Groundhog Moments

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

It’s Groundhog Day, and Punxutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter. As two of my Instagram friends discussed this snowy morning, “there’s never been a more Groundhog Day than today.” (Thank you @littlelodestar and @lemead)

You see it’s been snowing pretty much nonstop for a while now. It all started with Juno, the Blizzard of 2015—was that only a week ago? When I realized it was Groundhog Day today, I started hoping, irrationally that Phil (the groundhog) would see his shadow and in six weeks voilà it will be spring. (I say irrationally hoped because I really don’t believe that Phil can predict or not predict anything—he is a Groundhog after all.)

But predict he did.

That’s not what this post is about. Not really. It’s about the iterative process of life. About the predictability (and unpredictability—shall we say serendipity?) of life. The hopes of life. The moments of life. Because the other side of Groundhog Day that has become legend (in addition to Phil) is the movie Groundhog Day. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Not only because it’s good, but because it has become iconic.

And that’s what I was thinking about this morning. Not the snow falling outside (yeah, yeah, another foot. What’s another foot when you’ve got three or so already?). Well, first I thought about the snow. Then I thought about the movie, and Bill Murray’s character reliving the same day over and over again.

I started thinking. Which day, days would I want to live over and over again? Murray’s character didn’t get to decide. But as long as I’m reinventing things, I’ll say I can. Decide. I started thinking while I woke up this morning. Which days?

Topping the list (of course) are the obvious ones. The days my children were born. The day my husband told me he loved me the first time. I reconsidered, realizing that while I definitely would want to live those days over and over again, there are other less obvious contenders.

The day my son harvested garden vegetables with us when he was just four. He carried a pumpkin he’d grown from a seed onto the stage of the 4-H Perfect Pumpkin competition (alone, he told us to stay in our seats in an auditorium of about 400 people), and walked onto the stage to claim his prize for “the perfect pumpkin.” That day.

The day I strolled arm in arm with my teenage daughter down the L’Avenue des Champs Elysées in Paris. That day.

The day our young family drove across California on the roadtrip of a lifetime and my son made up a song about “Dusty Mountains in the Distance,” and my son and daughter (five years old), unbeknownst to me, got into a competition to see who could make me mad first. That day.

Actually, any road trip day with either of my two kids is a day I’d like to live over again. Talking, playing, singing, napping, looking at colleges, the companionable silences, even the bickering and the complaining (mine as well as theirs). Those days. All of them.

Or a day like yesterday. MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I enjoyed the first sunny day in a good long time by going on an outing. It was cold and of course there was snow, but it was beautiful. We went to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth and watched children (and some adults) sledding with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop. We visited the “Portland Head” lighthouse. We took photos—many—as is our wont to do. Ice coated the huge rocks surrounding the lighthouse. We met a small Yorkie Terrier running faster than any dog I’ve seen, across fields of ice. We chatted with Clyde’s “parents” for a few minutes about Clyde’s Patriots shirt (yes the Yorkie was wearing a shirt). They were excited about the Superbowl, and they’re probably even more excited today. Maybe today’s a day—or yesterday—many Patriots or Patriots fans would want to live over and over again.

I digress.

Yesterday was a day—an everyday day—that I’d want to live over and over again. Days like yesterday provide the framework of my life, they give my life meaning. They remind me that it doesn’t take much. A sunny day. An hour car ride with someone you love. A beautiful lighthouse to take photos of. A call from your daughter. An email from your son. A warm house to call home. A delicious meal shared.

These are my Groundhog Days. My Groundhog moments.

What are the days you’d want to live over and over again? The moments?

 

 

 

 

 

Photos + root canal + hornets = book?

What on earth do multiple hornet stings, bathroom renovation, root canals, and binge TV watching have to do with writing a book? Find out today on my post at Writer Unboxed, “Cooking a Book.”

I also talk about photography. While I’m waiting for my next story to come together in my mind, I’ve been taking lots and lots of photos (which you already know if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram).

Here are a few I’ve taken in the past few days. Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer!

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We had a lot of fog lately… this was the day after it lifted

 

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As the fog rolled out…sun rolled in

 

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I love visiting docks in the early morning when the water is glassy

 

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Cousins Island Beach last night (iPhone photo)

 

 

 

“Just Today”

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Just this

“Good morning,” he said, smiling, nodding. “Nice day.”

