Monday, December 27, 2010


This will be my last Mainely blog for this year.

The 26th of December was my Christmas with my family, those who were able to be here.
I am delighted to say, all three children with their spouses, and four of the busy grandchildren came. Missing were the married grands with their little ones, Aidric, Logan, Liem and Dominic. It would have been wonderful to have them here, but understandably it is a logistical nightmare to travel with one and three year olds, especially the day after a Christmas celebration. For one thing, kids don't usually take kindly to being taken away from their new Christmas toys.

Last night the storm moved in. THE storm which has dumped the white stuff all the way from North Carolina to Caribou, Maine. Monday is trash day in my community so I did a bit of shoveling by the garage door in order to take out the bags. There was a foot of snow right by the garage door, but worse than that there was a drift of about 30 inches just beyond it. I put on my old 9" Bean "Ladies' hunting boots" which I haven't put on for about five years. These are not the "Bean Boots" with rubber soles and leather tops, these are heavy treaded, all leather stompers. I wasn't sure I could bend my ankles enough to get them on. Great boots. Anyway, it is still snowing and blowing as I write this, but the "ground crew" will take care of the rest out front, and my very nice neighbor has offered to shovel off the patio.

This is Maine and we get these wild storms a couple of times every year in a good year.
This is our first major storm this season so we shouldn't complain. But the same people who were saying "I'll never complain about winter again" as the temperatures soar toward 100, are now saying "I'll never complain about the heat in August again." I try not to complain about weather. It's a real waste of brain power. Every year someone forgets how to negotiate our narrowed slippery roads and winds up in a tree. Every year some one goes off train on their sno-machine and ends up in a drift far from civilization. But today there was an accident at one of the ski resorts that no one expected. A lift cable slipped the pulley and dumped a lot of people twenty to thirty feet down the side of the mountain. One new commentator said there was a lot of fluffy snow which made their landings a little softer. Tell that to the people who ended up in the hospital with injuries.
When you land on the side of a mountain chances are you are going to suffer some pretty serious injuries as well as a mental trauma. How to spoil a great Christmas holiday!

I wanted to give a very local newspaper to someone and called for a subscription. The subscription office is in the Philippines. Nice people, I am sure. But they sent the wrong paper (they are a subscription factory) and when I called to straighten it out, I could barely understand the phone persona (a man) and he could not figure out how to handle it. He gave me a number to call, when I told him he was not effectively dealing with the issue. That number took me back to the Philippines to another thickly accented person, female, who also could not straighten it out. She said, "Someone will contact you within 24 hours." I said, "I expect to hear from someone withing 30 minutes." End of story. I mean, end of story. No one has called and it is now two hours later. "This is the most inefficient order service I have ever dealt with. Just cancel everything and I will buy the paper and mail it to her." and when they hung up - both of them - said, "Thank you for subscribing to Portsmouth Herald." I fairly screamed, "I did not subscribe to Portsmouth Herald! I will not pay for Portsmouth Herald. Do not deliver Portsmouth Herald!" I hope the call was monitored for quality control.

So, maybe next year. From Scarborough, Maine Janice Major Happy 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Day Before Christmas -

Yes, it's the day before Christmas in Maine -
There is snow on the ground. The sun is shining, but the warmth is not significant enough to melt it away, so Saint Nicholas will have easy sledding. In my travels I pass many Christmas tree farms where rows of balsam firs, Maine's preferred tree, are growing. Some are no more than six inches tall, and some are over six feet. The tree farmer carefully tends them through the years, keeping them in symetrical shape and making sure no critters are infesting them. Some farms raise blue spruce and some raise Scotch pines. Nothing compares to the balsam for aroma. Branches are cut for wreaths and swags, and other artistic creations. Small twigs are twined into "kissing balls" to be hung in doorways or from the ceiling. One artistic greens person fashioned a Christmas tree on a wire frame. It was decorated for with berries and cones to be hung on a door in place of a wreath.

The Maine Tree is the Pine; the Maine Flower is the Pine Cone. But the Maine Christmas Tree is a Fir Balsam, preferable selected by the kids in a big "forest" of nearly perfect trees, cut by a parent who patiently lets the kids have a turn with the saw, doesn't mind a little pitch on the hands, or "spills" in the trunk of the car. If the tree is big it will ride home like a trophy on top, butt forward so the wind doesn't destroy the branches.

There was a time not so many years ago when after Christmas the kids would collect all the trees from the curb before the city trucks came around. They would pile all up down at the skating rink, or at some favorite gather spot, and light them for a stupendous fire. The combination of dried out branches, and sap still sealed in would throw sparks high into the air and the aroma would spread over the neighborhood.

Dangerous? No doubt it was. And it probably created a bit of pollution, too. But it was part of the winter post-Christmas ritual. And almost as much fun as Christmas itself.

janice major
scarborough maine 12/24/10

Monday, December 20, 2010


Of course, we knew it would eventually come, and today in the late afternoon it did. SNOW, WHITE PURE AND FLUFFY. The romantic kind that makes The Christmas Song have real meaning. The wind blew and the flakes swirled. I don't love the stuff, but the first one, if not too heavy, is sort of enchanting.

In honor of the season, I have put up a Christmas tree. My grandson Noah and I went to get it. No, we didn't go into the woods for it, we bought a nice balsam fir that just fit in the trunk of the car, at a nearby nursery. Noah spent most of the day with me as he allowed me to talk with him on Community Focus about being a first year college kid a long way from home. Maine has a very good University; he wound up in Ohio. Anyway, the tree is up and it is drinking water at the rate of a gallon a day. I have strung the lights and the bulbs are ready to hang. No hurry.

I speak often of my nearly daily trips to Yarmouth where Nick can run in a fenced yard. The road, as I have mentioned, was cut through some very large glacial rock. As the weather changes the rocks change. Yes they do! And right now because we have had some warm days and they retained the heat into night, and then moisture cooled on them, they are totally bearded with icicles on one side of the road. I would take pictures of it, but it is a busy highway and I would be likely to get picked off by a passing motorist.No one seems to care the least for the speed limit.

I noticed today that there is a large building being constructed on the road to the Maine Mall. It will be interesting to see how it develops and what it is for. The Maine Medical Center has reconstructed the large empty strip mall near me. I understand it will house some cancer treatment facility, and a blood lab. As I drive around I see quite a lot of construction going on, and Route 1 between Falmouth and Yarmouth is still under construction. The "flag men" who were neither men nor holding flags, were bundled with layers of winter wear, heads helmeted, ear muffs down, face masks up to their noses. They looked like a robot my kids had. Nothing showing but the eyes. God bless them. They don't have an easy job in Maine.

Some intrepid neighbors here in the Creek purchased a new outdoor grill, and today as the snowflakes were beginning to fall, they were on their patio getting it going. They forewarned me so I would call the fire department in case I smelled the smoke. I wouldn't be out there cooking at this time of year, but to each his own. Maine people are hardy souls (although I think these new neighbors are from away. Maybe that's why they didn't know any better than to cook out in December. Very nice people, but I don't give advice to anyone any more. Gets me in trouble.

Christmas is only a few days away. Am I all done? No, but the maple syrup is waiting; there are candles in the windows, a wreath on the door and a tree in the sun room. Bring it on.

Merry Christmas, Peace, Comfort and Good Health to all.

Janice Major

Friday, December 3, 2010


If we could roll back a piece of our lives I would like a re-take on this one. It has been a nice week in Maine, weatherwise, but personally it's been pretty darned sour.

Early in the week I got word that a dear friend from my school days was losing her life, and subsequently, I word that she had died. Thursday I got word that a nice person in my "extended family" had died. And this morning I got word that a music friend had died.
As all three of these people were suffering from terminal illnesses, I don't know just how much time I need to roll back to, but I do know this: the world is not a better place without them. I will miss them, but I am not alone in my sadness. They all touched many lives and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew them.

Can you believe Maine in December? It is nearly 50 degrees in southern Maine today. I consider I live in Southern Maine although there are some forty miles south of me still within the state boundaries. I did hear that Northern Maine (it's a very "high" state) there is some snow and there are temperatures in the very low numbers. On my journey to Standish to the radio station today I noted that the frost on the fields out that way was thick blurring all the golds and browns. Pretty but a little bleak. An interesting sight today as I drove along (Route 25, I think) (It's not that I don't know where I was, I just don't pay attention to route numbers) Anyway, I saw several really cute little red hens picking through the oak leaves at the edge of the road. There was no fence to keep them from straying into the considerable stream of traffic. I said a quick little prayer that if the "hen crossed the road" it wouldn't be in front of me. I have been to some countries in my limited travel where livestock, particularly hens and roosters, roam free. In Hawaii there are roosters all over the place. I never saw a dead one so maybe they get smart if they are free. Well, I travel a lot around Maine and those hens are the most livestock I have seen all fall.

