With pigeons

such gain, left to carry the rubbish after this unsettling and upheaval, all crashing down, the lonely conflagration increasingly desperate for a phoenix in some dawning how often one begins over, take the bookshelves, reorganize religious literature, find that ten-year-old letter initially appearing unopened sent just before the marriage with its Far West a nebulous daydream now I continue in the opposite direction rebounding perhaps keeping time as pigeons return quietly that’s all Thanks and g’day

Ten things about water-powered grist mills

In my book The Secret Side of Jaya, her sojourn in the Ozarks introduces her to a magical vale in the woods just beyond their house. It’s also the site of a water-powered grist mill she begins to frequent in her free time.

Here are ten facts about the historic industry.

  1. The technology of arranging grinding stones goes way back in antiquity and across cultures. It could make for a Tendril in its own right.
  2. While the image of a big water wheel remains popular, driven either by current pouring from an aqueduct above or running in a millstream below, turbines ultimately proved more efficient, often placed in the cellar of the building.
  3. Mills have been powered both by water and wind, and more recently electricity, steam, and petroleum fuels.
  4. Grist refers to the grain that’s been separated from its chaff. Flour from wheat, rye, and barley, as well as cornmeal are major milled products, though far from the only ones. Chicken feed, anyone?
  5. Traditional milling, with slower grinding than today’s industrial “roller” output, produces what’s considered a coarser, nuttier, even “softer” flour.
  6. There were 5,624 grist mills in England in 1086, or about one for every 300 people. The proportion seems to hold across other times and places, including the experiences in Jaya’s story, until the late 1800s.
  7. Granite and sandstone millstones from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and France were especially valued in American water-powered mills.
  8. The stones required frequent “dressing,” meaning removal for sharpening. It was laborious and time-consuming, demanding a deft touch.
  9. The miller was usually paid in a “toll” set by authorities – one-eighth for corn, one-sixth for wheat, typically – otherwise known as “the miller’s take.”
  10. Quakers were the leading millers and flour merchants in early America, despite British restrictions on innovations or improvements. It was hard, labor-intensive work. I do wonder if these Friends cursed, and how.

Hey, there, Dexter

ream the medicine cabinet, fill penny rolls for the coffee exchange, throw out old prescriptions and that old slide rule, already obsolete, then it’s off to the office supply store for carbon paper and metal bookends, return editions and LPs to the public library before the art stack goes to my ex-wife’s aunt where I’ll hear how her latest opening went screwy . back home, have a beer, phone my lover, take a call from the watch repairman warning if I don’t pick up her metronome they’ll sell it off, so once more out I go, how ’bout you?

Some notable New England pipe organs

The region is rife with some stunning instruments and their makers. Start nosing around, and you find them nearly everywhere. For starters, let me mention …

  1. Symphony Hall, Boston: Wish they’d showcase it more in performances but it really looks great.
  2. Busch-Reisinger, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Used by E. Power Biggs to advocate a then-revolutionary awareness of the classic and baroque sounds Bach was grounded in. Many new organs were commissioned with this ideal, while others were “slimmed down,” often ill advisedly.
  3. St. John Methodist/Grace Vision church, Watertown, Massachusetts: A four-manual Aeolian-Skinner instrument that escaped the Biggs’ touch, retaining what’s described as a sweet sound but in need of some serious, costly restoration.
  4. Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Methuen, Massachusetts: Built in 1909 to house the first concert organ in the United States after the instrument had been placed in storage. More than 6,000 pipes in what’s probably the largest hall built solely for an organ.
  5. Memorial Chapel, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Only the best for the best, and they do their best to maintain it. Or them, since the church has several in its space. Used daily, and visitors welcome.
  6. St. John Episcopal, Portsmouth, New Hampshire: An impressive instrument for services, but the tiny Brattle Organ up at the front right of the balcony is believed to be the oldest playable instrument in America. It was rescued from Boston and is said to have a bell-like sound.
  7. Merrill Auditorium, City Hall, Portland, Maine: The Kotschmar Organ built in 1911 by the Austin Organ company was the second largest organ in the world at the time, and it’s still a musical monster, as the ongoing series of concerts demonstrates. Organs were, after all, a mainstay of live entertainment as well as church services.
  8. St. John Methodist, Dover, New Hampshire: The 1875 Hutchings’ instrument was rescued from the old church in 1970 by two Boy Scouts when the congregation moved to a new site and then stored in a barn for 17 years until it was installed in the new sanctuary. The builder also created the first organ for Boston’s Symphony Hall.
  9. Durham Community Church (UCC), Durham, New Hampshire: A lovely two-manual baroque-style instrument, as the local guild of organists proved for a Bach birthday celebration a few years back.
  10. First Parish (UCC), Dover, New Hampshire: A hybrid machine with a classic New England core that’s been augmented several times and now includes electronics. Big sound, as the likes of Cameron Carpenter and Hector Olivera have proved in their appearances as part of an ongoing concert series. The bass notes can really make the whole house shake … notes you feel in your feet and then your ears.

~*~

Not to leave Roman Catholic churches out, let me mention the Casavant instruments built in Quebec and found throughout New England. As an example, when the Shaker Village in Enfield, New Hampshire, was purchased by a monastic order, a Romanesque chapel was inserted into the site and a marvelous Casavant was installed, as I heard on a visit to what’s now mostly a museum.

I also want to mention Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, as another fine period instrument, one with hand-powered bellows rather than electrical fan. The bellows fellows sometimes get a bow of their own at the end.

This is the end of the road

But not a dead end. Rather, I see it as a destination, a place of arrival or culmination, rather than a fatal trap. Like Key West or Provincetown or Cape May that way. Or so I hope, only smaller and less touristy.

