Category Archives: Food for Thought

Living in Place

For a New Year’s resolution, Clif and I have made a plan to use our car less and thus reduce our carbon emmissions. Our intention is to cut 1,000 miles from our yearly total, which was 7,800 last year.

Because we live in a rural community with no public transportation, a car is a necessity for us.  We must drive to the grocery store, and we must travel to sell books. Nevertheless there are plenty of ways to cut back, and one way is to become more involved with our town—Winthrop—which has a fantastic library and a new brewery, both of which sponsor many events each month. (This Friday night at the brewery is trivia night. Yes, we will be there.)

Another way is to go for walks and appreciate the natural beauty of the town itself, including our very own wooded road.

Whatever the season, there is something to notice. Sometimes the trees even look back.

As we walk, the crows are always watching. I was lucky to snap a picture of these two before they flew away.

Then there are the brown leaves on the winter trees,

and the little stream that winds through the woods not far from where we live.

I call this kind of close attention “living in place,” and it seems to me that focusing on what is nearby is a kind of meditation, which, in turn, can lead to an abiding of love of where one lives—town, city, country, or suburb.

In this time of climate crisis, a love of place is of utmost importance. Because in the end, we pay attention to what we love. We nurture it. We take care of it. We don’t destroy it.

Viewed in this light, living in place might be the most important thing a person can do.

Welcome, 2020!

As my mother-in-law, Ethel, would have put it, the holidays went by in a mad dash. We had lots of fun, but I will admit to being more than a little tired. Never mind! Plenty of time to rest in January, which, believe it or not, is one of my favorite months. I love the snow and the quiet and the clarity of the light.

I was too busy to take pictures during Christmas, but on the last day of the year, it snowed and things slowed down. (Shannon, sorry you missed this. I know how much you like cozy days.)

We started the day with waffles and veggie sausages. I realize this is bragging, but Clif makes the best waffles. Ever.

Here is the master by his machine.

Then there was the snow, to make everything feel snug and warm inside. We had just the right amount—about five or six inches—and clean up was easy.

Here are some more snowy pictures.

Ending with some snowy frogs.

For some reason, I am starting 2020 with a hopeful feeling. I know. I know. Australia is burning—oh so terrible!—and the politics of hate, racism, and lies continue to rage in this country as well as around the world. Nevertheless, I feel hope stirring inside me.

Maybe it’s because today I have read several pieces where other writers have felt the same way. Or because a very good friend did something so cool I would have jumped for joy if my creaky knees had allowed.

Or maybe it’s because on New Year’s Eve, we timed Avengers: End Game so perfectly that at the stroke of midnight, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, snapped his fingers. At which point, the evil Thanos and all his minions blew away. (I’m not going to put too fine a point on the symbolism of this.)  But it was indeed a thrill to have those snapping fingers precisely at midnight at the dawn of a new decade with a number that implies clarity.

Who knows why I’m feeling this spark of hope? But I am. And for a while, anyway, I will be sharing hopeful things on my blog.

Happy 2020 to you all, dear blogging friends. I look forward to reading all your wonderful posts in the upcoming year.

From Baby Yoda to Waiting in Line

My Christmas shopping is nearly done, but after watching The Mandalorian, I was keen to buy some Baby Yoda T-shirts for my nerdy family, from my husband to my daughters to my son-in-law to my nephew.  (I was even going to sneak one in for myself.)

Is it any wonder that we all wanted a shirt with this adorable child?

I had read the T-shirts were available at our local Kohl’s, and that’s  where I went.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful. Although there were many Star Wars shirts available, there was nary a one with Baby Yoda.

Another woman was looking carefully through the stacks of folded T-shirts, and I asked, “Have you seen any with Baby Yoda?”

She shook her head. “No. That’s what I’m looking for, too.”

“Bet they sold out,” I said sagely.

“Yeah,” she agreed with a sigh. “Probably on black Friday.”

We continued to look through the folded shirts and then shrugging philosophically, we conceded defeat.

I did find other goodies, and I had to wait to pay in a line that really wasn’t too long. However, with only three registers open, the line moved slowly. Being a mother, I am used to waiting, and it takes more than standing in line for fifteen or twenty minutes to fluster me.

