Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31: Halloween lights

The guy at the end of our street elaborately decorates his house for every holiday. It's a local tradition to drive by, especially at Christmas when he goes all out. Halloween night was no exception, of course. When I drove past this evening, the cloud-wreathed just-past-full moon (upper right in the photo below) shone above his lurid pumpkins and ghosts. It made for an interesting contrast, so I pulled over to properly take it all in.

Moon a calm eye
looking down on our antics,
undaunted by fluorescence.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30: Flood

Since childhood I've had recurring nightmares about water--rogue waves about to carry me under, storms creating waves so high they creep up over the bank and across the lawn to carry away my grandparents' house, roads or paths flooded and impassable so I'm stranded with water all around me... You'd think that since I'm a water sign, a Pisces, I'd have a better subconscious relationship with water. But no.

So when I was looking at photos this morning of the flooding and destruction caused by Sandy in New Jersey and New York--cars completely submerged on city streets, houses surrounded by waves, impossibly high waves crashing over sea walls onto shorefront houses, commuter tunnels filled to the top with water--it was like seeing my worst dreams come to life. The images produced such a visceral reaction in me, I had to stop looking. My heart goes out to those people for whom such images are not just bad dreams but reality. And as I listen to the rain fall--nothing torrential, no high winds--I am tremendously grateful to have had it so easy here on the Maine coast, and that all those I love are safe.

It all washes away
so easily.


Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29: Entrainment

Hurricane Sandy, Extra-tropical Storm Sandy, Big Huge Storm Sandy, or whatever you want to call it,  is headed our way after already wreaking havoc on the mid-Atlantic states on up. When a big storm system moves through during a migration season, some birders get excited, anticipating unusual southern--even tropical--species blown off course. Pelicans and boobies end up off the coast of Maine; seabirds end up far inland. If you and yours are safe and sound post-storm, that can be one of the most interesting times to be out birding. If this kind of storm watching appeals to you, eBird offers more specific information.

In reading on eBird about how this storm may affect various types of birds, I've learned a few things. Strong storm winds may displace birds--blowing around or concentrating large flocks, knocking pelagic birds inland, for example. Or birds may get caught up in the calm eye of the storm, especially one as large as Sandy, and get carried thousands of miles north along with the weather. That's how we end up with tropicbirds in Massachusetts. That's entrainment.

This song describes Van Morrison's definition of "entrainment." It seems to differ slightly from the ornithological definition. But the concept, however one thinks of it, has tremendous poetic potential.

Calm amid passion's swirl
yet still carried away,
dropped on a strange shore.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28: Late start

Typing today's post while still in bed under my quilt and comforter, cat at my side...

Some mornings as I lie here with the shade drawn--so I can't see if the sun's shining--I hear the river just outside and think the roar of all that water must be rain falling. And that thought makes me want to stay in the cocoon comfort of my warm bed and sleep the day away...

River sounds like rain.
I'm tempted to stay in bed
all morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October 27: Hunting season

Today was opening day for deer hunting season for Maine residents. As a friend and I drove early this beautiful morning to a class in Lewiston, we saw several pick-up trucks parked alongside misty fields through which one might expect to see deer wander at dawn. We also passed one hunter in camo and blaze orange, carrying a shot gun. An old Maine tradition continues.

Opening day:
blue sky, sun on leaves,
hunters wishing for snow.

October 26: Guacamole

Dinner with good friends at another favorite restaurant, El Camino in Brunswick. For starters, home-made chips, salsa, and guacamole. Squash and peppers tacos for dinner. Chocolate and chili pot de creme and maple flan for dessert. We discussed what three foods we'd want to have on a desert island, and I was reminded of a winter when I spent a month camping in the Sonoran desert of Arizona and practically lived on tortilla chips and guacamole we made each day from good, fresh, inexpensive local avocadoes (and special Coronas from right over the border).

If stranded on a desert island
one food I'd wish with me:
fresh guacamole with tortilla chips.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25: Witch-hazel

On a short lunch break walk through the woods along the river, we came upon a flowering witch-hazel tree. No, this is not some confused tree adversely affected by global climate change. This fall bloomer is right on schedule, its small, yellow-green flowers emerging from the tree's slender, bare branches almost magically, life sprouting from something seemingly dead (or at least dormant). The branches are also ornamented by what must be last year's dried seed pods, little cupped wings.