When I said it’s on the verge of being discovered, a neighboring couple shuddered and individually chorused, “I hope not!”

Well, an influx of income and youth wouldn’t hurt. Leave it at that.

Downtown Eastport in the dead of winter, as viewed from the Breakwater.

Maine has many fingers that reach out to the sea, but among them, tiny Eastport is unique. There are reasons it’s called the City in the Bay. Technically, it’s an island – or a group of them, with the two inhabited ones connected to the mainland by causeway. Moose Island, where most of us live, is still big enough for plenty of explorations, including a state park, forests, and rocky coves.

Along my life journey to here, I did write a novel about subways, which now has me thinking. A packed underground train can carry 1,200 to 1,800 passengers. Compare that to Eastport’s year-round population, around 1,300, swelling to 6,000 in high summer.

I can joke about coming here to die, but I’m not being morbid. Rather, I just don’t feel there’s anywhere else I’d rather live out my remaining years. Let’s call it focus.

Yes, I’ve loved big cities, though among them I’ve lived only in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Boston, close as it was, served largely as a place to visit, even if once or twice a week.

One thing that’s changed everything is the Internet. I’m not as isolated as I would have been even a decade ago. I can stream concerts, operas, and indie movies, as well as order self-published books or about anything I want retail, even download rare historic volumes, often for free.

In some ways, it’s seemed I’m just setting up shop – or camp – here.

Covid really has changed a lot of our social outlook. It made me hungry for face-to-face gatherings, which a small town can foster, yet it’s also made long-distance meetings more flexible. We don’t always have to drive for hours anymore.

I’ve long touted pedestrian-friendly communities, and that fits the tip of Moose Island where I’m living.

And, yes, via blogging, I can stay in touch with a world of folks like you.

Once the car’s parked, it can stay there as long as I want.

Rather than

thinking the cleaner bag full I discovered the rubber drive belt had snapped meaning a trip to the shop and the next day was Sunday as she had left it all the same, dust and sweep, wet mop, and rinse, move tall stacks about, sort items but what if we don’t? refill the trash can, love, after all, would expose this . honestly I won’t quit so simply whatever past is mine . pay dearly, of course, for these revelations. so make room for more labor . brush and chop, returning to the same spot rather than scurry onward

My work, as I see it

highly compressed

economy of expression

vivid imagery

an acknowledgement of mystery of the universal seed in the particular

if only I’d been able to uphold it in the newsroom

~*~

Yes, clean lines, stripped-down materials, and elegant craftsmanship meeting a love of the baroque in a quirky, inimitable style

 

Things I want to do in the year ahead

Or at least tell you I want to do. Here goes.

  1. See my newest book through to publication, followed by learning that everybody’s reading and talking about it.
  2. Get the renovation of the house under way. And that includes no outrages regarding the supply chain.
  3. Worship with Friends face-to-face again, both here and at Yearly Meeting. You know, normal after Covid.
  4. And that normal includes singing in a great chorus and other settings.
  5. And New England contra- and Greek dancing.
  6. Visit neighboring New Brunswick and maybe even Quebec City or Nova Scotia without having to get tested and wait 72 hours.
  7. Spot minke, humpback, and fin whales from the Breakwater downtown.
  8. Eat a lot of fresh, locally harvested, scallops.
  9. See the elusive white deer on the island.
  10. Spend more time with the people I love.

As for your list?

 

I’m East of Acadia, if not quite Eden

I like to think that natural beauty can be found anywhere, but I have to admit that too often, what’s happened is that brute ugliness has prevailed in far too many places, typically as a result of greed. There’s no excuse for much of that, either. A little extra expenditure could have added grace to any development, created visual intrigue, lessened the harshness. Urban or rural or what’s in-between, alas.

Whenever possible, I chose career moves that opened me to natural or artistic settings and inspiration – along with opportunities to shine professionally. It’s meant avoiding suburbs, for one thing. Sometimes, though, it’s also meant invoking a sliding scale of value – you know, finding pockets of serenity within otherwise harsh localities. And then there were some other postings that principally industrial, even when it was mostly farmland. So it’s been a mix.

Still, as I’ve said, I came to realize that had I remained in my native corner of Ohio, I wouldn’t have been able to write poetry, the vibe was simply wrong. Or, if I had, it would have been much different from what I’ve done.

On the other hand, the four years I lived two hours east of Mount Rainier, back in the late ’70s, gave me repeated access to one of America’s greatest national treasures, often from lesser-known perspectives. What memories! And that’s before I turn to much of the back country and wilderness that was closer to our home. I even came to love the beauty of the desert where I was living, a landscape that initially struck us as hideous.

Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, glimpsed from the east.

Now I’m finding myself dwelling two hours east of an even more popular natural park, Acadia. Already, I have glimmers of many backwoods and remote rocky shores to explore in-between.

Technically, all of Downeast Maine is also Acadia, the French name of the region. For most folks, though, Acadia means the park.

The biggest land mammal out west was the elk, while here in northern New England, it’s the moose. Just as the celebrated shellfish here is lobster, rather than Dungeness crab.

The fact is, for many people, either place is about as close to paradise as you’d find on earth.

And, yes, I’m feeling lucky – or especially blessed – that way.

Which way, the music or dance?

at last, reducing the list drawn into this homestead with the ash of that upbeat tone of previous years, a forced smile, wishful thinking, or pure resolve no longer the Yule Letter, high school classmates, even college . ashram . Binghamton or teachers . other writers . Iowa. Western Reserve . Baltimore . former loves . Old Order elders . what do these people mean now in context? So, sincerely