Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

Image

Early Birds

75-RosyDawn-NIK-CR

Summer is ending. On the beach at dawn. It was dark when I got there and I thought I’d be alone. I was wrong.

96-MistyGull-CR-1

Not only was I accompanied by hundreds of plovers and gulls, but there are a surprising number of people on the pre-dawn beach. Walkers and runners, strollers, bird watchers … and one photographer.

75-EarlyBirds-HDR-CR-3

Before the sun comes up a heavy mist rolls in from the sea, but as the sun rises above the horizon, the mist disperses.

75-EarlyBirds-HDR-CR-1

In mid-September, sunrise comes after five in the morning, but from full dark to full light takes almost an hour, at least as far north as Maine.

75-EarlyBirds-HDR-CR-2

By the time the sun comes fully up, the birds have flown, the walkers gone home to breakfast. Another day has broken. Glorious and golden.

75-EarlyBirds-HDR-CR-4

Weekly Writing Challenge: Iconic — The Woodstove

MaineCabinTXT

The woodstove had been in the family a long time. No one really knew how long, but a few of generations for sure. It had heated the family home for years.

Now the house had real central heating, so the woodstove had been relegated to a corner in the basement for a dozen years or more. It was unclear exactly when it was originally consigned to that odd dusty corner where unused but valued things end up.  The goodfers. Too good to throw away but maybe someday they’d have a new purpose.

For a while the family figured they’d put the stove in the parlor. Or maybe they’d get around to finishing the basement. It turned out the woodstove was too efficient to use like a fireplace. The amount of heat it pushed out its fat little belly was impressive. Log by log, it turned anything but a very large, open area into a sauna. It was much more efficient than oil heat and cheaper too, but oil heat was easy. No one had to split endless piles of logs, stack them in the woodshed, haul them into the house to feed the stove. It cost more money to heat with oil, but no one’s back got broken to keep the house warm.

The woodshed still contained some wood. Enough to enjoy bright fires on cold evenings and keep the wood chopping skills of the men in the family up to snuff. But they didn’t need dozens of cords. It had taken a lot of wood to keep a family cozy through the long, bitter winter of northern Maine.

The year that Hank built the cabin, the woodstove found a new home and a purpose.

Hank built the cabin entirely by hand. It was to be a retreat, a place to get away from everything modern, from televisions and alarm clocks. Hank didn’t own the land, but the lumber company that owned it was willing to lease plots to families who wanted to build cabins by the lake. After the trees grew to maturity, the lumber companies would come and cut the trees, but it would be years before the trees were ready for harvesting.

The cabin was intended to be a warm weather retreat, just for the summer. It turned out to be so pleasant, despite it having no electricity or running water, family members and their friends liked going to it from early spring into the late autumn, sometimes even after the first snows had fallen.

The woodstove was ready and willing to keep the cabin toasty. It gave more than heat. The smell of the woodstove was friendly, familiar. The tang of smoke in the air reminded everyone how their houses used to smell of wood smoke. They recalled choosing wood for its scent. Apple, maple, sassafras, oak, even pine … each had special qualities.

It turned out you could cook on the stove too, though the technique of cooking on a woodstove was sufficiently different that each person who used it had to reinvent the process.

Over many years, many springs, summers and autumns spent by the lake, listening to the loons calling across the water, the woodstove came to symbolize a simple and peaceful life. It was the heart of a cabin deep in the woods, far from a paved road. Drinking water came directly from the lake, along with a goodly number of fresh water bass and trout, caught from the canoe and consumed with corn harvested from local farms, blueberries picked on nearby burns.

Even in cool weather, you could bathe in the lake, then warm your chilled body by the stove. It was where you hung your clothes to dry them after washing. The same place around which everyone gathered in the evening to tell stories. Once upon a special time, a quiet time, telling stories and laughing around a fire or an old woodstove was enough entertainment for any man or woman. Rowing on a crystal lake was fine. No one needed a speed boat. Friends were enough.

As the years rolled on, many people with cabins on the lake bought generators so they could have electricity. They installed washing machines. The lake water was no longer safe to drink. They brought televisions and at night, you couldn’t hear the calling loons. There were telephones, water pumps and plumbing.

It wasn’t the same and after a while, no one came to the little cabin. Hank passed away, the kids moved away. The cabin began to collapse.  Finally, it was gone, its contents including the woodstove, junk, rotting and rusting in the woods. It was as if it had never been.

