Friday, March 19, 2010
Good morning. Here I sit and wonder what to share...my drive to the ocean Wednesday? The story of the artist I met there and the few words we spoke, just two strangers in passing- connecting? Or the sea faring stranger at Annabell's in Lubec who said several years ago he made a giant shift and took to the sea after being a crane operator for years? Yeah...let's go there.
Roque's Bluff, right outside of Machias Maine is the place I headed to the first full weekend after the big move to the Bold Coast from the Midwest, where the sea foam met my landlocked shoes for the first time. On Wednesday- the weather was beautiful, Spring was in the air but not so much in the earth yet. I had constructed a cloche or mini hoophouse the day before, removing all debris and turf from a strip of land 50' long and 3' wide with my wheel hoe. The hoops went in, the plastic went on and I preceded to anchor the whole shebang with earth at it's perimeter. Whew! My wintered shoulders ached from the motion, and I found myself hoping the muscles remembered the physical memories of wrenching the turf off of the still somewhat frozen ground. With all the seeds started inside, hopefully soon the Golden Cabbage starts would find in their new sheltered home- a place to grow and thrive.
On that March morning, with the sun shining and the breeze gently lifting I embarked on a seashore adventure. The first thing I noticed upon arriving was that the gentle breeze had turned into an ocean wind, leaving the waves choppy and my face thoroughly chapped. I gathered rocks together to make what I call a totem "to all good things that never end." That's how I hooked the artist's interest. She found me sitting on a warm boulder there by the sea and wondered out loud if I was the one who constructed the cairn she came across.
"Yes" I said, " I did."
"What does it mean?" her curiosity getting the best of her I suppose..."The cairn?"
"Oh, that's right- that's what they're called! It's my totem to all good things that never end."
I remember feeling self conscious- as if this was an odd thing to do, to get caught doing. I went on to say that I often do that at waterways, stacking just the right rocks, balancing them- not sure why, just felt right in doing so.
Through a brief conversation, I discovered she was from St. Louis originally, moved to Maine and collected sea glass, driftwood and items that somehow she saw life in or a spirit I guess, especially after she constructed her finds into sculpture- she said as she put things together, the old discarded items became things of beauty- art.
I asked her if the big birds floating near the shore were loons-(I hadn't seen any all winter, and never any that close...)
"Yes, they mate for life." She added.
As she walked away, our pleasantries ending- I thanked her for talking with me. That stopped her in her tracks, she turned and smiled for me-"No problem. Have a good one."
I often feel a loner here in Maine, but to be honest- I've always been a loner somewhat. I like my solitude, my own company- I see diamonds when the tide comes in and goes back out- dragging the sands through the sunshine, transforming them into tinkling grains. Awestruck I am...and I don't meet many that see those visions and again I mention, I often feel self conscious for seeing things like that- let alone trying to convey it. The Big Fish says he watches me and wonders just what it is I see that keeps me somewhat in a trance. I can feel the blush rise on my cheeks when I get caught in my "awe" fazes.
The sea captain was a big man- eyes that were deep as the ocean, one a bit cockeyed and watery. He was a loner too I suspected. I learned from him that he did not like his food to touch...at all. Casseroles were definitely out of his diet and corn beef and cabbage was best smothered in vinegar.
"Do you feel adrift, ever?!" I prodded.
Those eyes searched my face, hmmmm- there was a question to ponder.
"Yeah, especially after moving from a very lucrative business operating a crane to days upon days of floats, then back to the land doing nothing. I made good money, now- I make just enough."
"Were you scared, doubtful of that move...ever?!"
"Certainly...and for some time."
"Are you satisfied now?" I shyly asked, scared that I took the conversation a bit over the edge.
There again, that face- those deeper feeling, seeing eyes-"You're never satisfied, sweetheart- never. But you have to change your direction if you're growing one way and yearning to grow in another way that your current growth will never take you..."
No more questions from me, I became quiet as did he. I didn't expect an answer like that and yet- perhaps that was the growing kind of answer I was searching for. Or the validation at my age I had contended I no longer needed.
