Florida as a place of limbo
And now for Lubec
I’ve been posting a lot about Eastport and nearby scenes but said little to date about the neighboring communities here in Way Downeast Maine.
So today I’ll turn the spotlight to a town to our south, one we easily see from the Breakwater and other points in Eastport. It also sits across the water to our west. Despite the proximity, driving between the two takes nearly an hour.
Here are a few additional facts.
- It’s pronounced “LOO-beck,” named for Lubeck, Germany.
- It has roughly the same (small) population as Eastport but is organized as a town rather than a city. That’s why it can claim to be the easternmost point in the continental U.S., while E’port struts about being the easternmost city. It’s a hairline difference.
- Lubec’s also the closest location in the continental U.S to Africa. Yes, way up here nearly on the 45th parallel, halfway to the North Pole, rather than say Virginia or tropical Florida.
- Set on a peninsula, the town has more water than land.
- With its Quoddy Head State Park and the iconic peppermint-pole lighthouse, Lubec can be seen as the gateway to the Bold Coast trailheads that provide access to spectacular shoreline and bluffs. It’s like Acadia National Park without the crowds.
- It also has a “sparkplug” lighthouse in the water south of downtown and faces the Mulholland lighthouse on the Canadian side of Quoddy Narrows.
- Speaking of Canada. Neighboring Campobello Island, New Brunswick, is home to the Franklin Roosevelt International Park, originally the family’s summer “cottage” and compound and then Eleanor’s favorite home. Today the historic site covers five square miles that include trails of shoreline and forest. To get there, you have to drive through Lubec.
- SummerKeys is a kind of music camp for adults, mixing skill levels from beginning amateur to skilled professionals into a lively and supportive environment. Free weekly concerts in the Congregational church are a highlight for the rest of us.
- While statics are unavailable, one friend tells of a summer when every day in Lubec was beset by heavy fog. She’s made it sound unbroken. I have been in town on several afternoons when the place was quickly socked in the dense gray invasion, and from Eastport I’ve often seen its thick steely blanket roll over the downtown at the fringe of our view before inching up the water toward us. Another friend tells of the common frequency of heavy winds. Either way sounds harsher than what I’ve encountered in nearby Eastport.
- The town no longer has a high school. When it did, athletic events between Lubec and Eastport were often followed by fights.
olive-skinned and sly smile
how golden, the rites of passage
I’d rather skip
at the intersection of North and South streets
welcome to Calais, Maine
You may have noticed I’m fond of ferns
I don’t remember them being common in the woods when I was growing up in the Midwest, but I’ve become fond of them since. I even devoted years to developing a fern bed beside our “smoking garden” patio at our home in Dover. At least now we’re surrounded by fabulous ones in the wild here.
Oh, yes, I’ve finally tasted fiddleheads in the springtime and like their taste almost as much as asparagus.
Here some additional facts.
- They predate the dinosaurs. One variety, the cinnamon fern, looks the same today as it does in 70-million-year-old rock fossils.
- They don’t have flowers or seeds and don’t have leaves. Those lovely green fronds are actually branches fused in one plane.
- They reproduce via spores rather than seeds. Spoors usually look like small dots on the undersides of the fronds. A single plant can drop millions of spoors on the ground, but few find favorable conditions.
- Some species are parasites, growing not from the ground but on decaying tree trunks on the ground or in pockets overhead.
- Their roots descend from rhizomes, a below-the-soil, horizontal stem that can range from very thin and creeping to thick and stocky.
- Some plants survive up to 100 years.
- Bracken ferns can live without any sunlight.
- Most ferns are resistant to cold but many also thrive in tropical zones.
- They make lovely houseplants that require little care. They do, however, need higher humidity than is commonly available, especially when the furnace is running.
- They can remediate contaminated soil and remove some chemical pollutants from the air.
Intensive Care Unit
I See You
Among the reasons for Quaker decline, let me suggest
Relocation to the West, especially, wasn’t the only reason Dover Friends Meeting in New Hampshire declined in the 1800s. Here are a few other factors.
- Being Quaker can be hard work. Not just a Sunday thing. Things like honesty.
- Tightening of personal discipline in the mid-1700s. The marriage restrictions definitely cut into membership.
- Plainness in clothing, design, and possessions. That is, personal expression.
- Employment and other business ethics. Refusal to take oaths kept Friends out of some professions, such as the law, and bankruptcy was a disownable offense.
- No “vain entertainments.” And thus, no music, dancing, fiction, theater, paintings, card playing, horse racing, or gambling.
- Pacifism during the Revolutionary and Civil wars, plus withdrawal from political offices in the 1760s.
- The separations that split the Society of Friends into factions from the 1820s on.
- Aversion to emotion, starting with anger.
- Emerging restrictions on alcohol and tobacco. Being “disguised by hard liquor” was a big problem on the frontier.
- Even the appearance of wrongdoing could be an offense. And all that led to deadly quaintness.
Not that these quite apply today. Still, they could prompt a book in themselves. For now, you’ll have to consider Quaking Dover for the story. Order your copy at your favorite bookstore. Or request it at your public library.
Black flies, little black flies
Spring in Maine can be a very short season, marked first by mud season and then the black flies that descend from late April into July.
My introduction came one year in a brief stop to investigate a stunning waterfall, interrupted by a large swarm of what I thought were mosquitos. The second enlightenment came at a stop along the Airline Highway en route to Eastport. A wall of flying insects would be a diluted version.
Also known as buffalo gnats, turkey gnats, or white socks (not of the Chicago baseball kind), black flies are more than the defenders of wilderness. Take a look.
- They don’t seem to be a problem on windy days or along the ocean.
- There are actually more than 2,200 species of them, not that the ones I’ve seen ever look black.
- Their bites are particularly nasty or, at the least, a nuisance. Some even spread the disease river blindness.
- They’re found far beyond Maine. Scotland, northern Ontario, and Minnesota weigh in heavily, though Pennsylvania has been active in the battle against them.
- The eggs are laid in running water and are extremely sensitive to pollution.
- Bites are most often found on the face, hairline, neck, and back, though the pests are attracted to breathing and, thus, can enter the nose or mouth. Don’t overlook the ankles, either.
- They’re attracted to dark colors.
- They stretch the skin and then make shallow cuts with blade-like sections of their mouth before sucking blood.
- They’re most active for a few hours after sunrise and a few hours before sunset but totally inactive through the night.
- Folksinger Bill Staines made a hit of the logging camp song written by Canadian Wade Hesmworth. The line, “I’ll die with a blackfly pickin’ my bones,” rings especially true.