With another new calendar year, here we go again

Hard to believe this blog is now in its second decade.

With the Barn, a new year usually signals a slight shift in focus and content.

2023, for instance, will see a series excerpting dreams I’ve had over the years. Mine can be surreal and inexplicable and yet, I feel, illuminating. They’ll likely give you unexpected glimpses into my psyche even though I’m thinking of it as literature. Meanwhile, the prose poems that have been appearing on Saturdays have run their course. Hope you’ve enjoyed their compressed impressions of my earlier life and feelings, especially when they’ve reflected your own, too.

Dover’s 400th anniversary will continue to be a major theme, including things I’ve learned since the release of my book based on the town’s Quaker heritage. And there will be announcements of presentations based on the book as they come up through the year. The ones I’ve done so far have been a blast.

Now that you’ve been introduced to Eastport and its ways, the tone of those posts will also turn, shall we say, more casual? Or at least more of the everyday experience around here rather than a record of the connections I’ve discovered. Besides, living on an island in Maine is some people’s fantasy, at least through the summer. I’m hoping to add a streak of reality to that vision.

Kinisi will continue with their off-the-wall, quirky, flash slashes. Some fall into the realm of concrete poems, a la Aram Saroyan, and others take the trippy flashes of the sort Richard Brautigan produced. Others can be seen as prompts for others to build on. These minimalist notations do reflect the way I’ve often heard and seen the world, slightly askew, even though I have to admit I don’t “understand” many of them. They’re intended to dance to their own beat, OK?

And I have to admit my Tendrils on Tuesday are great fun to investigate and offer. I never thought of top ten lists as entertaining, forget the factual dimension. They definitely have much more to dig up as we go.

One big shift will likely be in photography, from my Olympus camera to my S-22 Ultra cell phone. We’ll see what you think. Eastport and the surrounding environment are certainly visually rich subjects. Click, click, everywhere you turn.

Overall, though, I’m intending to have fewer posts this time around, yet it still looks like that still means at least one posting each day. Or, as one renowned writing teacher taught his classes, “Write 300 good words a day.” Not that I’m keeping count, even as I keep hoping to cut back. Does keyboarding really become compulsive?

My life and outlook have certainly changed over the course after signing up for a WordPress blog, which then led to four related lines. Thanks for sharing so much of it here.

What are you looking forward to on your end in the new year?

Pricing out my new checks

The cheapest ones still came to 27 cents apiece. Add postage to that, and paying bills can add up.

As for paying directly online?

As much as I’m a fan of the U.S. Postal Service and am trying to do my part to assure its survival, I am listening to my wife’s advice to switch over to online bill paying. Before I do anything drastic, though, I want to hear from others.

What’s your experience been?

Hunkering down for winter

We’re quickly approaching the longest nights of the year, which are truly long here in Eastport. Accompanied by the most truncated days of the year, when the sun barely clears the horizon. We’re just a hair shy of the 45th Parallel, the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole. These days, it can feel even further north than the map shows.

The experience can be especially harsh here, now that the Summer People are long gone and most of the stores and galleries are shut for the season while those that remain open do so largely on limited hours. You might see a stranger or two in town around sunset, looking for a place to eat, and the best you can do is tell them to go to the IGA and get there before the 7 o’clock closing. Pizza slices or deli cuts plus a six-pack lead the list.

Even more, we know big snow, escalating ice, and profound cold are still ahead, as well as a blustery nor’easter or three.

We don’t even have a retail scene to crank up the holiday hoopla. Nor do we have anything resembling a nightlife, apart from a few cultural performances. Bless ‘em, especially after the Covid shutdowns.

Needless to say, social connections are especially important. For me, that includes singing in Quoddy Voices and worshiping with Cobscook Friends Meeting.

Also anticipated is a big stack of reading, both books and magazines, and concerts streamed from the Pine Tree State and beyond.

I’m already looking forward to the invasion of family for the holidays.

How do you adjust to such seasonal change?

