Taking Pictures on a Brisk Day

On Sunday, the weather was fine but very brisk, even by Maine standards. There was a wind—not a gentle one—and with the windchill it felt even colder, below zero.

Nevertheless, faithful blogging friend that I am, I headed to Marancook Lake in hopes of seeing some ice fishing shacks to photograph. I know that blogging friends who live in warmer climates are fascinated by the notion of ice fishing, which is a yearly event in Maine.

But Sunday’s cold snap aside, this winter has been warmer than average, and the lakes have been slow to freeze. Last week when I went to Lake Marancook, there were no ice fishing shacks. Taken from our local paper, here are the guidelines that prudent folks follow: “The state recommends keeping off any ice that is not at least 4 inches thick. It’s recommended that snowmobiles need at least 5 to 6 inches, and cars and small trucks need 8 to 12.”

Had the week been cold enough for the ice to freeze 4 inches thick? Would there be ice fishing shacks?

Just barely. I found two shacks rather than the lively village that is usually on the lake this time of year. In the photo below, you can just barely see them in the distance.

Here’s a closer view.

And closer still.

Those who have taken pictures in cold weather know that it is really hard to do so wearing gloves. (Perhaps there are special gloves for cold-weather photographers?) Therefore with bare stinging hands, I took these pictures, and I did not dawdle to admire the views. Snap, snap, snap, and I was back in the relative warmth of the car.

I drove home the long way around, going by the Narrows Ponds, where there were more ice fishing shacks. But there were too many cars in the small off-road parking area, and if the weather allows, I will take a walk sometime this week to see if I can get some more pictures of ice shacks.

Here’s a final picture from Sunday’s Maranacook Lake series. Just in case in anyone needs a reminder.

Stay warm all you hardy souls who live in the frozen north!


Friday Favorites: Scenes from an Inauguration

Wednesday was a huge day for Clif and me, for this country, and, I think, for the world. Despite the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago, we had a lawful transfer of power. Joseph Biden is now the president of the United States.

Finally, finally, Trump, his family, and their entourage left Washington, DC. I could write all kinds of snarky things about his departure, but I won’t.

Instead, I will focus on President Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Despite the restrictions that were put into place because of the raging pandemic and enough security after 1/6 to make the Capitol look like the Green Zone in Baghdad, the inauguration was a joyous, beautiful event filled with firm resolve and hope.

Here are some scenes, clipped from YouTube, that I was particularly struck by.

First, Lady Gaga, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. As the comedian Stephen Colbert noted, Lady Gaga looked as though she were wearing a red carpet instead of walking on one. Yes, she did. Lady Gaga is someone who certainly likes to make an entrance. But holy cats can she ever sing. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not a song for the fainthearted, and Lady Gaga didn’t stumble even once. Indeed, she knocked it out of the park, as the saying goes.

Wednesday was also a day of firsts as Kamala Harris—the first woman, Black, and South Asian—was sworn in as vice president. Even though it has taken too long to have a woman as vice president, this was a proud moment for this country. I hope I live long enough to see a woman sworn in as president.

Then, of course, the main event—Joe Bidden and his uplifting yet honest, plain-spoken words as his speech outlined the many challenges this country faces. And his confidence that this country was up to overcoming those challenges.

The most beautiful, luminous part of the inauguration was when a young poet, Amanda Gorman, delivered her radiant poem, “The Hill We Climb.” When she was done, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

For comic relief, there was Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, one of my favorites, complete with mittens and a practical jacket. Bernie is never anything less than who he is, and for this I am grateful.

Finally Demi Lovato’s soaring song “Lovely Day” from the Celebrating America broadcast, an evening program which followed President Biden’s inauguration.

In the background, as Lovato sings, are faces that are black, brown, white. There are women, men, and children of various ethnicities. This is what America looks like, and we should rejoice.

Quercus’s Review of Out of Time

As I have noted before, one of the great pleasures of blogging is having friends all around the world and seeing places that I will probably never visit. To add to that pleasure, blogging friends who have a fondness for YA fantasy often read my novels. Occasionally they will even write a review of my books.

My blogging friend Quercus, who lives in England, recently read Out of Time, the newest book in my Great Library Series, and took the time to write a review. Here is an excerpt:

According to the Amazon details the book has 276 pages. It didn’t seem like it. Time flew,and although I spread it over two nights, it finished too soon. If there was another in the series I would definitely buy it right away. Unfortunately, there isn’t.

That’s really all you need to know. It’s less than £3 on Kindle, so what are you waiting for?

Of course, book reviews are supposed to be slightly longer than that so I’ll just add a bit of waffle. The action takes place in a magic county called Elferterre (somebody is showing their French roots again!) , which is a convincing place, and has an excellent talking cat. There are very few books that can’t be improved by the addition of a talking cat, so this is good to see.. Even  a talking cat couldn’t improve Don Quixote, but I won’t go into that..

Click here to read the rest of the review.

It really tickled me that Quercus caught Elferterre’s French connection. I was also very pleased to read that he would have immediately bought Book 4 if it had been available.  (I’m working on it!)

Many thanks, Quercus,  for giving Out of Time a close reading and then writing a review of it.



