Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cadillac Mountain is the highest summit on the island. There are a number of trails to the top, as well as an auto road, but we took the west face trail--the shortest route but by far the steepest.

Most of the trail consists of boulder fields and steeply pitched granite faces. This would have been less scary if the ledges hadn't, in places, been slick with snow melt.

These photographs look like pleasant forest pictures; what you can't see is the sheer drop in front of us.

One ought to be fully dressed when hiking this trail. Yet Paul found a pair of very large pants hanging neatly over a tree branch. They smelled strongly of Tide laundry detergent. Paul made Tom pose with them and then we hung them up again for the next person. You never know who might need a pair of large clean pants.

Here's Paul on the summit, patiently waiting for Tom to photograph lichen.

And here's the mountain and the Atlantic on a cloudy spring day.

 But today it is raining and we go home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is the Beehive, site of one of the most difficult climbs in Acadia National Park. Although it is not particularly long, much of the way up is scrambling rather than hiking. The cliffs are sheer, the ledges are narrow, and hikers have to depend on iron bars and in one place a dreadful iron bridge that I refused to walk on so scooted across on my butt. I was, in two places, ready to give up and go back. I am athletic-enough as a hiker and climber: this was not a physical problem but a mental one. But Tom stayed behind me and coached me through everything that I thought I couldn't do. His voice was peaceable and confident. He didn't hold me up but at moments of terror he would lay a hand gently on my back. I never want to hike anywhere scary without him. He always gets me to the top and he is never, ever a jerk about my fear.

And when I did get to the top, this is what I saw. To the bottom left is Sand Beach, Acadia's only saltwater swimming area. It faces directly into the Atlantic, and the waves can be high. On the day we were there, the air temperature was about 50 degrees, the breeze was steady, and silly teenagers were wading around in the surf. Later on the hike my own silly teenager dunked his head into a pond. He said it was because he liked the smell of ponds. Then he ate a lot of shortbread cookies.

Here is a view of the Beehive from the other side, as we headed back down toward the beach. In the summer, when the birches are in leaf, it will be invisible from this angle.

Our friend Keith, who was hiking with us, then took us on a short walk down the road to Thunder Hole. In the summer Thunder Hole is surrounded by RVs and minivans and oblivious tourists who don't understand that the carefully delimited walkway and railing mean that their children should not climb over the side and run around on the ledge and throw rocks at Uncle Claud. During hurricanes and nor'easters, these same families are particularly eager to congregate around Thunder Hole. Since we've lived in Maine, at least two people, both children, have been washed away to their deaths here.

When the tide is right, Thunder Hole really does thunder. Yesterday it was more like Burping Gurgling Hole, which as far as I was concerned was just as enjoyable.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Acadia National Park, Ship Harbor, 50 degrees, windy, bright; Tom watching the tide begin to turn

Snails in a tide pool

The view from the window of our sweet little carriage house lodging

The kitchen area of the sweet little carriage house lodging

More ocean, because your eyes might be longing for more ocean

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Among the words I dislike, schoolmarm has got to be near the top of the list. The word reeks of insult. It is physically pejorative, conjuring up the image of a stupid, prissy, badly dressed, plain-faced martinet; it belittles both a vocation and a gender.

Of course, in the larger picture, schoolmarm is no worse than, say, fishwife, because, God knows, no one admires a woman who rolls up her sleeves, raises her voice, and carries heavy loads. Just as bad is the dreadful poetess, with her fluffy hair and weak mind and sentimental palaver.

By way of these three words, I could sketch a dreadful portrait of my life. It's a good thing that my pencil has an excellent eraser.

Friday, April 18, 2014

School vacation starts this weekend, and we'll be venturing out of mud-slogged Harmony to spend a few days by the sea. So if you don't hear from me for a few days, assume that I have no Internet connection or that I'm standing on the top of a cold mountain staring out into choppy Penobscot Bay or that I'm trying to cook Easter dinner in a microwave.

Probably I am one of the very few Americans who has never owned a microwave and doesn't know how to use one. To deal with this problem, I am pre-making Easter dinner today, and will let some other person at the party deal with the microwaving.

Here's the menu:

* Two square pans of pre-baked vegetable lasagna that will fit nicely into a teeny-tiny cottage refrigerator. If Tom is not too exhausted after work tonight, he will make the noodle dough. In the meantime, I'll make fresh sauce, mix the filling, prepare the vegetables (zucchini? spinach? mushrooms?), and then we'll stay up late and listen to baseball and drink coffee and put it all together.

* Sourdough baguettes. Presently my kitchen counter is covered with bowls of proofing dough, and already I am wondering how I will possibly manage to get everything baked.

