Saturday, December 31, 2011

A selfish request for a good night's sleep

Let me preface what I am about to say with this: I hope and pray every day of my life that the world will suddenly wake up to what appears to be the forgotten notion of peace. I would never belittle this movement and know how serious an effort peace is. It recently crossed my mind as I prepare to make my big annual New Year's request for peace however, that a lot of the problem I have personally, is waking up in peace. And I think a lot of the time this lack of peace is a simple lack of sleep.

I have a great life, I am blessed. But like any good American, I worry, fret, toss and turn - it's what we've been conditioned to do. I worry about my life and my family just like everyone else does. I also worry the big worry about what the heck we're going to do to save the blasted world.

This year as I imagine peace for the world, I will also imagine that I get a good night of sleep. It's a small and seemingly insignificant step and may seem a bit selfish, but it is also what determines how I start my day, every day. If I succeed in getting a good sleep, it is because I somehow convinced myself the night before that peace is absolutely achievable. On the converse, I will usually wake up with that notion after a good sleep. It's a Catch 22 thing.

I have decided to jump start 2012 with an image of a peaceful New Year's Eve sleep. I hope all of your sleeps are sound in the new year so that we may all one day wake up to find ourselves deep into world peace as we imagined it the night before.

A Good Night's Sleep • 8" x8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace To All

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear.
John Lennon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Edna & Lucy's Most Excellent Roadside Restaurant

I had already gulped down a small lunch, but when I saw that hummus, spinach and beet slaw wrap up on the menu board, I had to try it. I got it to go. My intention was to take a bite of it on my way back to Portland and have it for dinner that night. Needless to say, I ate the whole thing before I hit Freeport.

The wrap was created by Stephanie and served up by Sabrina at Edna & Lucy's most excellent roadside restaurant up in Pownal. I was delivering a bunch of my calendars to friends who live up that way and stopped by to see what was cooking on my way back. I hadn't been there since Tom and I stopped on a service call a couple of years ago - they serve Carrabassett Coffee. We didn't have time to try the fare then, so this was a first for me.

Edna & Lucy's is a humble little place at first glance but transforms by way of a brilliant big menu to a sophistication on par with anything you might find in the city. Everything is homemade and created with a delightful combination of fresh and unique ingredient combos. They offer soups, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and really good treats including homemade donuts. These are real donuts folks - remember those?

Just a quick note about the donuts. I was introduced to these donuts when Stephanie and Sabrina sent a brown bag full home with Tom one day. There were only a couple left by the time they arrived in Kingfield, but they were so good and so fine that I would have eaten the whole bag myself and would have felt like shooting myself afterwards.

I don't know much about the owners except that they are really nice people and that is evident in the food they serve. What I do know is that Stephanie cooked at Street and Company for ten years before taking this project on, and Edna and Lucy are Stephanie and Sabrina's grandmother's names.

The restaurant is located on the corner of Route 9 and Elmwood Road - on the way to Bradbury Mountain. It's a screaming bright red building with a deep green trim. If you're shopping in Freeport, it's about 10 minute out toward Bradbury Mountain off the Durham exit on 295. They're open:
Wed - Fri from 7am - 4pm
Sat & Sun from 8am - 4pm

I decided to paint Edna and Lucy's because it's the perfect color scheme for this time of year. I mean, ya gotta love the spirit that prompted these two wonderful women to use red and green year 'round. For me it's a  reminder of everything that's good and fun in the world and good to eat in Maine.

Edna & Lucy's Most Excellent Roadside Restaurant • 8" x 8" watercolor pen and ink framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Spirit

I love the holidays and really puff up with good cheer this time of year. Part of it is about giving - if I had unlimited resources I'd spend every waking hour finding fun and game-changing ways to give it away.

The other part is a kind of annual check-in with myself. I take advantage of my good humor to do a year end assessment of my situation. This year the focus seems to be on the physical extremes in which I live in.

On one hand, the winter landscape inspires me to take long, quiet and thought-provoking walks in a more sensible and reality-based environment. I ask critical questions and get sensible responses. On the other hand, tinsel town incites the emotionally fragile, out-of-control and unhealed human being that I am to do idiotic things without a shred of common sense.

While Nature prompts me to remember that the colors red and green existed in her landscape long before they did on holiday wrapping paper, Lady Portland reminds me of how much I really do like all things that glitter, sparkle and blink when she's fully plugged in.

The yin yang of it all goes on and on. But in short and in conclusion I have determined that both worlds are important, one not more or less than the other. It's a light and dark thing - an appreciation for one does not exist without an appreciation for the other.

Country Holiday Spirit • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200
City Holiday Spirit • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, November 21, 2011

Still Fall

I painted this last week. It's been a great fall - couldn't ask for better weather.

Still Fall • 8" x 8" framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, November 14, 2011


Ever feel like just parking yourself someplace for a while?  The first thing that popped into my mind was a cat of course.

Parked  • 8"x 8" framed to 12"x 12" • $200

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Moon

A couple of summers ago I was on Monhegan Island painting for a week. A bunch of us were hanging around on the lawn of The Trailing Ewe after dinner when someone pointed out a full moon behind us. We all stood up and turned around to look at it. The usual adjectives were tossed back and forth between us like shooting stars in the dark.

Inspired, I felt compelled to howl. So I did. My fellow artists were shocked and  embarrassed out of what, until that moment, had been a polite quietude.

Hey - I'm expressing my gratitude for the show, I said. Besides, it feels great, I added.

Little by little, an insanity locked inside us all burst forth in a few of my fellow lunatics who dared to cross the line from civil to un. They like me threw back their heads and let rip one howl after another.

When we were finished, we turned back around, sat down, crossed our legs and sighed inhaling the beauty of the night. In the returned silence however, a distant primal howl continued it's journey across the water to join others in a universal soup of eons.

Fall Moon • 8" x 8" framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Color

The foliage in the mountains was decent while it lasted, but the talk up there was about the lack of bright red this year. This in turn initiated a debate about whether it was because of too much rain or too little rain. In the meantime, both sides had absolutely no science to back there arguments up with. So I decided to find out once and for all what the real story is. According to Dr. Kim Coder, professor of silvics (n. 1. The science treating of the life of trees in the forest. 2. Habit or behavior of a forest tree.), at the University of Georgia, there are key predictors that can help determine leaf color.

Leaf volume
The more leaves there are attached to trees entering the fall season, the more there will be to look at.  A summer drought can limit the amount of leaves, but a wet summer can also set up disease and insects. So you have to hope for a moderately dry summer - like those perfect summers we get in Maine once every seven years, if we're lucky.

Healthy leaves
Healthy leaves stay attached to trees longer. Pest and environmental problems can damage and disrupt leaf surfaces so much that they actually detract from a quality of the color of each leaf. Unfortunately, the number of pests can be a result of both weather and temperature during the summer growing season. I would interpret this to mean that in Maine the color of leaves is always going to be a crapshoot, just like the summers are.

