River of Change

Last Wednesday the weather was so warm for February in Maine that it broke records.

The driveway was filled with puddles and melting ice.

On that warm February day, Clif and I went on a rare outing where we got take-out from the Red Barn in Augusta, about ten miles from our town. Mostly we cook and eat at home, and our meals are vegetarian. However, while we will not eat mammals or birds, we do, from time to time, eat shrimp, clams, and scallops.

At the Red Barn, we ordered fries and the Barn’s delectable shrimp. Then we headed down the road to Hallowell, to the parking lot that overlooks the Kennebec River, which is neither wide nor mighty but is nonetheless dear to us.

As we ate, we watched the river. It was iced over, but because of recent rain and the warm weather, there was a skim of water on top. A strong wind blew the water this way and that, as though it were sand.

When we were done, we headed to another spot on the Kennebec, where there’s a turnout with a deck, and you can look down the river into Augusta, our state’s capital. In the distance, a little to the right, is the white dome of the capitol building.

The cropped picture reveals a small black smelt shack, also in the distance. If the thaw continues, the owner will have to remove it lest the shack be carried downriver.

On the deck are posters, in both French and English, that describe how important the Kennebec River was when goods were moved by boats and ships. Back in the day, rivers were superhighways. Because ofย  this, Hallowell was once a bustling community, and there are many fine old homes that are remnants of a more prosperous time.

But times change. Trains and trucks displaced river ships, cement displaced granite, and refrigerators displaced ice. The Kennebec is no longer a superhighway to and from the Atlantic Ocean. Deprived of a vital economy, Hallowell fell on hard times, and in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a dumpy, depressed place. The river, too, fell on hard times, becoming dark and dirty, polluted by the many factories lining the banks.

But all is not gloom and doom. Thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, wildlife now thrives on the river, and the Kennebec is a place of recreation and rejuvenation for humans. Artists and creative types, drawn by affordable homes, moved to Hallowell, and the once depressed town has become funky and vital.

The Kennebec River and Hallowell are object lessons in how change can be both good and bad. Sometimes change is out of our control, and we just have to cope with it as best we can.

But sometimes it’s not. And to borrow from the Serenity Prayer, it’s up to us to have the wisdom to know the difference.


Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, featured the fascinating bat flower.

Despite these turbulent times, small pleasures abound in this post from Thistles and Kiwis.

Tootlepedal’s blog always features fabulous photos, but in a recent post, with some help from his son-in-law, he outdid himself

In a timely post on Robby Robin’s Journey, Jane provides maps of Ukraine that really clarify the geography of the area.

Katie, of the Cozy Burrow, never fails to amaze with her beautiful creativity. Sew on, Katie!

On Retirement Reflections, Donna does her bit to spread peace with with three travelling copies of The Little Book of Inner Peace. What a wonderful idea!


This is more than a little Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist sharing Aimee Mann’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s The River. The song is so lovely, and it fits beautifully with my own river post.




63 thoughts on “River of Change”

    1. It sure is. The Red Barn is primarily take-out so we didn’t feel weird at all. Plus, nothing beats watching the river when you have lunch. Except maybe watching the ocean. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. I know you’re probably still in the “winter mode,” Laurie, and I realize we can’t afford to mess with the seasons or we risk ruining wildlife and ecosystems. Yet, gee, I’m ready for Spring! Today hit 60 degrees, and my little Monkey sure loved being outside, feeling the sunshine on his fur, and listening to birds sing!

  2. Amen to that, Laurie! Glad you have places near you that are on the upswing. Where are the Pete Seegers today? How amazing that he cleaned up the Hudson by sailing a boat!

  3. I enjoyed the story of the Hallowell and especially the Kennebec River, it was certainly the lifeline for trade and new immigrants. It is always the story that the rivers get the dumping from factories…but thank goodness we seem to have learnt to clean the rivers, and restore them. Lovely to know that Hallowell has had a revival from the factory days.
    PS We really enjoyed Joni Mitchell singing The River…oh the memories it brought back!

  4. What a great outing Laurie….it goes wonderfully with Aimee Mannโ€™s beautiful cover song (which I have playing now in the background).
    Thank you for the mention. I greatly appreciate it!

  5. What a beautiful day by the river and lunch looks delicious!!๐Ÿ™‚ Itโ€™s always wonderful to read about towns that weather the bad times and find new ways to thrive. Thanks for sharing the river history and beautiful photos and that song has been a favorite for years!!๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’m always surprised how similar Maine and Colorado weather are. After last week’s series of below-freezing days, today the thermometer climbed into the high 60s! More snow is forecast for the weekend. Weather whiplash indeed.
    Tt’s good to learn that the Kennebec River has been cleaned up and revived. Thank goodness nature is so resilient–to a point, at least.

  7. Galveston Bay has gone through the same decades-long clean-up process, and now it’s possible to safely eat fish taken then (apart from a couple of locations nearer the port industrial complex). I enjoyed the history. It always amazes me to think of ice being harvested and shipped to such far-away locales. Of coruse, my grandparents had a true ice box, and there was an ice house in town where their ‘winter harvest’ was kept in sawdust and hay until needed.

    I’d love to get you down here for some really good shrimp, fresh off the boat. I think you and Clif both would be pleased!

  8. This has been a fascinating post, Laurie. The historical aspect of it is heartening too. Our town is steadily crumbling despite having a university, several schools and churches. The potential for tourism is enormous – yet the municipality does nothing to support or promote this.

    1. Sad when municipalities won’t invest in themselves. There’s been neglect here, too, but lately, before Covid, some Maine towns and cities had begun investing in themselves in a variety of ways. Hope your town sees the light.

  9. Fine prose, fascinating history, and delightful photography, especially the second one – almost abstract with its refections and shadows. That lunch looks good, too.

  10. Ooh, positively tropical! Good to know wildlife has returned now that the river has been cleaned up. Give Nature a chance and she will bounce back!

  11. I love the word nifty. It evokes a homespun charm that I think we are all in need of these days. I usually read blogs posts in the reader, but I came over to your site today and I’m so glad I did. Your photos look framed on this platform, and the background you use really sets them off. I should head directly here from now on.

  12. What a beautiful day out by the river Laurie, it looks gorgeous with the sun on the melting ice and your lunch looks delicious too – a real treat! ๐Ÿ’›

  13. Wonderful pictures, Laurie. and what a fun day you had! Listening to Aimee Mann as I type. I LOVE that song & I never had heard her version.

  14. I’m glad your clean water act is working. I am afraid that our waterways are not as well protected. We do have laws, but have not invested in the agencies or legal teams to enforce them. It’s much the same with kleptocrats, for all our leaders’ words.

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