It didn’t matter anyway, because enough years had passed. The trees were mature. The lumber companies came and clear-cut the woods. The rubble from the cutting washed into the lake and the fish died.  With the fish gone, the loons  didn’t have enough to eat and they flew off to nest on other lakes.

That world went away. Memories linger. I have pictures.

-

Blog of the Year – 2012 … Four Stars (Gee) AND a new recipient!


Having received the Blog of the Year Award last week from Tyson at Head in a Vice , then a second from Sharla at CatnipOfLife, and yet another from Bette Stevens at 4WRITERSANDREADERS … and, as it turns out, one more from Sharla via her other blog, Awakenings  … I’m all the way up to four stars. I’m dizzy from all the attention.

Boy, this is really cool. I feel so appreciated. Wowie zowie! Thank you all my friends. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I really like it!

It was just yesterday that I realized I had to address this award right now. The year is almost over. I am not ready. I am never ready. Ethelred the Unready (my favorite of the ancient Kings of Britain) had nothing on me. I dare anyone to prove that he, she, they or it are any more unready than I am.

I cannot believe how quickly time is passing. The Christmas tree is up, though half the lights are still refusing to do the thing that lights are supposed to do … and while we have no snow on the ground (Thank you Lord!) , the weather reports are full of dire predictions, leading me to assume this will be a white Christmas — if they aren’t just making the whole thing up so that they have something to say.

The tree — which we keep in a box in the attic because we have four dogs and bringing a real tree into the house would indicate a level of insanity exceeding even this family’s quotient — went up on Monday afternoon while I was sitting around waiting for the radiologist to figure out how to make the x-ray machine take a picture of my lungs so that I could enter the holiday season reasonably certain that nothing alien was growing in there (it isn’t).

He never did get it that particular machine to work, so we had to walk across the road and through the ER at the other hospital to get a picture. That machine, though older and far less fancy, worked. As my reward for being such a patient patient and suggesting that if a reboot didn’t do the job, probably the machine was broken (I’m such a genius!), he let me watch the digital image of my lungs appear on the big screen.

Bright lights, bright nights

Bright lights, bright nights

It was very rewarding. There was nothing to see. When you are visiting your oncologist (what? you don’t have an oncologist? doesn’t everyone have an oncologist?) is exactly what you yearn with all your heart to see. Nothing is good. Nothing is delicious and boring and means that you have a moderately good chance of being around next year to see another picture of nothing.

Once upon a time, I had goals, aspirations, dreams and hopes. I was going to write a novel. Hollywood would buy it, I’d be an internationally renowned author. rich in honor and rolling in the big bucks. Kind of like Stephen King, but not in Bangor. I’ve always preferred the coastline of Maine‘s rocky shore. I wanted one of those houses that sort of hangs on the cliff and looks like it’s going to fall right off. These days, several catastrophes later, I think I’d prefer being a few hundred yards back from the cliff. I’ve seen too much television footage of houses falling into the ocean. I don’t think I need to become newsworthy because my house fell into the Atlantic. What good is renown and wealth if one is swimming with the fishes?

Today, my hopes and dreams are more compact and down to earth. I want to live another year … preferably many more. I want to have enough money to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, medication that will prevent my demise, and I want the same good things for everyone. There was a time when I would have assumed these were things everyone had, not something that needed to be wished for. Many things once taken for granted are now gifts to be treasured.

There is definitely something to be said about this virtual world of ours: it is a world of sharing, caring and preparing: Sharing around the world, Caring for others, Preparing for the future. Whatever endeavor you are engaged in at the present moment or seek in days to come, there is always someone willing to tell you his or her story which will in provide a beacon of light down a sometimes dark highway.

One way or the other, soon enough white flakes will fall and then, as in one of the old black and white movies of which my husband is so inordinately fond, the page of the calendar will flip over, the ancient Mayans will slink back into their tombs until their next resurrection and anyone who told his or her boss to screw off will be pounding the pavement (or these days, the keyboard) in search of green(er) pastures.

If I can’t digress, what is the fun of blogging? If I have to stick to the subject, built a logical case for whatever drivel I’m spouting and just be limited to saying stuff that make sense, what will I write about? My life doesn’t make sense. Does yours? If you have a life that is orderly, sensible, a life in which you can predict what each day will bring, then you are probably still very young, so you can still look forward to the craziness of the future. Life happens to everyone, sooner or later. And some of the craziness is fun! Some surprises are good.

Having given awards to pretty much every blog I read and enjoy, and excluding only those who actively refuse to accept awards, I feel inclined to say “back at you” to many of my friends and to let as many people as I can know that I appreciate them. You whose blogs I read, who inspire me, encourage me, and bring me joy and make my world a better place — who make the whole world better because you are in it — all of you deserve awards.

