How Summer Ends…

rockefeller gardens 5Leaves beginning to disintegrate in the waning sunlight…

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. “

Natalie Babbitt

And here we are, again, another ending to another season: summer.

moglosMorning glories on parade!

Tonight I walked out of the restaurant with another week of summer under my belt. Summer, to me, has meant non-stop working: smiling, helping, bringing, doing, aquiesceing to peoples’ desires. Summer is a season of wants, sometimes fulfilled. Summer is a season when the population explodes: when your always sleepy town is transformed by people strolling in pistachio green or salmon pink trousers, people stopping in their cars or at least driving ever so slowly, as if creeping along a new road that has yet to be discovered.

rockefeller gardens 6Hidden views from Rockefeller Gardens

Whilst driving home, I noticed the outdoor temperature was 49 degrees: 49 degrees! Ever so cold for August; ever so cold for a girl who lived most of her life in a place when if it was less than 100 degrees in August, those types of low temperatures were considered a reprieve.

islesfordEnd of summer sunset from the Islesford dock

I have been writing here for almost a year: so much has happened over the last ten months. Most of the discoveries of the last almost-year have been reflective in nature: never before did I give myself the latitude of place to have time to think. This morning, when I woke, I noticed that the sun that daily streams through my front windows has bleached out my rendering of Shel Silverstein’s “Hector the Collector”, which is written in my slanting hand on the inside of a greeting card with the blazing emblem of “Let’s Get Drunk and Eat Waffles” on its cover.

rockefeller gardens 8Even lilies become caught in late afternoon misty rainstorms

My little house, so filled with light and creative projects, has been transformed from the tiny cottage it was when I moved in, to a jewelry studio with a small kitchen and bedroom. Everywhere, every surface indicates that an active artist lives here. The floor, messy, is covered with bits and bobs, the kitchen table-now-work-station is covered with silver wire, stones, pliers and projects halfway completed. On the counter lie Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, drying in the salty air. On the floor below is a skateboard-cribbage board, now decorated with insects from the 1800s. In the window hangs an Egon Schiele print, some prisms, a steel block or two, a slide from a Magic Lantern, tins filled with magical objects of a lost art, a sea urchin skeleton, and some antique steel components that once belonged on the drawers or in the doors of someone, somewhere far away.

rockefeller gardens 3Stucco rusting, dripping, disintegrating

To the right is a tiny antique shelf from Germany, or maybe England, although its rendering of wildflowers makes me think of Heidi, up there in the mountains of Europe. On the shelf lies a strand of ivory: Indian, not African, brought to me by my father when I was a little girl, before ivory was entirely illegalized. Within the curves of the ivory necklace is a stone box, with a magnetic clasp. Inside the box is the surprise of cicada exoskeletons, their bodies green and wings a plastic, black, threaded delight of perfect cells, and the dessicated body of a hummingbird who once flew into the windows of the school in which I taught. He flew into the glass, hit his little head, and fell to the ground, dead. I put him in a tin of salt, and after a time, he became what he is now: an artifact, a beautiful, scary thing that will stay for all time. His feathers shine green and black and grey and brown: a miracle of suspended iridescence.

rockefeller gardens 1Gateway in the rain

One of the things to appreciate in this grand scheme of turning time, this period of peace and quiet and loneliness, for it is that to be sure, are the stars. Glorious and reaching, they spread from horizon to horizon on nights like this. Wherever you look, there are stars, and the backbone-like fuzz of another arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. A galaxy so far, far away, yet we are a part of it and see only the tiny fraction of what is ours, what is our own neighborhood, here from the surface of planet Earth. Tomorrow when I awake, again it will be sunny and the sunshine will glitter like shimmering pellets on the water’s surface. Again the water will be deep blue, and the sunshine gold upon it. Again will I wonder at the beauty of this place, the stillness coupled with unfathomable dynamism: this place of daily change, of growth, of beauty, of solitude, of trees, water, and earth.

rockefeller gardens 7Sleepy Lisianthus, reflecting cloud cover and covered with an afternoon dew

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Another Rainy Day…

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“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca

Let’s talk about rain; Maine is truly a rainy state. After spending most of my adult life in Austin, Texas, land of almost desert-like plants and a serious lack of rain due to a ten year drought, when I moved away from Texas and to Philadelphia I had forgotten that these things called umbrellas existed. The first few times it rained, I was trapped outside sans-protection, and became soaked. Since living in Philly, I’ve adjusted and now have my own umbrella, striped with color, naturally, that, hopefully, travels with me on rainy days, protecting my head.

