Most of the Northeast is hit with a storm and Deer Isle is no exception. It has been raining all day and Bob tells me that we have several crappy weather days ahead. It has been a perfect day to go through some pieces I’ve written in the past and I found one to post about a day in the Autumn right after a storm. It’s a reminder to me to stop and enjoy the simple things.
This morning I awakened with the sun streaming through the eastern window and realizing we finally had good weather, I hopped quickly out of bed. I marveled again at the warmth from the radiant heat under the red oak hardwood floors and congratulated myself for having found a way to pay for this indulgence when we built the house. Our builder Brian Burgess told us that he attempted to convince others to do this as the initial expense was more than made up for in lessened fuel costs and comfort.
The view out the bedroom window in front of our bed was striking. The light bounced off the ocean and I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron searching for a fish near the shore. A magnificently graceful vision in flight, the heron looked rather ridiculous on land with his long thin legs that bent backwards at the knee joint. I rejoiced that they were returning from near extinction, having once been hunted for their plumage to adorn women’s hats.
I opened the sliding glass door and let the dogs out first then stepped into the energizing crisp salty air and the scent of pine of our four acre plot. The ground was muddy from a couple of days of drenching rain and I needed the traction from the sturdy footwear. I braved the brisk coolness of the shaded forest on the path we had created to the sea, which was located only 75 feet away. The birch trees were naked and stark white against the grey skies. I remembered the ancient Celts believed in the zodiac of thirteen lunar months with a tree representing each full moon. The birch corresponded with the first lunar month, representing renewal and rebirth as it is the first tree to appear on barren land and the first in leaf after the winter. However, spring was a long time off and I was thankful for the various conifers as they bravely faced the dying season with their durably evergreen needles.
The dogs were in high spirits, mock fighting and running up the path and back to me. I laughed at their antics and took a deep breath of the pure cold air. Ever the businesswomen, I reflected that if someone could can this stuff and send it to the cities, they would make a mint. Oxygen bars featuring Maine island air would become as ubiquitous as Starbucks.
Later it was time to get on with some errands. As I drove to the market I passed Patty Heansller and Butch Condon’s house. They were an honest, entrepreneurial, hardworking couple who had been among the first to welcome us to the island. All of the neighbors had been exceedingly friendly, which surprised us as this had not been our experience in Jersey nor we had been warned to expect in Maine. Having heard about the stoic Yankee reserve, we were incredulous that people could be so welcoming, and none more so than these two.
Their friendly reception had helped to ease the transition and we eagerly took this as a sign that we had made the right choice the isle. Of course, in those early days we took everything, from the friendliness of the islanders to the colorful brilliance of the morning sun, as an indication that this move was perfect.
As I drove over the causeway the gentle tide was at its lowest now and the clam-filled mudflats were exposed. A few resolute local clammers braved the cold to collect buckets of steamers to be sold. My idea of being up early in the morning was a half day over for them. I watched them racking through the cold black mud and thought of how their backs must ache.
One of the clammers waved and looking at his face I reflected how the people on these Maine islands, for the most part the offspring of Scotch, English, and Irish settlers, all have such Anglo sounding names contrary to Manhattan with its diversity of cultures, languages, and monikers. In fact, in New York City it was far more likely to hear someone introduce themselves as Roberto, Mohammed, Moishe, or Lakeesha than the names I heard on the island. This is the land of commonly heard all-American names. There also seem only to be about a dozen or so surnames on the island. One of the things we had quickly learned was how related everyone on the island was by marriage, family, or friendship. One learned quickly not to make any judgmental comments about others as it was sure to offend a friend or family member, or get back to the person – frequently both.
On I drove past the town of Deer Isle, stopping to pick up the mail and greet George the postmaster. Life in small towns is measured differently. Common courtesies that are all so uncommon in large metropolitan areas exist here. Islanders are not inure to the natural beauty that surrounds them or to the humanity of the community. People stop to admire the way an osprey flies over the trees, the glimmer of the sun on the ocean, the human connection between one another. I don’t even know George’s last name and yet he’s one of the people on the island that I most enjoy chatting with. We joke, we exchange pleasantries, and we talk about his time in the Navy and my son Brian’s Navy experiences. I could put up a mailbox and have the mail delivered nearer but then I would miss George.
I continued driving over the causeway and then crossed our famous bridge, through woods and spectacular views of blueberry fields and forests, eventually again seeing glimpses of the mesmerizing beauty of the ocean. Water draws me to it and I can’t imagine not living near it. I have a brief daydream about the day when Bob purchases a large sailboat and we glide along in the breeze.
Eventually I reach my destination past the statue of the Native American and into town – the North Light bookstore in Blue Hill. There are two bookstores in this small town, which speaks volumes to the importance of reading in this area. I love them both however North Light is my favorite as there I reacquaint myself with a Maine coon cat.
Maine coon cats are enormous and furry with tufts of fur at the tips of their ears. They are well adapted for the harsh Maine weather with a dense coat of fur that is resistant to wet and cold, a raccoon like tail keeps them from sinking in the snow and snowshoe paws with extra toes. It is said by some that they are the offspring of the original pets of the early English seafarers and bobcats. One of them is in Guinness Book of Records as being 48 inches long and weighing 35 pounds. The true owner of the North Light bookstore isn’t that huge but she’s big and she proudly sits on a chair in the sun, showing off her brightly polished nails. We compare colors, she and I will I stroke her head and whisper endearments. She’s well aware that purchasing a book is only a ruse; I’m really there for her.