Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rock Climbing under the Bridge

There is a nice outcropping of rock by a bridge over the Androscoggin River and A and his friends like to climb there.

Even though there is still ice on the river, the rock is dry and it didn't take long for the climbers to get down to their t-shirts today.

I've had an awful lot of good times sitting on rocks watching this kid climb.

It was just about 3 years ago that he went for his first outdoor climb. He had spotted a cliff from my parents' living room window and wanted to climb it. We learned that the cliff was on a mountain called "Ragged Jack" and my father went to the town office to ascertain the landowner so that we could ask permission to climb. Permission was granted and Archie and I navigated our way up to the base of the cliff. He had a very limited amount of equipment, a little understanding of the mechanics and a great deal of desire. I sat on a rock while he climbed and read Freedom of the Hills and wondered if maybe a good mother wouldn't be letting her 14 year old do this.

A few weeks later, we went to some experts and he had a few days with a rock climbing guide, we purchased all the safest equipment and the rest is his life story. He climbs almost every day year round and has for the last three years. He has taught many of his friends to climb and hopes to make climbing his entire life once the pesky business of high school is finished.

Watching him climb is one of my greatest pleasures. On the rock, he exemplifies poetry, grace, strength, and concentration.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Last snow shoe hike

I went snowshoeing at my folks' place today, probably the last snow shoe of the season for me. The snow is losing it's weightbearing properties and next weekend I'm heading to DC to see 3/4 of my children and cherry blossoms.

As we ate lunch after my difficult hike, my mother, the Missisissippi girl, said "well, it's been interesting to make it through a hard Maine winter but next year I don't think I'll be quite so excited when I see the first snowflake."

Friday, March 28, 2008

A night at the Bluebird

Today, my cousin Texican wrote about country music and posted a mighty fine country song that he wrote. Songwriters are blessed with a gift to be able to conjure up an image, an emotion and a story and to package it with a beat and a melody that makes people want to sing along. If I had 3 wishes, one of them would be, just one time, to create a song that made people laugh and cry and sing along.
One of my many favorite country songs is about country music songwriters. It's called 16th Avenue and it's written by Tom Schuyler and was made popular by Lacy J. Dalton.

From the corners of the country
From the cities and the farms
With years and years of living
Tucked up underneath their arms

They walk away from everything
Just to see a dream come true
So God bless the boys who make the noise
On 16th Avenue

With a million dollar spirit
And an old flattop guitar
They drive to town with all they own
In a hundred dollar car

'Cause one time someone told them
About a friend of a friend they knew
Who owns, you know, a studio
On 16th Avenue

Now some were born to money
They've never had to say "survive"
And others swing a 9 pound hammer
Just to stay alive

There's cowboys, drunks and Christians
Mostly white and black and blue
They've all dialed the phone collect to home
From 16th Avenue

Ah, but then one night in some empty room
Where no curtains ever hung
Like a miracle some golden words
Rolled off of someone's tongue

And after years of being nothing
They're all looking right at you
And for awhile they'll go in style
On 16th Avenue

It looks so uneventful
So quiet and discreet
But a lot of lives were changed
Down on that little one way street

'Cause they walk away from everything
Just to see a dream come true
So God bless the boys who make the noise
On 16th Avenue

16th Avenue in Nashville is called the heartbeat of Nashville's Music Row. Another place that most aspiring country songwriters dream of is the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee. Last summer when we went to visit another favorite cousin outside of Nashville, C was able to go to the Bluebird and perform two songs that he had written.

The Bluebird has an Open Mic night for songwriters every Monday. The doors open at 5:30 but the line of hopefuls forms long before that.

Some of the performers are really good, some not so much, but each one of them is living a dream up there on the stage at the Bluebird. C had number 13. There had been several sub-optimal performances before his number was called and people at the tables had begun to be restless and talk to one another--but within a few chords, he had the audience following his every word--a high school english teacher from Maine living a dream on the stage at the Bluebird.
I took a walk with a girl on my caseload the other day and we talked about the past and the future and she told me every single detail that she imagined for her wedding--with the exception that she couldn't quite identify the man at the end of the aisle. Daydreams. We stopped and admired the shadows on this shed.

Later I headed to L. L. Bean to pick up a pair of shoes that my daughter had requested. The big boot is a landmark that I thought might be enjoyed by those of you who only know L. L. Bean through the catalog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Getting ready

A few weeks ago, several nature bloggers wrote about the book Finding Your Wings.