Temperature and precipitation
Cool nights with no freezes, or frosts and cool, bright, unclouded sunny days will enhance the the leaf color, but so do slightly dry conditions in the last half of the growing season and on into the fall. Once again I'm thinking that a good color year in Maine is about as likely as finding a three-legged robin.

Strong wind
Sounds obvious, but it always takes me a minute to realize there are no leaves on the trees when I'm wondering why there is no color out there. Because Maine is always experiencing some kind of wind event, we will probably never see a full blown bloom in our lifetimes.

Freezing temperatures and hard frosts
These conditions will stop the color formation of leaves dead in it's tracks - just like it does in us Mainers.

The only way to really predict foliage color is to keep a journal. But who has time for that? So I guess I will continue to treat fall like one of those wonderful mysteries in nature - as it should be perhaps.

Fall Color • 8"x 8" watercolor framed to 12"x 12" • $200

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black Cats

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm ready to let go of the whole idea that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. I encounter black cats on my walks all over the place here in Portland, and I'm really beginning to feel foolish crossing the street or turning around and going all the way around the block to avoid them.

It's time.

So I went on a search-and-find-out-the-real-story quest. Here's what I discovered.

There was a time - albeit a while ago in 3000 BC in ancient Egypt - when all cats were held in high esteem and protected by law from injury and death. A cat's death was mourned by entire families who embalmed the bodies of their pets, wrapping them in fine linen and placing them in mummy cases made of precious materials like bronze and wood - a scare commodity.

The first documented demonization of black cats came about  during the Middle Ages in Europe. Cats in general have always been survivors, and back then they quickly overpopulated major cities. It also helped that they were probably fed by poor, lonely old ladies. I'm sure there were lonely old men in the mix, but they aren't mentioned in my source for some reason.

When witch hysteria hit Europe, many of these homeless women were accused of practicing black magic, their cat companions (especially black ones) were also found guilty by association. In Lincolnshire in the 1560s, a tale tells of a father and his son who were frightened one moonless night when a black cat darted across their path and into a crawl space. Hurling stones into the opening, they saw the cat scurry out and limp into the adjacent home of a woman suspected by the town of being a witch. The next day the father and son were supposed to have seen the same woman on the street - her face was bruised, her arm bandaged and she walked with a limp. From that day on in Lincolnshire, all black cats were suspected of being witches in night disguise. The notion traveled with colonists across the pond. The belief that witches transformed themselves into black cats in order to prowl streets unobserved was especially potent in America during the Salem witch hunts.

Many societies in the late Middle Ages attempted to drive black cats into extinction. As the witch scare mounted to paranoia, many innocent women and their harmless pets were burned at the stake.  In France, thousands of cats were burned monthly until King Louis XIII halted the practice in the 1630s.

On the other hand, there were some, more enlightened societies that believed quite the opposite of the black cat. Many believed that a black cat brought good fortune and also, anyone who found the one perfect pure white hair in an all-black cat and plucked it out without being scratched, would find great wealth and good luck in love. In Britain, on the Yorkshire coast, wives of fishermen believed that their menfolk would return safely if a black cat was kept in the house, and English sailors believed that keeping black cats aboard their vessels content, would ensure fair weather when they went to sea.

Today a black cat in the audience on opening night portends a successful play. In the south of France, black cats are referred to as "matagots" or "magician cats." According to local superstition, they bring good luck to owners who feed them well and treat them with the respect. In the English Midlands, a black cat as a wedding present is thought to bring good luck to the bride.

I now feel as if a historically huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Black Cats • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rock Cairns

The word cairn comes from the Irish carn (plural cairn) or Scottish Gaelic càrn (plural càirn). 

I encountered my first cairn hiking in Maine - I had never hiked until I came to Maine. For a couple of summers as a teenager, the only hiking I ever did was with a gang of Maine townies once a summer. The first summer we hiked Mt. Washington. I had never seen a mountain that big in person. The hike up and torturous stumble down just about killed me. But it was also a stunningly rude awakening to a whole new way of being I would eventually come to love.

Much, much later and as part of my get-mentally-and-emotionally-healthy-or-die phase, my therapist at the time informed me that I was a workaholic, among other things. Workaholic was the only ic I could relate to. All of the other ics were over my level of understanding at the time. All I know is I was working 24/7and loving it.

So what's wrong with that, I asked regarding working 24/7. I love it!
She asked me if I remembered my children's birthdays. 
She had me there.

As part of the the exercise I had to make a list of stuff I loved to do. 

Work, I said. 
No, she replied.  You have to find something else you like to do. You have to make a list of things you like to do and start doing them on weekends. You are not allowed to work on weekends any more.

I sat there and thought about my list.

I can't think of anything, I said.
Fake it, she replied.

So that night I made a list of stuff I was faking I liked to do. The only one I remember on my list is hiking because that's what I started doing. It didn't cost anything and I lived in Carrabassett Valley - hello - the hiking capital of Maine.

I spent a long time just hiking around the valley by myself. I didn't scale anything, I was just trying to get a feel for it. I hiked along through the woods and periodically asked myself, do I like this? I remember not being able to answer that question for a very long time. So I just pretended I liked it. I did however like the cairns I'd find along the trails. I liked adding my two cents worth and building some of my own.

I eventually got into seriously good shape, started running more - every day, did a 10k, scaled the Bigelow Range - my ultimate personal goal, and then hooked up with a bunch of other women hikers. As a group we hiked everything we could whenever we could.  It all culminated at Katahdin. For two years in a row we did Katahdin. It was incredible and the cairns up there were very cool.

I ended up hiking constantly for many years everywhere I traveled -  built cairns wherever I went - but gave it up when I moved to Portland. Maybe someday I'll get back into it, but for now I'll do a day hike with my brother when I go to California or with my kids when I go to Seattle. But that's it.

These days I hike along the beach and build rock cairns there.

Rock Cairns • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peace is an Inside Job

I figured it was time to do another meditation for peace. I occasionally forget what peace is, and it would appear the world is forgetting too.

I try to find things I like to do because if I love what I am doing, I'm creating good energy. We all know energy is constantly expanding, spreading out - the Theories of General and Special Relativity - so it's really important for me to be in a good place as much of the time as is possible.

There are lots of ways to find inner peace. I have found painting these mandalas to be a great exercise for me.


Mandala For Inner Peace • 8" x 8" framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, October 3, 2011

Just Pretend

If somebody asked me
to live in a tree
and it was environmentally
I would absolutely
move in one today.

But since it's not
I'll pretend instead
and then pick a spot
to plant a tree
 so one day
there be many.
 In memory of Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement 

 Just Pretend • 8" x 8" framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Thoughts

I realized when I started this piece of art, originally titled Thoughts, that my thoughts were impossible to record because they simultaneously morph into memory. So it's more about what I think thoughts look like as I'm having them.

This prompted me to find out more about thoughts in general. What the heck is a thought, where do they come from, what are they made of? I wanted a scientific, nuts and bolts explanation. So I decided to go to MIT - brain central - to see what they had to say. It would appear that there is still a lot of speculation, but I did find a piece by Elizabeth Dougherty - an MIT engineer.

Reading her piece was like listening to my neighbor Greg explain Einstein's Theory of Special and General Relativity. I get it when he's explaining it, but by the time I get to the top of the stairs to my apartment, it's gone. I've asked Greg to tell me the story a couple of times. I'll get it eventually because he's starting to use more graphic explanations.

Right now, the only thing that I know I will remember from Dougherty's piece is this:

"Trying to imagine how trillions of connections and billions of simultaneous transmissions coalesce inside your brain to form a thought is a little like trying to look at the leaves, roots, snakes, birds, ticks, deer—and everything else in a forest—at the same moment."

In the meantime and for anyone who gives a damn, here are more technical excerpts from Dougherty's piece:

"Thoughts are... really just electro-chemical reactions...

The human brain is composed of about 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) interconnected by trillions of connections, called synapses. On average, each connection transmits about one signal per second. Some specialized connections send up to 1,000 signals per second. “Somehow… that’s producing thought,” says Charles Jennings, director of neurotechnology at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research. 

Given the physical complexity of what’s happening inside your head, it’s not easy to trace a thought from beginning to end. “That’s a little like asking where the forest begins. Is it with the first leaf, or the tip of the first root?” says Jennings. 

Simpler, then to start by considering perceptions—“thoughts” that are directly triggered by external stimuli—a feather brushes your skin, you see these words on the computer screen, you hear a phone ring. Each of these events triggers a series of signals in the brain. 

When you read these words, for example, the photons associated with the patterns of the letters hit your retina, and their energy triggers an electrical signal in the light-detecting cells there. 

That electrical signal propagates like a wave along the long threads called axons that are part of the connections between neurons. 

When the signal reaches the end of an axon, it causes the release of chemical neurotransmitters into the synapse, a chemical junction between the axon tip and target neurons. 

A target neuron responds with its own electrical signal, which, in turn, spreads to other neurons. 

Within a few hundred milliseconds, the signal has spread to billions of neurons in several dozen interconnected areas of your brain and you have perceived these words." 

Some Thoughts • 8" x 8" watercolor  framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rocks in My Head

 The weather was stinky
so I didn't go to the beach today
Instead I got to play
with the rocks in my head.

Rocks in My Head • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sailing in the Bay

Tom  and I went for a sail around the bay on Saturday. His son Steve came down the next day. Both days were gorgeous and the wind eventually pretty darn nice, though it built to a fever pitch on Sunday.

There was only one thing I didn't want to do with an outgoing tide and a sea breeze in our little open sailer - cross the Hussey. It gets lumpy, and just plain ugly and uncomfortable even on the best days. We did it twice - once on each day. It was as close as I've ever been to a full blown mutiny. I don't mind getting wet when I've got the gear. But I didn't have the gear and got wet. And it was cold baby with the sea breeze.

In retaliation I did what any good sailer would do in my soggy shoes - I ate four of the eight molasses cookies. They only got two each. If I wasn't trying so hard not to mutiny - when I'm angry, lonely or tired, I eat -  I would have thrown the whole bag to the gulls.

Sailing the Bay • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Color Therapy

A couple of springs ago on one of my trips to town, I was genuinely surprised by a splash of color this sidewalk garden hit me with. It was in front of a nondescript brick building, and like many of the gardens around here, had just suddenly appeared. Many owners plant flowers in full bloom, but this time I think I was coming out of that white winter haze we call hibernation.

Anyway, it was simply beautiful. I took a pic and figured I would do a painting of it some day. Never got around to it until today. Guess I was needing some color therapy.

Color Therapy • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Joe's Gold Fish Pool

On one of my walks up here on the Hill, I go by Joe's gold fish pool. I enjoy hanging out there with a couple of neighborhood hoodlums - two cats who, like me, are there waiting for some action. I don't exactly know what I think I might see. I just count the fish. You never know. Joe says he hasn't lost any so far, but by the look of those two cats, the day will eventually come.

There was always a pool in that spot, but before Joe moved in it was a yucky, brackish, mosquito-breeding black hole to nowhere. He cleaned it out, built it up, added an aeration system, some lights and a bunch of exotic plants. It's a really special little place.

When the weather starts to cool off at night, Joe removes the fish and dunks them into a big tank in his apartment until next spring. You never know when he's going to make the move, so this time of the year I stop by more often. If Joe had visiting hours during the winter, I'd go - there's something very soothing about watching those six fish swim around.

Joe's Gold Fish Pool • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whenever I feel Afraid

We're in a hurricane right now. Her name is Irene. It's mostly windy and raining here in Portland, but the folks west of here are getting pummeled and they are scared. The river is rolling over Route 27, jumping the banks and collapsing bridges up in Carrabassett Valley. Our field is flooded and the garden and orchard are gone. But Tom, Harry and Russell saved our tomatoes and they and everyone I know are safe.

It's hard for me to remember I'm not top dog when in the company of Mother Nature. And whenever Mother Nature scares the hell out of me like she is right now, I repeat May The Force Be With You 100 times and whistle this song which always pops into my head.  It's the one from the The King and I - whenever I feel afraid, I strike a careless pose and whistle a happy tune so no one ever knows I'm afraid. I'm almost embarrassed but it's the truth, this is what I do.

This time as I whistled I put down my idea of a safe, serene and peaceful place. Not even Mother Nature can take that away from me or any of you hardy souls over there in Western Maine.

Whenever I Feel Afraid • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Beach

As a tomboy growing up wild in Connecticut there was nothing that could keep my three younger brothers and I indoors on those spectacular summer days. We learned to love the outdoors from my mother who unleashed in the early morning right after breakfast. What began as critical for her mental well being grew into our unbridled and lifelong passion to roam free and play wild.

Though we spent most days as lords of our own incredible hood - which was a retired cow pasture bordering acres of thick woods - a trip to the beach was a plunge into another grand adventure of our best imagined possibilities.

We needed a ride to get to the beach, so it was always a long shot on any given day whether or not we’d make it. But when mom’s call went out, we all piled into our old station wagon like a pack of wild animals. From that point on and for the next six at least hours, we’d be on hyper speed to make sure  we didn’t miss a single thing - and we didn’t.

We'd stay all day - the tide would come and go and come again. Creatures hid in the mudscape that was low tide - underfoot, under rocks and in the seaweed. Sand sharks swam through our legs. We'd create huge cities and watch them crumble back into what they came from, dig for clams, and stay in the water for so long we’d become fish - our fingers and toes wrinkled into scales, our brains waterlogged with unadulterated joy. My mom entrusted us to the beach and the ocean enabling her to relax and find herself. She wade into the water, splash water on her arms and then plunge into her famed sidestroke along the shoreline. As lightning storms conjured up, rolling straight at us from Long Island, they’d bring mesmerizing bolts of lightning and huge waves to jump. We stand and challenge the mightiest mother nature had to hurl at us and at the same time challenge our own mother to come and get us, screaming from shore to no avail.  We were trapped between two of the greatest forces of nature. It was one of the few times I saw my mother really angry with us. But I firmly believe now that there was part of her that was a savage just like us and who relished the opportunity to test her mortality too.

Mom would pack us lunch from home, but if the stars and planets were aligned, and the thought of going back to our stuffy, hot and humid little house inland was unbearable to her, she would make a run to Gold's Deli in town and return with fixins' for fat, luscious sandwiches for dinner - roast beef, ham or turkey, stuffed between two pieces of soft rye bread, and slathered with mustard and mayo. It was a feast beyond words, laced with salt air and peppered with sand. As we all sat around this feast, we were gently embraced by her infectious joy and caressed by the softest and most sultry ocean breeze. We were so happy there.

It was truly heaven on earth, and something that created a wanderlust and insatiable curiosity in us all. Throughout our lives we would always speak with a hint of somewhere else, like a filmy memory of someplace other than where we stood. This special place that just the five of us inhabited would always be draped before our mind's eye like fairy dust, glittering and constantly beckoning us to fly up and away and to be free, always beckoning us to be free.

The Beach • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Holy Fish

Every time we have extreme weather like we did last night, I thank God I'm not out there in our boat. I think about fishermen a lot when we're sailing because I see them at work. You have to have a lot of courage to do what they do, but I  can't stand the idea of them doing anything else - and either can they. They're scoundrels and their wives saints. The ocean will morph them into what they hunt in the end - a final and peaceful act of supreme individuation.

I did this painting last night and have absolutely no idea where it came from but am guessing it may have something to do with Carl Jung. It was his birthday.

Holy Fish • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, July 18, 2011

It was Just Me Swimming in the Ocean Today

It was just me swimming in the ocean today

until two loud gulls arrived and cavorting above, split my ears
as three fish flapped around in tutus to my rear

and four cats sailed through in an impromptu afternoon regatta 
while five labs paddled in endless circles trying to find the blessed ball

that is until six big black clouds glowered overhead 
whereupon we all promptly went home to play instead.

It Was Just Me Swimming in the Ocean Today • 8" x 8" framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rock Meditation

I am a Taurus and was therefore born with an inherent love of rocks. I used to do a lot of rock cairn paintings. I designed the rocks and then made them into piles like the above - all on paper. It was very meditative for some reason, and well, er, a bit like being God for a minute - sort of heady.

Years ago I read John McPhee's geological history of this country Basin and Range. It was exhausting but fascinating. After I painted this Rock Meditation, I decided to bite the bullet and find out what kind of rocks we actually have here in Maine. I couldn't bring myself to go back to McPhee's or any other encyclopedic account, so I jumped on the internet and found a way cool resource that turned out to be at my level of comprehension.

Chebeague Island's K-3 graders had been studying rocks and minerals, and created and posted their own Maine Rocks and Minerals Book. They have utilized a collection and information put together by the Maine Geological Survey. A number of the children from the class, along with Beverly Johnson and geologist Carol White got together, took pictures and wrote up descriptions of the collection for this booklet. Though I think I might have learned all of this a long time ago, I re-learned the following basics and lots more.  It seemed like more fun this time - maybe because I now know I probably won't remember it all. The link to their book is below. In the meantime, and so you don't hit the page at sub-K like I did, here's one thing you ought to know:

Minerals are a natural solid substance of a definite chemical composition and crystalline structure and rocks are a mixture of one or more of these minerals.

When I found Andy Goldsworthy's books I thought I was in heaven. For those of you who haven't seen his work, check out his web site. Andy Goldsworthy's web site:

Chebeague Island's K-3 graders web site:

Rock Meditation • 8"x 8" watercolor framed to 12"x12" • $200

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who Messed Up MY Sunny Day?

I wanna know 
who's to blame 
for messing up
my sunny day?

Who Messed Up My Sunny Day? • 8" x 8" watercolor and ink framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, June 13, 2011

Greening Up

It really is greening up in Kingfield where I was this past weekend finishing up "the planting of the garden."  Because we haven't had much sun up there, there isn't a whole lot of color except the hydrangeas and azaleas. They are spectacular and an oasis of color in an otherwise very Kermit-like landscape.

We saw a fox loping down through the fields. He or she was big and brown and looking good and healthy. I found tracks following the river further than I cared to go. I mentioned the sighting to our friend Will who said he had a couple of kits running around his house at sundown every night. I had a hankering to see some myself and went searching around for a video on the internet. I found a great site called Maine Nature Diary. This video has some cute kits - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Greening Up • 8"x 8" watercolor framed to 12"x 12" • $200

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Community Gardens

My neighbor scored a plot in one of the community gardens here in Portland this spring. She was doing some speed-planting in hopes of beating an in-coming storm so I went over to check it out.

Her partner configured their raised garden using the most effective layout for the highest yield of vegetables per square inch. While she planted I cruised the area and saw a patchwork of great ideas and designs using all kinds of stuff - sticks, stones, wire, string, rags. Some of the gardens were art deco-ish, others whimsical, some Maine-ish and still others your basic primal jungle.

Not much was happening yet -mostly just greening up. I did notice however, the flea beetle population exploding and leaving anything leafy green looking like fish net. They've probably had their little beetle eyes on this place all spring, and devouring the produce for generations. My neighbor has been spraying the daylights out of her new growth with an organic deterent. Seems to be working, she said.

Dogs aren't allowed in the garden, so it's got to be cat city at night. Who knows what kind of shenanigans go on during the wee hours, but I bet it's pretty interesting. You gotta love city gardening.

Community Gardens• 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A House on the Ocean

I've been practicing watercolor lately - specifically washes. Washes are hard to do and I generally don't do them. I qualify my ineptitude by allowing that washes "aren't my style." In the meantime I continue to practice in the same spirit I did when I was learning how to drive my parent's car with a standard shift while all of my friend's practiced on automatics - it was good to know just in case I needed to and did, bail my friends out of seriously bizarre situations. But these are stories for another blog.

I figured painting a house on the ocean was a good subject for my wash practice as it represents something equally elusive in my life. And while a house on the ocean is something I aspire to, there is a powerful and innate fear of owning one.

My fear is that I would sit on my veranda and stare out over the water all day, every day in complete ecstasy.  I would forget to eat, sleep, and work and become petrified in place. Hundreds of years later archeologists would ponder whether it was a sudden and unexpected Pompeii-like volcanic eruption, a dramatic planetary cooling event, or the impact of an asteroid that caught her off guard. They might even suppose she was banished to this outpost for having adopted the science of quantum physics in the face of current religious belief.

And this folks is the reason why both watercolor washes and a house on the ocean elude me. Get back to work claudia, focus claudia!

A House on the Ocean • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Lake in Maine

On my way up to Kingfield, where I forfeited a weekend of much needed sun to work on our garden, I passed through the Belgrade Lakes region. I forgot my camera and missed a beautiful shot. The sky was gray, the water on the lake along the road was gray, but somehow the colors were astoundingly beautiful. And then I chuckled because it reminded me of one summer my family spent on a lake in Maine back in the 60s. My dad, who thought he was doing all of us a big favor in buying a "camp on a lake in Maine," flew up on weekends. As it turned out he was doing himself a big favor. It rained every day, all day, all summer. My mother, on the brink of a nervous break down, and four out-of-control hoodlums were stuck together like flies on a miniscule piece of fly paper all day and all night for two solid months. But that's the subject of another blog.

Anyway, I'm finding it exceedingly hard these days not to paint mud. But carry on we must.

A Lake in Maine • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


As you all know I spent some time recently in one of the sunniest spots on the planet. When I came home the gray skies were a nice change. Two days later, based on the weather forecast alone, I starting pounding down the Vitamin D to ward off a full blown depression. Last year's apparition made me forget what a real Maine spring is. I had forgotten that we don't have spring in Maine anymore - we go from three-foot snowstorms right into the Fourth of July.

I was already late with the garden, but drove to Kingfield to try to salvage the season anyway. The good news is it didn't start raining until later in the afternoon on Saturday, so I got the fruit trees weeded and fed. The bad news is that this is black fly season, and the climate for them is perfect this year.

On Sunday I planted strawberries in the rain. My butt ached from the day before and got soaked, and even after 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off with an ice pack the night before, my forearms were shot and of little use. Shoveling snow has nothing over shoveling shit. I couldn't lift a shovel that day if my life depended on it.

I'm posting a painting from sunnier times in hopes that it reminds you that spring is out there somewhere. Hang in there Maine and double up on your Vitamin D.

Rowing the Islands • 14" x 14" acrylic on paper framed to 18" x 18" • $450

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Desert Calling

I'm currently in Coachella Valley in southwestern California on family business.

It's an interesting place and I've been coming here for visits many years - my brother owns an air conditioning and heating business. One of my other brothers and my mother used to work for him and still live here, so it is a family gathering spot of sorts.

The desert in the raw is gorgeous - a painters paradise. The mountains, foothills, colors and climate can't be beat. In the past it was an escape for the adventurous from LA - the roads were sand, the cabins rough hewn and the entertainment pure rest and relaxation taking in the healing springs, hiking the foothills or horseback riding up into the snow-covered mountains that dominate the landscape at ten thousand feet.

Thankfully, parts of he desert are still in tact and treacherous and filled with scary biting things like poisonous snakes, scorpions, spiders, lizards and plants with a variety of pointy things that include everything from from foot-long needles to no-seeum burrs. It's also Reagan territory populated by people who drive fast and expensive cars, live in big over the top homes and golf on private gated courses. You could include them in scary things that bite too I guess.

On this trip I haven't found myself lost and wandering in the foothills. It happens every time I come out here and is scarier than hell. One minute you're following an obvious canyon thoroughfare, the next you just can't remember how you got there. It's brutally hot and there's no water.

I guess for now, this painting depicts the memory of being "out there" but the reality of having my feet stuck in the cement downtown. There's a bit of a mind body separation going on here.

Desert Calling • 8" x 8" acrylic on paper framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I love jazz. I have to - it's in my genes. My dad supported himself through college playing the sax in his own band. It all came to an abrupt end sometime after college and a stint in the service however, when he took his huge collection of 45s and busted them one by one against my grandfather's garage wall. He figured he'd never be able to support the family he wanted as a musician. I don't know what happened to the sax - it's probably still floating around out there somewhere.

Denny got a job working for Union Carbide in NYC, became a commuter in a John Cheever novel and plunged his family into that lifestyle in the Connecticut burbs. There was always music playing at our home from opera to show tunes, but when Denny finally got back into music, it was the tuba. He would practice and jam all by himself with Sousa on his stereo. He also had a great voice and could sing with the best, and would in community plays, and with fellow musicians and the devil during those infamous cocktail parties you read about that always spiraled way out of control and late into the night. The next morning he would lift his voice to God in our church choir begging for more of the night before but compelled to bend in forgiveness for wanting more of the night before. It was that Catholic guilt-for-no-apparent-reason thing.

It wasn't until he retired that he took up the sax again. He and I lost touch so I never got a chance to hear him play. But my guess is he was probably pretty good.

Unlike Denny, I can't afford to retire - but that's okay. I've determined it's the Universe's way of keeping me out of jazz clubs where I would certainly fade out in a haze of smoke and drown in an ocean of drink -  eyes closed, chin mounted on one hand, my old ivory cigarette holder and vodka martini in the other - trying to fulfill that sinful desire my dad tried to hide so unsuccessfully from us all.My brother Pat is a musician, and Timmer and I don't move without something playing.

Once in a while I stay in Portland for the weekend, and if nothing is going on I hang out in the apartment listening to Friday night jazz on MPBN. If the program is good, it's heaven. A couple of weeks ago was one of those nights.  I sat in bed late into the night listening and putting down this painting. It's just a bunch of feelings -  something for me to remember the music that night by, and maybe Denny too.

Jazz • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Breakfast with Crows

Spring is my favorite time of the year. Of the many things I love about it, sleeping with my windows open is one I really look forward to. I look forward to it so much in fact, that I forget - like the pain of birthing a second child until you're in labor and swear that you're an idiot for not remembering the pain of the first - that my bedroom in Portland is streetside.

The exercise of adjusting to street noise every spring takes some getting used to. There is the once romantic tooting of tug boats and bellow of fog horns just before you nod off. And then there's the way-too-loud-gut-rattling-vibration drive-by mixed with a lullaby of drunken teens swearing like pirates as they roam the streets in the wee hours. All of this I will eventually get used to - in fact it can be pretty interesting sometimes. But there's nothing that prepares me for the daily in your face Cacophony of Crow at Daybreak in C Major. I love crows, but every spring I wrestle with an urge to pick them off with baseballs. 

This year I have decided to try a softer, kinder approach. I'll invite them for a breakfast. We'll share oranges windowside in my bedroom. I will sit head in hand, entranced by their stories and astounded by the neighborhood news and gossip that only crows are privy to at that hour in the morning!

