Fogged In

It is foggy in Portland, Maine. The clouds have touched the ground and everything is shrouded in a hazy mist of white. The fog horn on the bay warns of approaching land, not discernible with the naked eye. Like the whistle of a night train in the distance, it is a soothing sound.

It is said in many places that if you do not like the weather, wait 10 minutes. I have to agree with my daughter that no place I have been is that more true than here. Perched as it is on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, the weather changes as prevailing winds push clouds and potential storms that back up and collide with one another instantly altering the forecast. One minute the sun is shining and the next you can be fogged in or it can be pouring down rain.

This happened when we tried to go for a whale watch recently. We awoke to a steady rain, which tapered off to reveal blue sky and bright sunshine. As we headed for the boat however, skies turned cloudy, and once underway misty fog threatened to obscure cottages lining the rocky shore, yet not before getting a magnificent view of the tall ships in the harbor.

Heading out to sea, we passed through several cloud banks. The boat pushed through gentle swells that rocked and rolled enough to affect many without “sea legs.” Though I could not see much due to the fog I enjoyed the fresh, salty air and the wind against my face and in my hair.  At one moment, a halo of pinkish clouds formed almost a rainbow of bright in an otherwise dull gray sky. A lovely vision.

We did not find any whales this day, just a few seals and one enormous sunfish, so the trip was disappointing in that respect. Yet, for me, spending several hours on a boat on the open sea was enjoyable, if a bit long due to the absence of what we came out to see. Now to decide, do I try to go again (you get a “no whales” free trip guarantee)?

I don’t have to think too hard about that. This may be my last visit to this area of the country, so if the sun shines I will spend the morning on the water.

 

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Enjoyment

Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.

Paul Goodman

A couple years ago, I copied that quote from somewhere. It just rang a bell inside me for some reason. At the time, there was not much enjoyment in my life; I had lost my job due to an illness that isolated me from a real life. Enjoyment was a spattering of this or that here or there, it was certainly not ongoing.

These last few months, living in the woods, though I believe I understand better what the author meant by those words. And it has affected my desire to communicate in this forum.

It is not that there is nothing to write about; this is a new community with many lovely and interesting places and activities for sure. The sheer beauty of my surroundings is fodder for contemplation and expression.

Somehow though, the activity of communicating via the written word via computer has become less important as I simply enjoy the everyday miracles of my natural surroundings. Getting the computer out and sitting inside to work on it, just does not compare to walking in the sunshine and listening to birdsong.

Electronic communication is cumbersome, awkward and time consuming. You have to be “plugged in” if not literally, at least figuratively. Connecting to the outside world requires time and effort, and the reward is a connection that is often slow and sometimes non-existent.

Forgive me, if I prefer the immediate gratification of the sun in the trees, the wind in the leaves, the babble of the stream, and bird song punctuated by the occasional “gronk” of a bull frog echoing over the pond.

I tell myself I will save computer time for later when it is dark and I cannot do anything else, but then there is the moon glowing white or crimson, bright or hazy, and the stars, and perhaps a campfire flickering and glowing. By the time I come inside I am satiated with all the sights and sounds, and enjoyments of a full day.

I am tired, not the tired of hard work or a stressful day but that feeling of fulfillment of having spent a day well. Outdoors tired from fresh air and exercise which leads to a good night’s sleep. I have no patience for firing up the computer, connecting it to the phone, and adding an artificial glow to the end of my day.

Tomorrow, I say. And then tomorrow comes and I wake up to the sun shining through the trees, the birds singing, and the babble of the stream and rustle of the wind in the trees, and, well you know — enjoyment.Blue Bear paddling at Mirror LakeI have important ongoing activity to partake of here.

Maybe I will tell you about it one day — when it rains.

 

Reading Room

Hanging out at the library. Here and there.
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There is a world of difference between the outdoor reading room at the library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and the reading room in the Carnegie library (with the original fireplace and shelving) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. But no matter where you are, a library is a valuable treasure and a great place to hang out.

Sit a little, relax a little, read a little or a lot and ENJOY!