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I moved to Maine almost a year ago, in the midst of a bold and warm and sunny summer. I lived in a giant tent built in the basement of my parents’ house and spent most of my days there as I was very ill with shingles. Sometimes, I ventured out into the garden or down the road to the lake to swim. The summer was golden and light and even the breeze off the ocean was warm.

This year, however, is a rather wet year. As I sit here, at this moment, in the morning, having finished one cup of coffee and needing to get to work, I am listening to the rain fall, again, on the deck, off the picnic table, off the eaves. I am wondering if my plants will ever grow big and bushy with all this rain, all this lack of sunshine. I have to say that the consistent rain, interrupted here and there by sun, is rather similar to the wintertime darkness and absence of my favorite star.

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People say here that you must take Vitamin D to deal with the lack of light, and I think they are right. It is hard for me to understand how the sun can come out so few and far between; this is a place in which you feel so lucky and excited about sunny days that it’s as if everyone is outside all day long, soaking in sunshine with the knowledge that tomorrow, it may be grey and windy, rainy and cool again. Like today.

Yesterday was one of those days and I spent the whole day outside building a fence of peabrush. I am in the midst of a garden transformation, taking the blank slate which is the yard of my little house, and building an outdoor sitting space and green screens and veggie patches and flowerbeds. After all day in the sunshine, my shoulders and back were bright red and warm, I felt the strange chill of sunburn, I sat outside on the deck at night and looked at the few stars peeking through the thin, wispy nighttime clouds.

The parking lot next to my house is large and full of spaces demarcated by white lines. There is a yellow painted path, newly dubbed the Yellow Brick Road, that shows you how to walk down the steps to the water. At night, there are no streetlights and if you stand in the middle of the lot, staring upward through the power lines and beyond the trees, a whole world, a patchwork quilt of stars opens up before your eyes, each and every night. To the Northeast are mountains, silhouetted slightly against the nighttime sky, and everywhere you turn your head are more stars, clustered together and far apart, shining, twinkling brightly. Over the ocean rises the Moon, when we are lucky enough to have her, and she sits happily in the eastern sky as the nighttime passes.

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Last night, I lay about in my bed, curled up under a down comforter, flannel sheets and a woolen blanket, reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and imagining the scene set in the book, the scene of Manderley and its grounds and its epic loneliness, emptiness, romantic desolation, as set here, in Northeast Harbor, amidst the mansions of old wealthy families, the cold hallways set with beautiful artworks and conservative wooden furniture upholstered in salmon and off white silk, the kitchens larger than most houses I have lived in, empty for months, populated only for weeks. In the winter, I can pretend they are mine, or partly mine, anyway, and now have to realize that, just as the de Winters in the book, in the summer, the houses, and their ghosts, must awake. Are there creatures like Mrs Danvers in the houses in Northeast Harbor? Are there skeletons in closets and banshees wailing at the gates? As old rock walls begin to pitch and break apart, as pink paint peels off walls and old sinks rust, what happens to the families within? The people…who knows all the stories?

Such a spookiness and a subtle fascination, this rainy place full, now, almost, of its summer population, its summer people, summer not residents. Soon, the streets will be filled with people, Billionaire’s Island in full swing, mostly hidden behind heavy wooden doors, and behind leaded glass windows. Sometimes, I can see a glimpse of this old-fashioned life out of a mid-century novel, by catering parties in those beautiful kitchens, holding delicate antique china, staring out at the ocean from the patio, but most of the time, the wonder comes at night, under the covers, thinking about what it would be like to really live in a house like Manderley.

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