Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Ordinary But So Joyful Days

Scenes of summer's bounty.
Yesterday, we visited the York Farmer's Market, a first for us.
When we lived in Rye, our regular Saturday destination was the big market in Portsmouth with its live music; ethnic food vendors; organic meats and produce; and flowers flowers flowers.
We approached the market not expecting to be WOWed but were delighted with the experience.
The market, only about a mile from our house, sits on the top of a little shady hill on Route 1 just off the Maine Turnpike and right next door to Stonewall Kitchen's flagship store (but that's another story for another blog post).

There were the usual craft vendors, non-profits and issue advocates:
but these were surrounded by small growers and bakers.
Our bounty consisted of artisan cheeses from Westbrook (a Tuscan curd & harvaati-like cheese), fresh flowers that filled three vases when we got home; hand-crafted granola; a delicious long, slendor 3-cheese baguett;
and vegetables! fresh snap peas, swiss chard, onions, new potatoes, fabulous red red red beets.

And HUGE surprise !OLIVES! from Greece that are brined just a mere 2 towns away in Sanford.
The family owns property on the southern tip of Greece on the Mediterranean.

My sister Michelle invited me to meet her at Emily Dickenson Museum in Amherst (Massachusetts) for a flower arranging seminar.

We met in the afternoon, for an interesting discussion of the role and uses of flowers in the home in the 19th century. And then made arrangements with flowers using design principles we'd learned.

This is one of the tussie-mussies we made - a typical nosegay for Victorian ladies.

What fun!!!
We also each made typical floral arrangements for vases as well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Blissful Summer Days: A Mini-Travelogue with Nostalgia, Too

Thursday was a delightful day! The weather was perfect New England summer: dry air, 80 degree temps, clear sky and bright sun.

For us, this was a little one-day, get-away and its 'purpose', if we needed one, was the current exhibit at the Museum of Art in Portland: "Georgia O'Keefe and The Camera".

Of course, we also expected to wander around neighborhoods of the Old Port and waterfront with its ever increasingly upscale bistros and shops. Expensive play things, baubles and bangles; window shopping is fun. We also planned to eat fresh fish for lunch and dinner before we embarked on the little journey back to the train station in Wells. A great plan, we thought!

We boarded the Amtrak Downeaster in Wells Maine at 11 AM on its northward journey from Boston to Portland. The train is comfortable; the seats spacious with lots of leg room; there is a snack bar for food and beverages. We'd do this trip by train even without the value-added views for the sheer comfort of not dealing with city traffic, parking and of course the price of gasoline!

The trip for us from Wells to Portland is only about 40 minutes and hugs the coastline. Makes two stops on its way to Portland, in Saco and Old Orchard. The trip through Saco was interesting with river views. Train tracks go right through the old manufacturing district now mostly empty and abandoned. Great space for development! I can see shops and space for artists; and mixed residential areas, too. I wonder why this doesn't happen.

This area has deep, ancient connections for me. During World War II, my dad was stationed at Camp Edwards before he was sent overseas. It was 1943; he knew he'd soon be gone to war. My mom was in Massachusetts; she had an apartment there and a job; she was close to family and friends. She said she'd been able to save some money by living carefully. So when dad asked to make an uncharacteristic leap: quit her job, leave her apartment and come to Maine for the summer, she said, emphatically, "No". He persisted. She relented and found a room in Saco and a defense job nearby. They had as carefree a summer of fun and love as was possible during those horrible times. I remember seeing photographic memories of that summer -- my mom and dad, he in uniform with other GIs and other wives and girlfriends. And, of course, there is also one very real and quite human result: me, I was born within the year and after my dad had gone overseas in April 1944.

Whenever I have traveled this area, I have felt a tingling, quivering in my DNA.
This is, afterall, the home of my conception!

Our train stops smack in the middle of Old Orchard Beach just a short step or two from the ocean beaches, the amusements, restaurants, hotels, motels, and ticky tacky too. One could easily pack for a day at the beach returning on the late train around 8:30 or so. I think I may return with Victoria for just such a day!

After stopping in Old Orchard, the train travels through salt marshes on its way to Portland; the natural views are quite nice.
We've made this trip by car many times over the years: when I had consultancy work for the state of Maine or various non-profit organizations, when we vacationed with or without grandchildren in York or Pine Point, or when we drove up Route 1 to get lobsters for steaming at the Alewife farm in Cape Elizabeth.

Maine memories abound; living here is rich for us -- great day-to-day and layered with lovely nostalgia.

From Old Orchard, it is just a hop, skip and jump to the Amtrak/Concord Trailways station on the edge of Portland.

We'd planned to take the Metro #5 bus into the city and straight to the Museum which is in an area that boasts two museums as well as the Maine College of Art. And lots of restaurants.