Wednesday as I was getting out of my car here in Scarborough, a very large bird was flying toward the marshes (and the ocean). Every now and then it let out a really loud HONK. I know Canada Geese and their call, I know herons have long legs that stick out in the back as they fly. This was neither. It was a BIG bird and very loud. And all alone. Maine is a very interesting place if you take the time to look around.

My husband and I were walking by "Back Cove" in Portland one lovely fall day some years ago. I saw some marsh heather in bloom and commented I remembered gathering it at Goose Rocks when I was young. John, being considerate of my feelings about those long ago days, went off the trail and gathered me a sizable bunch of the salty smelling lavender flowers. As we walked along enjoying the day, me with my bouquet, there were many people "power walking" and jogging along with determination in every step.
One lady, coming toward us, powered by without a glance, but then came running back.
"Where did you get that heather?" she asked. "I haven't seen any in years."
"Right there by the side of the trail," we replied. "Oh, my," she said looking at the expanse of purple. "I never even noticed it." HELLO-O-O-O! Stop and smell the flowers, people. Look at the birds; check out the rocks.

From Scarborough, Maine
Jan Major, Mainly Mainely

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weeping rocks

We have entered the bleak days of mid-November. It is cold and damp and dreary and dim. I went early today to Yarmouth to let Nick have one more romp in his favorite place. I stopped to pick up a coffee and a bagel (pumpkin with raisin walnut cream cheese, light please) and before I got on the highway, the windshield was beginning to collect scattered drops. Thankfully they weren't snow, just that miniscule nasty stuff that makes turning the wipers on lowest setting.

I watch the rocks. They are nearly as interesting as the leaves and grasses. Maine has huge glacial rocks which have been violated in order to accommodate our extensive highway systems. Too bad. But it does give someone like me an opportunity to see what they look like inside. I don't know much about geology, practically noting in fact, but the rocks fascinate me, as I have mentioned before. Early this month the faces of the rocks were pale and dry; very cold appearing. Then we had a few nice days, and the rocks warmed with the sun. On the south side of the road the rocks became moist from recent rains draining from the soil above. Today it was cold. The rocks were bearded with strands of ice. Not the hard thick ice of winter, but the thin, thready strands on the most protruding surfaces. The deep cuts, randomly left by the blasts that split the rock open, were small dark pockets. The kind a kid might hide a secret message in if he had access to the rock.

Leaving the highway, going around the narrow off-ramp also cut through glacial rock, kids had painted some of the surfaces with white and blue and pink. The surface, slightly iced, blurred the words and lines of their graffiti. The town does not consider it a defacing worth the effort of erasing. I like the natural rock and wish the kids would respect the beauty they are obscuring.

At Nick's favorite place, the ground is still a bit mushy; the pine needles have been cleaned up. The bark of the trees is dark and cold, and the evergreens' young needles have turned their darkest winter green.. The old needles were the golden ones that dropped off and are long gone to composting. Walking in the yard, my feet felt the cold and damp of November.

At home, I clipped the last of the roses, some just budding but nipped by the frost, and put the covers over them. A light gust of wind blew all the covers off within minutes so I went back out to cover them again, and I found a few mid-sized rocks to hold them down. At Yarmouth I picked up some bigger, flatter stones to ensure the "rose cones" will stay put. Tomorrow I will cover the butterfly bush out front, put the lights on the shrubs and try to figure out a way to light my front door for the holidays.
A very nice Boy Scout came by yesterday selling wreaths, nicely decorated and ready to hang. $18. More than I have ever paid for a wreath.I purchased a bag of delicious chocolate covered popcorn from a Cub Scout earlier. $24. I like to think it is going to a good cause.

Cold, bleak November - rocks whose tears freeze on their faces.


Saturday, November 13, 2010


It was my pleasure this week to have three members of the American Legion Standish Maine Post as guests for my radio program, Community Focus. These members of the Legion served in three different branches of America's Armed Forces; Navy, Air Force and Army. Each expressed pride in their branch of the service, but joined in the common bond of "veteran of an armed conflict."

We discussed today's role for the Legion. Some posts have deactivated due to dwindling numbers. Some have had to give up post homes, but have managed to stay active in buildings shared by other civic entities. Currently, the post in Standish, which is Memorial Post 128, meets in a facility owned by the Standish Kiwanis. They are working to put enough money away to build their own Post home which they envision will be a community building with facilities for, not only their meetings, but the gatherings of other groups and civic events.

American Legion Memorial Post 128 has around 70 members. They meet once monthly for socialization and a brief formal meeting. Currently they are running a Bingo night at The Roost in Buxton. I am not a big Bingo fan, but my guests made it sound like a lot of fun and if it weren't at night I would be tempted to join them - at least once to test the waters.

Among civic activities the Post has been involved in: A formal and respectful flag disposal ceremony; visiting veterans in nursing home facilities, particularly the Maine Veterans' Home in Scarborough, and those at Togus Veterans' Hospital, Veterans' Day activities and Memorial Day activities. They are looking forward to 2011 for many activities and events.

I was impressed. I don't know why exactly it made such an impression on me, but I sat with these three men and I want to describe what I observed. Three men who served in three different branches of the armed services in a period of armed conflict; Europe, Asia - on foot, aboard ship, in the air. Everyone shaved, groomed, articulate, good humored, no foul language, respectful of each other and of their radio and internet audiences around the world. I am struck that these three men represent the best of Maine, the USA and our armed forces. They are dedicated to continuing the service of the American Legion, to helping the young men and women who are returning as veterans from the current conflicts, supporting the families waiting for them, supporting those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Honoring the flag, the laws of land, and working to leave behind a better community for the next generation.

I salute Will, Hal and Bruce today. And I thank them for giving me the opportunity to spend an hour with them; learn from them; and feel optimistic that an old tradition of the American Legion is continuing.

If you are interested in listening to this conversation with these three veterans, go to and look for Community Focus on the schedule for the times it will air.

Jan Major

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bronze November

There are two months of the year I could do without. One is March, the other November. But March does have a little to recommend it - it is the precursor to Spring. November - ? Not so much.

As I was driving east this week on a sunny afternoon, most of the trees were bare except for those oaks whose bronze leaves cling fiercely to their mother/trees. the evergreens are dark to almost black; the hardwood trees are forlornly bare and gray. The tide was out in the bay as I crossed the Martin's Point Bridge. The bare cold flats were slightly brown from the sunlight, slick and sticky looking. Just by looking you could tell if you stepped into them you would sink boot deep in the muck. A clammer, was trudging along, clam rake over shoulder and basket in hand. I think you have to have a license to dig clams so maybe he was just getting those ugly blood worms for bait. Anyway, he was picking his steps trying to stay a course without getting stuck. November is all gray and brown and bronze, bronze being the only attractive color among them. The first year I was away from home for my November birthday, my parents sent me a bouquet of bronze chrysanthemums. They added a cheerful note to my otherwise drab YWCA room.

The weather is uncertain. We have just had a miserable two days of wind and rain, which cleared out a bit this afternoon and is supposed to give way tomorrow to a nice day. I will be heading south to spend most of the day with music friends.

Things have to be done in November. Shut off the outside faucets. Clean up the plants that have struggled to survive this long. Fill the bird feeders. Get the storm door glass put in. The doors in these condos are ridiculously complex. You have to completely exchange the glass and screen seasonally. The glass,of course, is dangerously heavy for an old woman to handle, hence, someone has to come do it for me. Storing it is a pain. But I am sure the price was right, and most everyone who was involved in the initial installations was at least twelve years younger than they are now. No foresight. Now we are mostly old women/widows who would appreciate an easy to manage self-storing appliance. But changing the doors is most definitely not on the association agenda. The truth is, we would have to pay for them ourselves, and they all have to be exactly alike. Not a chance in hades getting that to pass. I'm told I am getting a neighbor in the condo attached to mine. That may make November worth having.

