Lupine island

Officially, Eastport sits on Moose Island, though I have yet to see one here.

This time of year, though, it’s covered with flowering lupine, gloriously so. You’d never imagine the kind of winter we’d had.

With the sea in the distance.

 

Against our house, with Dame’s Rocket.

 

Behind the IGA.

When our small city turns into a four-day party

Though Eastport was settled relatively late – that is, toward the end of the Revolutionary War – it was instilled with a Colonial flavor by prominent early residents who were resolute veterans.

A continuing spirit of Tea Party and Minutemen makes Independence Day in New England feel different than those elsewhere. It’s not just the place of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. It’s the region where thickheaded Yankees have always doodled.

Quite simply, history is palpably alive everywhere across New England.

Boston, of course, is the epicenter, but across the six most northeasterly states, local observations uphold distinctive traditions. Think of musketeers firing a round ever so often along the town parade route, along with fifes and drums.

As an independently enterprising oceanside village, Eastport soon had a reputation as a hive of privateering – that is, legalized piracy – and not-so-legal smuggling. That independent streak gets its own attention in the city’s annual Pirate Festival a week after Labor Day.

How joyous!

Unlike much of America, the city had frontline experience of the War of 1812. Fort Sullivan atop the bluffs surrendered to the British Navy in 1814, and Eastport then remained under the royal thumb until 1818.

Two years after its reunification with the United States, Maine became liberated from Massachusetts for the first time since 1653 and began to breathe into its own unique character.

For its part, Eastport rocketed as a center of shipping, shipbuilding, fishing, and sardine canning before the big decline of the 1900s set in.

Today, the tiny city’s locals remember a vibrant past and close-knit community, one that spanned the shorelines on both the American and Canadian sides of the watery border.

Is a renaissance on the horizon? There are signs for hope.

All of these strands infuse the holiday here.

Here’s a taste of last year’s pyrotechnics fired off from the fish pier downtown.
Yes, fireworks can be visually composed, leading your eyes around the sky.

The national holiday also marks the opening of New England’s short summer season. After a cold, dark, long winter, Eastport’s small year-’round populace can actually come out into the open air for long times together. The ocean and lakes are finally warming, to the extent that they do, and that attracts vacationers to join in.

After months when only a stray New Hampshire or Massachusetts auto plate is seen around here, I’ve now seen those of every state but Alabama, Hawaii, and North Dakota (not all at the same time), some seeming rather exotic.

And the Fourth includes the city’s Old Home Week, with high school reunions and the return of many summer residents.

A lot happens over a four-day span. There’s a doll carriage and wagon parade. A torchlight parade. Car shows, bike races, water games, pet show, rubber ducky race, festive all-you-can-eat blueberry pancake breakfast, free outdoor movie, contests, live music, and a street dance, all with a small-town flavor.

A traditional visit by a large U.S. Navy vessel failed to materialize, a consequence of being on Ukraine-related alert. Three different ships had expressed interest in landing at the Breakwater before the turn in world events.

While fireworks were displayed off over the harbor on the Fourth, America’s Independence Day (the beautifully designed and executed big show fired from the town’s Fish Pier was followed by a joyously rowdy encore from a diner’s smaller private pier), the companion July 1 presentation for Canada Day, in honor of our neighbors in New Brunswick, was still a victim of Covid cutbacks. Some residents, though, could view shows happening on Deer Island across the water.

Seems ever so fitting to shoot the works twice, considering Eastport’s dual connections.

it really does feel like a party’s come to town.

How do you celebrate the Fourth?

It may be a stool but it’s not for sitting

When I’m working at the laptop on my real desktop, having the stool to my right comes in pretty handy. It’s the right height for papers I need at the moment or even something to sip. Not that I planned this shot, which accidentally exposes a bit more of how I really live. The lower milk crate, by the way, serves as a cell phone recharging station while keeping the bunnies away from the sensitive wires plugged in behind it.

Should we be offering pizza by donation?

As long as I’m reflecting on our Christmas gift-giving (why not, it’s time to start planning for the next round), I should mention our new Ooni Kanu 16 outdoor pizza oven from England. What, not Italy? Or Greece?

The second time she spoke up from her laptop and uttered the words, “I’d sure love to have one but (sigh) it’s beyond our budget,” adding, “I can dream, can’t I?” I knew it was time for the rest of us to put our conspiratorial resources together.

After several miscommunications on our end, we got the order off, knowing it wouldn’t arrive in time to be wrapped up and put under the tree, so we came up with an amusing announcement envelope to cover us in that part. My crude cartoon slowly kicked in and generated a grin.

The said item arrived in February, big relief, and we can see why it was such a hot item last fall, even before the international shipping delays kicked in.

The oven can sit on a table, for one thing, and be fueled by charcoal, wood, or propane, which can fire it as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking a pizza at a lower setting in minutes.

We can finally find a pizza in Sunrise County that matches our high standards. Deep-dish and thin are options. And it’s not limited to pizza, either. I’m thinking of a Vietnamese dish that would glory to such instantaneous blazing.

Well, this has required me to take one more step into 20th century technology, specifically 20-pound propane tank use. As for grilling, I’m sticking to charcoal.

Now, where do we stock up on unused pizza boxes?     

Not just any old daisies

My wife is quite fond of wild Ox-Eye Daisies – not the bigger and, to her view, coarser Shastas. But she’s usually saddened each year when the Black-Eyed Susans arrive about this time, announcing the end of the Ox-Eyes’ blooming. Not so in Eastport, where, to her delight, some continue through August.

Even untended, they’re glorious  

“We usually think of a Poppy as a coarse flower; but it is the most transparent and delicate of all the flowers of the field,” Celia Thaxter enthused in her classic An Island Garden book based at the other end of the Maine coast. Noting that the “Poppy is painted glass; it never glows so brightly as when the sun shines through it. Wherever it is seen, against the light or with the light, always it is a flame, and warms the wind like a blown ruby.”

After a half-page of descriptions of the color range of its many varieties, she quotes an unnamed English master of prose, “The splendor of it is proud, almost insolently so,” and then Browning’s line of “the Poppy’s red effrontery.”

Here on Moose Island, after blazing intensely, they give way all too soon.

To me, they glow like miniature suns.

How fitting, with our sunrise now approaching 4:42 and sunset around 8:19 – and nearly 17 hours of visible light.

Purely for amusement, of course

As a friend tells it, she and a cousin were visiting a carnival in another town and, on a whim, decided to have a palm reading done at a fortuneteller’s booth.

Once they were under way, the psychic looked puzzled. “I have to ask,” she said, hesitantly. “Are you a prostitute?”

Initial shock passing, came the reply, “No, why?”

“Because I see you surrounded by men.”

Ahh! Not so off the mark after all.

“I had to tell her I work at the pier and am surrounded by longshoremen.”

I’m filing this under Local Color.