Three Good Days

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It was low tide so this lobster trap float was high on the shore

Late this morning I went to a favorite waterfront spot to take photos—the Town Landing in a small town nearby. It was packed (by Maine standards). Swimmers. Kids catching crabs. Sun bathers on the rocks. Two boats being launched,  a teenager taking off on his paddleboard.

It’s been raining for about a week. Today it’s clear, not a cloud in the sky, and there’s a light breeze. Humidity is low.

An ambulance was sitting in the small parking lot, but there was no emergency. Four EMTs sat on the dock eating lunch. As I walked by, I heard one of them say, “We get three good days of weather in Maine each year, this is one of them.”

It’s true. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me so my photos aren’t the best…but here’s Maine at its best. I guess there’s a reason we have state slogans like Vacationland and The way life should be. These days will carry us through the next winter; they’re what we wait for.

For more of my Maine photos, follow me on Instagram @juliamunroemartin

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There are plenty of boats in the harbor–these dinghies are used to row out to where boats are moored

Saturday Six

Here’s what’s happening this week in my world…keep reading for how to enter a giveaway for an ITunes gift card!

1. Fact or Fiction? Today I’m on Writer Unboxed with a post called Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction about three things that got me thinking about whether men have an edge over women in the publishing and writing world. Here’s the beginning:

 Lest you think I’m a ‘man-hating feminist,’ let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention…

A huge thank you to my wonderful daughter for taking time (on very, extremely short notice) from her busy job to give me her insight and help in editing this piece.

2. Diary of the Fall. This week I also had my first post on the Great New Books blog! I wrote about Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. It’s about three generations of diarists, and it’s an interesting book on many levels—for me it was most interesting in its structure: nonlinear in nature and very short chapters. I hope you’ll take a look at the post, here’s an excerpt.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with nonlinear stories—in fact I’ve been searching them out. That’s how I stumbled onto Diary of the Fall written by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

This story of three generations of men—all diarists—is told through the eyes of a single narrator: a forty-something (unnamed) man, who relives and retells the story of a dangerous prank he and other Jewish thirteen-year-olds at an elite school in Brazil play on their one non-Jewish classmate, João. At João’s thirteenth birthday party, the boys decide as a group to drop João during a ceremonial “13-bumps” tradition, and João is seriously injured in “the fall.”

3. That giveaway. I’m putting together a new play list for the WIP I’ll write during NaNoWriMo. If anyone can guess what I’m writing about based on this playlist, you’ll win a $10 gift card from ITunes. Here’s a screenshot of the songs I’m listening to in repeat while I’m in planning mode.

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click to enlarge

Not that this will necessarily help you with your guess, but my favorite song so far is “Cool Kids” by EchoSmith. (I never was one of the cool kids, by the way, maybe that’s why.) Seriously, leave a comment and if you guess correctly (or even close!), I’ll send you that gift card.

4. It just goes on and on. We’re still in the midst of one of the most prolonged and beautiful falls I can remember. In fact, we’re just about “at peak.” The colors are dazzling and distracting and stunning…I can’t think of enough descriptors, so how about another photo?

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This sugar maple next to a neighbor’s house is what I’m talking about…dazzling right?

5. King Tide. I missed the lunar eclipse but caught the “King Tide,” the year’s highest astronomical tide, and it was something. I stood on the tiny piece of remaining shore on Cousins Island Beach and let the water wash over my sandaled feet. Yes, it’s still been that warm here…in Maine…in October. It’s amazing and wonderful.

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This is all that was left of the beach during King Tide!

6. Can’t break the habit! MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I gave up cable TV a few years ago—actually right around when I first started blogging. Now, instead, we binge watch TV. (No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, except that we no longer have a cable TV bill.) We’ve gone through Rescue Me, The Guardian, The Mentalist, Castle, The Mindy Project, and now we’re about to wind up Chuck. Any suggestions on what we should start next would be greatly appreciated. Clearly we like an eclectic mix but tend to like quirky and shows that have (at least some) humor and a lot of mystery.

How are things in your corner of the world? What are you writing and watching and listening to? Don’t forget to guess what my new WIP is about, and you could win that ITunes gift card.

Cheers,

Julia

“On little cat feet…”

Yesterday's photo, taken with my iPhone

Yesterday’s photo, taken with my iPhone

(Thank you poet Carl Sandburg for the inspiration behind the title of this post!)

The last few days have been foggy off and on, which is fine with me. I love the fog—and anytime I think it might be foggy, I drive to the water’s edge (we’re five minutes from Casco Bay).

Yesterday, though, it surprised me. Sunny at my house, I drove to the Falmouth Landing—a place I go at least four times a week to take in the sights (and take photos). The dock was socked in. I had only my iPhone, but I still took a picture because it was surreal: thick fog over the water, sun and bright clouds above, dark at water’s edge.

Fog is an enigma. It gives the air a particular feel of both a lightness but also heaviness and weight. It is both lovely and also mysterious…at times it can feel dangerous. As you drive toward the coast, the fog leads you to the sea…with wisps and trails of clouds…and the scent and tanginess of salt. Standing on water’s edge, birds appear out of nowhere and boats disappear in the distance. The sky turns from white to blue gradually or the fog can blow off in seconds.

I hope you enjoy these photos!

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I got out of my car just in time to see this gull landing… and today my camera was all set on the seat next to me

 

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Stray lobster traps often dot the beach at low tide

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Families of ducks float in and out of the fog

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I love the way the islands look in the foggy distance. Casco Bay is sometimes called “the Calendar Islands” (because legend has it they number 365). The US Coastal Pilot says the Casco Bay islands number 136.

Inspiration as Far as the Eye Can See

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Boats as far as the eye can see…

Our house is about five minutes from the coast. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that for the first year I was blogging, I posted weekly videos of a nearby town beach on Cousins Island, a small island accessible by bridge. (All those videos are still on youtube!)

I stopped posting those videos (I think the winter did us in—that is, MEH (My Engineer Husband) and me—it was just too cold to stand out there in the bitter wind, week after week.), but I still go someplace on the water almost every day—either to take photos for Instagram or just to enjoy the view and observe the activity and wildlife and sometimes just the smell of the water.

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A lobsterman rows to his boat

Most mornings these days I’ve been going to the Falmouth Town Landing. What I love about the landing is that it’s home to commercial fishermen in addition to pleasure boats. In fact, it’s one of the largest boat “parking lots” in Maine, with over 1,110 boats at peak season.

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Lobster traps on tidal flats (at high tide water will go almost all the way to the old boat house in the background)

I never know what I’ll see when I get there—baby ducks and lots of shore birds, people setting off on their sail boats, lobster boats, someone unloading bait for the day’s fishing, dinghies, dogs swimming in the water, children exploring the tidepools, and lots and lots of boats…and that’s just scraping the surface. This morning was no different.

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The captain of the Nicolle Marie readies for a day of lobstering

It was busier than I’d ever seen it. Lobstermen were loading traps onto boats (the tourist season is heating up). I talked to a few of them about their day (and mine…we’ve had a lot of clouds and rain lately and they all commented on what great weather it is for photography).

After an hour at the dock I was (kind of) ready to come home to tackle the writing day… although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there is a part of me that wishes I could stay all day to watch and soak in not just the sun but the flavor of life on the dock. One of these days I just might!

What are some of your favorite places to go for inspiration?

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. If you’re on Instagram and want to follow me (or even if you aren’t on Instagram, and you just want to check out my photo gallery) I’m @juliamunroemartin

 

 

 

 

MEH’s Big Birthday Surprise!

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MEH at the mirror art installation in Terminal C of Logan Airport…always the curious MEH. (If you look closely you can see he’s wearing his MEH sweatshirt!)

Sometimes a surprise works out perfectly—if I do say so myself—and such was the case with the surprise birthday trip my daughter and I cooked up for MEH (My Engineer Husband). It all started when I discovered that I had just the perfect number of frequent flier miles to get a free trip to California, just where my daughter happens to live! What better way to spend the miles than for a trip for MEH to visit one of his kids? (In addition to being a wonderful MEH, he’s also the world’s best dad. This is not open to argument. He has the “world’s greatest dad” mug to prove it.)

Now, if MEH were like me, this idea just never would have worked. First, I hate to fly and would’ve been freaked out if I’d found out just two hours before a cross-country flight that I was going somewhere, let alone on a plane…let alone cross country. Second, I’m a naturally suspicious (and sneaky) person so I would’ve figured the whole thing out way before it ever got off the ground.

For MEH, however, it was the perfect gift. For one, he LOVES surprises! For another, he’s had a rough winter, still job hunting… and on top of that we’ve had over two feet more than the normal snowfall this winter (guess who never complains about shoveling the lion’s share?). Plus, MEH loves to fly. He’s a pilot and I knew that part of the fun for him would be a seat where he could watch the wing flaps go up and down (he called me from the plane and thanked me). But, mostly, I knew it was the perfect gift because he misses our daughter like crazy. We’re lucky enough to see our son a lot (he’s doing hospital rotations—for med school—very nearby), but our daughter lives clear across the country now (you can read about that here).

When we drove down to Logan Airport (in Boston) yesterday morning, I told him we were going to see my aunt at the airport. (Except he told me later that he knew that wasn’t true, and he really thought our daughter was flying home to surprise him!) When I handed him his bag in the parking lot and said “Happy Birthday,” MEH did what MEH always does when he talks about “our girl,” he teared up. To say he was surprised would be the understatement of the century, and after he regained his bearings, we went into the airport, had a cup of coffee together…he kissed me good-bye and he flew to California!

I came home to Maine to do all my regular things and all the MEH-y things, too. No small task because that man is a powerhouse. But I don’t want MEH to come home and have to do anything… What kind of gift is that? So far, I’ve put everything back in the pantry (we cleared it out for a repair), walked the dog a lot of times (she’s discombobulated having MEH gone), ran errands (don’t worry they included coffee), did a couple of loads of laundry, took stuff to recycling and the dump, took stuff to Goodwill, changed a couple of light bulbs, and shoveled a foot of snow (okay, that’s not true, but after I wrote the list it seemed pretty pathetic so I thought I’d throw snow in for good measure). Soon it will be time to walk the dog again.

Oh, and since we’re having our first real spring-like day, I also went to the beach.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MEH! We all love you and appreciate everything you do for our family…always with love in your heart and a smile on your face! You are the best (and so are you, Miss H, my partner in crime…we did it!). Sending love to one-half of the Martin family way out in California (touring Alcatraz Island as I write this), from the other half of the Martin family here in Maine.

Love,

Julia/Mom

 

 

 

Finding Inspiration in My Own Backyard


Littlejohn Island, Maine

When I hit a bump in the road recently and wasn’t motivated to write as much as usual, Arizona writer friend Melissa Crytzer Fry gave me some advice:

“…find someplace outside where you can just go and be with yourself—take the camera. That ALWAYS inspires me. Just go take photos one day in your backyard to jar your creative juices into flowing again. You can do it!”

Well, I took her advice, and today I’m guest blogging at Melissa Crytzer Fry’s blog in a post called “The Photo-Therapist,” that you can read here, about what happened when I took her advice to heart (I’ll give you a hint: my guest post includes more photos like the one above!).

I hope you enjoy my post at Melissa’s, and if you aren’t already familiar with her great blog, you’ll definitely want to check some of her posts out too—she’s an amazing writer and a talented photographer.


Cheers,
Julia

The Nature of Words

One of the things I like about my current WIP is the integral connection of nature with the main character. “Annie” moves to an island in Maine, searching for refuge and gets caught up in a mystery.

Annie spends a lot of time on the beach, walking, searching, and finding answers. In the meantime, she observes the moon and the tides and the water. And she is also working outside in the elements.

While Annie has wandered the beaches, I’ve searched the Internet and in libraries—and I’ve done a ton of research for the book. In fact, I have an entire file box full of information and background, backstory.

I’ve learned about the tides: ebbtide, flood tide, ebb and flow, high tide, low tide, clam flats—and much more—about what each of these things means. And my proximity to the coast (five minutes from the type of beaches Annie would walk on) helps me fuel my research and imagination.

And I’ve researched the stars, planets, and the cycles of the moon—I have a calendar where I’ve sketched out when high tides and low tides are and how they interact with the phases of the moon, waxing and waning, sunrise and sunset times. These heavenly changes add to the richness of Annie’s story.

In addition to these terms, I also have researched gardening and house terms—what plants bloom when on the coast, what might be left of a garden from long ago, how to insulate a house, what kind of wood is used for building—intricate details, many of which will never make it into the actual novel, but are the backdrop of Annie’s (and now my) life.

I’ve also researched the history of Maine islands and houses, of bridges and ferries, and people who have lived on the coast for centuries.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because of my love of words (wordsxo loosely translates into word love)—and every piece of research leads me to new words. Just this morning, on a final read through of my manuscript, I was looking up the words “by in large,” an expression I’ve used many times. And when I did, I found out the actual expression is “by and large,” and much to my happy surprise it is nautical in origins—from World Wide Words:

“The phrase by and large in sailors’ parlance referred to all possible points of sailing, so it came to mean “in all possible circumstances.”

And while by and large does not play a large role in my novel—in fact just three words of over 80,000—it’s a well chosen word that I hope adds interest and authenticity to my work.

Further, every word and every piece of information I’ve gathered while writing—much like the shells and sea glass my characters collect on their walks—has shaped this novel, steeped in love of not just writing and research but also love of the beauty of nature along the coast of Maine.

Are you (like me) fascinated with the origin of words? How they’ve changed in meaning over the years? Can you share examples? Writers: How are your research and word choices entwined with your main character’s personality and journey? Have you collected information and done research for your WIP that enriches your life?

Cheers,

Julia 

Sunrise Thoughts on Half a Habit


This morning I looked out the window at the sunrise and thought: “What a beautiful sunrise to capture on video…” Then my thoughts wandered to standing on the bridge overlook and making the weekly movie of the sandbar beach.

And then I remembered, no more. Apparently the routine has become a habit: look up the tide chart online to check the daily tide predictions, check sunrise and sunset times, put new batteries in the video camera, make a plan for when to go. In all, it would take us about an hour to plan, drive, shoot the video. Then another hour to post the video and write the blog.

A two-hour habit. Me, a creature of habit, said—a little wistfully—to MEH (My Engineer Husband): “It’s Sunday and we don’t have to make the video.”

“Isn’t it grand?” MEH said.

So here I am to let you know: today I’ve only been able to give up half the habit. If you visited today expecting to see the beach video, check out last week’s post and explanation for why it’s not here!

Are you—like me—a creature of habit? Or are you more like MEH—happier to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride?

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a very special interview and giveaway for my one-year blogiversary, so please come back!

Hello, Goodbye

What’s left of the trees :(

Today marks the final wordsxo video from the beach overlook. MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I have been trudging (okay, driving) out to the bridge once a week—usually Sunday morning—rain or shine or wind or snow or whatever. It was a year-long project, started on February 13, 2011. I had planned to have next week be the last video, BUT today we arrived at our usual spot and the town had cut down the trees that we used as our backdrop frame of reference.

I saw that as a sign. Enough.


In honor of this being the last video, I decided to make a vlog. Hello! I’m not crazy about appearing on camera (especially January in Maine in the wind…challenging to be out there let alone look decent), but since MEH refused, I decided I’d take the bullet for the wordsxo team. 


I realize it’s almost impossible to hear what I’m saying so here’s the basic transcript: It’s the last video, it’s really super windy and cold, the trees were cut down, thank you Hallie Sawyer for planting the idea for my appearance, thank you to Sara Grambusch for being Sandbar’s biggest fan, goodbye videos.


Starting tomorrow, I’ll be blogging twice a week: Mondays and Thursdays—with no more vlogs or videos in the plans. But I will be writing about writing, editing, the writing life, and where I get my inspiration. You can also count on many more photographs and even a few more Maggie mysteries! So please stay tuned.
I hope you enjoyed the videos—they’re all on youtube, here. Someday soon I’ll be writing a wrap-up blog about them. Have you ever made a change in course on your blog or in your life? How did it go?

Cheers,

Julia

“It’s Maine, Deal with It”

“It’s Maine, deal with it.” This expression came to mind as I stood on the beach overlook at 2 degrees.
I used to have a neighbor who moved to Maine shortly after I did, and she loved to say that to me: about the heat and humidity in the summer, about the blackflies in May, about too many tourists in August, but especially about the snow we know we’re going to get—no matter how mild the season starts out.

When we looked at the thermometer at home this morning it was a flat 0 degrees. So if anything I was disappointed it was 2 by the time we got out to take the video. Luckily, with not a wisp of a breeze, it felt like maybe 3 anyway. I stood in a foot of snow to take the video, and you can hear the crunching of snow under our boots, the zip of my jacket pocket as I take out my iPhone to take a photo of my boots, and the snap of the photo being taken.



Other than those sounds and the slight movement in the water, you’d think this was a still shot this morning. Lucky us, by the time we got to the other side of town (inland) it was all the way down to minus 6 degrees. So cold that even Abby, our black lab, wanted to go home. She held up one freezing paw after another in the crunchy snow, and we lasted all of 5 minutes on the dog walk.

What’s an expression you associate with the place you live? Are there things you just know you’re “going to have to deal with” in your weather and in your life?

Cheers,

Julia 

This is What 1 Degree Looks Like

(Sunday, January 15, 2012, 7:35 a.m. EST, 1 degrees F)



“How long does it take to get frostbite?” I asked MEH (My Engineer Husband) as we came back to the car after shooting the video on the bridge. 

I asked him this question because MEH wanted to walk a little farther, to get one more photo. He threw me the car keys.

“Get in. I’ll be right back.”

I got in the car and cranked up the heat.

The predicted low for this morning was 0 degrees, but we didn’t quite make it. It was 1F degree as we crossed the bridge; a disappointing 2F degrees when we parked the car—but it was windy to make up for the warm up.

It’s not the coldest temperatures I’ve ever been in, and on the way home MEH and I talked about it. Forty below zero my freshman year in college in Minnesota, I said. I was from California, and it was the coldest temperature I’d ever heard of let alone walked outside in. My friend from Connecticut told me her dad once said if you get colder than 0 degrees it all feels the same. It didn’t.

One of the photos MEH took while I was in the car:
“Ocean on the Rocks”

MEH lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for a while. The story he likes to tell is that he took a year off from college and went back four years later. One winter he worked in a gas station with no heater, and it was thirty below zero on a regular basis. His shift was midnight to eight o’clock in the morning, and he spent the night running up and down the parking lot to keep warm. He pumped the gas so the customers didn’t have to get out of their cars. The first night he tried to wash a windshield, but the washing fluid froze to the windshield and the driver was not happy with him—so he stopped. He never had more than 10 or 15 customers any night. He did a lot of running.

Today will be a good day to edit at the dining room table. MEH will write some software at the kitchen table. His sub-zero running days are over.

How’s the temperature in your neck of the woods? What’s the coldest weather you’ve ever been outside in, and how did you cope?

Cheers,

Julia

January Thaw

(Saturday, January 7, 2012, 3:36 p.m. EST, 40 degrees F)




In comparison to last week’s video, this week’s video looks like it’s in black and white! Although it looks colder, it isn’texactly the same temperature after dipping into the single digits mid-week. Today we stood on the bridge without gloves or hats and amazingly we were warm. The air was still and calm. Two kayakers paddled up to the beach on the glassy water just out of camera view. It felt more like April than January, and it seems Spring is just around the corner….a dangerous feeling in the middle of a Maine winter.
This could be what’s referred to in Maine as a “January Thaw,” except we have barely any snow on the ground. Most years in January three to four feet of snow banks line the streets. I’m not going to lie—I hope it remains a low-snow winter and we get an early start at gardening.

How’s winter in your neck of the woods? Ready for Spring?

Cheers,

Julia

Happy Shiny New Year from the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, January 1, 2012, 10:59 a.m. EST, 40 degrees F)


We stood on the bridge at exactly the time of low tide for this first video of the new year. It felt and looked more like April than January. A kayaker paddled up to the beach right off view, then carried his kayak up the hill to the parking lot, joining a group of other people in a festive atmosphere. Loud music played from one of the cars, dogs frolicked, and one woman shimmy-danced with her scarf—I kid you not.
Being the introvert I am, we made the movie then made a quick getaway in our car, anxious to enjoy a more quiet entry into 2012: returning home to bake a pumpkin pie—my daughter’s favorite—for a first-night dessert.

How do you celebrate the new year? Are you more of a quiet baker like me or a shimmy dancer? Or maybe somewhere in between?

Happy New Year!

Julia

Happy Holidays from the Coast of Maine

(Friday, December 23, 2011, 4:11 p.m. EST, 36 degrees F)



Hope you enjoy this last video of 2011, which I’m posting a couple of days early so we can spend Christmas Eve and Day with our family!

Happy Holidays with love from Maine,

Julia & MEH



Deep Blue Cold

(Sunday, December 18, 2011, 1:04 p.m. EST, 24 degrees F)

We’re in the deep chill, with a high today around 24F degrees. With a brisk blowing wind it felt much colder than that while we were standing on the bridge overlook.  There were a few ducks and geese swimming in the frigid water right off the sandbar, but it’s hard to see them in the video because the camera was being buffeted so much by the wind. Although it was cold, the view was incredible—with the intense deep blue color of the water and a set of solo prints on the sandbar—and for the first time ever you can also see the shadow of the bridge.

I hope it’s warmer where you are!

Cheers,

Julia

45 Degrees of Separation

(Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:08 a.m. EST, 22 degrees F)

Full moon setting: this photo was taken 45 degrees to
the left of where we stand to shoot the video, toward the mainland

I visit this spot on the bridge (at least) once a week. This morning we arrived at sunrise—at 22 degrees the coldest since we started to record the videos. The beauty was absolutely breathtaking, captivating, magical; so phenomenal that words truly cannot describe. A full moon setting, the subtle pinks rising and reflecting from the water, a flock of Canada geese floating on the water just out of video view.




So beautiful that, after taking the video in the usual direction, I turned the camera about 45 degrees and took another. Now you can see the more intense pinks, the flock of geese congregated and warming up before they take flight.





Despite the frigid temperature, we stood on the bridge for almost ten minutes and then we walked more, in another direction toward another vantage point, to take some still shots toward islands north of us.


When I watched the videos at home, what struck me most was the incredible stillness interrupted by the cars zooming by. I marveled at the fact that the people in those two cars (and others we didn’t record) drove by the stunning beauty without even slowing. And it made me remarkably glad that I started making the videos—so that for at least the time it takes to make the video, I am required to stand and just observe and truly see what I might otherwise pass by. And it made me wonder…..what masterpieces of nature do I drive by or take for granted every day?

Are there places and things you pass by everyday that you never really notice? Are there times you force yourself or take the time to really slow down and see and observe?


Cheers,
Julia 

From Sandbar with Love

(Sunday, December 4, 2011, 11:06 a.m. EST, 45 degrees F)

Last week, after the weekly video showing the astronomical high tide, one of the commenters said this (after two weeks running of high-tide videos): “Dear Sandbar, I miss you. Love, Sara.” Thank you Sara Grambusch for that comment that made me smile! Sara’s a favorite blogger of mine, and you can read her posts here at her blog.

But first,watch the video—I don’t think you’ll be disappointed because even though it’s the beginning of December, at 45 degrees it’s still warm enough to enjoy a walk on the beach. And there are three people and a dog doing just that. And thanks to Sara I made a point of going to the beach overlook at lower tide!

I really enjoyed going out to the island this morning—connected to the mainland via bridge, the one we stand on to make the video. Not only was it beautiful as always, but it was wonderful to get out of the house. I’ve been working long hours editing at the dining room table, and the fresh air and sunshine felt really good.

But more than that, my WIP that I’m in the process of editing, takes place on an island in Maine. Getting out to a spot that is very similar to the one I’m describing in my book is just what I needed. I’m really happy with the progress I’m making, and the story is in the forefront of my mind all the time. That mini-working-vacation on the bridge is just what I needed to keep me on track and give me some writing inspiration.

Hope your writing is going well too—where do you go for inspiration?

Cheers,

Julia

Happy Almost-December (!?) from the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, November 26, 2011, 10:56 a.m. EST, 53 degrees F)

We went to the beach overlook today about 15 minutes before high tide (forecast for 11:11). An astronomical high tide of 11.8 feet was predicted, and I wanted to see what that looked like. (Flood stage in nearby Portland is considered 12 feet.) An astronomical high tide is caused by gravitational pull alone—not meteorological forces like wind or storminess.

As you can see in the video, absolutely none of the sandbar is showing. The small sliver of shore land beach usually there during high tide is not even visible. The video shows the serenity and peacefulness of water and you can hear a few birdsbut the cars on the bridge were omnipresent this morning, and it took us 15 minutes to get this short video clip without car sound in the background!

The weather’s unusual pattern continues. After our Halloween storm, we had a long stretch through November of unseasonably warm weather—receiving no more snow until the day before Thanksgiving. Then, just in time for our family coming home for Thanksgiving, we received another 6 inches of snow. Remarkably, as we made our way down to Boston to pick up our daughter at the airport, the Interstate pavement was dry and snow free within 20 minutes of home! Our travel was uneventful, and her flight was actually early!

Now today and for the week ahead, we have temperatures forecast in the 50s! And the snow is beginning to melt again. Happy Almost-December?!

Meanwhile in the garden, here’s the view we had out our window for our Thanksgiving feast…we are having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you are too!



Things in the Sky

Bonaparte’s Gull











This morning I woke up when it was still dark outside and looked out of the skylight over our bed to an amazing sight: a few wispy clouds drifting by a crescent moon surrounded by some very bright stars.


“Amazing view,” I said to MEH (My Engineer Husband), who was still sleeping because he’s a little less enthusiastic about early mornings than I am.


Nonetheless, MEH had to see. And we looked at the beautiful sky view together.

“A crescent moon, the bright stars, and a satellite,” MEH said sleepily.

“A satellite?” I looked up and saw what looked like a moving star, crossing the sky framed by the skylight window.

“Yeah, I think it’s the Space Station.”

Sure enough, when I looked at NASA’s website, the ISS (International Space Station) crossed over southern Maine at 5:01 a.m., this morning, visible only for 4 minutes. And we happened to see it—what are the odds: a cloudless morning in Maine, we happen to look up through a very small window just for the 4 minutes the ISS is traveling 17,500 mph, about 240 miles from Earth. (By the way, if you’ve never seen the ISS before, check out this NASA website to see when it will be in the skies near you—it’s an amazing and extraordinary experience.)

“Bye guys,” I said to the 6-member crew as the ISS sped from view.

A very exciting way to start the day.

(Sunday, November 20, 2011, 7:04 a.m. EST, 49 degrees F)



Less than two hours later, we stood at our usual bridge overlook to make the weekly beach video, and we witnessed another flying thing we’d never seen before. If you look closely in the video, through the Birch tree on the right, you’ll see a white bird flying close to the water. We’d never seen this bird before, so despite the high tide, we walked down to the water’s edge to get a better view.

When we got home, we compared our photos to our bird books and online resources and discovered we’d seen a first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull. This lovely bird stayed very near shore and let us take as many photos as we wanted to.

Goose, Goose, Goose, Goose, Crow

(Sunday, November 13, 2011, 7:14 a.m. EST, 44 degrees F)




Our lovely stretch of weather continues! And in addition to the lovely scenery, this video provides a rare opportunity to hear the voice behind wordsxo. Yes, at about 37 seconds into the video, I have a very brief conversation with a passer-by, and you cannot avoid hearing my voice. 
“Pepper Pete” in better days.

Aside from this novelty, primarily geese and ducks dominate this week’s video! Also—more notably to MEH (My Engineer Husband) and me—you will see a crow fly through the video toward the end. We’re big crow fans; you can read about that in the post I wrote about MEH and the crows. And watch for more posts about crows coming up very soon!

Meanwhile in the garden…. You may recall the large potted pepper plant, nicknamed “Pepper Pete.” We had hopes of wintering the plant in the house and putting it back outside next spring. But a few days ago we discovered “Pepper Pete” is infested with aphids. So “he” has been put out to pasture on the porch. There are still peppers to harvest, and the weather has been mild enough that we may still get a few peppers! In mid-November in Maine, this is unheard of, at least in this gardening family!

Our other news is that we’ve been getting the bird feeding station ready for winter—squirrel proofing it—and putting out suet and thistle, too. We also put out corn for the squirrels and chipmunks, because I’m a fan of all woodland creatures!


This was the birdfeeder yesterday before we squirrel-proofed it. “Mr. Grackles,” as we call all
squirrels, could empty this of seeds in a day. This is the view I see out the window over my desk.

But don’t worry, Mr. Grackles is still being well fed! 


                                                                 

Picture Perfect (Video) Day on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, November 6, 2011, 11:30 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F)


Incredible. To have this weather in November is spectacular. The view from the overlook was phenomenal today. And it was a little surreal to watch the two Great Danes on the beach. (I truly thought they were ponies as we pulled into the parking lot!) An absolutely stunning day that words cannot do justice.


Meanwhile in the garden… we are clearing up the garden beds, going through a rushed fall clean up following last weekend’s surprise snowstorm. Almost every trace of the snow is gone now so today we’re tidying up: raking beds and some leaves, planting some daffodils, putting up a new mailbox (our old one was rusted through), mowing down the mint, pulling carrots, and putting away trellises, bean poles, etc., etc. Later today I’ll make a big pot of chili that we can eat for several meals this week, and then I’ll get some editing done on the WIP while MEH (My Engineer Husband) writes code to display graph overlays on a scientific instrument.

Here’s what the perennial bed looked like in July, what seems like yesterday!
This is how the perennial flower bed looked after we finished cleaning it up.
(That really WAS yesterday!) Later today we’ll plant Daffodil bulbs in this flower bed!

Happy Snowtober Nor’easter Video

(Sunday, October 30, 2011, 1:32 p.m. EST, 41 degrees F) 





You can’t really tell from the video but we got our first snow last night—“only” about six inches where we were, but 18 inches in other parts of Maine and 26 inches in other parts of New England! We got off easy with this one. The media is calling it “Snowtober,” a rare October snowstorm.

In addition to the snow, it was also very cold…26F degrees, our coldest temperatures this year. It was especially cold in our house after we lost power. The temperature in the house hit 54F degrees right before power was restored at a little after noon (a huge thank you to the wonderful crews of Central Maine Power). Today the snow has stopped, and much has melted away; all that’s left is high winds up to 35 mph.

You can really see the winds buffeting the camera in today’s video. What a difference from last week’s tranquil sunrise! And I think you can see some snow on the distant shoreline (high tide is hiding the sandbar beach).



We planted the garlic yesterday!

Meanwhile in the garden…. yesterday when we knew the storm was coming, we quickly went out and planted garlic—knowing it would be our last chance to plant this fall. Then we mulched it with straw, and sure enough today the garden is covered in a blanket of snow.

And covered with straw!

And this morning…. WOW!!
What a difference a day makes!