November does have a few of noteable dates: tomorrow night before we go to sleep we should set our clocks back (unless you live in one of the four states that do not observe DST); Veterans' Day is November 11. It used to be called Armistice Day, but several wars later, the WWI Armistice lost it's importance, although honoring veterans did not. On Thursday, November 11 at noon, the radio station I am affiliated with (doesn't that sound important!) will do a tribute to the armed services. This is a repeat of the program I put together a couple of years ago.
Thanksgiving Day, a bright spot at the end of the month, heralding the coming of the Christian and Jewish Holy Days.

Post election, there were winners and losers on my ticket. I didn't have any bets on any of them, but took some pleasure that some of my choices made it to the winners' circle. Now we will wait and see how much can be done with the changes that will take place in February when the electees take their places in both the state and federal offices.

November, brown, gray and beautiful bronze. Oh, yes, and the bright orange of hunters as they prowl the woods and fields for venison on the hoof.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Apple A Day -

I heard last week that the "apple a day" saying is true, if you eat them at the right time of day and choose your variety according to your needs. But then the commentator said you have to eat three to four a day. That's a lot of apples.

Anyway, the Portland Press Herald (Wednesday, September 8) had a whole article on the various kinds of apples available, and a little information on each one as to use, taste, and availability. I looked for "pumpkin sweets"which was a yellow apple my Dad used to get for us in Lebanon, Maine at a very old orchard, run by a very old man. (I was very young, so he could have been 50, of course.) There were about 40 apple varieties described, several I never heard of. What was interesting about this article - the information as to where each variety can be found (by orchard, not super market) and recommendations about use.

I don't cook anymore, but I make a lot of apple sauce. I buy a half bushel, wash, quarter, core and cook. Then comes the tedious part of putting them through the Foley Food Mill. I always end up with bursitis. The price for the tasty treat I freeze in little half-cup portions and relish daily. It gets to be a habit: a little apple sauce with my daily dose of supplements.

For this annual ritual I use nothing but Macs. I went to the orchard a couple of years ago and the owner and his wife talked me into a crate of Macouns. Big mistake. For eating I prefer the hard sweet Red Delicious, Galas and Paula Reds. In this article there is a Winter Banana. I like bananas, but I want my apples to taste like apples, not bananas. The Snow Apple is listed as an heirloom apple, as is the Wealthy, Nodhead and Newtown Pippin. Now that Pippin is said to be have the favorite apple of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, I cannot go into all 40 varieties without boring you, but if it interests you, contact the Press Herald and see if they still have the article on line.

The nice thing about apples is they keep in giving. Sauce, Pie, Cider, Jelly, Apple Butter. No wonder God put that tree in His Garden. No wonder the first couple were tempted by it. Not quite fair on God's part to put such an attractive fruit within their reach and tell them not to touch it. But then, they were His first kids so what did He know about parenting. Those first kids are always an experiment.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indian Summer -

SUMMER, You old Indian Summer -
This must be it. The temp on my patio is closing in on 70 degrees. The sun is shining. I have always believed Indian Summer is the a warm spell after the first hard frost, and it will herald the coming of true Autumn which according to the calendar is October 21.

This morning as I made my weekly trip to Portland for my music class, there was fog so thick you could not see the traffic lights until you were practically under them. As I was approaching the lights at Hannaford Drive, a little black convertible, top down, went flying past me. Did that middle aged driver 50ish driver, coffee in hand, have super vision. I think not as he had to stomp on his brakes at the fog-dimmed red light.
I am not a fan of fog and today's was worthy of a London mystery scene.

Coming home was a bit different. No fog. No sun. Mackerel skies; you know, the sky with all the little disconnected blobs of clouds that resemble the skin of a mackerel fish.
I needed to go grocery shopping and decided it was better to do it on the way home than to have to go out again. I spent quite a lot of time - and considerable cash - at the local Hannaford's Super Store, and when I came out - lo and behold! the sun was shining and the clouds had gone the way of the morning fog.

I understand we are going to have nice weather for the next few days and Hallowe'en will be dry. The kids won't have to wear their costumes over their snow suits as they go out "trick or treating." I don't have many kids at my door usually. I give out juice boxes - maybe that's why they don't come.

Monday, October 25, 2010


We used to be the state that boasted that saying - now there are states that have earlier primaries, and states that apparently have earned the right to it. Maybe Maine was not the first to use it, it's immaterial, I guess.

I used to live in Maine's largest city, but since I am no longer a resident there I suppose any opinion I have does not mean "squat" as the cliche goes. I still read the Portland news with interest. Portland is considering on this year's ballot, making it possible for non-citizen residents who are legally in the U. S. the right to vote on local issues and candidates. Does this mean that they can vote for the candidates who go to the State House and Senate, from their local districts, which then makes them voting summarily on State issues?

Would their ballots be different from the ones handed out to everyone and is that discriminating? Would the city of Portland have to set up a separate voting list of non-citizen legal residents? Has anyone figured out how to effectively and positively making sure there are no errors and how much this whole thing is going to cost the citizen of the city?

Portland's proposal to the voters has made it into the national news. Fox reported on it this morning, and stated that there are at least two other cities already allowing legal resident voting. They also stated New York "used to have it" . Now my questions are: why does New York no longer have it, and how is it working in the cities which do?

Further, how soon will it become Maine law once Maine's largest city embraces it?

You can probably already discern from this that I would not vote for it if I were a Portland resident. Being a tax payer does not accord the right to vote. Becoming a citizen gives one the right to vote.

I encourage all legal residents of Portland to pursue the path of American Citizenship.
Learn the language, become productive members of Maine's population. Then you may vote and feel proud that you have earned that right.

Jan Major

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm trying -

Yeah, I'm trying -
I'm trying to understand why a seven room three bedrooms house in Scarborough with two baths, a two car garage built on 1.2 acres of land, is taxed at $2833 while my single story condo with living room, kitchen, 2 bedroom, 1-3/4 bath, sunroom, and single garage is taxed at $3088. And I have to pay for trash removal, plowing and street lights. The town says they can't

I'm trying to figure out why I paid a State Income Tax this year, and then got a little check in the mail to compensate for my high taxes/low income. And why am I paying a State Tax when the Fed says I don't owe them anything?

I'm trying to figure out why I have to go to my general practitioner who charges my insurance and Medicare $160, so he can tell me I need to see a specialist - a fact which I already knew. And now the insurance company and Medicare have to pay the specialist.
I could have saved them the $160 because I already knew my GP could not take care of my problem.

I'm trying to understand why the government is talking about proactive medicine, but when I go to my naturopathic nutritionist, who is truly proactive and very effective, the government will not recognize that and contribute to the cost.

And I am also trying to figure out how we ever got to the point where a doctor charges more than he could if he didn't have to figure in how much less the government and the insurance company were going to compensate him for his services.

Dishonesty reigns. Hospitals charge $3 for pills we can buy at the drug store for pennies; bigger bucks for medical kits place in a patients chart but never used. Doctors charge a consultation fee for looking in and saying hello.

How did the ophthalmologist fee go from $220 a year ago, to $479 this year? He didn't build a new building or use any new equipment. He put the same kind of drops in my eyes, and spent the same amount of time writing out a scrip.

Why are all roads and highways torn up at once and the signs all say "under construction" and the equipment is idle beside the road and not a laborer is in sight? The street coming into Stoney Creek was "scarfied" and a layer of recycled paving was put down. The man hole covers were exposed by four inches. Going over them was a jolt so I slalomed around them all through August and September. Last week without warning, the trucks rolled in and the flag people - who hold signs that say stop/slow - took up their stations.
Now we have a nice smooth road with a straight course and no cursed man hole covers to dodge. What I would like to know is what were they doing for the two months between start and finish?

When I am eighty I plan to stop trying to figure out all these weighty problems. But I am only (nearly) 79 so I have a little time yet to solve them. Meanwhile, I think I will go out and look at the lovely leaves along the road and the beautiful big glacial rocks which have been rudely hacked into to provide the road. I wonder why they didn't go over those rocks? It would have made great hills for viewing the world beyond.