I ordered a copy to help me with my beginning birding skills and am finding it very helpful in learning observation techniques. Now, if some birds would just fly by my snow bound corner of the world, I could practice.

Today I head to the coast to do some work but will take along my book, binoculars and camera just in case there is more to see and time to see it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Working at home

Some days when I don't have meetings or people to meet or court to attend, I get to stay and work in my little home office. Those are some of my favorite days--oh I like dressing up and going to court and saying big words and talking to other lawyers--but once a week or so I get a day when I can wake up and put on my jeans, wool socks and clogs, let my hair dry curly and work at home. Today is one of those days. I was getting a lot accomplished until I noticed how cute Judith was in my plants.

OK, Mischief managed--back to work.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunrise to new life

The rays of the sun first touch the United States each day on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine.  On Easter Morning 2003, my four children and I went up the mountain to watch the sun rise.  It was a beautiful experience, we watched the darkness in the East as it gave way to a reddish glow then the horizon revealed a pinprick of light that soon was too intense for our eyes.  The ocean and islands were bathed in pink and golden light.  

That sunrise was drenched in symbolism for me, our lives had changed over the past year and were sure to change more in the years to come but Easter and Spring bring with them the promise of new life and a time for a reverent redirection. 

Within weeks E had graduated from high school and was off to college, S was soon to follow, shortly after M went to live in Italy with her father and A and I were on our own.  Before I knew it, C flew in from New Zealand and I was taking a chance on another sunrise.  Time flies but it seems like a lot more than five years since that Easter morning on Cadillac Mountain when I held my four children close.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Have you gotten greener?

A few years ago, a friend would stop in twice a week to help one of my kids with some schoolwork.  It seemed that no matter what I was preparing for dinner on the afternoons she was here, it was the same as what she was planning to make when she got home.  Our minds must still work alike because today she wrote about the same thing that I was planning.  

A lot of folks have made changes recently that reflect a desire to lessen their carbon footprint, reduce spending on energy or to live healthier lifestyles.   

Last year for Mother's Day, my son put a clothesline up for me in the backyard.  I used it as long as I could into the Fall only stopping when the clothes froze solid.  Through the cold weather, we try very hard to keep a fire in the wood stove.  By doing that, we are able to keep the thermostat on 60 degrees and (knock on wood) no one has gotten sick.  For each of the past nine months, our electric use has gone down 30 percent compared to the same month the year before.   

As I wrote in some earlier posts, we are trying to eat meat from sustainable farms.  It has meant eating less meat than before because it is more expensive and it has meant experimenting with different foods and different recipes.  There are sustainable farms within the areas that I routinely travel allowing pick up without any additional carbon emission.

What are some of the changes that you have made?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Random thoughts this first day of Spring

Spring is getting a cold and blustery welcome in northern New England. Something struck me in looking at the weather map this morning--does the bad weather stop at the Canadian border? Why does the map indicate that they are having clear weather while I'm getting 4-8 inches of ice and blowing snow?

As our fierce and snowy winter gives way to Spring, Tom and his little dog Atticus are continuing their quest for mountain peaks. Often Tom's posts will choke me up, but yesterday about half way through a wonderful post about their hike across the Presidentials, I was stopped short by a sentence and kept re-reading it until I could go on and then I re-read each subsequent sentence a few times and was smiling through my tears by the end of the vignette. I don't want to spoil it by giving any details, but the part of his very interesting trip report that I am referring to occurs at the Lake of the Clouds Hut.

We all live our particular lives the way we do for reasons that are unique to us. What a gift it is, when some one shares their story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This is Saddleback Mountain. The Appalachian Trail goes right across the summit of Saddleback which rises about 200 miles south of Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT.

Today I was talking with one of my favorite judges who has been section hiking the trail for many years. He plans to retire next year and hit the trail for however many months it takes to finish up. Section hikers break the 2175 mile trail up into manageable bits and hike for a week or two weeks at a time, sometimes picking up where they left off the year before. He told me that for the last several years he has been hiking through Virginia during June and often meets up with the first wave of thru hikers who started early in the year at Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Thru hikers travel the trail from one end to the other in one long season.

In September, 2005, C and I hiked Saddleback. September is a busy month on the Maine stretch of the AT as the last thru hikers are racing to reach Katahdin before the snow closes the park and the trails. This picture of us was taken by some AT hikers.

AT hikers give themselves monikers such as Fiddlehead or Stinky Toes--the men that took our picture gave us trail names, but I don't remember them any more. If I ever gave myself a trail name it would be Fiddlehead because of the non-stop fiddle music sound track that plays in my head--but that's a post for another day--or maybe something I should share with a mental health professional.

