Thursday, January 30, 2014

PLAY: What we can do to encourage an appreciation for the great Maine outdoors

photo IMG_7813 IMG_8486
I hear people say all the time that kids don't know how to enjoy a simple day of fun outside anymore. Here's a well known fact....kids follow by example.

If he was allowed to do so, Jackson would probably sit on the couch with an Ipad and the television on for hours. He loves Cabela's Deer Hunter and Angry Birds. Currently, his favorite show is "Yardens" (better known as North Woods Law) and the movie of the month is Brother Bear. It bothers me to see little kids sitting motionless in front of any device for an extended period of time. And yes, we are all guilty of this. Myself very much included!

Some of my fondest memories as a kid are of family sledding nights. My mom and dad would take old milk jugs, cut a hole in the back, and place votive candles inside. Both sides of our driveway were then lined with homemade luminaries. The weight of the snow and ice made the birch trees bow down, forming a perfect arch that extended the entire length of the driveway. That little bit of light turned a cold dark night into a winter wonderland. We would race each other and often times take a minute at the end to lay down and look up at the stars. Our fun was always followed with hot cocoa or warm tomato soup and grilled cheeses on homemade bread from Helen's Restaurant. Talk about a magical memory!!! My little brother and I were very blessed to grow up with fun parents.

It's so easy to say, "Go outside and play! Why can't you be content with being outside? Where is your imagination?"


Show them!!! Lead by example. A snow angel, a snowman, ice cream making, fort building, sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, snow flake observing, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, hiking...the list could go on! Show them fun things to do outside and use YOUR imagination. Seeing your excitement and your imagination will give them a push to be passionate about the moment, simply because YOU are. Excitement is so contagious, especially to children!

Trust me, I need this reminder just as much as the next person. Winter to me encourages lots of lounging around, eating delicious things, reading on the couch and just not wanting to move. It has been three weeks today since we last visited civilization...so it is VERY necessary to at least leave the house to play and get some fresh air.
Realty Road


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Comin' Up Reality Road

A dog, a cat, two little boys, a husband, a wife, and lots of groceries.
We crammed it all in on the last trip we made back into Clayton Lake. After the rainfall a little over a week ago, the Reality road turned to a smooth glare of ice with a little dirt tossed on top in some places.

The MURS radio was probably the most active I have heard it. Most voices that came over the radio were monotone and pretty bland...but there were a few that made me chuckle.

"Mile 41. Heading down Reality. Wide. Loaded."

"Mile 13. Comin' up Reality. Empty."


A few of the truckers made a dramatic production of your typical shout out on the radio. Most were spoken in heavy French Canadian accents and the fun ones had a little sing song added to their voice...the rhythm reminding me a little of the cattle rattle of a southern auctioneer.

The logging trucks were answered with shout outs from other loggers and "four-wheelers". Four-wheeler is the term used on the MURS for any regular passenger vehicle.

"Mile 16. Coming down Reality. Four-wheeler."

I am so thankful for the communication of the radio. It isn't a warm fuzzy feeling that comes over you when you see a wide load logging truck coming towards you at 40 miles an hour on a road of ice sprinkled with a little dirt on top. It's a relief to know when they're coming.

The boys did awesome on the ride back in and I was able to see my first lynx! So exciting. What an elusive, beautiful creature.
Trigger was ready to get back into the woods. We were inside when we looked out to see him waiting patiently.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moose: Who Gives A Shed?

The temperature isn't the only thing that's started dropping in the North Woods! We found our first sheds when the temperatures dipped around 37 below last week. Now that mating season has ended the moose's testosterone levels are evening out and antlers are dropping. It's the time of year that Mainers everywhere strap on their snow shoes and rev up their sleds to alleviate that "horny" feeling.
Moose sheds are a hot commodity, that can be sold for up to $10 a pound. They are used for dog treats and decorative purposes.
I visited a man cave Downeast today.

The picture doesn't really do it justice....there are about 60 sheds here.

These guys look tall and tough when standing still, but oh dear, don't they look foolish when they run! We have been able to follow a few of them running down the road when they jumped out in front of the vehicle and there's nothing pretty about it! There's a little added goofiness when they take on that lopsided look. They are so fun to watch...and beautiful in their own way. :)
sheds3 sheds2

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Nanny D

This morning I woke up and walked to the kitchen. I opened the fridge and took out the milk and eggs, went to the counter and grabbed the popover recipe. I added the eggs to the blender and then flour, oil, salt, and milk. I cooked and I cried.

I was so annoyed that they all fell except for the one on the right. It was appropriate because no one will ever make them as good as she did.

After hearing of her passing early this morning I started picking over memories that I have of my Nanny D and am not surprised that most of them involve food.

For years, every Sunday after church we would go to Nanny and Granky's house for lunch. The table would be set with blue Willow ware and no matter what meal, there was always a dish of her homemade butter pickles on the table. During the summer months, there were fresh cucumbers from Granky's  garden sliced up and doused in apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.

It was a glorious thing to be woken up by the smell of her homemade blueberry muffins on sunny summer mornings at our family camp on Schoodic Lake.

After my grandfather passed away, many of our Sunday lunches were spent at Helen's Restaurant in Machias. Nanny loved her seafood, and all the waitresses knew that she was allowed to have whatever size of any dish she wanted. She loved fried shrimp on top of fettuccine Alfredo, crab stuffed haddock, scallops, haddock with egg sauce, and fried chicken. Chocolate Coconut Graham Cracker, Coconut Cream, and Lemon Meringue were on her favorites list for Helen's pies. But like me, she would've eaten any piece of Helen's pie that was set in front of her.

I remember the day my grandfather died, I stayed the night with her. Her body had been through so much taking care of him in the months before he died, and she was tired. She slept soundly. I did not. The street light was shining through the window and I was sleeping on Granky's side of the bed. It was one of the weirdest nights of my life. I stared at his handsome military picture on the wall and I cried. I would miss him but it was absolutely devastating to me that she would have to live the rest of her life without him. It is one of the cruelest things about life. That we spend a lifetime loving one other person, living for them, caring for them, and then are expected to pick up the pieces and move on when they leave. When I think about it, I can hardly breath. Life is harsh.

I remember the day that I told her Evan would be stationed in Clayton Lake and that I might stay Downeast in our house and go and visit him every other week. She looked at me like I had five heads and said, "Well of course you won't do that. You will go and live with him and be his wife." It was very matter of fact to her, and I was smart to not argue with her that day.


Halloween 2013 Mustache, cigar, and blaze orange. Perfection.

I am inspired by her attitude in the last few years. She was a trooper. If she did any sulking it certainly wasn't around any of the people who came to visit her. She had every reason to sulk. Her body started to fail her years ago. One of the things that will haunt me forever is that she was not able to swallow or really taste her food in the last year.

She was steadfast in her faith and it kept her going. She always dressed nice to go to church. I don't remember her singing much, but I knew she liked me to sing. I loved standing next to her and belting it out. I would have to sing for both of us and I was just fine with that.

Today, everything I do will remind me of her. She was a spitfire. She was sassy and had an adorable smirk that paired well with the attitude. She was funny and witty, and at times she was as stubborn as a mule. She was old fashioned like most of her generation. Her nose turned a little towards the sky at my nose ring and tattoos...but only in the kindest way. I can't remember a time when I heard her say a bad word about anyone. She was always smiling and always laughing, even on the worst of days. She had such an awesome laugh. I am so thankful for the woman that she was and for the wonderful example she set. Not many people are able to say that they were able to have a great grandmother in their life for 25 years. Like Granky, she was a staple of our large family, and it will not be the same without her. She will live through the memories she has left with her 3 daughters, 8 grand children, 23 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren.

Five generation picture at her 85th birthday celebration. It was a week before we would leave for Clayton Lake and a VERY emotional day. She wanted us to sing a few songs and I was supposed to "lead" the singing. It did not go well. I glanced over at her during a verse of Amazing Grace and she was crying and that was it. We both knew it would probably be her last birthday. <3

A scene keeps playing through my mind. Granky is in heaven hiding behind the pearly gates...as she walks through he jumps out to scare her or throws something at her....and she will scream, "Oh honestly, Lawrence!!!" I like to think that there will be a huge heavenly buffet (not an earthly buffet because I hate those), and she will eat and be able to taste and savor and swallow every bite. That sounds a little like gluttony...I don't know how to make it sound any different. There must be food tasting in heaven! And the whole time Granky will be as silent and sneaky as he always was...putting cucumbers in her mashed potatoes and salt and pepper in her milk, and stand a knife right in the middle of her slice of cake. He was always wild at the dinner table.

Today I am thankful for an outlet. Writing this has been a huge stress relieving, grief therapy session for me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Life on the Water

"...we have salt in our blood,
in our sweat, in our tears.
We are tied to the ocean.
And when we go back to the sea...
we are from whence we came."
- John F. Kennedy, 1962
I come from a small coastal community where many peoples' lives revolve around the changing of the tide. Clams, lobsters, periwinkles, eels, scallops, and urchins are harvested throughout the year. Anyone who has ever had a family member on the water knows the chilling, eerie feeling that comes with every gust of wind or sign of storm.
The feeling isn't unjustified as there have been 43 commercial fishermen lost at sea since 1993. With each devastating loss, the tight knit fishing communities of Eastern Maine are shaken.
Fish7The terrifying part of living in a fishing community is that most crews working on boats are part of the same family or close knit group of friends. Fathers work with sons, brothers work with brothers, neighbors work with neighbors. There is no fishing related accident that doesn't hit too close to home. In the aftermath it's impossible to push away the worrisome thought "it could've been my brother, husband, father, uncle, etc".


When I went home to visit for Christmas, my mom and I drove to Pembroke to try to catch a glimpse of my brother and uncle dragging scallops. We walked an unplowed road that led to a beach, and stopped to listen to the low rumble of the motors and the distant hollering of the fishermen. We were able to catch a tiny glimpse of one of the many ways of life in Downeast Maine. Here's to a safe fishing season in 2014!