Janice in Maine

Friday, October 15, 2010


As many times as they have gotten it wrong, I really really thought the prognosticators were just hyping the weather again. I could visualize them jumping up and down with glee like children waiting at the circus door. BUT - I was wrong; they were right. We are getting driving rain bough bending winds. While the vision of the weather wo/men runs around in my head, the vision of Central Maine Power Company linemen wringing their hands with anxiety is just as vivid. In recent weeks I have seen those "bucket brigades" on the sides of the roads all over southern Maine, trimming the overhanging limbs and making sure lines are in good condition. God Bless Them. Weather is a temporary condition here, as I have mentioned before.

The last morning glory has faded and curled up. But there are still roses struggling to bloom and the snapdragons and salvia are colorful. The beautiful Rose of Sharon tree did not survive its transplant. I didn't take it out because the morning glories used the bare branches for a trellis. I will mulch it this fall and hope that maybe the roots have survived.

I had the bright idea that I could make a mulch bed in an area that the dog enjoys, and the mower had to back into. It is between my privacy hedge of some kind of evergreen and the edge of the patio. It was not my best "bright idea." Nick still enjoys it, but now he brings in scrids of mulch clinging to his underbelly, his feet and his haunches. I try to get it off before he comes into the house, but strangely it clings stubbornly until he gets to the living room carpet where it just drops off readily. Today because the grass is wet he will pretend he is a ballerina and tiptoe daintily off the patio. But he knows what he is out there for and he will make short work of his chores. He will not pester to go in and out very often today. Loves the wind, hates the rain.

Good day to do more sorting of music. Fold laundry. Move dishes I don't use to high shelves. Write letters. Write a racy novel. Call a shut in friend. Carve a pumpkin for Hallowe'en.

What do you get with the divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?

Pumpkin pi.

OOH! that's awful.

Have a great day. Janice

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I have already said much about the colors in Maine and the changing seasons. But yesterday I was driving from Standish to Kennebunk via Route 35, a rural route through farm lands and very small villages - really just corners - with a church, a corner store; an elementary school, a day care, a town hall, a small square building with "library" on a sign out front. A junky front yard belonging to some frugal Mainer who can't resist yard sale bargains even though he has not immediate use for it. Very definitely Maine scenery.

The road is "curvaceous" and has ups and downs in various unpredictable sequences. I saw more than one horse farm. One said "breeding farm" another said "quarter horses" and yet another said "boarding farm." I was upset at the "quarter horse" farm because it was very wet and the fenced area looked to small for the two horses that were standing in it. Behind the farm there was a very nice field, and to one side there was a white fenced area that had two horses grazing. I felt sad for the two horses standing in the swampy area.

As I drove on I saw a nice farm with wire fences which look like the ones at my daughter-in-law's farm. One horse was contentedly grazing inside the fence.
A second was contentedly grazing beside the road, clearly out of bounds. The old "the grass is always greener" syndrome I guess.

I saw a farm with a large field of pumpkins of all sizes resting in the sun amid their limp brown leaves and vines. Charlie Brown's utopia, I thought to myself.
I saw ponds that were full of last week's heavy rain, and little roadside streams that were overflowing their banks. Rain this time of year is good. It assures us of a good hunting season. Wet leaves and soggy ground are quiet to walk in, and the critters leave good trails. Yesterday I heard the gunshots in the Scarborough Marsh as the hunters were out for the ducks and geese that stop over on their way south. I don't like to think of them getting shot. I hear the rest of the flock screaming as they fly away. I am too old and too near my own demise to enjoy the thrill of hunt and kill.

Well, as I drove at my leisure enjoying all the scenery and thinking how much land there is in Maine, and a lot of it is still undeveloped. There are still huge wooded areas and ponds that are not polluted. I glanced in the mirror. My goodness, there were a lot of cars behind me enjoying the day too....or maybe they were not. Maybe I was keeping them from their appointed rounds and they were cursing that "d----- old woman in the minivan" for going 25 mph on a road that clearly could handle 45, although the signs say 35 - but were those the speed signs or the route signs? I stepped up the speed to the legal limit and hope they were enjoying the scenery as I was. I gave them plenty of opportunity - it's their fault if they didn't take advantage of it.

Enjoy the season. It's sometimes all too short. jem

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

God willing and the creek don't rise ....

I wasn't expecting it. Last week were were prepared for a storm of epic proportions, according to the weather men on all the local stations. I wasn't disappointed when it didn't happen, but it took another rung out of the ladder those prognosticators stand on.
They get all excited, go to work in rain gear, warn everyone about driving through puddles, etc. etc. We cancel plans, go to music class wearing puddlesafe shoes, rain coats, carrying "brollies" and protecting our coiffures with plastic hoodies. NOTHING!
That was last week.

I wasn't expecting today's deluge. I may have heard the weather man or woman telling about it, but after last week I didn't pay any attention. I heard we were going to get an overnight shower somewhere between here and there. I did hear something about more precip in the mountains than in the south. Well, I woke up this a.m. to what I think was last week's storm. The rain was washing down Stoney Creek Road in rivulets. The patio was slick. There were the beginnings of puddles. It rained all day; the wind blew and the leaves came down all wet and sticky. They have stuck to the patio furniture; the screens, the driveway.

But as they say, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. It seems to be clearing tonight and the weather man has told us it will be clear tomorrow. I'll wear my puddle jumper shoes, my rain coat and carry my "brollie" because frankly, I don't trust that guy in the little box in my living room. I think he looks at computer models and maps all day and doesn't go out to look up at the sky or smell the air.

I am just grateful today was rain an not snow. jem

Saturday, October 2, 2010

SIgns of what's to come

I came into my bedroom and on the way to bathroom I stopped to look out the window for a minute. The window is almost always open a little. I like fresh air while I am sleeping. Tonight the little bit of air coming in through the very small opening is cold. I mean it feels really cold. It is only October 3rd and I am thinking I may need to get out my flannel nighties.

As I looked out the street is bare and gray, and the yellow street light casts a limited amount of light across the autumn lawn. An autumn lawn is a little dull and damp looking if there has been rain, and yes, we have had a good bit of rain recently. My thoughts went to what I would be looking out on in a few short weeks. And I wondered as I stood there, do I really want to spend the rest of my winters here in the cold. No, I really don't. But I am no wealthy enough to own two homes, and my income will not stand for renting winter quarters and closing my condo.
So, I am thinking I should sell this place and buy a mobile home. You know, one of those forty foot behemoths that I so hate to be behind when I am traveling. I think about it to the extent I am wondering if my organ would fit in it. Would I be able to take a car along as I traveled. Where would I find a really good park to reside in both in Maine and in a warmer climate. I would have to find a reliable, honest and capable man to drive me as the seasons changed. Does that mean I would have to have him stay in the mobile home with me as we made the journey, or would he be willing to stay in a motel. I would have to pay his expenses and a per diem. I would have to allow stops for my dog. In my head I am working out all the details. Separation from friends. Family. Getting mail. I am sure people do this but it seems like more trouble than I am ready to confront.

I guess I will start getting out my cold weather clothes and stay right here. At least this year. And probably next - and next. When the world is white with new snow, and the street light makes sparkles on the surface, and the furnace warms up my cozy condo; when my family comes for Christmas; when my friends come for music - I will wonder why I every considered leaving it all for a constant summer.

Sometimes it's fun to dream of "maybe" but reality can be very pleasant too. I think my reality is pretty nice.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Maine is beginning to show the best colors in New England. But it's funny. Maine people make trips to New Hampshire and Vermont. All the while residents of those states come here. I have seen dozens of Florida cars lately and there are still many license plates from Canada. Canada must have beautiful fall colors so I don't think they are here for the foliage. Rather that they are here for the last glorious days at the local beaches where still, some days are warm enough to enjoy sitting on the beach and even if you're hardy enough, to go for a dip in the chilly Atlantic. I think the lakes and ponds have cooled significantly, but a lake surrounded by Maine hardwoods and evergreens make lovely retreats for those not inclined to swim. And the fishing is still good for those who like to dip a hook and line.