Every year, people who have traveled the trail write books about their experiences. One that is particularly enjoyable to hikers and non-hikers, is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. A little nature, a little history and a whole lot of humor.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blarney Stone

In the mid-1950's my father went to Ireland while on leave from his Army posting in Germany. My childhood was peppered with many stories of his travels in Europe and Ireland, among them was his trip to Blarney Castle and his 'kissing of the Blarney Stone'. Dad always told us that he kissed it four times, once for himself, once for his future wife, and once for each of his two future children. He told us that he was dangled by a rope as he went down over the edge of the parapet in order to guarantee a story-telling future for the members of our family. We were appropriately grateful and pitied the families whose father hadn't sacrificed himself in that manner for them.

Legend has it, that a kiss of the Blarney Stone imbues the kisser with the gift of eloquence. My father, without a doubt, is the best story-teller in the entire world. I suspect that is the result of a great imagination, a well-read intellect and the culture of his southern family where story telling and conversation were as essential as the air they breathed but I'm not willing to rule out the power of that kiss of the Blarney Stone.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring is down there somewhere

Under the seven foot snow pile on which C is standing, there is a beautiful flower bed full of spring flowers--there are crocuses and daffodils and snowdrops and tulips.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cupcakes--it's a whole new world

I have four children--between them they have had 79 birthdays. That's a lot of birthday parties. If we count Halloween parties, Easter parties, sports banquets and all the other celebrations associated with their school days, I must have baked thousands of cupcakes over the years. Back in the day, I thought fancy was a piece of candy corn on a Halloween cupcake.

Today oldest daughter called from a sunbeam in Georgetown while she waited to go to her waitressing job. She related to me the wonderful day that she had had--it being the first day of Spring break--she had gone to J. Crew and bought her first pair of flip flops of the year, had lunch with a friend and then she said....."we tried to go to Georgetown Cupcake but the line was way too long and I had to go to work in an hour." Hmm, a line, a cupcake store, $2.75 per cupcake, an hour not enough time????

Well according to the Washington Post, cupcakes have been hip since 1996 when they were one of the pleasure sought by the women on Sex and the City. I must have been too busy baking cupcakes in those years to have noticed.

Maybe if the bait store in our town goes out of business, a cupcake store would work. The smell of baking cupcakes might cover up any lingering fishy odor.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Signs of Spring are everywhere

With Spring only a week away, it is probably time to start defrosting the sports car.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fighting the Blues

Michael Gilleland, who writes one of the blogs that I enjoy, wrote a post earlier in the week called "Pills to Purge Melancholy" that reproduced Sydney Smith's Letter to Georgiana Morpeth (February 16, 1820) which contains 20 tips to combat melancholy. The essay is full of good advice for instance: live as well as you dare, read amusing books, be as busy as you can, see as much as you can of those friends that like and respect you, and my personal favorite Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue. Read Michael's post for all twenty.

Then later in the day, I read a post on SJ's Beat where she talked about some advice I gave her not very long ago (the advice included start a blog). We all have times when we need to get re-set. In the mountains, I am able to sort myself out. The hike up the mountain brings all the cares up to the surface and the wind at the top tosses them about and even blows some of them away, the hike down is when I figure out a new direction or how to deal with what's left. I loved reading the book Heidi when I was little and often when I hike in order to get emotionally strong again, I remember Clara going into the mountains to get well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Same word--not exactly

Yesterday at court in between judicial reviews, talk was flying fast in the conference room where the lawyers gather. If you take a group of people whose synapses are already primed and ready to go at warp speed and add the machine-gun delivery for which lawyers are renowned--there is sure to be hilarity--especially for one somewhat quiet and reserved lawyer who likes to listen, process and then blog.

As a disclaimer, I should say that there isn't a single lawyer in Franklin County who deserves a lawyer joke, but a comical misunderstanding caused by the rapidly firing synapses--well, yes, that could happen.

One of my friends is a 56 year old who often entertains us with tales of her days working in the Public Defender's Office in New York--she has stories that make my hair stand up on end--yesterday she was talking about defending members of the Weather Underground.

Finally, another lawyer spoke up--fresh faced, newly graduated from law school--"Is this a different weather underground than the one I know about?" Hmmm, yes, actually.

