All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

The Fluff of Fall

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From Fried Chicken to a Golden Marsh

On Saturday, Clif and I went to Augusta, Maine’s small capital city, about ten miles from where we live. It was to be an afternoon of errands. The day was very fine—ridiculously so for Maine in mid-October—and we decided to slide in a couple of diversions to go with our errands.

First, and probably most important, we went to the Red Barn for lunch, and shared a basket of their delicious fried chicken.

Because the day was so warm and sunny, we were able to eat outside at one of the Barn’s many picnic table.  I know the chicken takes front and center stage, but you might have noticed Clif’s Hinterlands Press t-shirt in the background. (A little unplanned advertising of our very own press.) Yes, the day was warm enough to be comfortable outside in a t-shirt.  Let’s just say that the crisp days of autumn have yet to come.

After all that chicken, did we have room for dessert? We did, but not too much, and we split a whoopie pie, Maine’s official state treat. They are wicked good, that’s for sure.

Suitably fueled, we did our errands. My bruised leg is much better, and I think this is in large part due to the arnica gel I have been putting on it. (Xenia, of the blog Whippet Wisdom, suggested doing this. Many thanks!) Nevertheless, I stayed in the car for some of the errands and let Clif do the walking.

After the errands, on the drive home we stopped at a nearby marsh to get some fall pictures.

This marsh falls under the category of “looks are deceiving.” The pictures indicate that this marsh is somewhere off the beaten path, deep in the country, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this marsh is along one side of a busy highway with a wide breakdown lane. A good thing, too, or else it would be impossible to safely take pictures of this beautiful wetland. Even with the relative safety of the breakdown lane, it is not a peaceful area to stop and take pictures. Whiz, whiz, whiz go the cars. Still, it is such a lovely place that I can’t resist stopping, from time to time, to take pictures of the marsh.

Although we need wild places for creatures to live, and I am a firm believer in land and water conservation, I am also grateful to have this marsh off the busy highway between Augusta and Winthrop. I see it whenever we go into town. Every season brings fresh delights to the marsh, and right now it is golden in its autumn glory. Spring and summer bring a progression of light green to dark green, and in winter there is the stark beauty of ice and snow.

In many cases, nature is not an either-or proposition. Nature is all around us, in the wilderness, in the countryside, in suburbs, even in cities. (I’ve been told that Central Park is an excellent place for bird watching.)

All we have to do is look.

 

Three Things Thursday: Three lessons Learned through a Book, a Singer, and another Book

My weekly exercise in gratitude, or as some of my blogging friends put it, three things that made me smile this week.

As this blog surely indicates, I love the natural world for its beauty as well as its struggles. Because I live in the hinterlands, my posts often reflect this. But I also love art—books, movies, music, theater, and paintings, and today’s Three Things Thursday will illustrate how this love illuminated my life, the way it so often does.

First, Myrtle the Purple Turtle a delightful new children’s picture book—released just a few days ago—by my blogging friend Cynthia ReyesMyrtle the Purple Turtle is a gentle book that address a serious subject—not looking like most everyone around you. Race certainly comes to mind, but you could also add ethnicity, disability, or any number of things that make people feel different. In the time-honored tradition of many children’s books, Cynthia Reyes uses animals to explore this especially relevant subject. In short, Myrtle is not like most other turtles. Instead of being green, she is purple. After being bullied because of the way she looks, Myrtle takes steps to change her color, and the results aren’t exactly what she had expected. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling readers that the book ends on a hopeful note.  Jo Robinson’s illustrations are charming but vibrant, giving warmth and personality to this lovely purple turtle.

Second, the singer George Ezra and his song “Don’t Matter Now.” All during the summer, after the work of the day, my husband and I would go to the patio, have a drink, and listen to music. It was our response to all the horrendous news and decisions coming from Washington, DC. Ezra’s song somehow exactly fit our mood.

Sometimes you need to be alone
It don’t matter now
Shut the door, unplug the phone.

One day, I was wondering what George Ezra looked like. The radio doesn’t give you any idea, and none of the DJs really discussed him. Ezra has a big, deep bluesy voice, and in my mind’s eye he was African American, maybe from the South, maybe from Detroit, in his  mid-thirties, and ruggedly built. You can imagine my surprise then when I Googled Ezra and discovered he was a skinny white boy from England. (I hope my British blogging friends aren’t laughing too hard.)

What I especially love about this is how George Ezra’s voice upended my expectations about the way he looked.  And having expectations upended shakes up the mind, which is often a very good thing.

Third, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Actually, this is a double gratitude that should be shared by Title Waves, the wonderful book group I belong to, hosted by the library and facilitated by the equally wonderful Shane Billings, the Adult Services Librarian. But I digress.

How to describe A Tale for the Time Being? In essence it’s a tale told in two parts. The journal of Nao, a teenager in Tokyo, is washed up on the shore of an island in the Pacific Northwest, where it is found by a woman named Ruth. The story rocks back and forth between the lonely, suicidal Nao and Ruth, who suffers from writer’s block. Throughout this quirky but often harrowing story, Ozeki explores Buddhism—Nao’s great-grandmother is a Buddhist nun and a fabulous character. She also touches on bullying, family, honor, conscience, depression, right livelihood, and memory. Finally, Ozeki examines the nature of books and readers and  how they relate to quantum mechanics.