I drive to Yarmouth frequently - about seventeen miles from my home - and I watch the changes almost daily. Very interesting. Even the rocks take on a different tone. As the moisture increases as it has recently the rocks darken and the striation is markedly distinct. I happen to love rocks. I pick them up here and there and bring them to my limited garden space. Once when my husband and I were visiting Canada in the St. John area I noted that the rocks were a very red hue. I said I was going to stop and pick some up. My husband was aghast. "You'll get arrested!" he admonished me. "If everybody took a rock there wouldn't be any left!" I learned afterward that some states do penalize people from removing rocks which are considered part of their natural habitat. (Do rocks have habitats or does that word only apply to living things?)
I have a nice piece of petrified wood which I actually bought in a rock shop. I don't put that outside in the garden. I paid $5 for it and the man who sold it told me it was a bargain. In Maine we are not supposed to remove rocks from the shore. When I was a child the neighbors at Goose Rocks Beach had an outside fireplace built and every rock came from the shore. They also had a beautiful indoor fireplace built of field stone. That fireplace had a tooth of mine bedded in the mortar. Mr. Sullivan was the stone mason and he told me it would be there forever. Alas, the whole area burned in the forest fires of 1947, and fireplace, which was all that was left, was knocked down in order to build a new cottage.

Back to colors. The sumac right now are not exactly red, but not brown. They are an amazing deep mix that might be nearest to maroon. And then the leaves are turning yellow and I wonder why I have never seen a wall paper or cloth with that startling combination. I still have a very blue morning glory climbing up the fence. It is so entangled in the branches of a bush I tried to trim I had to leave the chore for later in the season. The roses are truly faded. The red is now pink and the yellow is nearly white. The healthy grass is very green, but the "stuff" in the front has been cut too short all year, and is full of some alien growth which is rusty brown. Each fall it looks like this, and each spring it seems to come back to life. The evergreens are a very dark as they harden up for the cold weather to come.

And so the palette changes from day to day. And if you don't stop to look around, to see the marsh grass become golden and tough, to see the brown cat tails burst and become fuzzy-headed wands, to see the milk weed dry and open and scatter their feathery seeds over the fields, you are missing the greatest show on earth.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rushing -----

Rushing - we are now rushing to get ready for the "real fall" which is that brief moment between Indian summer and winter. This time of year we revel in the last flowers of the season. I hate clipping the roses back as long as there is a bud that might get a chance to bloom.

I have a honeysuckle vine which grows on a plastic trellis. It is beautiful all summer long, the humming birds love it and the honey bees come to gather the nectar the birds miss. It became very heavy and in recent windy weather the whole thing collapsed. I bought a package of L-hooks (you cannot buy just one, you know) and screwed it into the fence. I struggled but finally got the whole thing hung back in place. There were still blossoms and the next day the hummingbirds were still visiting. Then, woe is me, the whole thing once again collapsed. I screwed yet another hook into the fence and rehung it. But I saw that it was so lush and heavy it would not stay long if I didn't prune it. As I said, I hate cutting any buds that might get a chance to blossom, so delayed the job.

Yesterday after my son had helped with spreading mulch I decided to tackle the honeysuckle. That vine was so intertwined the task was laughable. I would clip a branch and pull, and finding it firmly wound around another branch, I would clip and pull. And so it went. The pile of branches is still in the yard, the vine is still too heavy. But I punctured my arm with a particularly resistant stem, so being cautious about infection, I aborted the operation. I cleaned the wound (I should give so much blood when at the lab!) and put a "band- aid" on it. Later today on this beautiful almost-fall afternoon, I will go out and gather the branches and consider cutting that vine right off at the ground. It will come up, you know. You cannot kill a honeysuckle.

Further rushing toward "real fall" the road crews are working day and night all over Maine to finish "shovel ready" jobs which are "your tax dollars at work." The tax dollars may be, some of the road crew are leaning on their "ready shovels." The newest befuddling traffic controls are slim sticks that resemble inverted plumbers' helpers. Before actual work sites a row of these little sticks are supposed to tell you where you should be to get to where you want to go. Apparently these are a Maine thing, because several drivers "from away" have had accidents trying to figure out which side of them they should be on. I thought if I stayed in the middle I could make a decision when necessary, and found the middle is where I wasn't supposed to be. But being a native, I wasn't worried. There's more than one way to get most anywhere - if you know your way around.

The kids are back in school. This lessens the amount of traffic involving those amazingly clever youngsters who text, drink soda, drive and chat with their friends all at the same time - in little black cars with seven kids sharing three seat belts. Oh, yes, they do! BUT - now the big yellow school buses are filling up the roads - and they are not rushing. They had schedules to keep but unlike the commercial buses, they take their time, stopping every few hundred feet to pick up a cluster of backpacking babies leaving home for -- a day? What are they carrying in those backpacks? I thought they were going for at least the whole week. I can go to Chicago for a five day convention with a bag not much bigger than those.

Well, rushing on, I have to do some FALL CLEANING.

The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maine in September

I suppose it is no different in Maine than in other New England states, but Maine in September seems special to me. The weather really changes - daily - sometimes hourly. Today was just blah when I got up, but it seemed to clear up nicely until afternoon when a variety of clouds moved in from the north west (so the weatherman said) and overhead there were thick dark rain laden blankets. But layered above and below in random patterns, there were shades of gray. And around those there were puffy fluffy fleecy shifting white rimmed with gold clouds.

As I drove along I went into and out of showers. Some were almost blindingly torrential, thankfully very brief. Some were big drops that pelted. Some were fine as mist. The clouds were just doing what clouds do. Drifting around and occasionally tipping up and dumping on us.

The temperature has cooled significantly, but we will get more hot weather before winter sets in - and hopefully more rain - we need the woods to be wet to protect them from forest fires and to give the hunters and edge in November.

Another September in Maine event is the continuing road work. This year nearly every road is getting something done to it. Major rebuilding of crumbling bridges; resurfacing of miles of road that the commissioner declared "worn out." Fortunately most of the actual work is done at night, but all day long crews do what they can, and the flag men (who do not hold flags but double-sided "Stop/Slow" signs so why do they call them flag men?) anyway,they slow down the traffic causing people to get temperamental.

The kids are back in school so the buses rumble around from street to street. And the corners are populated with little ones in new sneakers and outfits. The orchards have signs out "U PICK" . I don't pick, thanks anyway. Lots of flowers are still blooming. Leaves are turning, and some are falling. Sweaters come out of the cedar chest; shorts go into storage. Farmers' markets are featuring fresh corn, cukes, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini (you can have my share of both). Today I saw a big bright blue bus with something about Jordan's Rolling Fresh Market lettered on it. Nice idea. Reminds me of being at the beach for the summer when Mr. Snyder came twice a week with his old Reo truck with the swinging scale, loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. Mr. Snyder had a strange accent. I asked my mother once why he talked "like that" and she said, with a straight face, "He is from Italy." ITALY? SNYDER? Did she really think that?

Enough. September in Maine - September in The Rain - glorious, last of summer September. Enjoy it while it lasts.


Monday, August 23, 2010


This is not really about Maine, although it applies here as well as everywhere in every side of life ~ in my opinion.

Trust may be the most important thing in our lives above all. From infancy we have to have trust: that our parents will protect and provide for us; that what they tell us is true as far as they know it. We are carried to doctors and have to trust that they will "do no harm" in our care. Children who go to day care have to trust, as do their parents, that those people will become parents "in locus" with the same conscience as our true parents.

We are taught to trust a "higher being" for those things over which we have no control. We pray to that end - trusting faithfully that our needs will be met, although we have no physical presence for reassurance. We place trust in our armies to serve and protect our country against all enemies from within and without. We trust our elected officials to uphold our laws, to not burden us with excessive taxes, suffocating laws, or intrusive inspection of our private lives. I believe our country was founded on principles of TRUST.


I could iterate a whole diatribe in answer to that question. It would be my opinions, some backed up by actual facts - like the money which has been trusted to governing bodies to provide for specific benefits and has been "borrowed" for other uses and never repaid - and some by assumption or opinion, but I am going to leave it, and the following as questions for you to think about.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Orange Colored Sky

The air today was beautiful. Last Wednesday a.m. I attended the AAA Driver Improvement Program. It three hours long and I highly recommend it. It is for seniors - reminders of law changes such as the bicycle 'share the road' rules; passing laws; seat belt, cell phone and distraction reminders. One of the issues the class leader kept stressing was to stay alert. I think I am an alert driver - but I suppose everyone has lapses now and then. Anyway, today I saw several dead animals (possum, skunk, porcupine} and wondered if being alert would have avoided them. I think not. They are not respecters of road rules and are apt to wait until a car gets almost to them - then dash. Of course, none of those three animals are "dashers." I think all three have poor eyesight. Anyway, there is a place where a hawk almost always can be seen catching the up-drafts and having such a wonderful time doing it. Today I noticed it and wished I were able to watch it longer. It makes soaring look so easy. But, alas, I was on the highway and stopping is not an option except for an emergency. With the construction being done in that area, even an emergency might not make it wise. In many places work is being done to widen the exits and entrances. Construction is definitely a distraction. ~~~ There are some areas on the drive to Yarmouth where blasting through ledges was necessary. I love rocks, so I observe them as I drive along. I don't know one type of rock from another, but these are striated with black, white and browns. When they are wet they look entirely different than right now when they are thoroughly dry. The trip is the same day in and day out, except that it constantly changes in roadside grasses and flowers, the trees take on different hues and even the rocks actually change appearance.