Over the weekend I was playing with Stat Counter and was curious as to what key words have been used to lead some one to my blog. Hmmmm, wow! Here's one from France and they googled-----Swinger Stories---- I suspect they were looking for something different because they didn't stay long.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight is making a stand

Today was a long day of working but it was accompanied by daylight. Beginning with the sky lighting up behind the Franklin County Courthouse at about 8:00 a.m. By 7:00 p.m., the daylight was still hanging on as I drove home and the sun disappeared behind the mountains of the Tumbledown region.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rain for Maine

Many of the folks whose blogs I enjoy have been buried in snow over the last few days--while we in Maine, who have had way more than our share of snow--had nothing but rain. The rain started Friday evening and when I awoke on Saturday morning, I heard what sounded like little birds tweetering outside. The rain had stopped and I imagined that they had been blown north by the storm. Wishing to welcome the birds to my yard, I hurriedly whipped up a batch of Zick dough.

As I melted and measured and mixed the ingredients, I realized that the insistent sound of the birds was coming from one of my kitchen cabinets--opening the cabinet, I discovered little kitten Judith, trapped within. Apparently, it was her little mews for help that I had heard--not a yard full of hungry traveling birds.

Well, I put some of the dough out anyway, hoping that the two chickadees or the one bluejay who have been visiting my feeder would enjoy it and within 30 minutes, a huge flock of birds descended on my birch tree suet feeder. They weren't the most well-mannered birds that I've ever seen nor the most attractive, but beggers can't be choosers and I was happy to see something alive and flying and it was fun to watch them devour the food.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More games for a rainy day

Amity tagged me to play a game of telling seven things people do not know about me. It seems that I just played a game of telling my life story in six words and now I am to divulge my most closely-held secrets.

Well, let's see.
  1. Amity is actually the one who got me blogging. I had never even heard of a blog until we invited Amity over for dinner one night last December and learned about her three years of blogging.
  2. Since Molly went to college, I actually miss watching America's Next Top Model, The Gilmore Girls and DeGrassi.
  3. When I was 18, I worked as a maid at the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park
  4. When I am sad or need a distraction, I read The #1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I secretly wish that I could be Precious Ramotswe.
  5. When no one else is home, I like to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for supper.
  6. When I was 12, I made my first pair of cross country skis by planing a pair of wooden downhill skis and changing the bindings. I fell for the sport the minute my skis hit the trail.
  7. I was in a bluegrass band in the late 1970's.
Whew, that was hard. I feel bad tagging anyone, since I just handed out assignments a few days ago, but consider yourself tagged if you want to take a shot at it.

Thanks, Amity, it was fun--hard rooting around in the memory attic--but fun!

Memorial Pines

A few days ago, I posted about a special tree. It is a very unusual tree or trees. At the base, it appears that several trees were intentionally woven together and they grew and grew and grew all intermingled.

Everyone who sees the trees has a theory. Mine is that some little girls used the spot as their play area and whimsically planted some young trees and braided them together. The tree is located about 1/2 mile into the woods from my parents' house and probably 1/4 mile from the last stone wall which probably marked the boundaries of a field in pioneer days. It is in a hilly area that wouldn't have been used for fields and near what we call the erratic boulder field which has many big boulders.

The original farmhouse that was on this property burned many years ago and the family is gone from the area. So there is no historical memory of whether or not this was a memorial of some sort, but my parents have chosen to call it Memorial Entwined Pines.

Mom and Dad have put a bench near the tree, so that the pines can be comfortably contemplated when there isn't a million feet of snow on the ground.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I'm contemplating a change and looking for feedback. I'm thinking that we should cancel our regular home telephone service and just use our cell phones. It would save us money, we have cell phones anyway.

We don't get many calls at home except from our kids and telemarketers but, herein lies my concern, it seems very parental to have a phone. When the kids call home, do they want to call a cell phone or do they want to call their old familiar phone number? And is giving them that security worth $60 a month?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In Six Words

Nature Knitter tagged me with the six-word memoir task. When faced with the Hemingway quote that started it all, the task is especially daunting. The story goes that Hemingway once bet $10 that he could sum up his life in six words. He summed it all up with For Sale: Baby shoes; never worn.

I am no Hemingway, and I can't possibly sum up my life in six words but I can impart some meaningful pieces.

Happy mom loves to climb mountains.

The rules say to pass it on, so here goes. Texican, S.J., Tom and Atticus and Elementary--tag, you're IT.

Here are the meme rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Late night radio

We were a traveling family, chasing jobs and dreams all over the country while home remained Mississippi and Kentucky. After 9 years--home is Maine--for the first time in my life where I live feels like home. But for all those growing up years, we would travel from where we lived to either Mississippi or Kentucky for holidays. The summer was mostly spent in Kentucky but we would also travel to Mississippi for a few weeks each August--August in Mississippi, now there's a treat.

