Monthly Archives: August 2012

All Love Comes To Fall

Dear Reader:

While I have a few posts I am dying to write up, I’m busy working on another project. In the meantime, here are a couple of related poems about a relationship, the end of summer, and champagne.

FOR A MEMORY

The humidity of rain
and sun mingled. The taste
of summer
could only be this:

The first sip of sweet champagne,
virgin tongue to the taste
of that best wine.
I could have kissed you

But there was the grass,
fragrant and spilling over
the hill at our toes.
The sky? I didn’t really notice.

If I could dip my hand
into the months of summer–fizzing, bubbling–
and bottle the smiles,
I’d give you the cork for a memory.

–July 1990

OF APPLES AND CROWS AND AUTUMN COMING

It’s the first day of Autumn.
The apples are ripe
on gnarled, brown trees,
and crows call
from outrageous branches.

The cornstalks shake and die
on top; harvest comes
in these cold nights
and days of sun slanting through foliage.

It never was our season–Fall.
We took our inspiration
from the Spring. We sipped
April sun like champagne
until our mouths were sweet.

I drink coffee now.
I watch large flocks of birds
etch patterns
against a blue-bell sky…

All love comes to Fall,
flaming brilliantly only for a season.

–September 1990

Two Sunday Morning Poems

Dear Reader:

A couple months ago, I wrote a poem about sitting outside on a glorious, summer Sunday morning. I called it “Sunday Morning.”

This week while organizing my filing cabinet, I discovered an old poem I wrote around 1996. Guess what it was called? “Sunday Morning.”

I see so many similarities between these two poems, and it kinda freaks me out. Has my inner landscape changed so little in sixteen years? No wonder I still feel twenty-something!

I will share both of these poems with you this morning . . . this Sunday morning Outside the Box.

SUNDAY MORNING (2012)

Outside, the pollen drops
from the trees, and dew
sparks tiny fires in the grass.
Shadows and heat
play tug of war
on the lawn while a lone
madrigal, solitary musician,
lights the air with sharp,
clear notes. The branches
of beech trees are lines on a page
and the bird’s song rides
up and down–
earnest, imperative composition.
“Find me, please, find me;
I am here, see, I am here, here, here.”
The dog pants hot on the porch.
A hummingbird sips
from the buds of pink Salvia
in the garden box.

I write while the others sleep
tucked into upstairs bedrooms.

SUNDAY MORNING (1996)

The faint whisper of some inner voice
left over from childhood
like dislike of beets
tells me I should be, oh, somewhere
in church nodding with the pious
over a particularly strong invective
from the pulpit
or else joining in a thunderous “AMEN!”
meant to shake the devil
from my very soul; I ache

instead to plunge wrist-deep
into this potting soil;
damp, dirt smell filling my nostrils,
sliding over my skin
like a caress
or a good baptism.
I worship these newborn flowers
petals sprinkled
with earth I tamped around them
and leaves still damp
from the fecund humidity of the greenhouse.
Infant pansies not yet come to bud
and flushed-pink impatiens
the color of a baby’s mouth.
Geraniums, dianthus, basil.
Lettuce leaves frill against the tiny
white-lace blossoms I cannot name.

One of the cats stalks
among the flower pots, sniffs
from each one delicately
before settling down for a wash.
I try to clear my head
of voices that can wait
’til Monday.
This is my Sunday morning
spent with many flowers and one wish–
to write my quiet moments into existence
before moving on to other worlds.

Journaling on a Misty Morning

The Lake on a Misty Morning

Journal Entry July 30, 2012

I have dressed early–6 a.m., in sweatpants and hoodie–to stave off the morning chill. Yesterday was rainy, all day drizzle interspersed with sudden heavy downpours. When I wake this morning and see skies clearing, I know I have to get down to the lake to watch the white tendrils of mist rise from the glossy, rippled surface of the water. I bring a blue chair and a mug of coffee, a camera, and my journal.

The tiny community beach–one of over a dozen–is a short walk from my doorstep. For the first eight years we lived here, the beach was nothing more than a weedy opening in the scrub brush lining the lake. A pine needle- and leaf-covered path slopes down to the water’s edge from the gravel road.

We leave our canoe here, red and tipped upside down, most of the summer and fall. A neighbor borrows it, using his own paddles. He and his family–brothers? sisters? parents? There’s a whole tribe of them–moved into the house behind us two years ago, and they began to clear the opening on their own. Last summer, the community grounds-crew finished the job, cutting more brush, hauling in sand, positioning large boulders across the path to discourage illegal boat launches.