I collected white rocks that day, blistering white and smoothed free of blemishes by the sea- those treasures end up in a potpourri of sorts, in an old wooden bowl. I can pick them up years from now, tumble them through my hands- and the stories they'll recall will be the same as I told here today. Adrift. Awe. Artists. Totems. Sea captains who are never satisfied and cannot stomach casseroles...
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
true calling: the ever loving wintah garden
About this time last year, I already had seeds germinating in my Illinois wonder bed/cold frame. The Big Fish and I only recently constructed one here in Maine as well. Even though we have had warmer than normal days for New England, alas- there is no way the ground is ready for seeds. I took soil temps yesterday, here and there and the warmest spot registered a mere 38 degrees, which in all truthfulness- was warmer than I expected. The frosty panes of glass set up on hay bales this year have a thin sheet of ice from the condensation the day before- I checked them out at about 8:30 this AM and found the sun slowly melting the cold and warming the insides. Once those soil temps reach a solid 40 degrees, I'll plant the lettuce and radish seeds. Along with a bottle of wine, Ken and I have decided to make this an annual ritual as we had so much fun doing it last year together. I really thought I could coax germination sooner with high hopes and dreams of produce by Easter- but here in Maine, one must refrain from imagination and look reality solidly in the face, declaring the sun, earth and winter's way victorious. AAARRGGHHH!!
I've looked back over my posts from last year and found spring's tonic bubbling over and out of the solid earth about three weeks prior to this date. I yearn to garden, this I am able and willing to commit to. All else has been a bit bumpy-my comfort zone is a small window of walking in the woods every chance I get. Other than that- I am a bit scattered. We have decided to tear Ken's old greenhouse to bits and start over with stabilizing it, replacing old wood and plastic and gettting that thing going. I've never had a greenhouse/hoophouse other than my homemade structures- I am excited about growing under the cover of that warming framework. It will all work out, I know. But I can't help but feel the longing for my springtime home in Illinois. The plants in the hundreds I left behind- I have only cried twice since the move. Once in speaking to my Emma on the phone Christmas eve (she started it!) and recently when I thought of the perennials I thought best to leave behind as their relocation might find them surviving but certainly no guarantee of them thriving in new soil in a completely different growing season. With the move in November as well, I felt it best to leave old roots alone, not taking a chance of dogs and rhubarb diggings mingling together in the camper of the pickup. I do plan on composing for the new owners a map of all the perennials around every corner, against the foundation and all the herbs and flowers surrounding the summer kitchen as well as the raised herb beds out by the chicken coop. I can still recall every plant there as if they were fingers on my hand. Funny the things we leave behind we never miss after all, and then there are those "things" that we never forget. My wish would be that some friendly farmer types around here might aid me in finding cuttings, or sharing some of their perennials by bartering with them. I am open to weeding and whatever it takes to get my hands on some new plants. I've put the word out...thus far, no takers. But I do believe these folks are more patient than I, they know when to get excited, when to realize spring is really showing winter a thing or two. In my southernly facing window- it has. Thyme and tomatoes, oregano and pansies are bursting forth- and soon my wintah garden hot house will be ready...but not soon enough for me.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"Autumn is familiarly the season of color, winter is the season of form, spring the season of texture, and summer the season of motion."
Henry Beston from Herbs And The Earth
As I read that line after a long day of idleness, for it is winter in Maine- I thought how apt a perception. The days are long on melancholy and short on bursts of adrenalin. The sun only comes out from hiding when a pine captures it in it's branches and makes a show of it. And then, it seems- the other trees in the forest lean in and warm themselves in the fuzzy orbing glow. On my walks through the wet, drudgingly difficult snow- I come upon forms and frame them as I can with interest- though most are completely abandoned in the end by a quick delete push of the button. It is difficult to find inspiration of color, of movement though ever increasingly- texture is creeping in. For every little bit of Spring is churning under foot, I can feel it- sometimes I hear it when I find myself upon a trail that is no trail at all, but a snow bank over a stream. The gurgle of water trying to make it's way down a hillside after it's been trapped all season long in winter's imprisonment of ice- is to my ears a sweet and longing sound. I stop and all is still, with the exception of that gurgle that brings all disappointments and worries to a halt. One has to get out of one's way at times...I know no better escape than those wintry-teetering-on-breaking-into-spring walks.