Welcome to the Jungle

Hot and humid. Humid and hot. This was the theme of July,  and so far,  August is following suit. Clif and I can only look back wistfully to the days when Maine summers were delightful—not too hot, not too humid.

The plants, on the other hand, thrive in the humidity, and my little herb garden, with the cucumbers and tomatoes tucked in, has exploded into a jungle.

Mint has a bad reputation for hogging a garden, and while it often does grow where it doesn’t belong, mint has nothing on oregano, which is so out of control that I hardly know how to contain it.

Here is the mint, more or less confined to one corner of the bed.

Now behold the oregano. At night, I am certain that I can hear it call, “Feed me, Laurie!”

Fortunately, there is room for wee, delicious cucumbers,

as well as wee tomatoes that I hope will be delicious.

As a bonus picture, here is Clif by the tomatoes, so that readers can appreciate just how out of control this garden is. (I know. I know. I should prune. Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to do it.)

Finally, to borrow from one of my blogging friends and her blog CIMPLE, here’s a little something to start the weekend.

 

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How Far North Do You Have to Go?

This summer, the weather in central Maine has been miserable—hot and humid, with mold growing where it usually doesn’t grow. On Saturday, it was so hot and humid that I spent the afternoon on the couch. I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else, even though there is always much to do around here.

That night, Clif and I went to the Theater at Monmouth to see Enchanted April, and my friend Alice was there. We commiserated about the uncomfortable weather and how the recent thunder storms have done nothing to relieve the heat and humidity.

“It’s just like Pennsylvania,” I said, remembering a long-ago vacation when the girls were young. After that trip, we decided never to leave Maine in the summer again.

“It’s just like southern New Jersey,” Alice replied. “That’s why my family went to Vermont for the summer.”

Heading north has been a time-honored way of escaping the heat, but how far north do you have to go nowadays? Recently I read that because of extreme heat, fires are raging above the Arctic circle. You can’t go much farther north than that.

But on Saturday, I felt revived after seeing the delightful Enchanted April, a story about loosening up, just a little, so that life can be better appreciated. And last night, the humidity broke. It was so chilly that I had to add an extra blanket to my bed. A very good night for sleeping.

Then there are the flowers of late July, the last hurrah for my gardens. I usually have black-eyed Susans to perk up August, but this year they haven’t done well, and I only have a few blossoms here and there. I have had those black-eyed Susans for many, many years. It might be time to replace them.

Anyway, here are some of the lovelies from my gardens.

My favorite daylily. What a mouth-watering red!

This one seems to glow from within.

This daylily is more delicate, but I love its pale beauty.

Hostas aren’t known for their beautiful flowers, but the fringe of purple brightens the shady front garden.

As does this balloon flower.

The meteorologists predict more hot and humid weather for the middle of the week. It looks as though no matter where you live, extreme weather is here to stay, and we just have to learn to adapt to it.

And perhaps not release so much carbon into the atmosphere?

Just a thought.

 

Art Is not Obliged to Be Beautiful

This has been a rainy, humid week. While the rain has been much needed, a few dry days would be nice. The house smells like mildew, and I even had to resort to using the clothes dryer. I know from sad experience what clothes smell like when racks are used for wet laundry during rainy, humid weather. Not good!

On the other hand, it has been a good week for going to the movies and to the Colby Museum of Art.

At Railroad Square, we saw two movies: Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley’s wild, surreal, pointed look at racism and economic injustice in the United States; and Leave No Trace, a sad, beautiful story about an emotionally-wounded veteran and his daughter. If you like character-driven movies, Leave No Trace is a must-see film. In fact, both movies are very much worth seeing.

For a small liberal arts college (1,800 students), Colby has an incredible art museum. It is free and open to the public six days a week. Because we live so close—about thirty-five minutes away—we have the luxury of focusing deeply on one exhibit at a time, which is my favorite way to visit an art museum. For this week’s visit, we focused on Self and Society, a collection of German Expressionist Prints.

On its website,  MoMA notes that  German Expressionism was a “major modernist movement that developed in Germany and Austria during the early decades of the 20th century.” The painters and printmakers—George Grosz and Max Beckmann, to name two—were more interested in portraying emotions rather than the actual physical world. And the emotions they portrayed were usually  dark and grim.

Why wouldn’t they be? Many of the artists had fought in World War I and had witnessed firsthand the ugliness and brutality of that war.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the post-war period was not exactly smooth and tranquil either. Then  we all know what came next. It seems to me that these Expressionist artists, who would be persecuted during the Nazi regime, had their fingers on the pulse of society. Their art will never go on the cover of chocolate boxes, but art is not obliged to be beautiful.

To be sure, beauty is a part of life, and I appreciate  beautiful art as much as the next person. But ugliness is also a part of life, and there are times when that reality is so great that artists have no choice but to face it and portray it.

Here are a couple of photos I took of prints from Self and Society.

Max Beckmann, “Die Granate (The Grenade).” 1915

 

George Grosz, “No. 73 Restaurant,” c. 1925

 

In the gallery below Self and Society, we came across this—Cracked Question by Elizabeth Murray, who was not a German Expressionist.

But somehow, after seeing the horrors portrayed in Self and SocietyCracked Question seemed absolutely appropriate.

 

 

Ten Movies in Five Days: Having Fun Is Exhausting

The Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) is over, and yesterday, we dropped off Dee at the bus station so that she could return to New York City. Afterwards, we returned to Winthrop, whereupon we collapsed on the couch and took a long nap. Why we should get so tired after a week of having fun is beyond me. Old age? No stamina? At any rate, we were wiped out.

But what a great week we had! As the title of this post indicates, we saw ten movies in five days. Waterville, Maine, is very lucky to have this film festival to bring a cultural spark to the area. It is also a boost to local businesses. Central Maine is not a destination for tourists, and while we have a slight influx of summer people who come to this region’s lakes, we do not have the great number of visitors that coastal communities have. During MIFF, the owner of one small cafe noted that they had made an extra several hundred dollars each day because of MIFF. For a small business, that is a big help.

And speaking of small…one of the things I especially like about MIFF is having the chance to watch really small movies that I probably wouldn’t see anywhere else, not even at Railroad Square. We saw two such movies last week: The first was Waiting for Barcelona, Finnish filmmaker Juho-Pekka Tanskanena’s beautifully-shot documentary about immigrants. The second was Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch, in which a little girl is accused of being a witch and is sent to a witch camp. Set in Zambia, I Am Not a Witch is a haunting fable suffused with magical realism. 

Between movies, we, of course, had to eat, and in downtown Waterville, we discovered Itali-ah Restaurant and Market.

From the snappy cocktail

to the sweet little bread basket and fabulous olive oil

to the pizza with its perfect sauce and crunchy crust,

it was love at first bite. So good, so good! Itali-ah even has gelato, one of my passions, and we stopped in twice for a cool, creamy treat on a hot summer’s day.

Now that MIFF is over, and we aren’t seeing two movies a day, you might think we are at loose ends. But fear not. Two new movies have arrived at Railroad Square. They are Leave no Trace and Sorry to Bother You.

Always something happening in Central Maine. And in between, we even manage to get a few things done.

 

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