Coming home - yes, there was an orange colored sky. I waited a bit too long to head home so the sun was setting and the western sky became very orangy. Must be going to be hot and dry tomorrow again. There were no clouds and the temperature stayed around 70 until well after dark. A beautiful day in Maine, Orange Colored Sky and all. And the smell of the ocean when it turned was sweet to my sense. There can be no other place better this week.


Saturday, August 14, 2010


MAINE has a law which is supposed to stop people from dumping along the roadside. There are signs as you drive along warning that we fine people for doing it. But does anyone ever get caught?

Last week I was driving from home on USRoute 1 heading into Portland. As I entered the 295 ramp a dark blue Chevy van with cargo doors sped past me. I tried to get the license number and drove a little faster than legal in the attempt.
The license was a bit battered but I think it was either 5057 or 6057, and it had some letters. Anyway, as they drove along five or six miles to the first exit, they ejected a barrage of paper (looked like napkins and wrappers) from the passenger side. The papers fluttered and flew around in their wake,and ended up in the recently mowed grass.

As I drove along into the Falmouth-to-Yarmouth area, a six-pack carton with what I presume was empties laid at the edge of the road. It's unlikely that a cartman would be out there. It would be illegal, and dangerous to be walking in that highway. Further on there were plastic bags and all manner of trash; bottles, cans and clothing. Someone's shoe - a child's car seat.

Yesterday I saw a truck with some young men stopped beside the road. There was an assortment of furniture in the truck, and a sofa on the side of the road. I don't know if they lost the sofa off and were trying to get it back on the truck, or if they were just out picking up peoples junk. I hope they weren't thinking of putting that furniture in a dorm room somewhere. It looked pretty bad. AND-

this week's Leader tells of the bed bug infestations in Maine and elsewhere. Taking in furniture from the roadside could prove to be a disaster. According to the article bedbugs do not have economic standards. They love the poor and dirty and the rich and sanitary. Enough about that ugly topic! Back to DON"T DUMP ON ME -

WHAT'S WRONG WITH PEOPLE????? Everyone rants about recycling and the environment. I think I know what the problem is - no one ever gets caught. I have never seen a piece in the paper about someone getting prosecuted and fined or incarcerated for littering. IF you've ever been caught littering and had to pay up, please let me know. It would restore my faith in ---something, I just don't know what. Anyway, if you are in Maine and you have trash to dump,
DON'T DUMP ON MAINE! Take it home, please.

NOW on the plus side of all this, I saw a large truck being driven by a very able looking man, going slowly along the edge of the highway coming back from Yarmouth to Scarborough. A couple of orange-vested and capped men were in the grass beside the highway with sticks with picks on the end, carrying large black plastic bags, picking up the litter. Your tax dollars at work. A very uneconomical truck, and three employees paid by the state cleaning up someone's misdemeanor. But then, isn't it always the way? Someone makes a mess and someone else either cleans it up or pays to have it cleaned up.

Been to Florida? There are stretches of highways there adopted by civic-minded companies whose employees regularly go out and pick up trash. OF course, that probably puts some unionized state worker out of a job. Bummers!

That's it. DON'T DUMP ON ME (Maine, that is.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Manana -

You know that song - Manana - All the tasks that can be put off for tomorrow~~
Summer in Maine means this is MANANA. The roofers are in the Creek doing all of the units. It was a necessary job as the original roofing by the builder was so shoddy, our roofing material did not last and the shingles were, according to the inspector, "fried." Each day at the very reasonable hour of 9:00 a.m. they arrive with machinery and men and the tapping begins. They are still a couple of units away from me, but I hear them and the sound is actually welcome. I don't want to wake up some rainy morning and to find water water everywhere.

Other things that have to happen in Maine in summer is road repair. It has been said we have only two seasons, "road repair and winter." It makes timing my usually routine trips become uncertain treks. Closed lanes, shut down ramps to the interstate and state routes, impatient drivers, overloaded trucks with overtired truckers - and thousands of tourists.

Tourists! Amazing that they keep coming and coming from all over the world to this vast state with its variety of attractions. I saw in today's paper that a ski resort which is struggling to find the right mix of all-season reasons for becoming a destination, is holding some kind of competition for supermen.
They will have to slog through a mud wallow, climb through pipes, scale walls, run up hills, and various other challenges to prove they are "the best." I am not sure what it proves they are the best at, but some one of them will go away with the trophy, and if the event goes well, the resort will have made money, as will the surrounding communities where tourists will spend, spend, spend.

There are cruise ships coming in to Portland all summer; five will be in this week alone. The Old Port, Portland's "shoppe" area will do well as long as they passengers don't all decide they need to see the Bush summer home in Kennebunkport, or make a trip to L.L. Bean in Freeport.

The beaches, beautiful sandy stretches or secluded little coves among the great rocky shoreline, are filled daily with colorfully almost-clad, well SPF oiled folks, some of whom actually go in the ocean to swim or play. Kids don't mind the cold ocean. I spent many hours in it myself as a child. The lakes have shore areas too. I cannot bring myself to call them beaches. The sand is commonly more like fine gravel, and the little swells that reach shore cannot be called waves - unless, of course, a large speed boat passes near by. Or a summer storm churns up the usually placid fresh water. The first time I swam in fresh water, I was about eleven years old, and I gagged. Warm and tasteless, not at all tangy and icy like sea water.

Maine is a beautiful state from May to November. And even from December to April, if you don't mind cold, snow, ice, mud, the quiet of no roofers doing their jobs, roads that are already constructed, and many fewer cars on the road.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Maine in August

Maine in August is very green. The evergreen tips have all matured and there is very little "coming in" right now. It has been unusually hot and somewhat dry for the past several days which means some of the green is turning a nice gold. However, a good rain will bring color back yet again until fall really sets in.

The daylight is shorter, of course, but most evenings are lovely and cool. The lakes will cool quickly with the cooler nights, and the summer vacationers with kids will begin to drift back to their "school zones." My own grandson, the youngest, is heading out soon for Ohio State. (Much too far away, in my way of thinking.) He stops by often to see me on his way home from the local race track where he is a ticket seller or teller or whatever they call them now. Perhaps because he always knew he would go to college, or maybe because he is just a very confident kid, he doesn't seem to have all the excited angst I expected.

Anyway, back to Maine in August. There is a lot of political bustling. We will go to the polls in November to elect a new governor; ours is term limited out. And not too soon, I might add. I really don't know what he has done that has been outstandingly good or bad. But I am all for the 8-year rule. He won't be among the unemployed, I am sure. We will also, along with the rest of the country, take a long look at our Congressional Representatives. If Maine goes for "kick the bums out" it will be interesting to see who gets in. Dean Scontras is hoping to unseat Chellie Pingree. I am hoping Dean will succeed. I am one of those dissatisfied people who got invited to participate in a telephone town hall, was told I was "next in the queue" and waited while several people got in and Ms. Pingree recited LOOOOOONG pat answers, which served mostly to tell what she had done for us. Thanks but no thanks.

The fairs are starting up, beginning with the "up-state" ones. The Common Ground Fair is one I have always thought I would attend, but, alas, now that I am old and my knees complain when I expect them to trek overly long, I will probably never get there.
I will hope perhaps to get to the Cumberland Fair which is one of the last in the state.
The Acton Fair is a smaller agri-fair. I am not much for oxen-pulling or rabbit raising.
But actually, I do like the roosters with their fancy headdress and foot "feathers."

Maine still has a lot of summer camps for kids. With schools opening earlier every year (or so it seems) they will be winding up their activities. Two lake beaches ( a beach is at the ocean, in my vocab, but fresh water fans call those yellow stretches of shore "the beach") have had to close this year because of e-coli contamination which the health authorities attribute to soiled diapers being improperly disposed of. But don't panic. Maine has hundreds of those "beaches" so if fresh water is your choice, just keep moving on until you come to on.

