged at the beach, or observations, like "the crickets are getting quieter". Mostly, I think we are bracing ourselves for the winter that looms a few months ahead.

But, since I can't stop the globe from turning, all I can do is take comfort in Lou's forecast for "brilliant skies". That IS something to look forward to, today.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

the big one got away

Sunday on Sunday River. Bethel. Land of covered bridges, fancy farmhouses overlooking summer ski slopes, and some huge rainbows and brookies.

My first catch of the day was a complete surprise, and unwitnessed, so you have to trust me on this. We had been casting into a shallow stretch of the river for the first hour of the morning, with not much luck. While Nelson was exploring a feeder stream, I spied a likely trout harbor: a pool several feet deep, shrouded in shade, bordered at its head by rocks and rushing water. So I cast a few times into it, trying out different spots, when wham! something landed. I jerked the rod up to set the hook, and felt the vibration of something stuck on the line, something HEAVY, moving downstream. I let out a scream as i saw the rod bending, afraid it might break. And then, as the trout swam into a shallow section of the stream, the sunlight shining down on him, i caught a glimpse of a trout about 10-12 inches long. The BIG ONE.

I admit, I was terrified and didn't want to come face to face with a huge fish, deal with the hook stuck in its lip, slightly afraid that it would bite me. "Nelson! Nelson! Holy sh@#$!" I screamed to no avail. There it was, on my line, I caught a fish! A BIG FISH. In my stunned state, I couldn't quite get a handle on reeling him in. The trout took the opportunity to swim farther away, behind a rock, and popped itself off my hook. (Not an uncommon occurence. We remove the barbs from the hook, which eases the conscience and the huge fish fear factor by allowing the trout some room to wiggle off a poorly set hook.)

This brush with the big one was a rush, a confidence booster, and kept me hungry for more. I even caught a few small ones after that! Here is a big one that didn't get away, courtesy of TJ Hooker.

Six Quart Saturday

On Saturday, we picked blueberries at Crummet Mountain Farm in Somerville. The farm is owned by an inspiring woman in her 70s. A book designer, artist, and fiber artist, she shares the farm with about 20 sheep and a few chickens, and lives off the grid, her farmhouse powered by the sun, propane, and wood. After getting a tour of the farm, petting a few sheep (a lamb April, and her mommy Ginger), we set down the drive to a hill covered in acres of organic blueberries.

Crummet Mountain Farm berries are low-bush, shrubs 10-12 inches from the ground that yield tiny fruits. People seem somewhat baffled that we chose hand-picking over the more economical rake method. Not that we weren't offered the rake, but we preferred contact with the blue skinned fruits (easier to sneak a taste and find the ripest berries). Rather than picking single berries from the busth, the trick is to seek out clumps of three or four of the ripest berries, and with the paper carton beneath, quickly roll the berries off the plant with your fingers into the carton. I loved how the sound of the berries dropping into the carton changed from a papery plink to a tiny vibration, berry against berry.

Besides our host, we were the only ones picking at the time, but apparently two berry enthusiasts had arrived at the farm at 6:30 a.m., perhaps to resell the fruits on the side of a road somewhere. What a delight to have this whole place to our selves on such an amazing day - no humidity, just clear, golden skies, the crickets and cicadas whirring and buzzing around us.

Nelson was a man on a berry mission, he quickly accumulated 4 quarts to my 2. I meandered from bush to bush for clumps of plumps, content to rest a bit in the hot sun and stretch out my achy back. There were berries everywhere, deep in the grass, on every bush in every size. At the end of the day, my cuticles had bits of blue fruit in them, and my two big toes were stained blue from berries that got wedged in my sandles. This required a good scrub in the tub!

So now we have a freezer full of berries, poised for blueberry smoothies, blueberries on cereal, blueberry cake, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes. What else can you do with blueberries?

Monday, July 17, 2006


Um, about my last post. Peace and patience? Well, the two were seriously tested on Sunday, when I got skunked, again. Translation: I didn’t catch a single fish, despite 7 hours on the stream (up at 6 a.m., out of the house at 7, on the stream at 8, done at 4). I can't help but feel like a chump. Perhaps it’s in my blood, some fishy resistance to catching my aquatic brothers and sisters.

There is something about fishing that goes against logic: walking upstream to catch something, gawk at it, then release it back to its habitat, gasping for air. You have to want to fish enough to withstand some annoyances: the mosquitoes--any body part not covered in deet is toast, e.g. your butt when you need to use “the loo"--and bushwacking through stinging nettle and wild berry canes. Focus is of the utmost importance. Case in point: I was clomping through the stream, while my mind was off in some all-too visited annoying corner of my mind, when I stepped into water that was much deeper than I thought, and suddenly I was on my stomach, up to my neck in water. Typical!