 

The Bingham connection

After discussing Maine’s unincorporated townships, I need to add that there are a lot of variants – 17, if I’m counting right. Among them are the BKP, BPP, NBKP, NBPP, and WBKP designations – translated as Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase, North of Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, North of Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase, and West of Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase.

So just who was this Bingham guy?

In short, he was William Bingham, already a wealthy Philadelphian when he became filthy rich via privateering during the Revolutionary War. He was also a statesman and U.S. senator who parlayed his riches into vast land purchases, as noted above but also including upstate New York, where Binghamton, where I’ve also lived, was named in his honor.

Got it?

Quite simply, Bingham owned two million acres in Maine, making him land rich but cash poor.

His agent in Maine, Revolutionary War Gen. David Cobb, was responsible for laying out most of the roads associated with the Airline Highway (now eastern State Route 9). And when Cobb retired in 1820, John Black, agent for Baring Brothers Bank in London, felt that lumber was the wealth that would provide his boss the needed profit. There were further complications as well as marriages, but you get an idea how Baring township in the Moosehorn wildlife preservation got its name.

Cobb did, however, build a great house at Gouldsborough and soon faced some harsh realities that he notated between 1795 and 1800.

First, the land and climate of eastern Maine were not and are not suitable for farming. He noted that “those who come to view the country … have as frequently returned almost blind by the bites of flies and mosquitoes. You have no conception of the hosts of these devils that infest the thick forest at this season.”

More critically, he found “the great body of the people of this country possess no regard to the rights of private property,” calling them ” vicious inhabitants who disfigured its landscape. Every inhabitant here is now a trespasser, a plunderer. They live by it, and therefore they will not cultivate the finest soil in the world. They’re not doing this is the chief cause why the reputation on the country has been damn’d. If the people who live by lumbering are indulged in cutting the forests wherever they please, they will have but little … appreciation of the soil.”

For the record, the soil itself wasn’t nearly that rich.

But continuing, in his estimation, “The greater part … follow lumbering and fishing … and they are very intemperate, very lazy and very poor. It may be said in truth … the majority of the inhabitants are drunkards.”

There are those, of course, who would question whether much has changed since.

Or, as is sometimes said of Eastport, it’s a drinking village with a fishing problem.

Not just moose but a murder mystery, too

The joke is that moose don’t have horns, they have antlers. The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge excuses itself by noting that it’s named after a brook that meanders through the preserve. Not that it’s the only fine body of water.

Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are welcome.
The marked lanes make for some lovely strolls.

And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adds that the preserve is home to much more than moose, bear, beaver, and deer. For example, some 223 bird species have been identified in its two divisions – the 31-square-mile Baring Division to our northwest and the 13-square-mile Edmunds Division to our west, both within a half-hour drive from Eastport.

The terrain is varied, much of it wetlands, and a third is protected as wilderness.

I especially appreciate the miles of hiking trails, some along former roads.

What I wasn’t expecting on one outing was the moose I encountered on a grassy roadside near a flowage.

When I first spotted the tawny hump amid the green, I thought it might have been one bent over grazing, in which case I’d need to approach cautiously, or else just a big rock.

Instead, it became a mystery.

The hooves and legs.
Apart from the head injury, the body was in fine shape – no mat of ticks, for one thing.
It really is a big, powerful jaw.

Tire tracks in the grass had me wondering if a ranger driving down the gated-access lane had tried to veer away from the animal on the roadway, only to have it bolt into the oncoming vehicle.

The carcass was fresh enough that a solitary vulture overhead wasn’t even taking notice.

Later, back in town, I began picking up details. Everybody seemed to have more to add, most of it from Facebook.

Seems the baby male was hit on Charlotte Road earlier in the morning. (Baby? It was bigger than me.) Folks were wondering what took the wildlife officers so long to clear the road. They then took the remains into the preserve, to return to the food chain. Mama Moose, meanwhile, spent the rest of the day wandering forlornly.

It is a relief to know that moose collisions aren’t so common around here that they’re taken for granted. Deer, on the other hand, as everyone will remind me – keep your eyes open.

For my entire hike, I was the sole human experiencing sights like this.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever encountered out on a walk? Or even a drive?