* Baby lettuce salad, unfortunately store-bought because my garden is nothing but snow and snow and snow.

* Chocolate-orange mousse, easy to whip up, easy to transport, easy to fit into a teeny-tiny cottage refrigerator. What I'd really like is lime meringue pie, but that's not practical as road food.

* A double batch of shortbread cookies. Too many cookies is always the right amount when one is hiking with a 16-year-old boy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

CavanKerry Press will be releasing a pair of study guides--one for high school students and teachers, one for book groups--to accompany my poetry collection Same Old Story. I am not writing either guide, so I will be as surprised as you are to discover what's worth studying in my book. However, the managing editor did ask me yesterday if I had anything to share about general themes; and after some thought, this is what I said:
(1) storytelling as retelling: e.g., the prologue and epilogue poems retell episodes from a Greek myth as retold by a Roman poet; "The White Bear" retells a Scandinavian myth; "Mrs. Dickinson" retells a comment by Emily D. from the point of view of her mother. Art goes backward as it goes forward: it dips into the past and reshapes or repositions it. 
(2) form as storytelling: e.g., the sonnets sprinkled throughout the book arose deliberately from two actions: (a) I copied out all of Shakespeare's sonnets word for word over the course of a month; and (b) I kept a diary for a month in which all my entries had to be Shakespearean sonnets: that is, I had to write about whatever daily issue struck me within the boundaries of this form. So I had to learn what sorts of stories sonnets were best at telling.
Here's a sonnet from the collection that I think speaks to both of those impulses.

Shouting at Shakespeare

Dawn Potter

How can you make such outrageous modest claims—
“I think good thoughts whilst other write good words”?
Why invite pity from the copyist mouthing your refrains
Like an accurate parrot? Why burden me with this absurd
Maudlin plea? The problem, big Will, is that no one
Can possibly trust your coy ignorance—these self-slamming asides,
These parenthetical sighs. You toss me a melancholy bone,
A morsel to sustain me as I dutifully admire your rhymes
And indiscretions. It’s too much like dealing with the man
Who broods so charmingly on why he’ll always love
My husband. I clutch the phone to my ear and fan
A panicked SOS into the resigned aether. Enough.
I’ve grown used to the common pain
Of being less. But don’t you complain.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

After a day of drenching rain, I woke this morning to a yard that is now a snow-frosted marsh dotted with ice mountains. The crocuses have vanished; schools are delayed because of impassible roads. Still, there are compensating reasons for living here. Comedy is one of them.

Yesterday, for instance, as I sat at the gas station waiting for the guys to ream the mud out of the axles of my car, I listened to the owner and his friend muse about the weather.
Owner: Will it be like the flood of '87 tomorrow? 
Friend: Mmm. I remember getting that call from Earle, his wife was stuck there at the farmhouse where the stream had flooded, could I get her out? he wanted to know. 
Owner: Mmm? 
Friend: You know [pause]. She's a big woman [pause]. Hard to carry through that lake. 
Owner: Mmm. 
Friend: [pause]. And then I shut her foot in the car door.

That friend wandered off, and another friend wandered in.

Other Friend: I'm off to Wal-Mart. Need anything? 
Owner: I can't think of anything. 
Other Friend: I'm gonna buy a new belt. 
Owner: [looks closely at Other Friend's belt]. You can't get another five years out of that one?

Later in the day, on my way north to pick up my son at school, I stopped to run a few errands. First, I went to the feed store to buy some new work gloves. While Clerk 1 was ringing up my purchase, Clerk 2 bustled over and started bossing him around.
Clerk 2: Time for you to go do [something unexplained in another part of the store]. 
Clerk 1: It's been a long time since I done that. 
Clerk 2: It ain't hard, go on and do it. 
Clerk 1: But first I'm gonna go outside for a minute. 
Clerk 2: Take a phone with you. Which phone you gonna take? 
Clerk 1: I'll bring number 6. 
Clerk 2: [darkly]. Ah. You're taking The Aggravator.
After buying my gloves, I walked next door to the grocery store. There, in front of the entrance, was the woman who grooms my dog. She was just standing there, going nowhere, holding the leash of a young springer spaniel.
Me: Hi, Sue! What are you doing? 
Sue: I'm teaching him to meet people! 
Young Springer Spaniel: [bounce, leap, bounce, leap, bounce, leap, bounce, leap].
I'd like to say that this was the same day I saw the Amish family purchasing (1) a package of lunch meat, (2) a box of factory-farmed eggs, and (3) a jumbo-sized bag of Cheerios, but that was last week.