Blind Sided

Living in a 20-foot travel trailer, 24/7 is more like living in a small house than camping. Much more spacious and complicated than living in my mini-van, which I did one winter as a park volunteer. It has a plumbing system, heating system, sewer system, an awning, and window coverings, however, the plumbing system is a hose hooked up to an outdoor faucet, the heater is a small propane powered unit that roasts the room then freezes it, and the sewer requires frequent emptying into a portable tank that you haul to the dump station. The awning is susceptible to damage in high winds, but though technically retractable (if I were two people with 6 hands) it is so cantankerous that once up, since it offers the only protection from the elements over the door and one window, it stays that way, (though I do lower it in bad storms.)

The window over my bed has no awning, so to keep the blazing sun out in the late afternoon, I like to close the blind, yet since my view seldom includes another soul, I like to leave it open when I go to bed so I can open my eyes to a view of the sun shining through the trees. Great way to start the day!

Blue Bear looking out trailer windowI have only been in residence a short while, however, the daily up and down of the blind frazzled an already frayed cord completely. Suddenly there was no way to raise or lower the blind without hand folding it and attaching it to the valance with a clamp. Workable but most inconvenient on my most used window.

I visited a nearby RV dealer and checked on the possibility of restringing the current blind. I was told that there should be some clamps at the top that would release the blind from the window/valance, however, since it was extremely difficult and time consuming to restring the blinds, they recommended removing it and getting a replacement. What a waste but what is a bear to do???

I went back to the trailer and while laying on my back trying to see the attachments through bifocals not meant for that distance, discovered that not only were there no clamps for easy release of the blind, but the screws holding the blind in place had a square head and I did not have a square headed screw driver.

I visited my trusty RV dealer back home in Madison, and they patiently explained my options and answered a few other questions too. Once the new blind came, which amazingly matches the originals, I used my new square headed screwdriver to remove the valance, narrowly missing my face when it dropped, and then removed the blind itself.

Thinking this will be an easy fix, I removed the old blind but when I went to install the new one, I discovered that the pre-drilled holes did not match up. ARRRRGGGHHHH! I need to go get an electric drill.

Thankfully for my pocket book, the next morning my neighbor was taking apart a deck and was using just the tool I needed. He kindly took a few moments to drill the holes and I was ready to install right?

Not quite. In order to install the valance again, apparently you need two hands to hold it in place and another two to manage the screw and screwdriver. Last I looked, I only had two hands! Do they have 6-handed people at the manufacturing plant?

Though I tried a head, an elbow, and even a foot or two, there was no way for one person to reinstall that valance, not even standing on my head! Thankfully a friend came to visit and with her help holding the valance in place I was able to reinstall it. Ah, soooo much nicer than the towel that was serving as my privacy curtain.Thank you friend.

After all this, I took things one step further and purchased some extenders for the bottom cord anchors. That way there will be less friction on the cords as I raise and lower the blind and less likelihood of having to do this again anytime soon. I thought ahead and bought enough extenders to add to all the blinds however, the cords have been trimmed and are too short. I will just have to wait until they break and repeat this process all over again. At least I now know what to expect and will make sure I have at least two extra hands, one in possession of an electric drill, BEFORE I remove the old blind.

Now if only solving the mystery of the non-working radio (which works just fine in the trailer at the dealer) was so “easy.” But that is another story.

Rain

It has been a rainy spring in Baraboo, Wisconsin, where my summer home (trailer) is located. Though a long, cold winter with little snow ushered in spring drought conditions, the rain, and rain, and more rain over the last few weeks has alleviated any trace of drought warnings, filling the aquifers to overflowing at times.

A rainy day in a trailer in the woods is much different than the same rainy conditions in a house in an urban area. In the woods you can almost see the trees slurping up the rain — the leaves turn greener as the dust of drier days is washed away. The branches seem to bend to the storm, then stand straighter and taller as their feet absorb the wetness around their roots. Puddles and rivers form revealing a more specific lay of the land than the grasses would otherwise let on.

Then there is the sound. The birds are quiet, all tucked into a place of safety, their song replaced by raindrops on the roof — sometimes a light patter, other times a pounding that would barely be heard in a house with its shingles and attic to deflect and muffle the cry of the raindrops as they splatter.

The stream goes from a tinkling babble to a rushing roar as the water rises and each drop tries to push past the others, over the rocks and through downed branches in their rush to bigger waters, along the way washing out banks and carrying lollygagging sticks, stones, and plants away, even sometimes running over rather than under the bridge in their haste.

Depending on the day, watching and listening to the rain can be soothing; an invitation to lie by the window and let the sights and sounds roll over you. Other times the rooftop dance is so deafening that you cannot “hear yourself think”; the constant pounding can irritate and annoy like the neighbors hip hop music blasting at full volume.

Thankfully showers may be plentiful, even an all day affair, but the storms come and go giving respite to jangled nerves and a chance for the stream, the trees, and wildlife to recover. Almost immediately, the birds are singing again.

As with many things, living in the woods enhances the senses. So as the Eddie Rabbit song says, “I love a rainy night day…You know it makes me feel good.”

 

Green

Living in natural surroundings,  I have become very aware of why the big 64 box of crayons is important. Everything around me is green, but not just one green. There is light green and dark green, pale green and bright green, spring green, yellow green, spruce, pine, and a whole forest of forest green. There are probably more greens that that but who can name them all?

Stream, Baraboo, WisconsinWherever you are, take a moment to sit back, relax and drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of green. Ahhhh, that’s better!

A Natural Rhythm

When you meander, you are not forced into an artificial schedule (work, school, meetings, appointments, sports practice, dance lessons, etc.) Life takes on a rhythm that is attune with you and your surroundings.

I find I naturally awaken to greet the sunrise, then I get some natural exercise, walking a beach or forest trail. Later in the day I will tend to work or projects, then I might head into town for a little culture or a citified lunch. I always try to end my day in natural surroundings, so I can do it all over again tomorrow.

I find this lifestyle to be very beneficial — I walk a lot and fill my soul with the beauty of the world around me. I stress less and thus eat less (a cooler of provisions lasts and lasts.) I thoroughly enjoy my days and fall into bed tired but content.

Who could ask for more right?

Well it turns out that living in the woods offers many of the same advantages. I wake naturally, no alarm clocks to disturb the sound of rustling leaves and bird song outside my window. My eyes open to a forest of green leaves and never ending sky. The stream babbles, sometimes tinkling a happy song, others a rain swollen rush. An early morning walk fills me with wonder. Stretching on the bridge over the stream eases any tension. A paddle plies and smooths tight muscles.

As the sun goes down, a campfire can take away the chill and mesmerizes– slowing, calming, readying the body and mind for deep, restful sleep.

Life is good.
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New Direction

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I woke up this morning to a view of trees– dark trunks smothered in green leaves. The sun is shining and the sky blue, dotted by fluffy white cumulus clouds. The quiet is broken only by bird song, and what I assume is a squirrel using my new home as a shortcut to the ground from the huge maple overhead. The river babbles a stone’s throw away. All is peaceful and calm as only living in nature can be.
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Before I left for Mexico last fall, I moved out of my underground apartment, so aggravating to my chemical sensitivities. What I did not sell or give away, I stuffed into my van, a 5×10 foot storage locker, and a 21-foot travel trailer that is my new summer home.
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Having not had the luxury of moving things in slowly, I faced a daunting task of sorting through the mess of boxes and bins and finding the things I needed, while simultaneously finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place, all in a minuscule space designed for temporary vacation living. It is like having an efficiency apartment on wheels, with the emphasis on “efficiency.”

My new home has a banquette table that could seat four if you are very close, a tiny kitchen (two burners, a single sink, an under the counter frig), a closet to hang clothing, pantry for food, toilet, shower, and bed. And of course an ever changing natural world right outside my door. What more does one need?

Blue Bear taking in the view, Wheeler's Campground, Baraboo, WisconsinIf I could only figure out how to make my phone into a wi-fi connection for my computer (like it is supposed to) I could post this and other posts without making a trip to town.

But one thing at a time. I still have a lot of unpacking to do.

Stay tuned for more of my new adventures.

Sunset, Wheeler's Campground, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Down on the Farm

As I have mentioned, life with my grandchildren is a whirlwind of activity. In addition to the Children’s Museum, library, trampoline and bouncy house places, parks, playgrounds, and the beach, there are butterfly parades at the local Audubon Society and trips to “the farm.”

Agricultural tourism is BIG in Maine. Every place, small or large, seems to have a special event, view, tour, or self-guided option. Thus we found ourselves at Pineland Farms, not once but twice in one week.

Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MainePineland Farms, a large working farm in New Gloucester, Maine, a community nestled among the rolling hills a little outside Portland, offers the public a chance to discover, learn, and explore rural life.

Though the farm is open for self-guided tours any day, Friday mornings gives children and their parents (grandparents) an opportunity to collect eggs in the hen house, milk a cow, see a baby calf, or hoe the garden or sample its goodness (in season), all under the guidance and tutelage of the farm educators. Among other things, children are fascinated to learn where milk comes from (when they squeeze the teat) and having a big animal gently take hay from their outstretched hand.

The day we went a new born calf was a popular attraction.

Hours old calf, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineAfter tromping through the barns and around the farm, you’ll be hungry so visit The Market and cafe in the Welcome Center, where you can enjoy a farm fresh lunch or take home some farm fresh goodness (fresh baked bread, honey, local jams and jellies, maple syrup, cheese, etc.) many of which are made at or from ingredients grown on the farm. If open, you can visit the creamery and see how cheese is made.

Equestrian Center, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineOn the lovely, winding way back to Portland,the equestrian center is open for visitors to tour the stalls and see the horses or watch riders put their mounts through their paces. Wander across the street and and you’ll find a flock of sheep.

If you have any energy left over (or plan another trip), nature trails offer opportunities to watch for birds, fox and other forest creatures, or just enjoy the babbling brook, fields, ponds, and forests as you walk. Trails are open year round  for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Fish in the pond in warm weather or go ice skating or take a long run down the sledding hill (bring your sled) in winter.

We returned to the farm again on Saturday for the annual Sheep Shearing Festival where we watched sheep being sheared the old fashioned way, by hand, and using those new-fangled clippers. Australian shepherds herded a small flock all to the tune of whistles and prompts by their shepherd. For young and old alike, it was fascinating to watch the dogs in action.

In addition to the working farm demonstrations, there were crafters available to let help you experience carding wool and spinning it into yarn and making a sheep “doll” by using needles to felt the raw wool into the appropriate shape, then take it home with you. You could purchase hand woven wool socks, hats, scarves, and mittens (not unwelcome on this blustery spring day), hold and pet a rabbit, and for the little ones “shear” their own shaving cream sheep, along with other craft activities.

Once again, a farm fresh lunch at The Market and cafe was welcome before we all headed home exhausted, yet content from our day in the country fresh air.

More about Pineland Farms: The site of a former “School for the Mentally Incompetent,” the old administration building and dormitories offer a natural setting for conferences. And if you like, you can stay in one of several original farm houses on the property.

Gotta love ’em

It’s 9:30 am. My hair is standing on end, yesterday’s mascara rings my eyes like a raccoon, my shirt is covered with pear mango smoothie, scrambled egg mash, and snot.

After finally putting the usually happy but teething, and thus cranky and snotty nosed, toddler down for a nap, I just want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and go back to sleep myself. But wait, I can’t — my bedding is rolled up in a wad at the end of the couch protecting it as best I can from the cat hair and dog slobber.

Such is life in the house of my one and five year-old grandchildren. Will I survive the rest of this visit? Does it get easier with time?

My daughter seems to breeze through early mornings with a crying toddler and a preschooler, long days at work, supper time, bath time, story time, and a little late night time with her hubbie, all with apparent ease. She amazes me.

I know I did that once — two under the age of two and then another 5 years later. I remember the non-stop schedule, the constant making meals or snacks and cleaning up. I remember the bundling and unbundling, and strapping everyone into their car seats, the chasing after a toddler when the older ones were doing more grown up things. But it has been a loooooooong time since my life was so multi-multi-tasking.

Living alone, I have been in the” slow lane”, navigating life’s meandering road for so long, it is hard to adjust to being in the middle of rush hour traffic — ALL DAY LONG!

Yet I love the time spent here — chaotic as it is. Drooling hugs, simple stories, playing games, singing songs, going to the playground, the children’s museum, the park, beach, farm, or library. It is all a part of life’s adventure. And truthfully, despite the non-stop run, run, run, a lovely part.

Children grow so fast. They are only little once. You have to take the time to enjoy every moment. Each is a gift.

Ezrah and ZayLove y’all!