This was not the case for the woman behind me. I could hear her complaints before she even reached the line.

“In the old days, it wasn’t like this. Service has gone downhill. I’m not patient. I hate waiting. You’d think at this time of year they would have more cashiers. This is awful. What’s the matter with them?”

Her companion, a man, agreed placidly, “Yup.”

On and on the complaints went, and the man was either a saint or a fool.  His unruffled good humor never waned as he agreed with her.

Finally, she said to me, “Don’t you hate waiting in line?”

“No,” I said in a tone that brooked no further discussion. “It doesn’t bother me.”

I could have said more. If the woman hadn’t been so busy grousing, she might have noticed that one of the cashiers, a young man, had a luminous personality that on a scale of one to ten was fifteen. His goodwill flowed from customer to customer, even though he pretty much had to say the same things over and over. It didn’t matter. He greeted each customer afresh, as though it were the first time that he had ever done this.

One register over, there was an elderly lady in a wheel chair, and she  was buying lots of glassware that had to be wrapped. The manager came over to help the cashier, and I was struck by their patience and kindness. As they wrapped, they chatted and smiled, and the elderly lady went away smiling, too. I can only hope that I will be treated with such care if I am ever in a wheel chair.

Eventually the complaining woman took her complaining self to the register with the charismatic young man, who thanked her for letting him know that she was upset.

Now, I am aware that there are times when we should complain, but having to wait in line for twenty minutes is not one of them.

In all fairness, I must admit that in the past, I have complained about trivial things. But the next time I’m tempted to do this, I will keep that griping woman in mind and remember how much she missed.

 

 

 

 

Giving Thanks for the Courageous Men and Women Who Speak Out

In the United States, next Thursday is Thanksgiving, a holiday that is not without controversy. I expect for Native Americans, the arrival of the Pilgrims was not something to celebrate. Yet to set aside a day to give thanks is not a bad thing, and that is what we focus on while not forgetting the past.

Because we are vegetarians, we don’t eat the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Instead, I will make stuffed shells, something we all love. I have never cared much for traditional Thanksgiving food, and to my way of thinking, stuffed shells are a big improvement.

However, I will still be making pumpkin bread, a favorite in this house.

I have already put together—made is probably too grand a word—a peppermint ice cream pie with hot fudge. Waiting for Thanksgiving, it sits in the freezer.

Our daughter Dee, from New York, will be coming to Maine on Tuesday to join us. (Unfortunately, our North Carolina daughter and son-in-law live too far away to come home for this short holiday weekend.) As always, it will be great to have Dee here, and we will have a jolly time of movies and good things to eat. Therefore, I will be taking a week off from the blog and will return on November 25.

Because this is a blog about home, books, friends, and living in place, I don’t often mention politics. However, longtime readers will know that I am a progressive who, like many others, has been incredibly pained by the direction this country has taken with the election of President Trump.  For the past three years, I have felt battered by the coarse language, the hatred, and the actions coming from those at the top.

This week there were impeachment hearings investigating President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine. Brave men and women from the State Department have stepped forward to testify, revealing a pattern of an abuse of power from those who should not only know better but also do better.

The men and women who have testified have received dire threats and still they speak out. To these courageous women and men, I give thanks. Their bravery shines forth as an example, urging us all to hold on to our convictions even when it might be dangerous for us to do so.

 

 

 

After the Storm

Early this morning, a fierce storm blew up the coast of Maine, knocking out power to more than 217,000 homes. (A notable percentage in a state that has a little over one million people.) In coastal communities, especially in southern Maine, trees came crashing down, roads were filled with debris, and schools were closed.

In central Maine, where we live, there was wind and rain, but the storm lost steam as it came inland. As far as I can tell, there are no widespread power outages in our area, and there was nary a flicker of lights at our cozy house in the woods.

We knew the storm was coming, and we were ready. The larder is well stocked with cans of baked beans, soup, cookies, crackers, and peanut butter. We have a little camp stove to heat the soup and beans.  In our cellar, we have big covered buckets filled with water because for us, no power means no water. Fortunately, we did not have to resort to our stash of storm supplies.