He’s the captain of one of the lobster boats at the town landing one town over. The place I go to take photos almost every day. He’s there, too, getting his lobster boat ready to go out. No matter the weather he goes out—everyday I’m there anyway—yesterday I took a photo of his boat heading out in thick fog.

Today was different. It was bright and sparkling, there was a freshening breeze, and the pea soup from yesterday was…well…a thing of yesterday. I was sitting on a low concrete retaining wall, basking in the sun and taking photos.

After he greeted me—the first time we’ve talked except when I’ve asked him if it was okay to take photos of his boat—I greeted him back. “Good morning. Really nice! I’m just enjoying the warmth…knowing what’s coming.”

He looked like he wasn’t sure what I meant. Did I mean I thought the fog was coming back? Another storm?

Yesterday

Yesterday

I meant winter.

“Wint—” I started.

He cut me off before I could finish. “You don’t want to do that. Just today. That’s what we have. Just enjoy today.”

I thanked him, we shared a smile, a moment, and he continued on his way to the dock.

It stayed with me, his advice. I tend to be one of those people who wants to know…everything. To not leave anything up to chance. It makes me a little nervous. It’s gotten easier (as I’ve gotten older) to relax into enjoying, just enjoying the day, the sun on my face. And my solo cross-country trip last summer helped me move in the right direction—toward living in the moment—but I needed to hear it this morning.

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Today

I’ve got a long to-do list today. It felt like too much this morning before I talked to the boat captain—who I’m sure has just as long or longer a list—but now it feels doable. More enjoyable anyway.

And I may just make a second trip to the water’s edge… and not just today.

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The fog blowing out to sea

What about you? Are you like me? Often getting ready for something instead of just enjoying the day? Or are you better at just enjoying today? 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Refreshing the Writing Life



This weekend I stepped away from the computer. Saturday morning we drove to Bailey Island, and whenever I travel along the Maine coast, I inevitably think of Robert McCloskey, the famous children’s book writer and illustrator. Although he was born in Ohio and lived much of his life in Massachusetts then New York, he summered in Maine and eventually moved here.

A double Caldecott Medal winner (for Make Way for Ducklings and Time of Wonder), McCloskey wrote and drew what he knew: small town life and people and, yes, even ducklings. Three of his most memorable books for me are Homer Price, One Morning in Maine, and Blueberries for Sal—and may even be partially responsible for making me want to move to Maine.

Lobster boats with traps on raft, in foreground
Two of these books take place in Maine. And although Homer Price was written about his hometown in Ohio, I think it was also influenced by Maine life, scenery, and people, too. I can really relate to its small town feel.

Bailey Island is 15 miles away as the crow flies, but a 50 minute drive—first north, then down a peninsula, across several islands, and eventually ending up further south than we started! The Maine coastline is like that. I know weird, right? But, more importantly, it feels like a lifetime away. I know what you’re thinking: how cliché. Yes, very. But also very true.

Lobster trap buoys
Alongside the huge new vacation houses and shiny new boats, we also saw the tools of the trade that have been the same for decades: the lobsters are still trapped the same way, the boats still bob in the harbors, the traps and buoys are stacked outside lobstermens’ houses, and the signs of the sea are all around—even a mermaid weather vane atop a barn.

A statue at Land’s End:
“A Memorial to All Maine
Fishermen who have
devoted their lives to the sea”
Just like in McCloskey’s books, children marveled at nature: climbing the rocks, running down to the sea at the small beach at Land’s End (as it’s called), at the tip of Bailey Island. As I stood there, with the salt wind and sun on my face, I could well imagine Homer Price or Sal standing right next to me, watching a man row a small rowboat out to an island, just like 100 years ago and more.

Robert McCloskey wrote about humanity, with settings in small towns, about people going about their daily lives and jobs. By driving those 50 minutes, we transported ourselves from a small room connected to the world via the Internet, into Robert McCloskey’s world, with life all around. And it reminded me that great stories and joy can be found in everyday life, as simple as a young girl collecting blueberries or seashells, a boy cooking donuts, or a man rowing a rowboat.

The small beach at Land’s End, Bailey Island, Maine
I returned to my computer this morning, with a rich personal experience to add to my writing—connected to a slice of real life on Bailey Island and connected to a great writer I admire. I returned to my computer as refreshed as the salty fresh air I breathed on Land’s End.

Who are the writers you admire? Have you ever visited a place that they wrote about or that reminded you of them? What do you do to refresh yourself and your writing?

