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.