I am an ocean person, and once upon a time, I longed to live closer to the coast so that I could go for frequents walks on the beach. Not anymore. In these days of climate crisis, the storms along the Maine coast have gotten stronger and more frequent. Once upon a time, when I was young, October in Maine used to be a placid month, known more for its brilliant foliage than for powerful storms that would surge up the coast and take down trees. But for the past several years, October has been a month that has brought at least one corker of a tempest that has knocked out power, primarily in the southern part of the state right by the sea.

Occasionally, in central Maine, we get hit, but not with anywhere near the frequency that southern Maine and the coast do. I am glad I live sixty miles inland, and even if I suddenly came into money, I would not move closer to the ocean. Sad, especially for someone like me who loves the sea, but this is our new reality.

Around our house, the wind—thank goodness—did not take down any trees, but it did take down more than a few leaves, and there is now a carpet rather than a sprinkle.

Some of the trees are downright bare.

But a peak through branches at our house reveals that despite the wind and rain, there are lovely leaves left on some of the trees.

And best yet, the crickets are still singing.

 

Artists Need to Create…

For someone who doesn’t stray far from home, I seem to have quite the busy little life. I suppose no matter where you live there is always something going on, and observant writers, photographers, and artists try to catch as much of it as possible.

Last week, our daughter Dee came to visit, and we celebrated our birthdays. Hers is in October, and Clif and I have birthdays in September. What a time we had! We went to three movies; ate dinners at a Thai and Mexican restaurant (not the same place); had fires in our fire pit, where we made S’mores; got together with friends; and went to two terrific art exhibits at Colby College and Bates College. Have I left anything out? I don’t thinks so.

Dee left yesterday, and now it’s time to hunker down and work on my fantasy novel Out of Time. I am at 70,000 words, and I might have been a wee bit optimistic about when I would finish.  I had hoped it would be by the end of September, but now it looks like it won’t be until some time in October. (Still ahead of schedule. My original goal was to finish by December.) Therefore, I’m going to resume blogging—yes, I have missed it—albeit on a somewhat limited scale with more images than words and perhaps featuring posts from other blogs.

Anyway, here is today’s image, taken at the fabulous Colby College Museum of Art.

Created by

Yes, yes, and yes!

 

The Pull of Abandoned Places

This was a weekend of selling books, and what a good weekend it was. We went to two shows—the Summer Arts Festival in our own little town of Winthrop and the Sunday Indie Market at the Baxter Brewing Company’s Pub in Lewiston. The Summer Arts Festival was fun, and we sold lots of books. Other vendors did well, too, and as I’ve noted before, it means a lot to us when people come to these events and buy what we have created.

However, a big highlight of the weekend was the setting of the Sunday Indie Market in Lewiston, a huge mill complex that is slowly being renovated, where shabby is juxtaposed with new. Clif and I are both drawn to buildings that have been abandoned. Somehow, in their neglect, these buildings acquire a dignity that they often didn’t have when they were in better repair.

For many people, Maine is a state of quaint seaside villages that caters to those who are from away, as we say here. The coast is certainly one beautiful aspect of the state. However, Clif and I were born inland—in Bangor and Waterville—two communities that do not give Maine its quaint reputation. We are old enough to remember when these cities were filled with factories and were more than a little gritty. These places feel like home to us.

Once upon a time, Lewiston was also a city of mills and factory workers.

Here is the gate at the pub, where the Sunday Indie Market was held.

We set up a booth on one side of the walkway. Behind us were shiny  new silos and old bricks.

Across from us, green growth reached up to cover neglect,

and water rushed by.

From afar, the walkway almost looks as though a mural has been painted on it. But here is one of Clif’s photo that takes a closer look and reveals peeling rather than painting.

Finally, old next to new.

While we love nature as much as the next Mainer, these half-abandoned places exert an almost gravitational pull on us, and we had mixed feelings when we heard that the rest of this mill complex was slated for renovation. I know. I know. We really don’t want these factories to fall to the ground, and we want them to be useful once more.

But gussied up, the buildings lose their striking visual appeal. Good for the community, perhaps, but not so good for photography.