Phew! That’s a lot for one book, but Ozeki pulls it off with grace and warmth, coming up with memorable characters along with some very zippy concepts.

 

A Glorious October Day, But No Biking for Me

Yesterday, we got much needed rain, but today the weather has cleared. The day is warm—ridiculously so for Maine in October—and the sky is blue. A perfect day for a bike ride, except that my leg is just not up to it. My right leg, which hit the bar of my bike as I fell, still has a bruise with the circumference of a small grapefruit.  (Fortunately it doesn’t have the mass, only the width. ) I hobble. I rest. I hobble some more. I rest some more.

I am grateful that I didn’t break anything, but I feel a bit glum about not being able to go on bike rides, and I suspect I won’t be able to go on any until next spring. As soon as my leg stops hurting so much, I’ll be riding the exercise bike, that road to nowhere.

Despite my sore leg, I was able to take some pictures this morning, of the sun streaming into the woods and onto the trees. The changing leaves have not been brilliant this year—too warm, too dry?—but still they are lovely.

As the ferns change from green to tan, they light up the woods.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I hope to get into town, with the car, of course, and take some pictures of trees by the lake.

Spring and fall are such glorious seasons in Maine. Spring has the flush of youth, and it bursts upon us in a rush, with a froth of blossoms and an oh-so tender green. Spring never stays as long as we would like as she runs headlong into summer.

Fall, on the other hand, comes in an aching blaze, and on nice days, there is such a glory of bright leaves and blue sky that you can almost forgive fall for binging the shorter days that eventually lead to cold winter. Almost.

In the fall, our thoughts turn to soup, and I have two of Farmer Kev’s butternut squashes that are begging to be made into soup. I also have some of his onions and garlic. My little garden has a frenzy of herbs, with the oregano being completely out of control.

Clif will help me chop the vegetables and herbs, and who knows? If my leg isn’t too sore, maybe I’ll even make a batch of biscuits to go with the soup. My biscuit recipe comes from my mother, who surely made the best biscuits in Maine, if not New England.

Anyway, these are all things to perk me up. I still wish I could go on a bike ride, but these fine October days, with their beauty, along with the plan for soup and biscuits, chase my glum thoughts away.

 

 

 

The Great Pumpkinfest: Part Two

Here are some more pictures from the Great Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta. Such a fun event! I plan to go back next year, but maybe on the Tuesday after the actual fest. That way, the pumpkins will be complete but won’t have started to decay, and there won’t be as many people.

Now, an interlude with a flower, a beautiful rose that somehow managed to bloom in October.  In Maine. It almost seems miraculous.

Back to pumpkins.

The end. Until next year.

The Great Pumpkinfest: Part One

Yesterday, I went with my friend Dawna to Damariscotta for its annual Pumpkinfest.

Damariscotta is a lovely little village—population circa 2,000—nestled beside the even more lovely Damariscotta River, a tidal estuary of the gulf of Maine. Here is a shot looking out from town onto the river.

Because of the natural beauty, artists have been drawn to this area, which means the village has a zippy, arty vibe.

Yesterday, when we went to Damariscotta, the village was certainly zipping as various businesses and individuals were getting their giant pumpkins ready for the fest. (Today is when the fest officially opens, with a parade and many outside vendors as well as the pumpkins, of course. We were told that the town is packed, and it was best to come very early to get a parking spot.)

But first things first. As the day was drizzly but clearing,  Dawna and I decided we would begin with lunch, and that if we were lucky, the rain would be gone by the time we finished our meals. We went to a place called Crissy’s, a breakfast and coffee bar, open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

I am happy to report that my BLT was mighty tasty and it, along with every thing else on the menu, was reasonably priced. Honest food at honest prices. My favorite kind of place to eat.

And by gum, when we were done lunch, the weather had indeed cleared, and for the cherry on the sundae, the light was bright overcast, just perfect for taking pictures of pumpkins.

Outside of Crissy’s, a young woman was in the process of creating a hatching dragon inspired by one of my favorite series, Game of Thrones.

We crossed the street and came upon this beautiful carved pumpkin.

The man who was carving—I didn’t get his name—explained that this Pumpkinfest was done totally for fun. It was not a competition. There were no prizes. Now, competitions have their place, but I love the idea of a fest where the pumpkins are carved, painted, and decorated for sheer creative enjoyment. However, while I didn’t question the man any further, I expect there is still some friendly rivalry to see who can come up with the most creative pumpkin.  Whatever the case, this master carver looked as though he was having a good time.

Then, for something completely different, stylish black and white.

And next, a hideous clown. (There. Now you know how I feel about clowns. )

That’ll do for today. Tomorrow, I’ll post some more pictures of this fun Pumpkinfest, to get all of you in the mood for this season of ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties.