Monday, September 28, 2015

Space



The bloodredsupermoonlunareclipse last night was pretty cool. I was in Kingfield where it is good and black at night - you can really see and feel the universal energy cavorting around out there.

I figured I'd better stay up. I might not be around for the next one. Besides, you never know if making an effort to witness something unusual like this counts for extra points in whatever kind of ledger might exist as one enters the next big adventure. What's the risk? So I ate a dozen gingersnaps and surfed between The Avengers and Sleepless in Seattle while I waited.

But then, as I stood outside watching the eclipse roll along, I got sidetracked. Whenever I look up at the sky, I see space. Sounds like a Yogi-ism, bless his soul, but what I mean is, I see lots of space.  I can't even imagine how much space is up there. This always makes me feel better. I can live in a small place, drive a small car, and survive those long, cold, dark Maine winters, only because I know I can always go outside, look up at the sky, and see all the space I need.

Space • 8" X 8" acrylic framed to 12" X 12" • $200

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lobster Pots


Penobscott Bay is peppered with lobster pots. They don't tell you that in the cruising guides. There are places where pots are dropped in so thick, it's like a maze challenge for pond racers. We got stuck in one a month or so ago that was so tight, we were forced to drop our sails and ignite the inboard. Tom negotiated our way through the tangle from the bow with hands signals and a few new nautically-themed expletives.

Trying to see the line through reminded me of when I was a kid and used to drive our VW bus in to NYC. Like our high-sided boat, which makes for ugly, but in this case useful lines, my drivers seat was high enough for me to see the traffic pattern. I might still be there otherwise, as might we.

Lobster Pots • 8" X 8" acrylic framed to 12" X 12"  $200

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buck's Harbor - Take 2



Just another slant on Buck's Harbor. Kind of fun to mess around and loosen up once in a while.

Buck's Harbor - Take 2 • 8" X 8" acrylic framed to 12" X 12" • $200

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Buck's Harbor




For the past two years, we've sailed to Bucks Harbor as a first or second stop on extended cruises down east. Buck's Harbor is a narrow swath cut in to the coast line leaving a heart-shaped chunk floating in the middle. It's at the beginning of a delightful reach (hopefully), with the tide, down Eggemoggin Reach. But you never know.

We took our kids to Buck's Haror many years ago, and with book in hand, traipsed up to Condon's Garage featured in McCloskey's quintessential story, One Morning in Maine. If I was on the marketing committee for Buck's Harbor, I would have tried to preserve that place, but alas, it is no longer. On our morning walk we found a high-priced restaurant, a yuppyish general store/cafe, and a meditation retreat. I think there was a gallery there too.

I did a quick sketch of the road back down to the harbor, and the yacht service float where we had purchased our mooring the night before. The road was lined with Queen Anne's Lace - very pretty in the morning light. When we got there, the nice kids at the dock were dealing with an irate woman. She had a loud, distinctive southern accent, and was evidently confused as to why the yacht services provided in the past for free were no longer free. It took her about 20 minutes to run out of hot air.  We were trying to buy an ice cream sandwich, but were kind of enjoying the show, sad to say. The kids handled her a lot better than I, or Donald Condon for that matter, would have, that's for sure.

I found this story about the closing of Condon's and the good ol' days on the internet. Thought all you One Morning in Maine fans might enjoy it.

Buck's Harbor • 8" X 8" acrylic framed to 12" X 12" • $200

Closing the book on Condon’s; Garage made famous in McCloskey tale still lives for generations of readers - By RICH HEWITT, BDN Staff Writer, 2007

One morning in Maine not so long ago, Donald Condon woke up and did not drive the few miles from his home to Buck Harbor and the garage where he has worked steady for the past two decades.
Condon closed the garage in May and moved the business to his home on Herrick Road. The closing of any established business in a small town is remarkable; this one, more so.

Though an ordinary garage, it is extraordinary, for this is Condon’s Garage in South Brooksville, the iconic small-town Maine garage immortalized for generations of readers by writer Robert McCloskey in his children’s classic, “One Morning in Maine.”

Though the action at the garage covers only a few pages of the story, Condon’s Garage and the building across the street “where Mr. Condon’s brother kept store” have enchanted young and old alike, many of whom have been drawn to the quiet coastal village just to see the buildings, meet the people who worked there and have an ice cream cone, as the two sisters Sal and Jane did in the book.
“Over the years we’d get probably 10 or 20 people a year coming in and wanting somebody to sign their book,” Donald said.

And, although he and his second cousin Phil, the son of the Mr. Condon in the book, would try to push that task off on anybody they could, they never really minded the visitors.
“All those people were genuine,” he said. “They seemed amazed that they could read something in a children’s book and then get to actually see the real thing. Mr. McCloskey did a nice job with the book. He used some poetic license, but not much.”

In recent years, he said, they started handing out used spark plugs to the people who came in, an echo from the book in which Sal makes a wish for her little sister Jane on the used spark plug that Mr. Condon had removed from her father’s outboard motor.

“They’d go off happy with that,” he said.

The building is silent. Outside, it is not much changed from the picture McCloskey drew in his book, which was first published in 1952.

The road, paved now, still leads up from the harbor and the gas pumps still stand outside. The white clapboard front remains inviting, but the double doors are closed and inside it is dark.