Cheers,
Julia

Two Video Postcards from the Coast of Maine with love from wordsxo

Note: We’ve been pretty disappointed with the quality of Blogger video uploads, so today for the first time we first uploaded the video to youtube. I’m glad to say that by doing it this way, the video postcard is of much higher quality. 


Sunday, March 27, 8:35 a.m. EST, 32 degrees F

We went to the bridge overlook twice this morning: once at sunrise and again at 8:35.


The first time (video shown below) reminded me of the old saying: pink sky in morning, sailors take warning; pink sky at night, sailor’s delight. It was very peaceful with gently lapping waves from the outgoing tide. Although the video was beautiful, it’s fairly unremarkable in lack of movement other than the water ripples, with no birds in sight.


By the time we returned at 8:35 (video shown above), the wind had picked up and it felt much colder with wind chill. It’s a little discouraging because it feels a lot more like winter than it does like spring. But that’s the way the seasons are in Maine: one step forward and then two back. I wish the wind weren’t so fierce, so you could hear all the bird life; we’re pretty sure we also heard seals, probably from a farther away rock ledge where they like to hang out. The gulls and ducks and other birds float by in this video, which is fun to watch. Still, I can’t help but shiver as I watch them, glad that I can go home to a hot cup of coffee!


Sunday, March 27, 6:35 a.m. EST, 20 degrees F

Video Postcard: Small Signs of Spring from the Coast of Maine

Recorded Saturday, March 5, 4:30 p.m., 42 degrees F



The tide was lower and there were more signs of spring today at the beach overlook on Coastal Maine. No snow on the beach or ice in the water, and if you look closely you might be able to see the birds (white gulls) on both the beach and in the water swimming. They looked cold, but it was good to see life on the beach! You can also see bigger waves and a few small whitecaps–the water was quite rough.

It’s hard to believe it’s the beginning of March and still so cold. The thermometer says 42 degrees F (up 10 degrees from last week), but with the wind it is still no fun to be outside! But spring is in the air: there are buds on the trees, the sun is higher in the sky, and birds are returning after the long winter and we can hear their songs.

Coming up soon in the video postcards: boats in the water, people walking on the beach, children wading, and clammers digging clams on the mudflats. I can’t wait!

Video Postcard from the Coast of Maine: Beach Day with Icy Sunshine

Recorded Saturday, February 26, 3:00 p.m., 32 degrees F



Maine’s coastline and islands have inspired many writers. Here is an excerpt from The Country of Pointed Firs and Other Stories, by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909).

We were standing where there was a fine view of the harbor and its long stretches of shore all covered by the great army of the pointed firs, darkly cloaked and standing as if they waited to embark. As we looked far seaward among the outer islands, the trees seemed to march seaward still, going steadily over the heights and down to the water’s edge.


It had been growing gray and cloudy, like the first evening of autumn, and a shadow had fallen on the darkening shore. Suddenly, as we looked, a gleam of golden sunshine struck the outer islands, and one of them shone out clear in the light, and revealed itself in a compelling way to our eyes.

Video Postcard from the Coast of Maine with love from wordsxo

(Recorded Saturday, February 19, 3:50 p.m.) 33 degrees F

A Very, very windy and blustery day at the Maine beach overlook today. It’s warmer this week, but not with the wind chill! It feels so much colder than when we took the video on February 13th. And, possibly for the first time ever, my teeth were cold.


It’s a shock to the system—because we went from almost 50 degrees on Friday to this. It looks prettier—all the ice is gone from the beach and water—but the wind is howling. And (perhaps needless to say) we didn’t see any other people, just birds. BRRRRRR.


What did this inspire? Hot coffee, stew for dinner, and hopes that the Punxsutawney Phil was right and we’re in for an early spring!


Cold Greetings from the coast of Maine!


Cheers,

Julia


p.s. the stew was delicious! What’s your favorite comfort food when it’s cold outside? If you live in a climate that has great changes in temperature, is it warming up (or getting colder) where you are? How does this affect your writing?

Perfect (Maine) Beach Weather


For inspiration, I often go to a spot on the coast, about ten minutes from where I live. From a bridge, above a beach, I can see both island and mainland shores. In the summer, there are children playing and lobster boats pulling traps; in winter it is brutally cold and icy as it was today. Surprisingly, today there were others here on the beach: four people and two dogs!

This is a place in nature that inspires my writing each time I visit it. What places in nature inspire your writing?

Greetings from the coast of Maine,

Julia

Sunday, February 13, 2011, 12:02 p.m., 29 degrees F