The Thanksgiving trips, when time was of the essence, are the ones that I am thinking of today. It was difficult getting from Massachusetts, where we lived at the time, to Kentucky and back in just a few days. Mom was a teacher and, of course, my brother and I were in school. We would get out of school at noon on Wednesday and Dad would pick us all up with the station wagon packed and we would hit the road. In those days, I don't think we even had seat belts and so Brother and I would bounce around in the back seat or the back of the station wagon. We carried our food with us and only made brief stops for gas. When it got dark, Dad would pull over and put down the back seat and make a bed out of mats and blankets we had brought from home. We were supposed to lie down and sleep while Mom and Dad drove through the night. Usually, though, at least in my memory, I would either hang over the seat and talk to my father or sit up front with him while Mom and Brother slept.

As we drove the late night highways, Dad would tell stories about where we were going and we would listen to the radio. I loved those crackly far-away stations where I could just imagine other lives and other places. I still love the radio at night when I am driving--Baseball, Prairie Home Companion and Country Music are my first listening choices--but just about anything helps to pass the miles.

On Youtube, I found this video .

"I Watched It All (On My Radio)" by Lionel Cartwright (Don Schlitz/Lionel Cartwright)

I had a six transistor when I was a kid
Under my pillow I kept it hid
When the lights went out, and no one could see
Over the airwaves the world came to me

I'd go through the stations 'til I found a game
I knew how they played by the sounds of their names
The sluggers hit homers, and those pitchers threw smoke
And I watched it all on my radio

At the crack of the bat, I knew how far it'd go
And I watched it all on my radio
I watched it all on my radio

When the ballgame was over, the wrapup complete
I'd search through the static 'til I found a beat
The Beatles and Creedence, the Stones and the Byrds
You should have seen all the groups that I heard

And on Saturday night when the skies were all clear
A station from Nashville sometimes would appear
WSM With steel guitars and soft Southern twang
The stars of the Grand Ole Opry would sing

And I had a seat on the very front row
And I watched it all on my radio
I watched it all on my radio

And 'round about midnight some preacher came on
To tell me what's right, to tell me what's wrong
And there was a test at the sound of the beep
'It was only a test' the voice would repeat
And the National Anthem would sing me to sleep

Monday, March 3, 2008

Showing Brother my favorite tree

This afternoon I was able to meet up with brother at our parents' home. He was rested from his flight from Kyrgyzstan and a few days away from his flight home to Chile. We donned snowshoes and I took him on a hike to see my favorite tree. It was difficult breaking trail through the woods--my last visit to the tree had been at Thanksgiving before all the snow.

There will be many posts ahead about this tree. I love it--the ground feels consecrated--there is something intentional about the way the trees have grown together. Brother even felt it--he said that the hairs were standing up on the back of his neck. Of course, our family has a genetic tendency toward fancy.

It was very special to spend a few hours with him today. Since 1979 we have lived in different parts of the country--now we live in different parts of the world and it has been many years since I have seen him. Somehow, though, all the years and distance melted away with a hug.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Oh, my goodness!

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but I invite you all to think of what those words might be!
Her name is Olympia and she is 122 feet high. Here is a media link.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March 1 in Crawford Notch

The Highland Center is practically buried in snowdrifts. The wind howls through Crawford Notch treating this narrow mountain passage like a wind tunnel. At the top of the Notch where the Highland Center is located the wind is powerful and creates enormous snow mountains. This morning when I headed from staff housing to the main lodge, there was a six foot snow pile blocking the passageway.

The Highland Center experience is very different from my experience at Pinkham Notch a few weeks ago At Pinkham, primarily, I was talking with hikers who were headed up Mt. Washington and who knew what they were getting in to. This facility caters more to families with programs for all ages and seems to emphasize exposure to the outdoors at all different levels. Highland is equipped with all the accoutrements necessary for someone with little experience or equipment to have a very enjoyable outdoor experience. The facility is comfortable and well furnished, the dining is elegant and there is an equipment room stocked by L.L. Bean so that guests can get completely outfitted with outdoor gear at no additional cost in order to go outside to enjoy the mountain trails.

Tonight there is a talk at the facility by Rick Wilcox on his Everest experiences. Rick was a good resource to my son, Archie, when he began rock and ice climbing. I'm grateful for the help that Rick gave him and am looking forward to the talk tonight.