Cool night, warm days, the quince bushes are dropping their leaves exposing the bitter fruit (looks like an apple but - whoooeee! - are they sour), bee balm, asters, late roses.
Maine is lovely in August.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am not certain if tonight is "the full of the moon" but it appears to be full, and as silver as I have ever seen it. There are a few clouds and occasionally one passes between earth and moon, and the effect is Hollywood picturesque. Wherever you are, I hope you have an opportunity to look at a setting sun and a rising moon occasionally. If you live to be 100 you will only have 1200 opportunities to see sunup, sunset or the full moon. SO take every opportunity and enjoy the view.

Today I played the organ at the MVH so I did not get to take Nick to Yarmouth until fairly late. I picked up a few essential groceries so it was late afternoon before we got on the road. And, subsequently, it was sunset when we were on our way home. As I drove over the 295 bridge between Portland and Scarborough, I saw the sun was an unusual pale gold, nearly as silver as the moon. And above it was a vast cloud of slate gray. The beautiful thing about that was on the lower edges of the cloud it was a beautiful glowing pale gold. You could not paint that picture and duplicate the shades of summer sky. Last night was a different artwork: the sun was scarlet and the clouds were all tinged with rose-gold, a true reflection of the sun. We have had a couple of weeks of very hot and humid weather, but the weather forecast is a west wind to bring down the temperatures and dry out the air. Many of us will be grateful for the change.

Sigmund Romberg is one of my very favorite composers. Silver Moon is a really lovely piece which seldom is heard, unless you happen to stumble onto an old recording of Romberg's work. Lowrey Organ Company used to put out books of specific composers and one is of his musicals. It is simple music, but if you happen to find those books, pick them up because the music is delightful, and no longer in print in that format. Because I am doing a radio program of Broadway Shows I have recently picked up a CD of three Romberg musicals. The vocals are nice, but our organ instruments are perfect for playing them. Romberg's mother was a poet and his father was an amateur musician, so I suppose it was not unexpected that he became a romantic composer. Some of his works are May Time, Student Prince, The Girl in Pink Tights - what you never heard of that one? It was his last and he died shortly after it was completed. Sigmund Romberg once said, "A love song is just a caress set to music."

Our classes at Starbird Music,with John as our "class leader" (Lowrey's designation),
are going well. The number of people regularly coming has improved, and John's tips are bound to move us forward. It is a "baby steps" process to get the program back in line, but it is happening. We are all grateful to the Starbird owners and staff for aiding this improvement. We are looking forward, with John, to spreading the word and the music into the communities of Southern Maine. There is no dealer in New Hampshire, so the territory is really wide open. As we already have people who travel 35 to 40 miles to participate, to hope for people from York County is not unreasonable. Maine is a large state, but - you can get HERE from THERE!

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Maine being very un-Mainely

This has been an unusual couple of weeks with old fashioned hot weather which reminds me of those long ago days of my youth. I think we used to get some scorchers in August, but July is certainly outdoing itself this year. Today it is in the 90's by my patio which is the shady part of my yard in the afternoon. This noon it was over 100 out there. I do not have AC because there are usually only four or five days all summer when I feel a need for it. If this is going to be the trend, I will have to reconsider.

Due to the early warmth the evergreen tips which are a lovely shade of new green at this time of year, are already beginning to darken. The plants that usually blossom into early August are already losing color. Delphiniums, honeysuckle, day lillies - last week beautiful displays of contrasting color, are now dropping dried blossoms. Too soon they fade away.

Plants in Maine have a short life, for the most part. Perhaps nature planned it that way so every variety can have its day. The Japanese quince, lilacs, mock orange - all bloom in turn in the early spring, and then come the butterfly bushes, Rose of Sharons, obedience plants other mid-summer stars.
Some last into fall, but most give way to the fall flowers. A favorite Maine "flower" is he sun flower which turns its head to the sun as it moves across the sky. Roses do well if the right ones are planted. I lost several rather pricey ones last winter because the snow cover was so light. I'm no gardener, but I know what I like. COLOR, COLOR, COLOR.

Maine has some invasive plant that even the most diligent efforts cannot seem to handle. The purple loose strife is a pretty roadside plant. But, oh! how fast it spreads. It has choked out a lot of native wildflowers, so they tell me.
There used to be fields with indian paint brush, daiseys, tall pink clover - many plants I cannot name. There are still tall cat-o-nine tails in the low lands and in the gutters beside the highways. I like those but when they dry out they burst into gazzillions of fuzzy seeds and if you happen to have brought them into your house - well, it's a nightmare. There are fields of milkweed just blossoming. Milk weed attracts those big green caterpillars that turn into huge moths. They only live long enough to mate, so I am told, and then they are history. I kept one of those caterpillars in a large pickle jar one year. I had no idea that the moth that emerged would be so big! I stood fascinated as the wings unfolded - and unfolded - and unfolded. He was a good six inches across. Of course, I released him after I had taken him to the children's school. Parental show and tell, you know.

Maine is beautiful this time of year. The harbor is full of sails - not all white, and the pier boasts the docking of a cruise ship about every three days. The islands are just slightly blurred by the Atlantic haze and the smell of salt water inspires to breathe deeply.

Things are not as I remember them as a child, but it is still the place I would choose above all others to spend the rest of my days. COME TO MAINE.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hearing Sounds of Maine

A few nights ago a friend called and asked if I would like to go to the LOBSTER SHACK for supper. And we did. The Lobster Shack is a small facility with very limited indoor space and a quite large outdoor dining area right on a tip of land on the rocky coast. It has been there for many years, once just a tiny "take out" and now a thriving summer attraction. What does that have to do with "Sounds of Maine!" Well --

The tide was out when we got there. When the tide is out they low swells reach the rocks and gently flow over the low rocks barely making more than a whisper. Noises of people - young and old - as they waited for their orders or waited in line to place orders were an interesting mix of languages. There were Asian, Indian, and European visitors, as well as those from within our own US from states as far away as California, Florida, Washington State, all with different voices. There were children climbing on the rocks, examining the tide pools, calling back to watchful parents about their finds. There were the watchful parents calling to the children to be careful, to come eat, or to just "COME!" I over heard one dad scolding his bespectacled six year old to "never go away again without telling him." She said "OKAY!" and skipped back over the rocks.
I remember, just barely, when I could do that. Every now and then the voice from the "SHACK" called out a number - well into the four hundreds - announcing another order ready.

The sea birds were floating up and down over the low swells just off shore , now and then calling out a message to the rest of the flock, maybe issuing a challenge, or speaking of contentment. The establishment does not "allow" feeding the gulls, but who can predict that a child will drop a french fry, or someone will accidentally tip up the remainder of their meal. Gulls wait nearby and are amazingly swift at picking up after the careless patrons. The unfortunate gulls who weren't quick enough, got left out, and their squawk is legend. Some screech, some sound like complaining cats. Some utter low snarls.

The breeze off the ocean was not actually much relief on this very hot evening, but as the sun set the air did cool a bit. Suddenly I became aware that the sounds from the ocean had changed. The tide had turned. The waves were no longer just gently flowing over the low rocks. They were now gathering volume and butting against them. The wash flowed into the lowest tidal pools. Foam formed at the crests and was left behind in small beards. Within thirty minutes the waves were strong and forceful, assaulting the rocks incoming, and dragging back around them. The sounds became audible over the voices, which seemed to have diminished along with the heat of the sun. Two metal sculptured mobiles were spinning in the increased breeze and emitting a new sound like a sound of a child's pinwheel but much louder. A wind chime tinkled at the Candle Shack Gift Shop. What a lovely music it all made.

The night we were there was not foggy, but on a foggy night the electronically triggered fog horn blasts out its warning to the ships at sea that they are approaching the dangerous rocky coast. The old fog horn was heard all over the area. The new fog horn is pre-directed and we don't hear it much on land. I liked the old fog horn

In summer when I was a child the sound of the waves would lull me to sleep at night. The sound of the "one lunger" lobster boats would wake me early in the morning. On nights when the tide was out I would like awake for hours and that is when my imagination would run rampant visualizing all the what-ifs of childhood.

When we moved back to Kennebunk in the fall, the sound of the Unitarian Church bell, a great Paul Revere creation I was told, would strike hourly - maybe at the half also. I would complain for perhaps three nights that it kept me away, and then it too became the sound that put me to sleep. At nine each night the "nine o'clock whistle" would blow and if I was still awake, it cued my time to drop off.