A January Kind of Day

Last Friday was the kind of January day that makes a Mainer glad to be alive. The sun was shining and the sky was a brilliant blue that only comes in winter. A good afternoon to be out, but as my holiday vacation is over, I had much work to do, and it therefore fell to Clif to do various errands.

“But take the camera,” I said. “And get some pictures.”

“All right,” Clif said, and off he went.

Winthrop is a town of lakes, ponds, and streams. While not an island, our town is surrounded by water, which brings life and beauty to the area. After seeing the pictures of drought from blogging friends in different parts of the world, I have come to greatly appreciate all the water we have in Winthrop.

On that beautiful sunny Friday, Clif headed to Maranacook Lake, about a mile and half from our home, in the opposite direction of the Narrows Ponds. There is a public beach, where our daughters learned to swim. There is a sweet little park with picnic tables and grills, a perfect place to sit and relax on warm sunny days.

But in January, there are no swimmers or picnickers, and the beach and park are empty.

Instead, we have sky, snow, and mostly water, some of it frozen, some not. Note: I did not fiddle with the colors at all. They are exactly as Clif took them.

In a usual winter, life on the beach and the park heads out onto the ice, where fishing shacks are set up, and hardy souls go fishing. The frozen lake becomes a village where people fish and talk and laugh and children play. While I am not into ice fishing, I always enjoy seeing the villages, a bright accent in a frozen world.

Unfortunately, there are no ice shacks on the lake. As the open water by the shore indicates, the weather just hasn’t been cold enough.

But a cold snap is coming, and February is often as brisk as January. So there might be time yet.

Clif and I will be watching.

Friday Favorites: The Solace of Heroes, Nature, and Music

It has been over a week since a right-wing mob attacked and ransacked the Capitol—1/6 is a new date to remember for its infamy. Right now, silver linings are pretty hard to find, but I can offer you the story of a hero, of how Eugene Goodman, a lone Capitol police officer, using himself as bait, lured the mob away from the Senate Chamber. I am in awe of how this man had the courage and the presence of mind to do this. I salute you, Eugene Goodman. I also salute Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic, who filmed the event on his phone.

Closer to home, January continues to provide cool solace for the ills of this country. Many people in the north dislike January because of the long nights and cold days. I am not one of those people. I have always found January to be beautiful and brilliant yet soothing, a time to reflect and rest before boisterous Spring makes her appearance.

Here is a January picture of the Lower Narrows, peeping through the lacy fingers of the trees and bushes.

What would Friday Favorites be without a Tiny Desk Concert and the solace of music? This time the fabulous Andrew Bird, who not only can play and sing but also whistle like, well, a bird. As someone in the Tiny Desk comments section asked, “Is it wrong, do you think, to envy someone’s whistling ability?”

To read about more favorites from blogging friends from around the world:

Thistles and Kiwis, who surely eats better than most people I know.

All Things Bright and Beautiful: Really, Ju-Lyn? A cobra?

A Not So Timely Out of Time

Recently, some of my blogging friends in the United States have mentioned that books they ordered from Hinterlands Press have just been delivered. As the books were mailed a month ago, it seems that Out of Time delivery has not been very timely. Sorry!

When books are ordered directly from Hinterlands Press, they are shipped within a day or two of when the order is received. The pandemic has spurred us into being completely set-up for processing orders from home. We have a scale, and we print labels directly, which include postage. Finally, our postal service picks up packages six days a week directly from our very own mailbox.

What we can’t control is what happens when the packages get to the post office. I think the postal service was extremely stressed over the holidays, and I expect they did their best, given the circumstances.

I hope now that the holidays are over, packages will arrive in a more timely fashion. In normal circumstances, books should arrive within five to seven days of when they are ordered.

Anyway, thanks for your patience and understanding.


The Weather Gods Laugh

This weekend, our friends Beth and John came over for a socially-distanced visit. The weather forecast had indicated that the temperature on both Saturday and Sunday would be in the mid-30s, which it was. Unfortunately, when Beth and John came on Saturday, there was also a brisk breeze, which made it just that much colder.

Here are Beth and John, bundled up.

With the cold, they could only stay an hour, but it sure was nice to see them. Naturally, we talked about the horrible events on Wednesday. How could we not speak of this day of infamy when it hasn’t even been a week since the mob stormed the Capitol? We are all still reeling.

Then the weather gods enjoyed having a little laugh at our expense. The weather on Sunday was still and sunny and thus felt much warmer even though it was still in the mid-30s.

A perfect day to walk down to the Upper and Lower Narrows Ponds, which are big and deep enough to be considered lakes. (I’ll write more about the Narrows in a future post.)

The sky was a brilliant blue that usually only comes in the winter in Maine. Here is a picture of a pine tree against the sky.

The lower Narrows, churned by a current that runs through a culvert under the road, still has a fair amount of open water.

Enough for a few ducks resting on a skim of ice.

The Upper Narrows, on the other hand, has a sweep of snowy ice. Friends who live on the shallow end have told me that folks have begun ice fishing.

A short walk, but a good one. So cozy to come back to a warm home, make a cup of tea, and have a nice long talk with our eldest daughter.

Technology is no substitution for seeing her in person, but it certainly is better than nothing.





A blog about nature, home, community, books, writing, the environment, food, and rural life.