Breakfast with Crows • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was at Trader Joe's the other day and spied a bag of cheap organic oranges. I'm not a huge fan of oranges and don't think about them much - but for some reason was drawn to that bag like a hungry cat to a bowl of plump juicy mice. I'm thinking it might have something to do with spring training - if I can't be in Florida and in the dugout with Yogi and Ron, I'll pretend with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice every morning.

It's always a crap shoot for me when I buy oranges because I have no idea what variety is good for juicing - I do it so infrequently. The bag I bought didn't even have the variety on it - it just said "oranges." Sometimes I hit it right and sometimes I definitely don't.

Well I hit it right with this bag because the oranges were juicy and delicious - whatever they were. It prompted me to finally go on line and find out how to buy a decent squeezing orange. I found out that the sweet varieties are usually more fragrant and include Valencia, Navel and Jaffa oranges. I also found out a little about the history and health benefits.

The orange plant is a native of Southeast Asia dating back almost 7000 years - some historians believe that it was grown in the orchards of China by the beginning of the 1st century millennium.  Persian traders introduced the orange to Europe - the Roman empire specifically - who developed orchards in North Africa.  The orange was then introduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers and conquerors and established orchards in South America. Today Brazil is the leading producer of oranges accounting for almost half of the world's total production of oranges.

Oranges are a rich source of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid (one orange (130 grams) supplies nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily dietary intake of vitamin C), folic acid, vitamin B6, flavonoids, pectin and dietary fiber. Besides, it also contains a significant amount of minerals like potassium salt, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, etc. An orange packs over 170 different phytonutrients and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and blood clot inhibiting properties, as well as strong antioxidant effects.

It can be an immense help in dealing with many ailments boomers like me seem to talk about 90 percent of the time these days - high blood pressure, hardening of arteries, constipation, heart disease and stomach ulcers.

I swear I can feel the difference already after just one week - at least I think I can.

Oranges • 8" x 8" acrylic on paper • $100

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I was fully aware that opening day was last week, but just couldn't get inspired to write about my favorite spectator sport. I was fighting my way through a blizzard at Sugarloaf.  It now appears however, that we may have spring after all, so I painted what I figured is on everyone's mind these days - baseball.

Around this time every year, Tom and I used to get our mitts out and pitch a few down at the park. We've been too busy lately, but this may be the year we get back into it - I'm feeling homesick for baseball. Baseball is always a challenge in our relationship, but over the years we've recognized the fundamental differences between us and honor them in each other. Yeah right!

I grew up in CT during the 50s so I'm a  solid Yankees fan. Tom grew up in MA during the 50s - he's a solid Red Sox fan.

I walk around with a spring in my step because I know the Yanks are going to win. If they're not winning yet, it's early. Tom is always waiting for the other shoe to drop - he had to replay his World Series tape 20 times before he sort of believed the Sox had finally won.

I pitch. He tries to catch.

I grew up playing baseball every summer through my entire youth with three younger brothers who were all great ball players. Tom never played but can quote a stat from the beginning of time. These days it's usually about the amount of money the Yanks are spending on their players.

I don't keep track of the score because I don't have to. Tom has to - it has something to do with his misguided belief that he can somehow control the outcome.

I am not superstitious. Tom is Mr. Superstitious.

I don't usually watch the games. Tom watches them in his sleep.

I get my team info from Patrick down at the post office depot on Forrest Ave. Tom buries himself in the Globe.

I am mature about my team - hey you win some, you loose some. Tom is an emotional 10 year old - it's always the Yankees fault even if they aren't anywhere near  the playoffs.

As I ease my way into the ball season this year, I do what I always do - I pray for world peace. Tom on the other hand, anxiously anticipates the Yankees' first bean ball.

Baseball • 8" x 8" acrylic on paper • $75

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

claudia diller: The Three Ducks

claudia diller: The Three Ducks: "The Three Ducks have been co-habitating with me for about twelve years. I bought them when I moved to Portland. I needed friends and they di..."

The Three Ducks

The Three Ducks have been cohabitating with me for about twelve years. I bought them when I moved to Portland. I needed friends and so did they. Always in the bathroom either on the sink, toilet tank top or window sill, I recently corralled them into a big shell I found at the beach. Now that I bathe regularly, I thought it might be fun to invite them along for a swim one of those nights.

In the meantime, I went online to see if there was anything about the birth of these delightful little creatures. There really isn't anything too interesting other than records showing that the first patent was issued in 1886 which was also around the time the first rubber factories were opened. And then of course, there was the infamous debut of Ernie's rendition of Rubber Duckie on Sesame Street in the 1970s - a child's Oprah back in the day.

I kept nosing around but never really found anything worth noting until I ran across mention of a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck, The Secret Danger From Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. The book is about how Smith and Lourie exposed themselves to chemicals found in everyday products - shampoo, shaving foam, household cleaners, etc. They monitored their blood and urine levels before and after a few days of interacting with specific products. The only rule was that they could only use products the way the products are used in everyday life - no doing the mice thing.

So - what did they find out about The Three Ducks?

"Perversely, it turns out these days that rubber ducks are not made out of rubber. Virtually every rubber duck you can buy is made out of vinyl, and vinyl in its natural state is hard as a rock. So, if you want to make vinyl soft and rubbery, you have to add various synthetic chemicals to it including a chemical called phthalates that mimic hormones," said Smith.

He added, "When it gets into our bodies it acts like estrogen... So, what happens is if your kids are like mine--my youngest son will chew on anything that he has in his bath-- and so you have a little rubber duck floating in the bath. The child starts chewing on the duck. The chemicals release into the child's mouth, and then is absorbed into the body."


The Three Ducks • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12"x 12" • $200

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

claudia diller: A good bath

claudia diller: A good bath: "I don't know why I painted this. Maybe it's because sometimes I just feel like taking a bath. In the winter I take time-bending journeys to ..."

A good bath

I don't know why I painted this. Maybe it's because sometimes I just feel like taking a bath. In the winter I take time-bending journeys to places like summer to try to remember what it feels like to be hot.

I wasn't in the habit of taking a bath until my doc suggested two cups of Epsom Salt in a hot water bath for no less than 15 minutes for muscle ache. It works great! This prompted me to go on a factoid-finding mission about bathing in general. Could it be that bathing is not just a hedonistic pleasure - that there is a good reason to take a bath? This is what I found out:

A diabetic can reduce blood sugar levels around 13 percent by taking a half hour soak in hot water. On the converse, a cold bath can raise blood sugar levels.

A 10 minute soak in hot water can improve heart health, especially for men.

A hot water bath (32 to 35 degrees Celsius), for at least 15 minutes opens pores that can help remove toxins. A hot bath also helps lower blood sugar level, heals muscle aches and helps maintain the function of the large intestine.

A cold bath (12 to 18 degrees Celsius), is great for reducing tension or stress. It narrows blood vessel and increases sugar level in blood.