To every one of you who promote causes you believe it, continue to fight the good fights, try to right wrongs, attempt to enlighten, inform, amuse, and raise the consciousness of those who you are able to reach, all of you deserve this award. And, you’re going to get one, even if you have one, even if you have two or three or four. What you do about them is up to you, but know that I notice you, appreciate you, and am grateful you are part of my life.

The ‘rules’ for this award are simple and easy:

  1. Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award.
  2. Write a blog post and name/tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.
  3. Please include a link back to this page Blog of the Year 2012 Award and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!).
  4. Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.
  5. You can now also join The Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience.
  6. As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars.

_______________________________________________________

Because this is an award that you can “collect” and get many times, I’m going to give it back to people who I know have gotten it before.  I think I’ve given awards to all of you before, at one time or another. Some of you have been happy about it, some of you have ignored me. I’m not giving it to anyone who has pointedly told me to get lost. One clear rejection is enough for me.

The point of passing these around is not that you’re getting the Oscar of blog awards … or even that you’re getting another award or if the award thing delights or annoys you. It’s recognition from me, a fellow blogger, that you have made a difference in my world, changed my thinking, helped me learn, enabled me see differently through the camera’s lens, through words, via movies or books or ideas or any combination of these things.

You are important to me. You make me laugh, make me feel, make me think, teach me stuff. Some of you suggest ideas, movies, or books I might want to read, watch, or learn, technology, cameras and accessories I might want. Some of you champion causes important to me … and some of you are living lives I wish were mine. Many more of you are living lives a lot like mine and I empathize and sympathize with you. You make me feel less alone.

All of you have touched me. It may not matter a lot to you, but it makes a big difference to me.

For those of you are getting this award again and need one of the other versions with a different number of stars, I’m including (thank you again Sharla) all six of the award medallions at the bottom of this post.

Because I got another star today, I’m giving out one more of these to someone whose blog I really love … and you can tell how much I like his writing by how many times I reblog  his posts … like, uh, most of them I think.

Here you go — a star to:

Beasley Green: Write up my street … because he manages to make me laugh and think at the same time, which is not unlike chewing gum and walking at the same time (something which isn’t as easy to do as it might sound to the uninitiated). I know you’re busy, but please, write more!

_______________________________________________________

I’ve probably forgotten somebody, maybe more than one somebody. If I did, it’s an accident, I assure you … unless of course you are one of the people who have explicitly told me to not give them awards. I wanted to make sure all of you know that you are important and that I honor you.

Feel no obligation to do anything beyond your comfort zone. I ask only that you play nice and remember you really don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.

May your holidays be bright, may all good things come to you and yours. May we all move into the New Year with joy and purpose, overcoming all the problems that assail us and coming out the other side.

Revel in the season! Be happy whatever it is you celebrate … and may you enjoy everything you can in any way that brings you peace and joy.

Loon Memories

Loon with baby on her back.

From Wild About Wildlife and Nature.

We used to camp on Pleasant River Lake in northern Maine. It was cabin camping, so we had screens on the windows. We had propane tanks: a gas-powered refrigerator and range, plus a wood stove if it got chilly.

We drank water directly from the lake and we brought water up from the lake in glass bottles and when we needed to bathe, we went down to the lake with a bar of soap.

An outhouse exterior

An outhouse exterior (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there was the outhouse. It was a chemical toilet in a wood building. I hated that outhouse. The chemicals burned those sensitive areas … and there were always spiders in there.

In exchange for that little bit of unpleasantness, in the evening, we would build a bonfire on the shore of the lake. It was a big lake, deep, surrounded by pine woods. There were several beaver dams and it was not unusual to see moose swimming across, just their giant heads visible above the waterline as they sought their favorite snack food: water lilies. There were bears too.

Loons on Wolfe Lake (Ontario, Canada)

Loons on Wolfe Lake (Ontario, Canada) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Best of all, there were about a dozen loons nesting on the various parts of the shore. As evening came on, they would start to call to one another. Warbling and calling, a sound so haunting and beautiful as it echoes across lake.

I will never forget the song of the loons, the voice of the northern lakes. I miss them.

Image

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit, Free As a Bird … Another picture.

Share a photo — film or digital — that means FREE SPIRIT to you! 

So I happily share with you the freest thing of which I can think: a seagull flies across the sky as the sun rises on the seashore. Ogunquit, Maine.

A free flying seagull along the shore as the sun comes up over the ocean.

Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.