To come upon this tree in fall, blossoming when everything around it, even its own foliage, is fallen and dying--is perhaps the one, last saving grace of autumn. A hurricane is due next week that will take care of any bright and lingering leaves, and then it's the long, dark slide into winter...
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There's no bravery
in these late-blooming flowers--
that's just what they do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24: Moon over the bay

The Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours were hosted by Point Lookout Resort this evening. The Summit Center of the resort is perched atop Ducktrap Mountain in Northport, which I think offers the best panoramic view of Penobscot Bay in the Midcoast. When I arrived tonight, I hurried outside to the patio first thing to snap a photo of the view still rosy with the last tints of sunset. And there was the moon, looking down on all those islands, the deep blue waters of the bay, and all of us standing out there absorbing the beauty.  

View of Penobscot Bay from Ducktrap Mountain
Waxing moon tugs
at the bay, tugs on
our inner horizons.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23: Glow

Dusk was falling as I was leaving work tonight--the sky above still deep blue streaked with thin clouds, but the woods around me all dark except for the windows of houses across the river...

Hazy half moon.
Birch trunks glowing,
and beyond, one window.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22: Getting something off my chest

Still worn out from this lingering cold, I left work early, turned on the heating pad, and stretched out on the couch under my faux fur blanket for a necessary nap. I awoke to find our cat lying on my chest, facing me like an inscrutable sphinx. Purring, she licked my chin. She stretched out one soft paw around my neck. For a moment I entertained the thought that she was cuddling up with me out of sympathy, to comfort me. Then I realized that I must have slept through till her dinnertime, when I'd normally be coming home from work. This was confirmed when she began gently chirping at me. She has successfully conditioned my husband to respond to this every morning by waking up and feeding her. I had no problem ignoring her because all I wanted to do was fall back asleep. My "comforter" eventually jumped off me to wait for my husband to come home and feed her.

Comforting nonetheless,
hungry cat on my chest,
tail flicking.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21: Chairlift ride

Rode the chairlift up Ragged Mountain this morning with my friend Janet so we could fully appreciate the fall foliage from on high, as it were. The Camden Snow Bowl is apparently the only ski area from which one has an ocean view. This time of year, when the surrounding forest is burnished gold and copper, the deep blue autumn bay shines in beautiful contrast.
View from just above the chairlift station, looking down Lookout
The highlight of the outing for me, besides the glowing landscape, was watching (and listening to) a pair of ravens circling the summit. Also, we unexpectedly came upon a little garter snake crossing a ski trail, undoubtedly on its way to a sunny ledge. But the real surprise was when we were back down the mountain, heading for the car. Behind one of the maintenance buildings I heard a singing phoebe. I think the warmth of this sunny day must have confused him into thinking it was spring.

Bald Mountain, as viewed from the Ragged Mountain chairlift

Phoebe's out-of-season song
makes the day feel warmer
than it really is.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20: Long walk

Participated in Rotary's End Polio walk today, about six miles from Lincolnville Beach into downtown Camden. This morning before we started out, torrential rain--but it stopped before we began the walk, so we were just fogged in. As the walkers spread out, the ones up ahead were almost invisible in the mist. Then the fog became more, well, precipitous. It began raining again, though fortunately just a constant drizzle, not like this morning's downpour. And at least it was relatively warm. The constant motion helped too. By the time we finished up, I felt pleasantly invigorated. The rain on my face, the camaraderie of a shared cause, the bright, wet foliage we'd passed by, the tingling in my leg muscles--after being sick for four days, I needed that. 

She should have known
not to wear mascara
for a long walk in the rain.

(Lest anyone get the wrong idea, this is not about myself but a friend I walked with, one of those women who won't appear in public without make-up on and who spent much of the walk wiping it off with her rain-soaked sleeve.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19: Floating leaf

When I looked out the window first thing this morning, I noticed a red leaf paused in the air, floating against the white door of the shed. It took me a moment to realize that the leaf wasn't frozen in space or time, but caught in a spider web.

Red leaf stuck in a web.
My in-laws trapped a fox
in their backyard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18: Carrying eggs

Feeling ill with an incipient cold, I went into work this morning only because I had to; the committee I co-chair was having its monthly meeting. But I fully intended to come home right after the meeting and go back to bed. Well, as things go, I felt a little better as the morning wore on and then got caught up in things, so I ended up working the whole day. Now that I'm home, however, the cold is catching up with me--sore throat, headache, achey joints. Whine and sniffle. It's just a cold, but some days the body just feels so over-sensitive, so fragile. I want to tell it to just toughen up already, a cold virus is nothing; does mind over matter ever work? Instead, I just take more cold meds and huddle on the couch.

A dozen fresh eggs.
I carry them gingerly,
aware of my own fragile shell.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17: Quarry

This morning I participated in a Land Trust outing at the Simonton Quarry Preserve in Rockport. This property is currently owned by the Nature Conservancy, but we've managed it for many years. Still, this was my first visit, in part because quarries give me the creeps. Those impenetrable black depths... given all the junk that gets left on the property in plain sight, who knows what might be down there in that water, or how deep? Today our findings were innocuous--beer bottles and a big TV face-down in cattails, dumped off the back wall of the first quarry.

Walking around the edges of the quarries was sometimes challenging, and I felt an irrational fear that I was going to trip on something I couldn't see, fall from atop one of the sheer cliff walls of this depthless crater, and end up in that cold, dark water. But that didn't stop me from scrambling up the rocks with the others to get a sense of these strange, man-made water bodies, which twisted back into the woods beyond our sight.

The quarries are a historic remnant of Rockport's past as a center for lime production. Limestone was quarried and then shipped by train to the big kilns on the waterfront. We found abutments of cut stone and old cement pads where machinery had once poised. Across the road from the quarries, flanking Goose River, several tailings piles cobbled the woods with randomly strewn, sharp-angled, loose rocks that were a challenge to walk over.

Amid the awkward human landscape, spots of wild beauty: bright green foliose lichen growing like an arboreal lettuce patch on some tree trunks, twisted old apple trees, little ruby-crowned kinglet acrobatically exploring a birch tree, great blue heron flying down river. Climbing atop the highest tailings pile afforded a great view of nearby farm fields and fall-tinged trees along the river. And the others in the group spotted a fish in one of the quarries, which I was intrigued by. How did it get there? Were there others, or was it alone in that vast, carved stone bucket of black water?

Yellow leaves floating
on water the deep black
of dilated pupils.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16: Last light

At day's end the sun finally appeared long enough to cast its golden, dying light onto the west-facing slope of Mount Battie. Scraps of blue sky appeared, orange leaves began to shine. And a cardinal chipped and chipped from somewhere out of sight, shy bird, no doubt pecking at bird seed on the ground below the bird feeders.

Cardinal's chip intensifies
as the day's last glow
fades from the mountainside.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15: Spray of sparrows

Sparrows still linger in the fields and along the roadside. As I was driving today, sparrows scattered on either side of my car, their plumage blending perfectly with the sepias, ochres, and umbers of the weedy verge. They're subtly gathering the season's last fruits, the seeds of withering grasses and wildflowers. How close, this time of year, the convergence of beauty and mortality.  

As my car passes, 
spray of late-season sparrows. 
A friend's mother has died.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14: Lost in a book

Spent a good part of this rainy day reading a novel, a murder mystery by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, one of my favorites. Without giving anything away, I can say it's one of the more devastating books that I've read recently. So it was with some relief that when I finished this tragic book, set in the darker corners of chilly Oslo, the view out the window somewhat eased my mind: maple leaves edged with orange, back lawn a mosaic of colorful leaves across which a fat squirrel carries an acorn, and the river smoothly flowing past.

Hunter's orange leaves
offset the bleakness
of rain-soaked trunks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13: Caterpillar

This morning I went for my first run in at least six months. You could hardly call it a run, given that I moved very slowly for a very short distance. But I wore my new running shoes, the expensive ones my physical therapist encouraged me to buy as incentive to start running again, and I didn't overdo it. It's very hard for me to begin at Square One all over again with an activity I used to be really good at; I don't have a lot of patience for what will probably be months of rebuilding my strength and lung capacity. But forcing myself to take it easy gave me the opportunity to focus on what was going on around me: red squirrel scolding in the woods along the river, robins feeding in a crabapple, a squash garden killed by last night's frost, the perfect cloudlessness of the blue sky on this crisp fall day.

Didn't step on
the caterpillar in the road.
Thought it was a turd.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12: Freeze warning

The National Weather Alert for tonight is for temperatures below freezing. It is mid-October, after all, so this is to be expected. But that chilly blast every time someone opens the front door reminds me how, even though I love living in a boreal habitat, with its mountains, spruces, and warblers, I really don't enjoy the cold.

Tonight my husband, whom I haven't seen much of lately, and I are going out to dinner at Primo, probably our favorite restaurant in Maine. My hope is that the calorie intake from tonight's meal--and resulting added fat cells--will compensate for the inverse drop in air temperature. I'm working on my own personal insulation layer.

Today at the feeders a big flurry of birds--chickadees, titmice, house finches--chowed down sunflower seeds as if, aware of the imminent cold snap, they wanted to stuff in as much as they could to help them survive the cold, dark night. Calories can mean life or death when you're a bird.

To eat like a bird
is not always
a dainty thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11: Hard rain

Last night's storm began with such a loud rumble of thunder that I actually opened the front door in alarm, thinking that maybe a landslide was rolling down the side of Mount Battie. Then I kept the (inside) door open so that the cat and I could both watch, fascinated, the torrential downpour that seemed to instantly fill the streets with rushing rivers of rain. Rain roared on the roof, slackened, then pounded some more, its drama providing a recurring frisson throughout the evening.

Streets washed clean--
catharsis, after
rainstorm's violence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10: Toast

Home alone, making toast for dinner. Sometimes just a little thing will send me back to childhood...

My grandmother used to
cut my buttered toast
into "soldiers."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9: Chrysanthemum

Some of the neighborhood maple trees suffer from a blight that leaves black spots all over the leaves--which unfortunately makes them a lot less attractive this time of year when they're falling all over the lawn. One fell atop a pot of chrysanthemums in my front yard, and I was struck by how much this one poor leaf marred the simple beauty of the flowers.

Blight-mottled leaf
hides the chrysanthemum:

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8: Brussels sprouts

Yesterday I experienced the birder's nirvana of spending the day on Monhegan Island after a "fallout," when thousands of birds were crawling all over the island. Palm Warblers were bobbing on lawns and all over Lobster Cove beach, catching sand fleas in the wrack. Black-throated Blue Warblers had invaded Fish Beach. Yellow-rumped warblers were bouncing like popcorn amid the spruce stands. And at one point we stopped to admire a vegetable garden and were delighted to see a Black-throated Green Warbler hopping in the bright green lettuce and a Magnolia Warbler perched in the Brussels sprouts.

Later, a mother and her young son were also observing the garden, although not to watch the birds like we had. I heard the mother explaining to the boy how to find the Brussels sprouts on the thick, leafy stalks. Because, let's face it, Brussels sprouts are weird-looking plants and it's hard to figure out exactly how those mini cabbages actually grow.

Today Beth's Farmstand in Warren boasted a large crop of Brussels sprouts, one of my husband's favorite vegetables.

They'd also posted a lengthy explanation of what to do with this strange foodstuff: 
"When prepared properly they are gourmet."
I'm personally not all that fond of Brussels sprouts to eat (unless someone makes them "gourmet" for me--Pai Men Miyake in Portland offers my favorite). I simply find them fascinating to look at, particularly when migrating warblers are involved.

Brussels sprouts' knobby stalks.
Delicate grace
of a foraging warbler.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7: Falling leaves

A gust of wind has shaken loose a tree-full of yellow leaves, now slowly swirling down in a mesmerizing flurry over the backyard. It's as if we were in a giant autumn snow globe, but with leaves instead of snow flakes.

Cat wants to chase them all,
these loosened leaves
outside the window.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 6: Fog

A vague memory of hearing the foghorn in the night, and when I wake, the sky is white and Mount Battie's draped in mist.

Birch's yellow leaves glow
within the fog.
I wake slowly.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 5: Nocturnal flight calls

Overhead last night I could hear in the mist and dark the nocturnal flight calls of migrating birds. I could even identify some of them by species: the peeper-like call of the Swainson's thrush, the distinct chip of the white-throated sparrow. Apparently it was like this Wednesday night, too--birds fleeing southward in large, loud waves--and Monhegan Island experienced an epic fallout Thursay morning of hundreds of birds. A friend out there reported 60 Savannah sparrows on his lawn alone! I wasn't there to see it, alas.

Birds call in the dark.
I long to be
wherever they land.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 4: Geese overhead

Here on the river we often see or hear Canada geese, which nest nearby, but this time of year their calls as they fly overhead seem particularly poignant. They aren't actually leaving us--large flocks of geese hang out through most of the winter on nearby farm fields and golf courses. But there's nonetheless something emotionally resonant about the sound that makes me run to a window to try to catch sight of those large birds winging their way across the bleak fall sky, rambling on their minds.

White sky
filled with calls of geese
flying out of sight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 3: Window strike

Despite my best efforts with string and ultraviolet window stickers, something about our office windows, especially in the fall, seems to draw birds in. I hear that sickening thud of a small body hitting a window and then hold my breath as I rush over to see if there's a bird on the ground or not. Today's window strike appeared to be a goldfinch, which fortunately survived. I've held other birds in my hands, tiny little feathered bodies with rapid heartbeats, until they could perch and ultimately fly away, or until they died.

That feeling when
the bird that struck the window
flies away--

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 2: Sparrow

Walking into my office this afternoon, I was inordinately pleased to hear the call note of a white-throated sparrow from the bushes that border the lawn. For one brief moment I stepped out of work mode and was back on Monhegan, surrounded by the calls of migrating birds... including many white-throated sparrows.

Such power in the chip
of a sparrow,
to summon memory.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1: Maple

Autumn makes its arrival felt, touching trees here and there with color. The maple outside my office window was particularly dazzling this afternoon after the skies cleared and the setting sun backlit the reddening leaves.

Epiphany of fall--
this burning tree,
this sinking sun.