Rashes and hives can be treated by adding adding baking soda to bath water. It acts as an antiseptic.
Soaking feet in hot water helps in healing flu, headache and refresh back exhausted feet. Put enough hot water in a container until it sinks down the ankle then add into it a few drops of oil such as lavender, peppermint or lemon. After that, wash your feet with cold water.

Soaking feet in cold water is great for you who have insomnia problem or problem to sleep. Put your feet into the cold water until they feel cold. This technique is also said useful for sore feet.

So there you have it. If just wanting to take a bath once in a while is not a good enough excuse for you, you can now play the health card. OMG - what have we come to!

A Good Bath • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

claudia diller: Sailing Along the Coast

claudia diller: Sailing Along the Coast: "Whoa - it's sunny! After 40 days and 40 nights of overcast and arctic air mass, there's not a cloud in the sky and the temps are supposed to..."

Sailing Along the Coast

Whoa - it's sunny! After 40 days and 40 nights of overcast and arctic air mass, there's not a cloud in the sky and the temps are supposed to climb into the 40s. We're heading for the coast - maybe Camden!

My childhood friend Morgan is visiting from Sacramento, CA. She had a choice of going to her house on the Baja in Mexico or coming to Maine for her week off. I really wanted to encourgage her to go to the Baja, but didn't want her to feel like I didn't want her to come here. So I tried to make Maine sound as good as I could this time of year.

As it turns out, and it's the way it always goes when two good friends get together after a long time, we've been having a blast. After a few days doing the cultural thing in Portland, we traveled inland for a day and night in Kingfield to show her the two sides of Maine. We got shanghied in Kingfield for an extra night - ice storm, but as it turned out - we had a delightfully mellow indoor day talking, reading and watching a few videos. Who gets to do that these days!

Today however, I will try to describe summer in Maine as we cruise along the coast. She might get the idea looking through the windows of the car. There will be a rude awakening when she steps outside, but during this time of year in Maine, the 40s are going to feel like spring.

Sailing Along the Coast • 8" x 8" acrylic on paper framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

claudia diller: Meyer Lemons

claudia diller: Meyer Lemons: "This is not a painting of lemons - it is a painting of Meyer lemons! They are probably the sweetest, tastiest lemons I have ever consumed. I..."

Meyer Lemons

This is not a painting of lemons - it is a painting of Meyer lemons! They are probably the sweetest, tastiest lemons I have ever consumed. If like me you have never had the profound privilege of tasting one of these little gems, it is something I would recommend for your food bucket list.

I received four Meyer lemons from my friend Bobbi. Her son lives in California and happens to have a Meyer lemon tree in his back yard. He shipped her a box. When she asked whether or not I wanted some, I said yes. I never refuse food of any kind. Later, and in all honesty, I couldn't fathom why someone would go through all the trouble of shipping lemons across the country if you could get a perfectly fine lemon right here in Maine. It piqued my curiosity so I went on the web to find out what this particular lemon was all about.

In the early 1900s, the USDA sent Frank Meyer, an "agricultural explorer," on many trips to Asia to collect new plant species. He brought back to the US over 2500 new species of plants, one of which was a dark yellow lemon that was a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. The lemon was used as a decorative houseplant in China for a century before someone decided to bite into one. It has a baby bottom smooth deep yellow skin with a thin edible rind, lots of juice with absolutely none of the tartness of a regular lemon. 

The Meyer lemon thrived in the citrus belts in this country, but because of it's thin, delicate skin and high juice content, was too fragile to become a commercially successful product. It was only sold in the citrus belts exclusively unless of course you were fortunate enough to have a son who happened to live in one of those belts and shipped a box to you in Maine!

Most of the Meyer lemon trees in California were destroyed by a virus in the 1960s however, and because it had the potential to spread to other citrus trees, they were all destroyed with the exception of one stock which was was declared free, and subsequently cleared of disease. It was called the "Improved Meyer Lemon" tree.

Today the Meyer lemon season begins in November and extends into March - sometimes April. If you happen to come across one of these delightful fruits while perusing your favorite grocery store, pick one up. You will never go back!

Meyer Lemons • 8" x 8" acrylic framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, February 21, 2011

claudia diller: A Simple Log Cabin in the woods

claudia diller: A Simple Log Cabin in the woods: "I've been thinking about log cabins a lot these days - after my romp in the great north woods of Maine - and figured I might be able to tie ..."

A Simple Log Cabin in the woods

I've been thinking about log cabins a lot these days - after my romp in the great north woods of Maine - and figured I might be able to tie them in nicely with this week's president's birthday theme. It was a tough choice - President's Birthday Week now also seems to be National Buy a New Car Week. I decided to go with the more historically accurate and fundamentally correct version, as both George and Abe were born and raised in log cabins and certainly did not drive cars.

First and to my great surprise, it was Swedes and Fins who brought log construction to America from their native countries. For some reason I thought log cabins were as all American as apple pie and chopping down cherry trees. Evidently not.

The only other cool thing I read was that some people claim log cabins are earthquake proof because they do not topple or fall apart - they simply slant. That's good to know.

And then Lincoln Logs popped into my mind while I musing about all of this in line at the grocery store. My three younger brothers and I used to play with Lincoln Logs when we were growing up. I decided to find out more about them and what was going on with them these days - like do kids still play with them?

I actually learned more about the earthquake theory. As it turns out, John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, bought the rights for the Lincoln Log toy design. He claimed that the foundation of Tokyo’s earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel, which he saw while it was under construction, inspired the shape of his logs.

The next surprise was that Lincoln Logs were named after Frank Lloyd Wright's discarded middle name - Lincoln. They had nothing to do with Abe at all. So much for an even cooler president's week tie in.

Lincoln Logs were first produced in 1916 and records show that the J. L. Wright Company of Chicago, Illinois, obtained the patent for the design on August 31, 1920 and had the Lincoln Logs name registered on August 28, 1923. Building logs of similar designs had been produced by several other toy companies since the civil war but John L. Wright's version was very successful from the beginning and has remained so to this day. His design was copied, and some say improved upon, by the Halsam Products Company, also of Chicago, with their American Logs.

In 1943, the company was sold to Playskool who makes the building sets today. Over 100 million sets have been sold to date. Seems like kids still play with them. I know my grandsons have a set.

To me personally, it's all very interesting that I started with Lincoln Logs and am, in a way returning to them, having discovered all of the stuff in between way too, and unnecessarily complicated.

A Simple Log Cabin in the Woods • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Thursday, February 17, 2011

claudia diller: In a Cabin in the Woods

claudia diller: In a Cabin in the Woods: "Skiing to Little Lyford Tom and I decided to get way out of town and spend a few nights in Maine's northern wilderness. The Appalachi..."

