Monday, November 25, 2013

Windy Day on Monhegan

We've had some seriously windy days here in Maine. The folks in Kingfield haven't had electricity since yesterday - trees are down everywhere on our road. It was windy here in Portland too, but doesn't seem it was as bad as it was up there.

It was cold too. Having officially left the period we call Indian Summer, wind rose to the occasion like a barrage of a billion prickly little icicles that impale themselves on anything left exposed. I fought back with a memory of a similarly windy day in the middle of summer on Monhegan Island a few years back.

On this particular day we welcomed the wind. The heat that week had left most life forms on the island feeling pretty limp. Those soft refreshing gusts off the ocean caressed us like a big slow and lazy undulating fan. I was fascinated by some laundry flapping on lines strung out from the wash house just down the hill from where I was sitting. The fluttering reminded me of an *eclipse of moths stuck in a glass jar. It was mezmerizing.

Windy Day on Monhegan • 8" x 8" Gouache framed to 12" x 12" • $200

*I started off with a flock of moths, but figured I'd better look it up. Glad I did.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Indian Summer Revisited

Whoa! It's almost like summer here in Portland, Maine. The sun is shining and the temps have got to be close to hitting 60. Sailors will know it's days like this when you wonder if you should have kept the boat in the water a little longer.

So, are we still officially in Indian Summer territory here? According to the Farmer's Almanac, Indian Summer must occur between November 11 and November 20. For over 200 years, The Old Farmer's Almanac has adhered to the saying, "If All Saints' (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin's brings out Indian summer."

So why is Indian summer called Indian summer?  Some say it comes from the early Algonquian Native Americans who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit. This is the nice version.

The FA continues, "The most probable origin of the term, in our view, goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. "Indian summer," the settlers called it."

Indian Summer Revisited • 8" x 8" gouache framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mary Lou's Girls

Mary Lou and David's home is at the end of #6 Road in Phillips. They live off the grid in a snug, beautiful little spot next to a stream - it's just about as quiet and serene as you can get.

Tom and I went to see their new hoop house last weekend. To my surprise, there was a flock of chickens, er actually, a brood of hens (which were originally a clutch or peep of chicks), pecking around their yard.  Mary Lou now has 11 hens.  She had some many years ago, but had to give them up when they moved to Nantucket during the winters to work.  Now that they're at #6 full time, hens have become a part of the family again.  Her "girls," Mary Lou says, follow her wherever she goes.

While Tom and David were discussing business, Mary Lou gathered eggs from the hen house, and then she and I went inside their cozy wood-heated home to catch up.  We sat down on the kitchen floor with two of the friendlier hens she had invited in with us. Occasionally all 11 will be allowed to come inside to hang out during the coldest part of January.  I would imagine it to be like a very noisy quilting bee.

Hanging out with those two hens was like watching puppies - it was fascinating. I really got to study them eyeball to eyeball. After observing for a bit, I began to see something quite prehistoric in their heads - like a tyrannosaurus rex.  The thought of a 40 foot high chicken suddenly terrified me.

I asked her if she thought chickens were intelligent. She told me that when the girls hear Dave start up his tractor, they will rush right over to him. Their favorite food are worms and grubs, the big fat white ones.

She gave the girls some yogurt as we sat there - it's good for their digestion she said, and helps prevent an ugly GI issue chickens can have that will kill them.  We watched as they dove in - the tops of their beaks white like the upper lip of a couple of kids eating ice cream cones.  When it was time for them to join the others outside, Mary Lou brought the dish of yogurt and another one for the rest of the girls. I couldn't keep my eyes off them.  But alas, we had to close the door.

Mary Lou's Girls • 8" x 8" watercolor and gouache framed to 12" x 12"• $200

PS. David and Mary Lou are Sandy River Gardens. They grow and sell all kinds of stuff - flowers, plants, fruit bushes and trees, and over 40 varieties of lilacs.  Every year  they have a lilac festival in late spring with food and music. People come from far and wide.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Billy Collins' Moon

I've been reading poetry these days - Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, some stuff by Emily Dickinson, etc. And then I discovered Billy Collins.  Garrison Keillor turned me on to Collins who was our  Poet Laureate from 2001 - 2003, and who sat in for Keillor while he was on a road tour this past summer. I love this guy! 

I painted this and went looking for a good moon poem to accompany it. I needed a break from my own ramblings. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.



The moon is full tonight
an illustration for sheet music,
an image in Matthew Arnold
glimmering on the English Channel,
or a ghost over a smoldering battlefield
in one of the history plays.

It's as full as it was
in that poem by Coleridge
where he carries his year-old son
into the orchard behind the cottage
and turns the baby's face to the sky
to see for the first time
the earth's bright companion,
something amazing to make his crying seem small.

And if you wanted to follow this example,
tonight would be the night
to carry some tiny creature outside
and introduce him to the moon.

And if your house has no child,
you can always gather into your arms
the sleeping infant of yourself,
as I have done tonight,
and carry him outdoors,
all limp in his tattered blanket,
making sure to steady his lolling head
with the palm of your hand.

And while the wind ruffles the pear trees
in the corner of the orchard
and dark roses wave against a stone wall,
you can turn him on your shoulder
and walk in circles on the lawn
drunk with the light.
You can lift him up into the sky,
your eyes nearly as wide as his,
as the moon climbs high into the night.

~ Billy Collins ~