Fishing requires strategy (never been my forte): figuring out where the trout are likely to be resting on a hot day, usually in the shadow of a rock, by a riffle of water. Then there is skill that takes years to master: being able to land the fly in the hole, but far enough ahead so as to be unnoticed by the trout. Say, 15-20 feet. My ability to land the hole seems some what happenstance. The fly always follows the same arc, back to the same spot. There is stalking (hiding behind some rock, quietly…) There is more focus: you have to watch the fly intently as it bobs downstream towards you, and wait for a strike. Sometimes its impossible to see from the glare of the sun, the white foam on the water. A trout can jump on the fly in an instant, and you need to be prepared to set the hook. I did get a few strikes, but my mind had wandered (bored perhaps?), and unprepared, I missed out.

Not catching fish brings up all of my other failures and shortcomings to the surface. I stomp and pout and feel my insides tighten up in a tangled up ball of stress, then wonder why the hell I’m even trying. Part of my frustration was that I had enjoyed the taste of success on our previous fishing trip, having caught three trout. One was by accident: I thought my hook was caught on a branch underwater, but it fact it was a fish mouth. Since I didn't yet know how to kindly release it from the hook, I had to walk upstream with it, like a dog on a leash, until I could catch up with Nelson for a demonstration on freeing it with a pair of scalpels. (This brought up a bit of a moral crisis. I felt bad for the little fish and wished it well as it swam away, nursing its wounds.)

So, fishless on Sunday, I was left to contemplate the royal blue sky, the kingfishers cawing around their nest, winging up and down the stream to warn us off their territority, the nature of expections and effort, perfectionism and disappointment, the challenge of being in the present moment.

Indeed. there was a reward at the end of the day that made me forget about my inner turmoils. We returned back to where we started, to a delightful swimming hole, 5 feet deep, and dove in. The water was so clear, you could see right down to the bottom of the pool: rocks in pinks and browns and blues, elemental patterns etched into their surface. Relaxed and purified, we had a little picnic on a rocky beach: two Red Stripes, pita, hummus, goat cheese, and veggies. I don’t know if I’ll ever be good at fishing, but give me some clean cold water on a sunny day, away from the crowds, and I think I can ease up on the complaints.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

stalking the wild trout

Nelson (a.k.a. trout joneser) took me to a beautiful stream last weekend to re-introduce me to the wonders of fly-fishing. Having shunned the sport years ago after returning trout-less from too many afternoons spent in a roaring stream cursing and yelling, I was sort of dreading this trip. I knew well the frustration of getting the silken fly line tangled in a tree, or losing a fly from tugging too hard to release it from a mossy rock. Once, after a sloppy sideways cast, a fly pierced the muzzle of my pooch, who was lingering downstream. I guess you can say that I lack a certain sportsmanlike grace.

I admit, I have problems fishing with troutjoneser. I'm not sure if its a competition thing, or my sensitivity to the rising frustration in his voice when I don't understand his directives ("don't flap your wrist!"), or my perfectionist pride, but it makes me anxious to "lose", especially in the face of troutjoneser's prowess, and then I feel stupid. And I didn't want to feel stupid on this unexpectedly sunny Sunday. But I wanted to be together, to get out of the house, and to do something fun. After 4+ years of marriage, this is important, is it not? To indulge each others interests with a sense of lighthearted adventure?

After a short ride through rolling farmland, we arrived at the stream (which cannot be named, troutjoneser informed me. One cannot divulge the identity of a good source for trout). After slathering ourselves in Deet and sunscreen, we rigged up our rods and reels, and waded in. My initial casts were rusty. I was sort of flapping the rod back and forth, expending a lot of energy, so that when I released the line, the fly landed about 3 feet in front of me. But troutjoneser patiently pulled me aside, and showed me how to cast, keeping my wrist straight, flush with the handle, so that the rod was an extension of my arm. My brow had no doubt furrowed last time he demonstrated this basic skill, but this time it clicked.

The wide-open stream made for perfect rookie conditions. The water was shallow enough so that I could wade into the middle, away from trees and shrubs to snag my line on. And when I did snag, I remained surprisingly calm, and removed the fly with little effort. I didn't catch a thing, but being on the stream rooted me in the present, allowed me to slow down and focus my mind on the stream before me and the scene around me: on the flow of the stream across the rocks, the Monarch butterflies and emerald green dragonflies alighting on the banks, the birds calling their mates.

The day (minus the GINORMOUS MOSQUITOS, a topic for another post!) was pretty close to perfection. I'm not sure what to make of my change of attitude. Perhaps its just being a little older, or perhaps it has to do with the very small window of summer that we have in Maine, that makes me simply grateful to be outside in nature. For now, I am still a humble beginner, content to venture forth with the trout joneser. If I catch something, great, but above all, I hope to maintain the peace, patience, and detachment necessary of all trout fisherwomen.