Cove


The water here is shallow, only just past my ankles many canoe-lengths out and suddenly deep toward the middle where the current runs. The lake was once a stream, dammed-up for electrical generation about a hundred years ago. It is all coves and curves and fingers reaching in to the land–swampy in places, steep sand cliffs in places. When cross-country skiing in the winter, you have to be careful for weak spotswhere the warm run-off thins the ice from below. I’ve seen guys on snowmobiles rev up and skim over circles of open water.

It is quiet on this Monday morning, the weekend whine of jet skis and power boats as distant as the line of Massachusetts plates heading south out of Kittery on I-95. As I trudge down the path, a heron splashes down, stands. I stop. We watch each other warily. I try not to breath, but he is distrustful and flaps away.

I take a few photographs of the pearlescent mist still hovering over the predawn lake. The water is all shadows here, lake rimmed with tall, close-set pines. Just now the sunlight slices a thin crescent along the eastern-facing shore.

These moments I feel fortunate to have found this place despite my misgivings about its viability in a low-carbon world.

Before the out-of-state developers and the homeowner’s association and the lots plotted on a grid of winding roads ending in numerous culs-de-sac; before the griping and bickering between towns and association; before the housing boom in the 1990’s and milfoil and aging water pipes and the eventual housing bust in the 2000’s, there were only a few scattered camps along this lake. Before those, there were farmhouses and hay fields and pasture for dairy cattle–fieldstone walls running through pine forest a testament to the area’s agricultural past.

Blue Boat

In the early 1970’s, in spite of controversy in the two towns out of which our community was carved, the developers developed. The out of state weekenders came first to the lakefront lots. They built summer camps and weekend homes. Later, in the 90’s when real estate prices soared, building contractors scooped up lots of lots. They built and sold spec houses for cheap to the young, middle-class families priced out of the Portland suburbs.

The towns gaped as the school population bloomed. Education costs skyrocketed. This wasn’t the “taxes without the costs” deal they’d been promised. Weekenders’ kids get educated out of state, but these new families bought “off-lake” and stayed year-round and their children entered kindergarten right along with the kids in the villages.

“It was supposed to be a gated community,” one angry school-teacher said to me six or seven years ago. “And there’s never once been a gate!”

Wince. One has to wonder if they wanted the gate to keep us “in” rather than to keep themselves “out.”

So here we are, living in the exurbs, an hour and many gas-powered miles from the jobs in Portland and Biddeford and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Association rules drafted in the 1970’s prevent many of us from cutting trees to create garden space, prevent us from raising a few chickens for fresh eggs. Mortgage defaults are up. Some roofs of abandoned homes have already caved in. There are no corners stores in our not-zoned-for-business community. We drive to get anywhere (or sometimes we bike, hard.)

This is not sustainable. It will not work in a low-carbon world where energy costs suck up ever-larger percentages of our disposable income. Am I crazy to worry?

There are mornings like this one when I walk, coffee in hand, down a pine-needle path to spend an hour or two writing beside the lake, and I think maybe I am worrying about nothing. Maybe I should simply I enjoy the scenery, the mist, the heron and let the future take care of itself.

Trees/Mist

And, if the world moves on, perhaps we can change fast enough to keep pace. Trees can be cut, livestock can be brought in, and we can muddle through, creating a kind of exurban agricultural village on our acre and half-acre lots.

Or else, like that heron, we’ll stop a moment, assess the danger, and flap away, leaving the lake as it was before…quiet, serene, barely inhabited but for those scattered camps, and the only thing that will remain of us will be the caved-in husks of our spec houses mouldering beneath these towering pines.

Dear Reader:
Thought I would share with you one of my favorite bloggers here on WordPress. I especially liked this post of hers about pie and “flamebaiting” which I think highlights another facet or two regarding our political (and religious and cultural) dialogue these days. I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. And if all else fails . . . buy some fruit at the farmer’s market and make pie!

Agrigirl's Blog

Urban dictionary says that this is a phrase used to politely decline to engage in discussion, with the implication that the original speaker is deliberately trying to upset or post flamebait. Perhaps I will have to do a future post on flamebait but as this political season heats up with all of its rhetoric and smear ads, I prefer the idea of eating more pie.

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Line Dry Summer

ClothespinsDear Reader:

Clotheslines and Downton Abbey

I had every intention of switching my summer clothes-drying experience from indoor electric to outdoor clothesline early on in the season, but like many projects, this one was pushed back until today. I had wanted to buy one of those cute little round umbrella type clotheslines that you mount into the ground and under-plant with fragrant herbal ground-covers like thyme, oregano, and camomile so that your clothes-hanging experience becomes something akin to tip-toeing through the tulips or maybe pretending you are a buxom housemaid in the employ of Downton Abbey.