In a Cabin in the Woods

Skiing to Little Lyford

Tom and I decided to get way out of town and spend a few nights in Maine's northern wilderness. The Appalachian Mountain Club's operation up in Greenville serves Tom's Carrabassett Coffee in their dining halls, so we figured we'd go see how good it tasted. We would ski for three days and stay two nights- the first at Little Lyford Lodge and Camps and the second night at Gorman Chairback Lodge and Camps.

For us the adventure began in the winter parking lot AMC also uses to load skier's gear. The club would snowmobile our gear to the camps - we were asked to pack bedding and sleeping bags for Little Lyford. The Gorman Chairback cabins include all bedding. The parking lot is about eight miles from the center of Greenville on Pleasant Street. Our first overnight would be at Little Lyford - a six-plus mile ski from the where we left our van. We had the option of taking the snowmobile trail to the camps, a shorter and more road-like passage, but decided to take the newer Hedgehog Gate Trail.

The Hedgehog Gate Trail was a lot more interesting and a bit more challenging. The trail wound through the woods and up and around ridges. It was a good two-hour ski for us old farts, but a lot of fun. They have a halfway sign for those of us who have no idea how fast and far we go on skis. It was great because we determined when we hit that sign that we were skiing around three miles per hour. It helped us to plan out the time schedule for the rest of our trip.

The snow was all powder and there was lots of it. Maine had not had it's annual January thaw, so there wasn't a stitch of ice. The other astounding thing was the quiet. There wasn't a breath of wind. Just the sound of our skis.

As we turned the final corner down and into Little Lyford Camps, every image you could ever imagine about a little log cabin in the woods became a reality. A path with four-foot high snowbanks wound through the open area to the main lodge which was the kitchen and dining lodge. Breakfast and dinner were served family style. We met the very friendly crew and were shown to our log cabin - a comfortable one room with a queen and bunk beds, chairs and a few little tables, bottled water and a wood stove that we would need to keep stoked. When I told my brother about having to keep the stove stoked, he thought that was the coolest thing he had ever heard of. There was a porch out front and a styling outhouse a short walk around back. The whole setting was simple and perfect. There was a separate combined toilet, shower and sauna house back up by the dining lodge.

Little Lyford Camps sit near the Little Lyford Ponds. If you want to learn to fish -  catch and release only - this is the place to go. You're guaranteed to catch fish and can keep two a day. The camp chef will cook them up for you. Set within 66,000 acres of Appalachian Mountain Club conservation land, Little Lyford is close to the Pleasant River, Indian Mountain, Gulf Hagas, or the Appalachian Trail.

 Arriving at Little Lyford - our cabin was named Trails End.

 Our own outhouse

 We got comfortable in our cabin named Trails End

Tom relaxing with our gear hung to dry.

The dining room at Little Lyford

 Tom on his way back from the kitchen and dining lodge at Little Lyford

Chuck our host and Ari, who drove our gear in to camp, at the Little Lyford kitchen and dining lodge

Dinner was served at 6PM sharp and great. The other guests were really fun - BYOB and tall tales. The lodge is powered by gas lights and solar panels which Chuck, our host told us, will derive power even when it is overcast. We were up pretty late that night. Heading back to our cabin with our headlamps on was one of the most quiet experiences I've had in a long time. There was no wind and it was snowing lightly. There were no stars to see that night, but I guess when the skies are clear and the moon is out, a walk out on Little Lyford Pond is magical with Baker Mountain as a backdrop.

Dinner at Little Lyford with new fun friends

We woke up to about three inches of fresh powder and falling snow. There were signs of animal on our way to the breakfast. Chuck told us there was a resident fox. In past years he had seen a female and kits.

Guests liked that good Carrabassett Coffee

We ate a hearty breakfast served at 8AM sharp - including a treat of double chocolate muffins - and packed our own lunches with food provided by the kitchen. Our second night we would spend at Gorman Chairback. The newly constructed lodge and rebuilt cabins sit on the east end of Long Pond.

On the way to Gorman through a pine stand

It was a six mile trek through the woods to Gorman Chairback. We passed the trail head for Gulf Hagas but didn't have snowshoes with us which are recommended this time of year with all of the snow and ice. On another trip we might spend two nights at Little Lyford with a day spent exploring Gulf Hagas in between. All of the AMC camps have snowshoes you can borrow.

It was a beautiful trek and took us a little over two hours, including a stop for lunch on a fallen log we found off the trail a bit. There still wasn't a breath of wind and the snow kept falling. It was so quiet I remember becoming totally aware of how much noise our skis were making. The trails went up and down and around ridges and valleys. They were all well marked, but we'd stop to check where we were on our map mostly because we needed an excuse to slow down and take it all in. We met only one other couple out there - good liberals (which means open-minded according to Websters, by the way), and spent a few minutes bemoaning the LePage administration's attempt to roll back 30 years of good environmental laws.

The Gorman Lodge was beautiful with family style dining, toilets, showers and sauna. The cabins sat right on the northeast end of the lake with lovely outhouses around back. This place must be awesome in the summer - with its sandy beach and pristine lake. We did not need any bedding but thankfully needed to keep the wood stove stoked. There's something about having to work for this whole adventure that makes it special. The people you meet are kindred spirits - they love the Maine woods and want to keep them just as special as they always have been. Being able to accomplish a trip like this is a really nice reward for staying healthy and in shape.

Gorman Lodge
Gorman Lodge dining area looks out over Long Pond
 Gary was the head of the operation and our fabulous chef.
Tom in the lounge at Gorman Lodge


Looking down to the cabins from Gorman Lodge. This first cabin was eight-sided
 Andy showed us to our cabin and how to work the stove.

Our cabin at Gorman - Nancy's Nest

Getting comfortable in our cabin at Gorman

Looking west out over Long Pond from our cabin

After a sauna and shower, we had a terrific dinner and met more fun people. I couldn't sleep that night - I was too excited about being out in the woods. I felt invigorated and alive and wanted to make sure I inhaled as much of that wilderness energy as I could. It takes you right back to all of that primal stuff. Eating and staying warm being your only concern.

The next morning after we had breakfast and packed our lunch, we began the final trek back to the van. We both decided two nights was not enough - we needed one night just to realize where we were and what we were doing. Next time we'll make it longer.
Crossing over Long Pond outlet on our way back to the van

Tom on Long Pond - that's open water to the right and Baker Mountain in the background.

The trail back to our van was an eight mile trudge up a slow grade on the west side of Long Pond and along Trout Brook. The temps had dropped to eight degrees and the wind was gusting to 40. It was too cold to stop for lunch trailside - there was a lean-to and an open spot on the lake. We needed to keep skiing and we did for two and half hours with the exception of a few stops to take pics. The next time we do this, we'll head to Gorman first - it's all down hill.
When we hit the snowmobile trail that we started on before ducking into the woods on the Hedgehog trail, we were pretty bummed. It had all ended too quickly and that's always a good sign. We'll be back.