Onn nice days I take my dog to Yarmouth were he gets a chance to run in my son's enclosed land. Nick doesn't like snow plows, lawnmowers or cars that lug boats. or trailers. He also doesn't care for vehicles that tote canoes or ladders on top. Don't ask my why. The tall trees there are almost never completely still. They are home to a variety of birds and squirrels. It doesn't take much to get the high branches swaying gently making a sound which makes me think of someone riffling through a handful of papers. When I am there I enjoy listening to that quiet noise which I understand some people pay money to get in a bedside machine. Mixed with the chirping of small sparrows and the occasional tweet of some larger bird I can't identify, the traffic passes with a variety of noises. The big blue bus that takes passengers from an off-site parking lot to the boat ramp grinds with it's load of passengers, luggage, bicycles and groceries. I was recently told this is the "new bus" - much better than the "old bus."

Interrupting the relative quiet, except for the traffic, my dog Nick waits and watches at the street side of the fence for the lawn care trucks hauling mowers, the utility trucks with their ladders on top, or the vacation boater hauling ihis fourteen footer home after a few hour on the ocean. Then he takes off. He is old and sometimes lame, but comes remarkably to life like a horse headed for the barn. He barks noisily until they are out of sight around the bend - and then he watches and waits all over again. I throw the ball for him and he picks it up, but if one of those pesky vehicles goes by, the ball gets left on the spot and the chase is on.

The lakes of Maine are hidden among trees and at the foot of hills. They don't have the beach fronts of the ocean, but there are sandy areas that pass for beaches. Having grown up by the ocean, I never think of them as beaches. There are no strong waves unless there is a storm. The larger lakes can whip up very credible waves when the wind is strong. The sounds by the lake are mostly breezes blowing through the trees, and the voices of the many who prefer fresh water to salt for their swimming and boating. The sounds of boats are not, in my mind, music. They are noise. The quiet canoes with only the swish of the paddles in rhythmic cadence are music. Like the brush on a brass cymbal or drum head. Nice and even and quieting.

There are trains in Maine. Not the old smoke belching laboring kind, but trains nevertheless. One goes through not far from my home every morning around two o'clock. It is a freight train, of course, at that hour and it rumbles deep in the earth and my condo trembles just a bit. It used to wake me at first; now I am lucky if I get to hear and feel it. Trains are good. the daytime trains blow their whistles at the crossings. It's a good sound. They are far more efficient than trucks, hauling as many as 150 cars carrying goods from pulp to refrigerated produce. Coal, fertilizer, pulp, potatoes, lumber - all at one time. The sound of a train whistle, like the fog horn, has changed with modern technology. I liked the old train whistle powered by a shot of steam into the pipe.

In the summer the sounds of Maine include the many outdoor concerts in the parks in all the towns and cities. It's a tradition which probably goes back to early man when chanting and dancing around the fire was a ritual. The gypsies of Europe fiddled their way around the towns and villages; the troubadours traveled to the castles of all old countries entertaining as they went. Maine has a tradition of outdoor concerts.

Maine has coyotes that live in packs or dens. They proclaim their territories and perhaps issue challenges or boast of family strength in the evening after things are quiet. A few years ago a young one sat in my yard almost nightly and howled. He didn't seem to have ties so maybe he was just proclaiming his independence. I would not have minded, but Nick was determined to take up the challenge. I had to light up the yard and check every evening before I put him out for "last call." I guess he grew up and found a family or created one. Occasionally I hear the mournful sounds of coyotes somewhere in the distance, in same direction as the train. Perhaps as the train slowed for a crossing, the coyotes boarded an open box car and moved to another town.

From Sunday morning church bells to the wail of police sirens and the scream of the fire trucks approaching a corner - Maine has all the sound effects. If you 're traveling around the state you might be fortunate enough to hear the bellow of a bull moose or the grunt of a black bear. You probably will hear the squirrels, both gray and red, chattering in the trees; the little chatty chipmunk who scurries around the ground; the cardinal, wren, chickadee, woodcock. Gulls, terns, loons, sea ducks - all have their voices and add to the sounds in Maine.

Midcoast Maine has an outdoor harp on top of a hill. There is a community where bagpipes are a "feature" of the town. There are quarries with rock crushers working to provide driveway, garden and building material. The sound of blasting and crushing are the sounds of industry. The woods in northern Maine with their lumbering operations - saws, skidders, huge old trees falling with earth shaking thuds. When you are out, where ever you are, stop a moment and listen for the sounds of that moment in time in that place.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Finding Scents of Maine

I have lived in Maine for 77 of my 78+ years. (One year I was foolish enough to think I would be better off in Florida.) I have found that every area of Maine has its own special scent.

I spent many summers of my childhood at Goose Rocks Beach in York County. There is a scent at that beach that I have never found anywhere else - not even at any other beach. Every year I say I am going to take a one-week vacation back at Goose Rocks Beach just to fill my lungs again with that sweet smell of ocean. The tide a Goose Rocks ebbs about a quarter of a mile. (Maybe a half: as a child I thought it was at least a mile.) Maybe it's because it slowly comes in over that stretch of hard packed beach, or maybe it's because it comes up from the unpolluted sea beyond the pile of rocks it recedes behind - I can't explain the reason, but the scent is fixed in my memory.

The scent in Yarmouth where I take my dog to run, is entirely different. There are tall evergreen trees - big pines that drop thousands of cones; there is a variety of small apple tree - the apples are small not the tree; there are acres of woods beyond where I go, and the land is not far from the ocean. The scent is spicy. Not sweet and salty like Goose Rocks. I pick a few leaves from the growth on the ground and crush them between my fingers. I find clover and other plants I cannot identify but none of the emit this strange aroma. I love it. I wish I could pitch a tent there an sleep one night in that clean herbal air. (I say herbal, because I don't know how else to describe it.

There is a baked bean plant (factory not greenery) in Portland. It is just of what is now a busy thoroughfare, on the edge of the back cove entrance. It is brick - a small establishment compared to buildings today. It has a tall stack which makes a lovely landmark. The Burnham & Morrill (B& M) Baked Beans were processed there. Real beans - real salt pork - molasses; makes my mouth water just to think of them. Driving past the B&M factory on processing day you could smell the beans cooking. I have been told they also processed corn. I never heard of B&M corn. I am quite sure the scent coming from that factory is baking beans. (Bob Marley, a homegrown Portland boy made- good as a comedian did an entire comedic piece on "putting the pork in the beans." )

The paper mills in Maine emit a less desirable scent. They used to pollute the air with their Kraft paper process (brown bags and wrapping paper). The "smell" - hardly what you would grace with words like "scent" or "aroma" was breathtaking, discolored the paint on houses, and clung to the laundry hanging on the line on a fine breezy day. The paper mill in Westbrook Maine has been so diminished it no longer emits any odor to speak of. We don't miss that disgusting smell, but the economy has suffered with the downsized business.

Maine has almost as many lakes as it does people. Small and large, they are nestled among pines at the foot of a mountain or the low places where rivers and streams converge. The scents around Maine's lakes are usually of pine, birch, and other hardy trees. There is something "smooth" about the smell of fresh water. Until, that is, the motor boats and personal water crafts pollute the air with the smell of gasoline and exhaust. And the quiet atmosphere with their raucous roaring and screaming.

If you chance to find a fishing village - or a waterfront where there is an active fishing industry - you will find the salty ocean scent is blended with the distinct "odor" of fish. There is no avoiding it, fishing boats smell like a bad day at a bait shop. Lobster boats carry bait barrels that have "trash fish" - lobsters and crabs love it. Fishing boats have holds that have to be able to keep fish for several days in order to profitably harvest from the off shore depths. You cannot keep fish four days and avoid the smell. You don't want to find it in your local fish shop, or in the supermarket, but if you are near the docks it tells you the fishermen are working which is a good thing.

The old school I attended had a distinct smell. It had hardwood floors and plaster walls and chalk boards that had been wiped and washed thousands of times. I can still conjure up that smell today as I am writing about it. They are making that school into apartments for low income elderly. If they went to school there they won't mind that smell. It will take them back to their happy carefree youth.

If you are lucky enough to be in Maine, breathe deeply of the sweet scents whilel you can.