SLOW. Bump.

I’m telling you, it was foggy. And I don’t even remember this old car passing me. Ghosty, huh?

It’s been foggy lately, really foggy. So this morning, it was pretty audacious to think we could take our usual Sunday morning video of the beach overlook. But it didn’t stop us.
It should have stopped us because I was already in a bad mood. And we didn’t have much time.

Standing in our usual spot on the bridge, in the fog, I began to realize the folly of our way. We made several strategic errors this morning.

1. It’s foggy. Really foggy. You can’t see anything in the video. Nothing. Except the trees right in front of our face.

2. The traffic wouldn’t stop going by. And then, they would slow waaayyyy down as they passed us. For the first time ever, it seemed that people wondered What are they looking at?I was afraid someone would actually stop and ask me something like: Are you that weird blogger who posted a video of me walking my dog on the beach? (Thankfully no one stopped, but at least 10 cars went by and every single car slowed down. Every single one.)

3. We brought the dog. We rarely bring the dog. She (a) would not stop panting, I’m pretty sure you can hear her in the video, and (b) a well-meaning, very nice runner stopped to talk to her in the middle of one of my attempts to make the video. I’m pretty sure you can hear her (the runner, not the dog) talking to MEH (My Engineer Husband) at the end of the video.

4. I was going to wait a few minutes (after the traffic cleared and the runner went by) and make another video. But the camera’s batteries died. And we didn’t bring any back ups.

5. I thought about waiting until the fog cleared and going back and taking another video with new batteries. But instead, we need to return a coffee pot we bought yesterday (it leaks water all over the counter because it has a broken float). And we need to buy a dishwasher because that’s leaking on the floor and doesn’t get the dishes clean anymore. (MEH tried to fix it last night, but there’s too much wrong with it to make it worth the money to repair.)

6. Did I mention I’m trying to edit that first draft?

True confession time. I was grumpy. Really really grumpy. So, finally we gave up and sad to say, stuck with a video that you can see practically nothing of interest in (on viewing it at home, I did notice there is some nice birdsong in it, though!). We turned around to leave. As we did, yet another car slowed down. I grumbled to MEH. “Really? Another car slowing down? If they ask me what I’m looking at, I’m going to say: ‘didn’t you see the 7 moose right on the other side of the bridge?’”
Just then I noticed the sign about 8 feet from where I was standing: SLOW, Bump. And then I noticed the area under construction on the other side of the bridge, that drivers were clearly slowing down to avoid.

So, apparently everything really isn’t all about me. Not today anyway.

Ever had one of those days?

Cheers,

Julia


p.s. Oh, here’s the video.

(Sunday, September 17, 2011, 8:25 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F)

Late Summer Wading on the Coast of Maine

Saturday, September 17, 2011, 12:46 p.m. EST, 65 degrees F




I could have called this post “Waiting” instead of “Wading” because right off camera there was a crowd of about 20 people obviously waiting for something or someone. They were all looking over the water into the distance, scanning the horizon.


The air was sharply cooler this week, and last night we had some light frost. It was only 37 degrees (F) when we went on our dog walk this morning….brrrr. A shock to the system and a harbinger of things to come.

Meanwhile in the garden….we still have tomatoes, green beans, and (hopefully) another crop of potatoes, if we can beat the heavy frost. The zinnias are providing a last blast of color.



Cheers,

Julia

The Story from the Message in the Bottle

One of these bottles made its way to the shore where Mr. C found it…
a staggering 2.8 miles in 3 weeks 2 days!

Is anyone out there listening? I asked that question in this post. Before that, my husband, daughter, and I threw three bottles containing messages into bodies of water leading to the Atlantic Ocean—asking whomever found them to let us know.
So when I opened my email inbox last Sunday, my heart beat a little faster when I saw an email with the subject: “Your Message in a Bottle.”

Here’s what it said:

“Arrived yesterday at my parents’ house in Cumberland Foreside. Took a long time to get here! Maybe it went around the world first.”

Cumberland Foreside is about 2.8 miles from where we dropped two of the bottles—but still, I was curious about the particulars. What did they think when they found the bottle? Were there any details they could provide? Maybe a story?

I was lucky—when I emailed back, asking if the sender’s parents would be willing to talk to me, explaining: “I’m a writer, I write a blog. Might they be willing to tell me their story?”

The sender said “yes,” then generously gave me his parents’ names and phone number.

When I called, his mother answered. Mrs. C, a lovely older woman, immediately apologized: “You probably wish someone in a more exotic place had found it!” (I wondered if maybe she and Mr. C hoped it would have come from a more exotic place!)

She went on to explain that it was her husband who found the bottle on his morning walk on the shore—he brought it home. “It was exciting!” she said because it was their first message in a bottle they’d ever found; they’ve lived in their house, on a point jutting into Casco Bay, for 34 years.

“It looked like it was a pretty good bottle of wine,” Mrs. C said. “Was it?” They unscrewed the top and then tried to get the note out first with tongs and then with a “lobster poker.” Neither worked.

“Finally I said to Mr. C ‘why don’t we just breakthe thing!’ so that’s what we did! We put it in a paper bag and we broke it!” That’s when they read my note. She went on to tell me that since they don’t have email, they asked their son to send me an email about finding the bottle.

I explained I was going to write a story about the bottle and how they found it, and asked her if she’d ever found anything else unusual on the beach, could she tell me about it? She said they hadn’t, but she offered to tell me a story, if I had time to listen. Of course I had time to listen!

Mrs. C’s Story

Before Mr. C and I owned this house, his uncle owned it for a very long time. And his uncle’s first wife, E—a very beautiful and vivacious young woman—was invited, and attended, the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. While she was there she was sickened by a terrible fungus. It was so sad, because when E returned home, she got sicker and sicker, and finally she died.

It was terrible! But my husband’s uncle went on to marry another wonderful woman, and they lived a good long life together in this very house. When my husband’s uncle died, he left the house to my husband, and that’s when we moved in, 34 years ago.

One day shortly after we moved in, I was going through things left in the attic, and I came across the loveliest photo of Uncle and his first wife E. I bought a beautiful frame for it, put the photo in the frame, and then placed the framed photo on the shelf over the television. And do you know what happened? As soon as I turned around, that television fell right off its shelf! Yes it did!

I picked up that framed photo, put it right back into the attic, right where I found it. And it never happened again!

*  *  *  *

“And what do you think of that?” Mrs. C asked me.

I told her it was one heck of a ghost story, and explained how my blog readers are pretty fond of ghost stories. And she said I should go ahead and share it with you.

Before we hung up, Mrs. C apologized once more that the bottle wasn’t found in a more exotic location. But how could I possibly be disappointed? Then I offered to call her if and when I hear back about those other two bottles.

She was thrilled! And I definitely will call her back—because I would love to have another conversation with a storyteller the likes of Mrs. C!


Have you ever had surprising results from a conversation with someone, like I did with Mrs. C, that started for one reason but ended with another? Are you, like me, always interested in the stories people have to tell

—no matter what path brings them your way?


Cheers,


Julia

Quiet Stillness on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, September 11, 2011, 7:50 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F



For the first time this late summer, it was colder than 50F degrees when we got up to take the dog for a walk. I’m here to say that 48.9F feels pretty cold after a hotter-than-average summer, and I’m a little nervous about the impending winter.

By the time we got to the bridge overlook it was just 50 degrees on the water. A beautiful, glorious clear day with almost no clouds in the sky. The video is remarkable by its uneventfulness.

We talked to two birders today (first ones we’ve encountered on these Sunday mornings!): one, a young man on the bridge with binoculars and a camera with a long telephoto lens—photographing “migratory birds” he said. I asked him what kind, and he simply responded: “oh, loads.” The woman, who we met on the way down to the beach (we took our dog down to walk by the water), when asked if she’d seen anything interesting, first said…. “oh, a little,” and then casually commented on a “Pileated” (Woodpecker) that was exhibiting “weird behavior.”

I found it mildly intriguing that for the first time in seven months we met our first birders by the bridge—and this time two of them—and both independently were looking in the same direction and seemed to be purposeful in their activities. Yet both were vague with what they were looking for when we asked them and were not very specific in what they had seen. My vivid writer’s imagination kicked into overdrive.

Meanwhile in the garden….wabi-sabi is setting in, and I am trying to enjoy the late-summer overgrown and fading garden. We continue to harvest eggplant, beans, tomatoes, and many other vegetables. We made two large pots of tomato sauce this week. And we will harvest apples from our apple tree for the first time since we moved into the house more than 10 years ago—for some reason it’s apparently a good year for apples!

The row of sunflowers outside our living room window is now about 9 feet tall!


First Signs of Fall on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, September 4, 2011, 8:20 a.m. EST, 70 degrees F




It’s hard to believe what a difference a week makes: last week Hurricane Irene was looming and this week the water was as calm as calm can be. (However, the overall stillness of this week’s video is broken by the cars going by and a guy—out of camera view—arguing with his dog about going up the hill, away from the beach, to his car. I want to make sure to point out it’s a dog, lest you think he’s talking to a child—like I first did!)


“Pepper Pete,” as MEH (My Engineer
Husband) has nicknamed the potted
pepper plants, continues to produce
beautiful green and red peppers!

Fall is in the air. Not only are the leaves changing on some trees, including the ones within camera view, but the days are getting shorter. We hear crickets at night, the birds are flocking and starting to migrate, and school starts on Tuesday. Labor Day weekend is generally regarded as the end of tourist season in Maine, and even though we’ll still get some “outer-staters” coming in, things will start to quiet down and eventually wind down to winter.


Still, that’s a ways off, with leaf peeper season starting soon. Our peak season, when most of the leaves are at their height of color, may be earlier than the average mid-October; if you want to follow along, the state of Maine has a website with the weekly foliage report, starting on September 14.

The sadness of “late blight” on the tomatoes:
ultimately the whole plant will die, but
it’s a race between the blight and first
frost at this point!
Meanwhile in the garden….we still have as many tomatoes as we want (although unfortunately most of the plants have developed something called “late blight,” which will ultimately rot the fruit), pole beans, Swiss chard, lots of basil, winter squash, carrots, turnips, and kale. If the season lasts long enough, we may get a second crop of potatoes and hopefully some beets—it’s not been a good year for us with beets and our first planting didn’t produce even one!

What are the season changes bringing to your part of the world, if any? Does fall bring changes to your writing and household routines?


Cheers,
Julia

Waiting for Irene: Coastal Video of Maine

Sunday, August 28, 2011, 7:01 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F, average windspeed 14 mph


We headed to the bridge overlook early this morning. The National Weather Service just issued a hurricane warning for Maine, and we knew we wouldn’t want to take a video when the wind got any stronger. At the 14 mph wind speed, with a light but steady rain, we could feel change in the air.
One of the worst things about being in Maine right now is that we are at the northern edge of this huge hurricane as it works its way north. The anticipation is terrible, especially because our nearest and dearest, our two children, are in Boston and Philadelphia—two places that are also on Irene’s massive track. We have other relatives all along Irene’s path—in Maryland, New York City, southern coastal Connecticut, and coastal Massachusetts—so we certainly have our eyes on the weather. Hearing the news of devastation and damage and power outages to our south portends things to come but also raises our worries for our dear ones.

Hurricane harvest… it hasn’t been the best of gardening years
as I talked about in last week’s post, here
In Maine, it’s unclear if we’ll get a hurricane or “just” a tropical storm out of Irene. Regardless of its label, no doubt we’ll get high winds and lots of rain. We’re hoping for the best but prepared for the worst: radio, nonperishable food, propane for our camp stove, put away all outside furniture and anything else that could become airborne. Lots of people we know who have boats pulled them out of the water, but there were still many boats left in the harbor that we saw when we went to shoot the video this morning.

We talked about evacuating, even tried to check out evacuation routes (although a call to the town hall resulted in the suggestion: “drive to higher ground.”) Most of the Mainers I’ve talked to don’t seem too concerned, shrugging it off: “A big storm” and “We’ll probably lose power.” Our 90-year-old neighbor is staying put, saying: “I won’t leave my house.” 


Of course if we’re told to leave, we’ll leave.

It seems like I’m the only one who admits I’m afraid. (Thank goodness we no longer have cable TV or I’d probably be a basket case.) And yet the grocery store is packed with people, and all bulk water is gone from the shelves. Not a radio can be found at nearby L.L. Bean.
These pepper plants are the best we’ve ever grown,
and we weren’t about to lose them in this storm!
Meanwhile in the garden… yesterday was hurricane harvest day. We picked all the ripe and almost-ripe tomatoes and as many pole beans as we could easily find. Most everything else—kale, cabbage, root crops, herbs, eggplant—is low to the ground and will fend for itself. MEH (My Engineer Husband) tethered the pole beans so they wouldn’t fall over in the storm, and we brought our huge pepper pot—holding two heavily laden-with-peppers-plants into the house.


How has Hurricane Irene affected you? I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound.

Cheers,
Julia


Maine: The Way Life Should Be

When you cross the state line into Maine, you’re greeted by a big sign that says:

Welcome to Maine

The Way Life Should Be

In the summer time it’s hard to argue with that sign. (The winter? That’s another story!)

Today I’m participating in the iPhone Photo Phun link-up with Lizand Kristin. Liz and I have a very cool bond over our iPhones—we got them the same week and bloggedabout them the same week. So of course when I heard about her new link-up, I had to join in:

“Starting this Wednesday, August 24th, we’re hosting the first link-up of our new weekly meme: iPhone Photo Phun! What is iPhone Photo Phun, you ask? Well, it’s a weekly post that is comprised solely of photos taken with your iPhone!”

So, here are a few of the 313 photos I’ve taken since I got my iPhone—these capture a little bit of what summer in Maine means to me!

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a garden, and
this year’s no different! Here’s our vegetable garden.

And here are some of the raspberries…. YUM!
The morning glories are GLORIOUS this year!

Of course Maine wouldn’t be Maine without harbor views…
this is the boat landing in nearby Falmouth Foreside

The skies change and cast amazing shadows on the water….
here’s a view of Portland from afar
Another view of the Falmouth boat landing, showing the dock
and the tide pools…
minnows, hermit crabs, and barnacles (oh my)!

And finally, summer means lots of long walks
with our lab Abby… she’s about the sweetest
 and happiest dog around!

 iPhone Photo Phun

Foggy Morning Birdlife on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, August 21, 2011, 8:40 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F




The day started out with pea-soup fog. I wanted to capture a sunrise in the video because they’ve been so beautiful lately, but at 5:30 on the foggy dog walk this morning I realized there was no hope. Instead, we waited until later this morning, mid-tide, and went to the bridge overlook as the fog began to burn off. And what a reward for our waiting: just as we arrived we saw an osprey diving toward the water.


Minutes later, as we began the video a large bird, I assume a gull, lands at the very end of the point. Then about 30 seconds into the video, a Great Blue Heron flies into view and lands right next to the large bird. What an amazing, beautiful, and peaceful morning video punctuated only by the sound of a solo runner, one car, and me snapping photos in the background. This is one of my favorite videos we’ve shot because it really captures the feeling, sights, and sounds of the place: its stillness yet life.




And meanwhile in the garden…. it’s looking like late summer. Unfortunately many of the plants (black-eyed Susans, squash, pumpkin, beans, and even the tomatoes) have developed some “late blight” and other mildews—which generally means the plant will die. Harvests have been way down this year as compared to last. Still, we ate our first eggplant this week, and we are harvesting lots of tomatoes, spring onions, a few pole beans, kale, the last of the zucchini, and a few small turnips.


In the photo of the garden this week, the morning glories—volunteers from last year—have made it to the top of the basketball hoop. I love this photo because it represents the perfect garden to me, a mixture of flowers and vegetables, natural yet slightly structured. I also love having the basketball hoop as a garden framework because of the memories it invokes of happy family games.


Cheers,
Julia

Dog Days of Summer

I took today’s video yesterday because bright and early today we left to take our daughter back to college (junior year) out of state.  She’s only been home a week from her internship, so it’s hard to say goodbye! It’s always a bittersweet trip that you can read about it in this post


Saturday, August 13, 2011, 2:09 p.m. EST, 86 degrees F
Meanwhile in the garden…the weeds and everything else (like the vegetables) are growing like crazy. We’ve been harvesting beans, tomatoes, Swiss chard, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, kale, turnips, lettuce, carrots, raspberries, blueberries, basil, oregano, chives, cilantro…I think I got everything—there’s a lot! (Don’t worry, I won’t list all the lovely weeds we’re growing!)



A frequent visiting garden grazer is Abby, our black lab. She will eat
almost anything but especially loves snow peas (which are now all gone
so she’s settling for this yellow bean). Sorry about the poor quality
photo but I only had my iPhone with me!


Cheers,
Julia

6 Months, 26 Videos

This is where we stand to make the videos….on the bridge, behind those two trees. In the winter, when we picked the spot, there were no leaves (we weren’t trying to hide!)

This weekend marks my six month blogaversary (Woohoo!). Six months ago I started this blog called wordsxo: a blog about words, writing, and life. Loosely translated, wordsxo stands for love of words.

Shortly after that—February 13 to be exact—I started posting short videos of one view of the coast of Maine: one of my favorite views, a five-minute drive from where I live. That first video was shot in the dead of winter when the beach (a small sand bar exposed only at mid- to low-tide) was covered with snow.

MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I stood on the bridge overlooking the small beach and made a video using the Flip camera he received as a Christmas gift from our two wonderful kids.

We talked about it that day: wouldn’t it be cool if we came back to this spot every weekend and we made a video and I posted it on the blog every Sunday? And then at the end of the year we (and any interested blog readers) could look back and see how the view changed through the seasons and by tide level.

This mosaic header, representing the seasons of
Maine, was used on this blog until last week.
(In the interest of full disclosure, the leaf photo was
actually taken in Vermont by my son!)
When I first started wordsxo I used a generic header—something I pulled off of Blogger. Then I switched to a mosaic of photos representing the seasons in Maine. After some time, I started using more and more original photography of MEH’s and mine in my blog—and sometimes I thought the brightness of the header kept the post photos from standing out.

We used a stick we brought from home….
I went to a local framing shop and studio called the Yarmouth Frame Shop and Gallery run by two great people named Beth and Lee (you can visit their Facebook page here). I was interested in purchasing a piece of art, a simple sketch or muted watercolor of the coast of Maine, that I could use as a header. Although there was nothing on display in their lovely gallery, they suggested I might think about contacting a few artists to commission a piece.

But then Lee had another suggestion…. would I consider an idea he’d used for a CD cover: writing the name of the blog in the sand on a beach and then taking a photo of that for the header? This idea really appealed to me because that small beach, the small sand bar, had become somewhat synonymous in my mind with my blog.

We wrote wordsxo a lot of times…and took
even more photos…more than 50!
That very day and the next, MEH and I went out to the small beach and experimented. We wrote wordsxo again and again in the sand and took a lot of photographs. We came up with one I particularly like (the one I now use for the header!). I picked this one because I like the way the water is washing up over the letters, because as time goes on, and I find my legs as a blog writer, I want my name to represent, be my brand, my blog more than wordsxo.

Oh, and here’s today’s video (#26)! (Since the end of March we’ve been posting the videos to the wordsxo youtube channel, too; you can see those videos and a few more here.) Today is a rainy rainy day on the coast of Maine…and it was pretty high tide so none of the small sand bar beach is visible….arguably the most uneventful video we’ve posted in this six months! We saw lots of soggy ducks and gulls, of course right off video view. My apologies to my blogging friends suffering through heat wave and/or drought; I wish I could ship some rain and coolness your way. Since I can’t, please enjoy this brief video reprieve!


Sunday, August 7, 2011, 8:02 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F


Huge thanks to all my blog followers and readers! Do you enjoy these Sunday beach videos? Are there places or things that have in your mind become synonymous your blog?

Cheers,

Julia

Hot and Muggy on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, July 24, 2011, 7:38 a.m. EST, 79 degrees F

The heat continued in Maine this week—and we hit the 100-degree mark for just the fourth time since the state started keeping records in the 1940s. With 72% humidity it was hard to do anything but sit inside by the under-performing window air conditioner.

Yet this morning a light drying breeze is in the air and our heat wave is over. I feel a little guilty about it, knowing that many of my friends—and especially my sweet daughter—are still in the grip of this terrible heat wave!

Meanwhile in the garden…we’ve harvested all the potatoes (there weren’t that many!), and today we’re planting more potatoes and beets in the potato bed.


Blueberries: we compete with the Bluejays for these!

I love the way the red cabbage looks while it’s growing, iridescent

Lovely Summer Evening on the Coast of Maine

Saturday, July 16, 2011, 8:44 p.m. EST, 77 degrees F


The weather remains hot this week—so we decided to go to the beach overlook last night at dusk to try to catch a cool breeze. We were not disappointed: it was breezy and beautiful. The leaves rustled and the water moved in light ripples against the sand bar. Even though we only saw one lone personstanding on the point of the sand barthere were eight cars in the parking lot. We heard voices on the other side of the bridge. People were out walking to enjoy the lovely, cool evening.



Meanwhile in the garden….it’s all about the animals: wild and domestic. 


This week we’ve harvested potatoes, spring onions, lettuce, fava beans, basil, peas, and snow peas. I always forget from year to year how much our black lab loves snow peas; she happily munches as many as we’ll let her have—and when we turn our back she chews them right off the plant!


And one morning this week we came out to find all the bean plants nibbled off at the top—and deer tracks in the mud!  Luckily the deer didn’t kill the plants, instead only nibbling some leaves off each plant! Since then new leaves have sprouted and the plants are flowering. Soon we’ll have beans from the garden.

It’s hard to see (unless you zoom in) but deer have nibbled off
the tops of these bean plants!

And here’s the evidence: deer tracks next to the basil and beans.

Cheers (and happy summer!),
Julia

"Vacationland" Real-live Beach Day Video

Sunday, July 10, 2011, 10:34 a.m. EST, 80 degrees F

It took forever, but we finally got one: a real-live beach day! On days like this Maine earns it’s nickname Vacationland! (Sorry for the car traffic sounds; the bridge overlook was busy today so we couldn’t avoid it in the background like we usually do.)

And meanwhile in the garden…


Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) with Coreopsis in the background

Video Bird Watching on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, July 3, 2011, 6:14 a.m. EST, 65 degrees F


This morning we were at the beach overlook very early and at low tide—a light fog cast a magical light on everything. The bird life was amazing with more birds than I can ever remember seeing there. We saw many different gulls and ducks, and we could hear but didn’t see songbirds.




The morning’s highlight, however, were three Great Blue Herons (scientific name Ardea herodias; affectionately dubbed GBH by bird watchers). You can (very faintly) see one of these GBHs in the video, just off shore on the left side above the tree. The GBH is the largest wading bird in Maine, but it is found almost everywhere in the United States. Its wingspan is about 4 feet—and if you’re lucky enough to see one of these birds (flying or wading), they are mesmerizing.



Ardea herodias, Great Blue Heron

I was also pretty surprised to see two beach visitors I’ve never before seen: crows and a chipmunk! The chipmunk ran right down to the water!—and since they are omnivores, I wonder if it was looking for shellfish?



The new seedlings surrounded by magenta yarrow (far left),
yellow coreopsis, right, and blue-purple violas (back right);
Siberian irises are in the back (spiky foliage)


Meanwhile in the garden… yesterday we planted some new annuals in the perennial flower bed (to add a little mid-summer color): margeurite daisy seedlings, gerber daisy seedlings, and zinnia and larkspur seeds.



Foggy Morning Video on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, June 26, 2011, 10:15 a.m. EST, 61 degrees F




Today is foggy and cool—in stark contrast to last week’s warm and sunny Father’s Day video.

One lone runner stands on the edge of the sandbar (we passed her, running by, on our way to the beach). But, it was frustrating because right off camera there were four kayakers on the beach, getting ready to go in the water. Additionally, car after car went by, creating a lot of annoying background noise.

I waited as long as possible, hoping to get a video of the kayakers in the water, but they ended up paddling the other direction! I did get a still shot of them as they paddled away.

If you listen closely to the video, you can hear one of the kayakers telling the story of his favorite character in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He explained that the character, Wonko the Sane, became convinced the world had gone crazy after he saw that a box of toothpicks had instructions for how to use a toothpick. (Unfortunately his retelling of the story is obscured by a car going by on the bridge!)

I found it amusing (and yet appropriate) that I happened to make the video just as someone on the beach was relaying a literary story! 






Meanwhile in the garden:

Spring onions (foreground), basil seedlings (midground),
wax bush beans (background)


Busy Father’s Day (Video) on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, June 19, 2011, 10:22 a.m. EST, 70 degrees F


It’s a beautiful day on the coast of Maine—bright blue skies but a bit blustery (you can see the buffeting of the camera). This video compared to the last few weeks shows a particularly big change because the tide is much lower, exposing much of the sand bar. Compare to here and here to see what it looked like during high tide; it hardly looks like the same place!

With the lower tide and the beautiful weather, it’s a busy day on the beach this Father’s Day. Lots of people walking, playing, picking up shells, and sitting on the beach enjoying the weather. We saw two other people taking photos, and we also saw several kayaks about to launch. There were also several boats in the water—that you might be able to see in the distance in the video.

This is Maine summer weather at it’s best: warm but not hot, low humidity, and a light breeze to keep the bugs down! Absolutely beautiful for the beach, gardening, boating, or taking a walk or run. Not much to complain about—especially because there was a brief rainstorm last night so the garden doesn’t need watering!

Speaking of the garden….we finally broke out of the rainy cycle of the last few weeks, and with the warmer temperatures everything is growing fast (unfortunately even the weeds!). We’ll probably thin out this lettuce later today and have our first salad from the seedlings we pull up!



How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? Do you have plans for an outdoor adventure today?


Cheers (and Happy Father’s Day to MEH (My Engineer Husband) and all you other dads out there!),
Julia

Rain, Rain, Go Away….Video from the Coast of Maine

Sunday, June 12, 2011, 6:24 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F



“Rain, rain, go away,

Come again another day.”


As soon as we got in the car, it started pouring

Specific origins of this old couplet poem are unclear, but this and similar poems are found in several countries (according to Wikipedia), including Spain, England, and Greece. Certainly I might have written this poem myself if it hadn’t already been….because it’s been a rainy few days here on the coast of Maine. But somehow we lucked out in the few minutes we drove out to the bridge overlook to make the video—no rain! Almost as soon as we got back in the car it started pouring.

Not much to look at in today’s video, but the sound of the incoming tide, lapping against the shore, is both unrelenting yet at the same time peaceful and calming.

In the garden this week, first we had extreme heat (over 90 degrees) which gave everything, especially the tomatoes, a much-needed shot in the arm; now very cool weather (only in the low 50s yesterday) with rain, rain, and more rain—which of course will slow things back down. And that’s the way some summers, and gardening in specific, goes in Maine.

This week in the garden: it’s up and down, first heat now too cool!



How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? 


Cheers,
Julia

First Boat Sighting Video from the Coast of Maine

Sunday, May 29, 2011, 11:53 a.m. EST, 69 degrees F

A beautiful day on the coast of Maine—although the first time we went to make the video, at 8:30 a.m., it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything!

We returned a little before noon, and what a difference. It was mid-tide so only part of the sand beach is exposed. Still, people were walking on the beach (only one dog walker can be seen toward the end of the video, but take my word for it there were others right out of view!). And for the first time, you can see a boat in the water speeding through the shot at about the :22 second mark. An exciting hint at the summer fun to come! There was also a lot of car traffic on the bridge, which is a little distracting in the video, but we opted not to turn sound off completely.


This week in the garden, the lilacs are blooming!






A Boat by any other Name

When you live in a coastal community like I do, boats are everywhere. And almost every boat has a name (except for the smallest of rowboats or dories)…and that’s a lot of names. 

And as always, when I see the written word, I wonder: who thinks of these words, and how do they decide them? Not to mention all the stories I can invent about the boats and their owners from boat names as creative as Abracadbra, Diligence, Old Bone, or Vagabond Rabbit. 

From the people I’ve talked to, it turns out that naming a boat can be a lengthy process—with boat owners working hard to make sure they find just the right name. In fact, there are whole blogs, websites, and user groups devoted to helping people name boats, and some websites advertise the use of Psychics! In addition, there are superstitions and “Old Salt” (mariner, seafarer, fisherman) lore and traditions to help guide people as they name their boats.

Part of the reason it’s such a big deal is that often people will make assumptions about you just by looking at your boat name—and when you’re out boating, other boaters will see you first through your boat’s name. Therefore you might want to have the boat represent your personality. For instance, a boat named Equity may lead me to certain financial assumptions about the owner—and that owner may want me led to that conclusion. Or a boat named Blitz may lead me to believe the boat owner likes to go really fast—so it might be a good name for someone who plans to race with their boat. Or, if I see a boat named Blow Me or She Got the House or A Little Nauti, I would make other assumptions about the owner. When there’s a roman numeral after the name of the boat, like Capella IX, it is likely to mean there have been other boats by that name (in this case it may be a person’s ninth boat named Capella).

Depending on who you talk to, naming a boat can be as simple as simply liking a name or just as complicated (or more complicated) than naming a child. Like some fishermen who name their boats after their wives (like Lily B. or Drea Marie) or children—a tradition that at least one fisherman I talked to says has fallen out of favor because of the high divorce rate! And what if you have more kids? Would they feel slighted?

Besides naming a boat after loved ones, another old time tradition is naming a boat after a seabird, one boat builder told me, with Merganser and Osprey as popular names. This same boat builder told me that he often will use a part of the boat, especially an engine name, to name a boat—which is why some boats end up with names like Thoroughbred or Redwing or Flying Cloud.

Some families keep the same boat name for generations—with each new boat across several hundred years given the same name! Two young fishermen I talked to (shown in the rowboat below) said the same boat name had been in their family for eight generations, with each boat in every generation given the same name in succession!

These young men are rowing back to the dock
from their (larger) boat moored in the harbor.
The rowboat does not have a name; their larger boat
doesn’t have one either. But if it did,
they would’ve named it Fall-Out.

One of these same young guys says he has a boat he hasn’t named—because it’s just too much of a mess (I didn’t know there was a requirement of a certain level of fitness for a vessel in order that it could be named, but that’s what this young man implied…). When I asked him what he would name the boat, if he gave it one, he replied that he had thought of naming it Fall-Out. As in he could fall out of it because it’s in such terrible shape! 

Most boats (especially larger ones) are christened when they are given a name, by smashing a bottle of champagne across their hull. And some people believe that once named, it’s taboo to rename the boat. Some believe that changing the vessel’s name will “bring despair” to her crew and her new owners. Perhaps they believe the legend that all boats are recorded by name in the “Ledger of the Deep”— kept by Neptune, god of the sea—a mythical list of all boat names. So the legend goes: if you rename a boat, you will bring Neptune’s wrath upon you. 


There are also more-modern literature references about not renaming a boat, like this passage from TREASURE ISLAND:


He was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle. That was Roberts’ men, that was, and comed of changing names to their ships – Royal Fortune, and so on. Now what a ship was christened, so let her stay, I say.
Some people are willing to rename a boat as long as they undertake a “purging process”—wherein you remove the old names from all old boat records and everywhere on the boat by sanding and repainting. Then, once you have done that, you re-christen the boat with champagne and rename it. Others merely drink the champagne and call it even (okay, I made that one up).

Several places on the web list the “most popular boat names of the year” (kind of like the most popular baby names!), but the thing is, I discovered that the lists are different from site to site! According to boatUS.com, these are the top 10 boat names for 2010: Aquaholic, Andiamo, The Black Pearl, La Belle, Vita Mojo, Island Time,
Second Wind, No Worries,
Serenity,
and Blue Moon. 


My writing is inspired by living on the coast, surrounded by boats


How do your surrounding environments and lifestyles inspire your writing? Are there rituals, legends, superstitions that you are aware of? Does the community you live in have a strong lifestyle-to-geography connection like the Coast of Maine does?

Cheers,

Julia

Cloudy With a Chance Video from the Coast of Maine

Sunday, May 22, 2011, 9:27 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F





It’s the same temperature as last week (but no rain today, thank goodness; it’s been raining almost every day this week, with still another chance today). Today’s very low tide makes it possible to see the channels that boats need to navigate through. 

There was a lot of car traffic on the bridge, so you may hear the cars going by in the video, and there’s also a mower sound in the background. Even though it was colder a few months ago, I am missing the quiet and solitude we used to feel in the winter months! This morning we stood on the bridge for a long time to get some footage without car noise, so the video looks more peaceful than it really was!

Yesterday MEH (My Engineer Husband) tried to mow the lawn with our ancient lawnmower…it was rough going after all the rain. I half joked on Twitter this week that with all the rain our grass was a foot tall, which is not really so far from the truth. I know I keep saying this but soon it will be sunny. Right? Yes! Later today, we’ll be planting tomatoes in the garden. The potatoes are starting to come up, and of course we have all the leafy greens, the peas, the cabbage, the brussels sprouts and the fava beans coming nicely along. Every year it feels like it takes forever, and this year’s no different, but once the earth warms up things will really take off, and we’ll start to reap the gardening rewards.


Garden photo of the week: 

Goldfinch in the apple tree










Perfect Writing Weather Video from the Coast of Maine

Note to my faithful readers and commenters: If you left a comment to one of my blog postings earlier this week, it is very possible that it was lost in the great Blogger crash at the end of last week! I realized this morning that at least 8 comments that were originally posted on the blog about Marilyn Johnson’s visit to Portland and several to the guest post by Jane Roper are no longer there, and (although I haven’t checked) I assume the same is true for other postings. If you left a comment on my blog and I didn’t answer, I am so sorry; it’s only because I never received it or can no longer retrieve it. I thank you for your continued interest in wordsxo!

Sunday, May 15, 2011, 1:07 p.m. EST, 50 degrees F

A rainy day in Maine, a bit on the parky side (perfect word of the day from wordnik.com!), so once again we had our jackets on as we stood on the bridge overlook in inclement weather. You can even see the umbrella popping into the shot about 12 seconds in!

You’d hardly recognize it from a week ago, when someone walked her dogs on the beach. But that’s the way spring is here in Maine: two steps forward, one back, and then we fall headlong into summer, never knowing what hit us!

Today, everything is green and lovelyalbeit a bit soggy; the leaves seem to have come on full throttle overnight. The ducks are happy as, well, ducks, and if you had smell-a-vision you’d be able to know what a clam flat smells like. Take my word for it, it’s distinctive but “not a perfume that would sell well,” as MEH (My Engineer Husband) says. More of an aquired taste. Out of camera view, there are more and more lobster buoys bobbing on the water, too, marking where the traps are below.

Now back home….because this weather is perfect for writing!

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? Parky? Or balmy?


Cheers,
Julia

The Inspiration (and Distraction) of Nature’s Beauty

This view of a near-by island (and all the photos in this post)
are a five-minute drive from where I live

It’s really no wonder that the natural beauty of Maine has produced and inspired many writers, as diverse as poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, children’s book writer Barbara Cooney and horror-writer Stephen King. Awe-inspring beauty is all around us and can invade our every thought as writers, in what we write and how we feel. Inspirational but also potentially distracting.

Consider this short excerpt from Longfellow’s poem, “The Secret of the Sea”:

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me

As I gaze upon the sea!


All the old romantic legends,
  

All my dreams, come back to me.

Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,

Such as gleam in ancient lore;


And the singing of the sailors,

And the answer from the shore! 

The lure of the sea is very real; every week for the past almost-four months, I’ve posted a video of just one of the many beautiful natural locations in this state. It’s one tiny corner of the natural beauty of what inspires me in this state, where I live and and where I write.

Within a two-minute drive, I can be to coastal locations that look like they belong in a movie—inspiring as a writer, creating a strong sense of place. And at the same time, the sea air and beauty can be incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating, breathing new life into a tired writing mind.

Sometimes, as with the history that steeps the buildings, the natural beauty can overwhelm me and become either intoxicating or all-consuming. And, at it’s worse, it can be all-demanding: look at me. You must!




In one of my WIPs, this creates problems for my main character. She is drawn to Maine because she sees what she wants to see: an incredibly beautiful place, only that. She can’t or won’t see the things that are bad or not so good about the place. She is so infatuated with the image in her mind that she cannot see the reality of what really is.


If this this intense lure and beauty of place can overwhelm someone who lives here or a character in a book, is it possible that writing with a strong sense of setting can throw off the balance with other elements in a novel, like character development? This is one of the dangers that I find as I write with a strong sense of place.

Do you write in a beautiful natural environment that is distinct in its own voice? Does it affect how you write or what you write about? Do you ever find that the balance between setting and other elements become out of kilter?

Cheers,
Julia