Racing and Hunting

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Early on a late September morning: foggy, damp, warm but a slight chill lingers. A very quiet town: also very dark. Slowly a few cars creep along the streets: coming, going, searching, watching. It is the time when everyone and everything is calming down and people don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Rushing here, running there, overexerting energies to fill now empty spaces.

TWELVE

The five colors blind the eye.

The five tones deafen the ear.

The five flavors dull the taste.

Racing and hunting madden the mind.

Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.

He lets go of that and chooses this.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

dan photos september 2013 114At Rockefeller Gardens

I have a neighbor named Jill; she and her boyfriend are about to go to Florida for the winter, but she came over to chat tonight and betrayed The Secret, the thing that you are not supposed to say out loud when you live here: she said, “this place is hard when you’re alone, by yourself, that’s for sure.” (Her boyfriend, Bobby, is already on his way to Florida and she has been solo now for about a month. She also said she’s staying til November 20th and at this point, has no idea why.)

The stores all closed this past weekend, the weekend of Halloween, and many of the year round places are taking some time off. This is not hugely significant to me, as I spend most of my time at my house or at my friend’s houses, but it is strange to think of this island, so abuzz with activity all summer, as literally shutting down: closing doors. I keep noticing the dark curtains pulled close across all the windows of the summer houses and interpret it as a metaphor for this place.

What does that mean? I honestly have no idea, just am mulling over the loneliness factor of living here for a second winter. People here pair up, hardly anyone is single, and I think the reason is that the starkness and the harshness of staring down the barrel of a long, cold winter, is just too much for any one person to seriously be able to handle. Perhaps people like the North Pond Hermit love the loneliness and isolation, and I do, too, for many, many hours and even days during the winter.

But I miss strangers, strangely. I miss the surface level interactions you have with people in cities: with the guy that works at the coffee shop, or the bartender at the pub. I also miss seeing people on the street and smiling at them or just saying hello, knowing that will be your only interaction with them for the rest of time. Here, in winter, you know almost everyone to the point of being actual friends, and having conversations every time you run into them. Now, this may sound magical and sweet, and it is, but sometimes I just want to be anonymous as I walk around the towns, and there is no anonymity here. You, your business, your quirks, are all on public display and a topic of public conversation.

To meditate for too long on one’s existential loneliness is probably not a good idea, but places like this tiny island do force you to think about the Big Ideas, the life issues that we all must confront at some point: what gives our lives meaning? What messages are we putting out there for all the world to see? What does accountability mean? How do we really communicate with those we love? What is community? Family? Truth in relationships? How do you balance independence and a desire for companionship? Are you doing it right? The last question is, of course, a joke, but these are the questions floating through my mind tonight, a night of cooler temperatures, a rare solar eclipse in the morning, and our first snowfall coming sometime tomorrow.

Today, whilst driving through the park, listening to the hum of a very loud engine, I saw hundreds of naked beech trees. Silent, tall, skinny, with knobby trunks, they are deep grey with black blotches. Growing in stands, or groups of trees, they dazzle the eye with their sheer number and monochrome. Beyond the stands of trees are great granite outcroppings, covered with lichen in various shades of green. Almost gone are the colors of spring and summer: green and grey are highlighted in the fading light, in the absence of leaves and flowers.

from school laptop 2012 093From Outside, Looking In! Photographer Unknown

Spring Fever

“I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.”

Brendan Behan

Feeling the seasons change in your bones, and in the bones of others, is a rather mystifying experience. All day today, in my travels over and across this island, people said the same thing to me: “are you enjoying the weather?” because, of course, we all are. It is amazing to feel the sun and warmth return after such a long time: my journal reflects our first snowfall from November 9th, and here we are April 4th, and although we may get another snowstorm or two, I think it is safe to say that winter is resolutely over, and spring is here. This season of spring is so short here in Maine: a mere two months, mid-April to mid-June, and then of course the shortness of summer, too, mid-June to beginning of September, then fall and winter find us, again.

But enough about that.

Spring fever is in the air: birds are singing about it, plants are bursting forth communicating their connection to our Earth and our position in space relative to the Sun, beautiful people near and far are catching each other’s eyes, gardeners are sweeping back the layers of leaves left on the ground after so many months. Ice is melting to reveal moss, no ferns or leaves just yet, but we all know they are lurking under there somewhere.

march 2013 7The Tarn, still frozen, two weeks ago!

Driving home from Bar Harbor today, I took the scenic route and noticed the sunshine on the top of Dorr Mountain, and followed the light all the way down the cliffs edges and onto the surface of The Tarn. When I was a little girl, we used to fish in The Tarn, but I don’t remember catching much. Today, the sunlight seemed to burnish the golden-colored reeds leaning out of the dark blue water. A mere few weeks ago, those same reeds were held up and in place by white ice, the same ice that spread across the surfaces of all the ponds and lakes, and up mountainsides and dripped off ledges in suspended animation.

This afternoon, the glow of spring seemed to beam off the surface of The Tarn, clearly communicating that warmth is back, the sun has returned. During the sunset, as I drove the long way home through Otter Creek, and then took Cooksey Drive onto the Hill of Seal Harbor, over and through the wooded, mossy roadway, lined with the granite walls of the fancy peoples’ houses, the light remained a bronze-y, brass-y, gold, a colour that left us for so long. The last time I remember it was in the fall, one bronze morning.

Transitions, even joyful ones like this one, are difficult because your rhythm and routine is disrupted; it takes a while to regain the swing of things when the environment is fundamentally changing. I have said it before, but this place connects you so strongly to itself. You are quite literally a part of the landscape and you feel its shifts within your body and mind. For the last few days, the only way that I can channel this shifting energy, this cacophony of nature expanding and exhaling and returning to us after sleeping for six months, is to handle stones and place them in a path, to feel their rough texture, their weight in my arms.