We were hungry and decided to have a light lunch before seeing the exhibit: got great fresh Maine fish at the Dogfish Cafe -- fresh crab for me and mussels for Larry. The Dogfish is new to us and on the sight of a favorite Greek restaurant from years past. Although we were disappointed at first to see a favorite restaurant gone, we like the new quite a lot.

Dinner was on the water on a dock with cruise ships and fishing boats beside us. Delightful early evening. Nice dinner of haddock and steamers to share. A taxi whisked us back to the train station and back to Wells and the short drive home to York.

Days like this one are so important for us ---- the planned and unplannedalike. Larry's nearly-93 year old dad lives with us and it is difficult to get away for more than a day or two at a time.
So we look for BIG JOYS that come in little packages.

A day like this one carries over into the next and the next.

A day like this one colors all days to come with joy.

It has smiles that keep on smiling.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good Summer Reads

  • Reader, Bernard Schlenk. I just devoured this short novel. Although I can't say that I actually 'liked' the characters (usually a pre-requisite for me) but the complex moral problem set up by the author is compelling. Stayed with me for days. Weeks. Heck, it is still rumbling around in 'there' unsolved.

  • Without A Map, Meredith Hall. I joined a book group in the late winter. This book was on the reading list but not selected by the group. In the spring, going to a meeting on a work day and listening to NPR (my singular source of daily news and culture) I came upon an interview with Hall in which she read parts of the memoir. And I was hooked. I had arrived at my destination but Hall was still talking/reading. I just could not leave the program and so kept driving around that small town up and down hills and decided at that moment to read the book. Usually, I am not fond of memoirs. Usually they tell all and tell more than any sensible person cares to know. But this one. This one is fantastic! It takes place in a small New Hampshire town in the 1960s and obviously is a MUST read.

  • Summer People, Marge Piercy. Larry, a book-collector, bought this book for me a few years ago. A signed first edition. Frankly, I think I might have read the book when it came out nearly 20 nearly years ago........but then again....... Whatever, I read it recently and decided at that moment to return to Piercy whom I have not read in years. A really good read.

  • The Gathering, Ann Enright. A British novelist she tells the story of a large Irish family. I was particulary fond of the device she uses to tell a multi-generational story. Melancholy? Yes, of course. It's Irish. But it is a wonderful read.

  • Ladder of Years, Ann Tyler. I confess the obvious: I prefer books by women writers although I usually don't enjoy the 'quirky' Tyler characters. I quickly tire of them; I want to take them by the shoulders and say, "Buck up" "Get on with it". But I did like this story and felt enormous empathy for the female protagonist who 'runs' away from her much-older husband and family responsibilities. I think a pivotal moment in the book in terms of understanding the motivations of the character is when the husband turns to the police after his wife has gone missing. In responding to questions, the husband cannot recall what color are her eyes and what she was wearing! Read it!

I read The Sand Castle by Rita Mae Brown this weekend. I have not read Brown for decades I think! This book is another in a series of books about Juts and Wheezy (Loose Lips, Bingo, Six of One) whom I have never read and tells the story of family and loss and grieving through a day at the beach in 1952. Heck I might read the rest of the series.

I finished Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian today during an unanticipated sick day. It has the flavor you come to expect from Bohjalian: tight, spare writing. To the point. Without fluff or wordy description. He was afterall, a newspaper writer. And a darn good storyteller. While this one isn't a page turner, it has an even careful pacing and lots of detail in the unfolding of events and building of characters.

What's next on my bedside table? An Elizabeth Berg and
a Marge Piercy.

Oh Those Blissful Summer Days

This has been a magical summer.

I feel healthy and strong for the first time in nearly 8 years.

I love living in this house and in York; I enjoy the beach and take long lovely walks plugged into music. I'm building a shady rock garden, the first gardening I've been able to do in years. I have returned to working in fabric.
And loving it all!

Victoria came for a visit. At 15, she said she'd "always" wanted to surf. So we enrolled her in a class at Long Sands Beach. Here she is in the picture on the right holding the white and yellow board and below.
She is an honor roll student who takes advanced level classes; athletic in soccer, field hocky and softball. And,sh is in school theater events -- several times the only middle schooler in senior high productions. Victoria will return in August for a week in theater camp at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Yesterday, Larry and I played tourist -- something we do exceedingly well. We took the Downeaster to Portland, the train hugs the coastline and there are nice scenic views along the way. The purpose of our trip was the exhibit, "Georgia O'Keefe and the Camere" that is at the Portland Museum of Art through the summer. A fabulous show! But while there, we walked the Old Port for window-shopping and people-watching. Ate fresh Maine fish for lunch and dinner and boarded the last train home at night. And all and all a really great day!