The lighthouses around Eastport are rather modest

Unlike the two most photographed and visited lighthouses around here – East Quoddy on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and West Quoddy in Lubec, Maine, both of which have been featured here at the Barn – the remaining lighthouses I encounter locally are small-scale. They’re beacons, all right, but to call them houses may push the definition.

You be the judge. Here they are.

Cherry Island Light, New Brunswick, is the one we see most clearly. It’s an 18-foot-tall tower with a white flash every five seconds. As a lighthouse, it was first built in 1824.
And at night it does this.
Deer Point, New Brunswick, is a 20-foot tall tower with a two-second red flash every 10 seconds. The famed Old Sow, the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world, is just off its shore.
Facing Deer Island, the Dog Island Light in Eastport flashes white/red every five seconds. As you can see, it’s no longer a house, much less manned.
The Pendleberry Lighthouse, or St. Andrews North Point Light, in New Brunswick is glimpsed here from Robbinston, just up the Maine shoreline from Eastport.
A “sparkplug” or “wedding cake” design, the Lubec Channel Light  can be seen framed by the bridge from Lubec to Campobello Island from points in Eastport, though never this distinctly. I shot this in South Lubec, where it stands 53 feet above Mean High Tide and emits a flashing white signal every six seconds.
Whitlock Mills Light on the St. Croix River in Calais is the northernmost light in Maine. It’s on private property, and I’m grateful to the owner who allowed me access. The second tower has both a bell and a foghorn. I find this 25-foot tower, despite its small size, particularly charming.

Deer are everywhere in this city

Eastport is a city, after all, and many of the homes are packed in close together. Not that it matters to our local wildlife.

Here’s one in our driveway.
And crossing over to our neighbors.
They frequent a large lawn overlooking Shackford Cove and the sea.
This yard’s only a few blocks from downtown.
And these critters are just a block from the Breakwater.

They’re so much a part of the place they even have their own Facebook page, Deer Eastport, and it is very active.

No matter how cute, though, they’re a gardening challenge. As are the raccoons.

 

The Tides Institute as a vehicle of preservation and change

The catalyst of re-envisioning Eastport is the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, founded in 2002 by director Hugh French. Its mission has been in acquiring and presenting wide-ranging collections of artworks and historical documents reflecting the coastal region, as well as educational and preservation efforts that include eight significant buildings in the town – four of them in the downtown district – and guest artists residencies each summer.

The leadership is rounded out by French’s wife, Kristin McKinlay, who is director of exhibitions and the StudioWorks residency program, and by Jennifer Dolanski, Artsipelago/program specialist, plus eight trustees, only one of them living in Eastport. The others reside in places like Boston and New York City.

There are also concerts in its 1818 church that housed the Free Will Baptists, plus other events at its 1828/1829 Seaman’s Church, which housed the Congregationalists.

Oh, yes, every New Year’s Eve there’s the maple-leaf drop at 11 pm Eastern – midnight for our Canadian neighbors – followed by the giant sardine an hour later. Both the maple leaf and sardine were commissioned creations.

I suppose TIMA was inspired in part by the Island Institute, founded in 1983 to help Maine islands from Portland to Acadia tackle pressing environmental and socio-economic issues. The Rockland-based organization’s impressive publications include the annual magazine, Island Journal, as well as data analyses to guide public policy. Its focus is on sustainable livelihoods and communities in changing times that include rising sea levels, bringing together marginalized communities, and economic survival.

The heart of the enterprise is in a former bank on Water Street downtown.

In contrast, for now, TIMA’s focus seems to be more on art and architecture, principally – especially the small downtown on the National Register of Historic Places.

In essence, it’s building a future rooted in the past but not stuck there. It’s really the way every art moves, too, no matter how revolutionary some of the leaps may seem.

Renovation of the former Masonic lodge downtown is designed to house additional exhibition space and perhaps mixed use upstairs.