Point by point

“I looked out in the yard and seen a magnificent eight-point buck eatin’ apples.”

Wild ones, fallen from the tree between us.

“And the velvet was gone from his antlers, right?”

“Yep.”

With only a flash a few days earlier, I had noticed something different in its bearing. Like being a kid no more but a handsome young prince. One with a shiny sword ever so proudly.

Which door is the real one?

Don’t know about where you live, but in New England, the front door typically is rarely used.

That insight was confirmed when I was canvassing for the Census and we had to leave a notice behind when nobody was home. Often, the real door is the one at the rear of the house.

It’s a curiosity that reminds me of something I once read about Zen temples in Japan, which were initially copies of ones in China.

The Chinese loved symmetry, which the Japanese detested, and so when the imported designs were expanded, they grew to one side or the other. Many old New England houses also have many additions, most famously the connecting barn.

Well, for the record, our back door is where the action is, and it runs through a mud room addition from the kitchen.

Now I’m starting to think about trying to enter by the right door as a metaphor for life. Like maybe there’s a hidden key, even. The one others know about, but not you or me?

 

How to end a most memorable summer

When last summer ended, I proclaimed it my best one ever – in part because there were no complications from an employer or romantic upheavals. Instead, it was filled with new adventures, explorations along the Bold Coast and out on the waters, introductions to fascinating characters and geezers (both positive terms, in my estimation) who live here at least a goodly part of the year, plus a sequence of fascinating artists in residence combined with local painters and photographers and their galleries as well as a world-class chamber music series by mostly resident performers. Whew! And, oh yes, I had plenty of time to devote to a new book and setting up posts for this blog. I even got a new laptop, which meant importing and tweaking everything.

This time around has simply amplified everything.

The temperatures are generally cool on the island – often ten degrees less than what’s happening on the mainland even just seven miles to the west – so I rarely suffered from sweltering. On the downside, heritage tomatoes are rarely found here. Remember, in Dover I lived on tomato-and-mayo sandwiches from the beginning of August into October, some years, though in no small part due to global warming. Even so, the ocean temps here are too cold and the currents too treacherous, for any swimming, though inland lakes and streams provide a welcome alternative.

Well, that’s only half of it. Summer is when Eastport comes into its full glory. The streets are swarming, like a big party. To think, I’m experiencing the ideal of summering on a Maine island, combined with a lively artistic dimension! Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have expected that.

But all good things must come to an end.

Three-quarters of the Eastport’s population is what Mainers call Summer People. Now they’re mostly going-going-gone and we’re on the verge of getting back to our more essential state, something akin to a ghost town.

Not that we go down that easily.

This weekend featured the annual Salmon Festival, a delightfully low-key event highlighting local musicians, galleries, and crab rolls served by the senior center and Episcopal Church on Saturday and salmon dinners on Sunday, as well as tours of the salmon farms at Broad Cove.

The Salmon Festival is a low-key event, centered on the waterfront..
Historian Joe Clabby tells a circle at the amphitheater about the region’s rich past. One local wag calls this our “NPR festival,” in contrast to what’s coming next weekend.
Celebrating local seafood, there are crab rolls on Saturday and a big salmon dinner on Sunday.
And, of course, live music.

The event honors what was once the Sardine Capital of the World in its current incarnation as a center of aquaculture in the form of salmon.

But it’s also a prelude to next weekend’s blowout, the Pirate Festival.

On Saturday, a mini-flotilla, armed with water balloons and squirt guns, sailed down to invade neighboring Lubec. Next week, they’re expected to return the favor, all in good spirits.

 

What’s made your summer special?

 

Speaking from the left, far from my starting point

Great ideas remain the heart of a revolution. The kind that strike the core of one’s being and inspire action.

They must have a foundation in irrevocable reality if they’re to succeed in the long run.

Not lies, which are shifting sands. Or dreams, which float far from their anchors. Instead, some touchstone that resonates and holds fast, even on the great prairie.

And that’s it, for now.

Carry on.

Respectfully, I hope. Or else.