This morning, however, I was talking with Neighbor Debbie whilst sweating on the elliptical machine in our community gym, and we began talking about the humid weather, the rolling-in of late-afternoon thunderstorms, and the necessity of her getting her laundry off the line in time. I stammered around a bit about how I meant to get a clothesline but just hadn’t made the time.

“I just strung a line between the trees,” she said in her practical and very lovely and precise British-sounding South African accent. “It works wonderfully.”

“You don’t get any pine pitch on your laundry?” I asked in my far-from-the-mother-tongue Maine accent (although, if you think about it, we Mainers with our dropped “r’s” are closer to British English than, say, mid-westerners).

Laundry in Basket

“No,” Neighbor Debbie said. “Not yet.”

Okay, so there was no excuse for procrastinating on this project anymore. I went down to Plummer’s Hardware (now an Ace Hardware store; more on that in another post) for a length of clothesline–$7.99 plus tax. I scoped out my property. Yup, there was a pine tree on one side of the wood line and an oak on the other. We’d cleared out the brush just underneath and in front, and the afternoon sun was beating down there as if to spotlight the perfect location for my line. In ten minutes, I was good to go.

Outside the Clothes Dryer

Why Line Dry?

Maybe it isn’t necessary to explain why I am choosing to dry my laundry au naturel, but for those who are interested I will list my reasons:

1)It is better for the environment. Electricity powers the clothes dryer appliance in my cellar. Electricity is often generated from coal-fired power plants. Coal mining can have detrimental environmental effects. Coal burning can have detrimental environmental effects. While I don’t think we can get away from burning coal completely, reducing the amount of electricity we use can only be a positive step toward a saner environmental situation.

2)It is better for my bottom line. Sunshine and fresh air are free. Electricity is expensive. Any way I can save on my electric bill every month is money I can spend locally at the farm stand, etc.

3)Line-dried clothes smell divine.

4)It is one more way I can use my property which makes me feel just a little more self-sufficient. Let’s say the power goes out. I can still dry my clothes. (I also have a small, wooden, folding clothes rack on which to dry small items. It may behoove me to get a few more . . . and start using that woodstove down cellar in the winter. Wood heat is very dry. I might even be able to string a clothesline down there.)

5)No one ever burned down their house drying their clothes outdoors on a line. House fires are started in improperly maintained dryers all the time. From Vent Check International: But according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) clothes dryers accounted for the largest share of appliance and tool fires between 1994 and 1998. There were 14,300 clothes dryer fires in U.S. homes in 1998, resulting in 19 deaths, 312 injuries and $67.7 million in direct property damage. http://www.vcisafety.org/dryer_vent_fires.cfm

I suppose if the pine trees caught fire and spread to the laundry, and the laundry happened to be dry, and a piece of burning bath towel landed on my roof . . . well, maybe it could burn my house down. But if those pine trees are alight, I figure there’s little chance of saving the house anyway.

Electricity Maine

Electricity Maine

Speaking of saving $$$ on electricity AND going local, there is an option out there for us Mainers that accomplishes both goals. I heard about Electricity Maine last winter from my friend, Becky, but like my clothesline project, I never got around to actually checking into this Auburn-based company until today.

Here’s the scoop. Currently, Bangor Hydro and CMP customers have a choice when it comes to energy supply companies. The default is an out-of-state company. The new kid on the block is Electricity Maine. This Maine-owned company is located in Auburn and purchases electricity from the New England Power Pool which is where all the New England power generating companies market their energy. Then Electricity Maine sets a competitive rate (currently .0707 per kWh) for the supply portion of your electricity bill. (The transmission costs are still controlled by CMP and Bangor Hydro–they take care of the lines and boxes and reading meters, etc.)

It is easy to make the switch. It took me about 2 minutes, one minute of which was spent logging onto my CMP account to find my account number.

If you are a Maine resident and are interested in saving a little money on your electric bill and supporting a Maine-owned company versus an out-of-state company, log onto http://www.electricityme.com/. There is a really, really good FAQ page on there, which is where I got the information for this blog.

Fluff and Fold

So, about four hours after pegging the laundry to the line, I went back out with my basket and brought my fresh sheets, etc. into the house. Without the camomile and thyme, it wasn’t quite the Downton Abbey experience.

But it was nice . . . Outside the (Electric Clothes Dryer)Box.