I do have to wonder whether TIMA has taken on too much. The restorations appear to have stalled, perhaps before Covid set in, and both of the churches need significant repair, inside and out. The institute has, all the same, helped distinguish Eastport as a fine arts center in a visually stimulating setting in Maine, an identity that may attract new residents in a time of national population change.

Frankly, it was one of the things that lured me here, as well as my wife and elder daughter.

An orange is an orange is an orange orange

The mystics and traditions I’ve encountered are anything but airy-fairy. In fact, they can be pretty down-to-earth and practical, based on personal experience and testing rather than empty speculation or dogma.

As George Fox said at the beginning of the Quaker movement, “This I knew experimentally.” That is, by first-hand experience including trial and error. Or as was said a few years later, “Some of the best barns in Rhode Island were designed during Quaker Meeting,” during quiet meditation.

Never underestimate the importance of the disciplined circle of fellow practitioners, either. Anyone who says “I’m spiritual, not religious,” but lacks that communal base is headed for trouble.

I learned that 50 years ago in a yoga ashram – see my novel Yoga Bootcamp for unorthodox examples of how it works – and have seen it in other traditions since, especially my Quaker circles.

One of my favorite stories comes via fellow blogger Tru-Queer, who relayed the incident this way:

A Tibetan lama and a famous Korean Zen master in the Rinzai school were to have a debate.

The Tibetan lama sat meditating, counting his mala. The Zen master produced an orange from his robes and asked the lama, “What is this?” It was a famous koan. Waiting for a response, the lama continued meditating. The Zen master asked again, “What is this?”

The Tibetan lama spoke with his translator for a moment, who said, “Do they not have oranges where he is from?”

~*~

I suppose I should explain that a koan is a kind of mental puzzle intended to push a student beyond rational thought. Zen is essentially black-and-white ascetic, while Tibetan Buddhism is full of colorful esoteric teaching and drama. Yet here the roles are reversed, in a great joke.

But it doesn’t end there. When’s the last time you really looked at an orange? How many varieties can you identify, much less their differences in uses or subtle flavors? Does your recognition that it’s “an orange” put a stop to regarding it fully? That is, when’s the last time you had an “OH WOW!” moment with something so seemingly commonplace.

Gertrude Stein was aiming at something similar with her “A rose is a rose is a rose,” which blows open when you learn she was also speaking of a friend named Rose and not just the metaphors associated with a specific flower that somehow too often gets lost in the entire equation.

So just how do we live full of wonder – a state a Friend hailed as the Holy Now?

I’d say having dear ones who share it with you does help. Even if they’re Zen Buddhists.

Our glorious dawn is much more than just sunrise

Except on overcast or stormy mornings, the early light of day in Eastport is amazing. Campobello Island in Canada blocks the first rays of the rising sun from striking us directly. Instead, the beam is deflected from the ocean into the air to become an ethereal rosy radiance, sometimes against a dark bank of clouds hovering off over the neighboring Fundy islands. And then, with that doubly-illuminated sky mirrored in the two-mile-wide channel separating Eastport from Campobello, the overhead color spreads out below as well.

Often, this scene is accompanied by the faint puttering of commercial fishing boats venturing out from the port.

When the sun itself finally swells into view, the blaze is nearly blinding, winter or summer.

Note to self: Keep sunglasses at hand.

My wife has long insisted I have a face made for the 19th century

Among the artists-in-residence the Tides Institute invited to town last year was tintype photographer John DiMartino from Brooklyn.

He was certainly the most visible, with his big camera and tripod everywhere and his workaholic hours. He was enthralled with the place, its light, and its people.

John DiMartino at work in downtown Eastport last summer.

Curiously, his medium gave everything he shot a back-in-history quality, as well as reversing the subject before him.

Here’s what he did to me.

There’s no retouching of a tintype and no cropping, either. It’s all in the camera.
As a model, you have to hold the pose. And don’t blink for six or so seconds.

For more of his portfolios and other characters he captured in town, check out his website, johndimartinojr.com.