The sign proclaiming “Condon’s Garage,” which had hung over the business, has been taken down and sits in a corner inside. Old receipts, gas and oil cans, old rags and toolboxes abound on the counters and floors; saws and gaskets hang from nails and old parts and outboard motors sit on stands or benches as if waiting for someone to work on them.

But it already feels empty. At some point, Condon said, he probably will put the building up for sale. For the latest generation of Condons, it was time to move on.

“Phil was getting out of it, and I thought I might downsize a bit,” Donald Condon said recently.
It was a practical decision. The building, with just a wood stove, was hard to heat. And it was built too close to the road.

“I don’t know why I haven’t been run over yet,” he said. “It was designed to handle the traffic of the 1920s, rather than what we have 80 or 90 years later.”

Still, it was a decision that ends a tradition of more than eight decades of Condons running a garage at that site.

The building was built in 1924 by Donald Condon’s great-grandfather for his son, Russ. Originally it was planned for three uses: a garage and store on the main floor, and a movie theater to show silent pictures.

The theater was never used. Talkies came in; silent pictures died out, and small town theaters went with them.

The garage operated steadily until World War II, when it closed for a few years. When the war ended, Phil’s father took it over. His name was John Richard Condon, but everyone called him Dick. He’s the one in the book.

Jane McCloskey, the younger of the two girls depicted in the book and the daughter of author McCloskey, remembers the garage, the store and Mr. Condon, but does not recall the specific trip from their home on Scott Island to South Brooksville recounted in the book. In the story, the outboard motor won’t start, so the father, McCloskey, rowed to Buck Harbor.

“I was pretty young at the time,” she said recently. “We took lots of trips, but I don’t remember my father ever rowing to Buck’s Harbor. We usually went to Little Deer.”

To a young girl, the garage was a little intimidating, McCloskey said.

“It scared me a little,” she said. “It was one of those guy places, lots of grease and lots of metal. And he had a barrel filled with water that he used to test the outboards. He was a nice man – quiet. He used to talk engines to my father.”

McCloskey lives in Deer Isle and only passes by the old garage every few years or so. Still, she said, it is “kind of sad” to see the garage close.

But that is the way of things. The store, Condon’s Store, across the street closed years ago.
McCloskey remembered it as a real general store where you could buy anything from shoes to life jackets, hardware to embroidery thread, along with groceries and, of course, ice cream.

Now a gallery, the store also served as the town’s post office for years, and Emily Webb, who was postmaster then, recalls that the store also drew people even after it closed.

“People would come and ask, ‘Is this the store in the book?’ Webb said. “Mothers would come and sit on the porch and read the book to their children.”

And they still come.

“There was one here yesterday,” said Webb, who now works at the Buck’s Harbor Market around the corner.

Though he doesn’t think the flow of devoted readers will make its way to his new business, Condon said he expects people will keep on coming to see the old garage and store.

“I imagine so. As long as the book is published, I think they’ll still try to look it up,” he said. “There’s been a lot of ice cream cones sold here because of that book.”








Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Burnt Coat Harbor




I used to think I had made a big mistake trying to make a living as an artist. There were a lot of sacrifices made by and forced on to family and friends over the years, not to mention the money thing. But unfortunately, it's an urge, and a drive akin to that of the tides. Every time I tried to go straight, I'd self destruct.

I think this drive is also about about having to satisfy an urge to do stuff outside of my comfort zone, and maybe that's why I love skiing and sailing too. I was not raised in to these two activities. I was  uncomfortable, scared and sometimes terrified. Now I can't imagine life without them. The fear and the terror I can still feel every day have led the way to an astounding gratitude for having survived work, the ocean, and the hill.

And so it is with this sense of gratitude that I write and paint what I see out there in Maine. Maybe that's why I landed here 50 years ago. I loved Maine the first time I stepped foot in it - there was no other place I wanted to be. I learned to push my mental and physical envelope right out my back door.

Burnt Coat Harbor
Burnt Coat is a well-protected harbor on the southwestern side of Swan's Island in Penobscott Bay. We picked up a mooring there one afternoon to escape a howling SW that was supposed to maintain gusts of 25 all night. We loved the harbor - having had sailed there on the little boat for lunch years ago. It's still a working harbor and does not offer any amenities to yachtsmen, which has kept it honest all these years. Somehow the islanders have managed to hold on to their way of life.

It was fun to watch the goings on in the harbor itself. There were some late night returnees - lobstermen and their families and friends returning from big doings on the mainland. Awakened by the hum of big engines, I stuck my head out of the v-berth. The boats were  lit up like major league baseball parks. It was like watching aliens from space land - very exciting.

The same boats left early the next morning to check traps. It was Monday morning and work as usual, after all. As I sat eating my breakfast in the cockpit, they all waved as they gurgled politely by, respectful of us late rising interlopers. I waved in return and was feeling kind of special to be included in this ancient daily ritual. I found myself wanting to say a silent prayer, wishing them and their boats a safe journey, and prosperous day, but it occurred to me I might be a liability, so I just wished them a safe journey. It was an lovely interlude - a glimpse of the best part of Maine, and actually, of me.

Burnt Coat Harbor • 8" X 8" acrylic framed to 12" X 12" • $200