When The River Is On Fire

I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. 
I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.       
                                                                                        – Margaret Atwood, 1939

How often do you stop to think about the air you are breathing?  If you are not asthmatic, or allergic, or an elite athlete, perhaps not terribly often.  Are you interested in protecting efforts to keep our air clean and breathable?  Join the Natural Resources Council of Maine.  Way too broke to spare a buck to join?  Then at least check out their website for ways to get involved, take action, or join an event.  Go to http://www.nrcm.org and poke around a bit.   

The next two pictures are last Saturday night’s sunset on a hill one mile from my house.


Two minutes too late – or just on time?  Wanted to catch the actual sunset but didn’t want to wrap my car around a tree to get there.

Looking west

This past weekend, I woke up Saturday morning with a long weekend ahead of me.  What a gift.  No snowfall in sight.  Warm enough temps to get my dogs out for a few solid walks.  Plenty of time to write a thoughtful blog.  What more could I want?  A ski weekend?   A vacation on a tropical beach?  Nah, not me.  Just my woods, my lake and my three best friends (husband, Dog 1, Dog 2).  Sprinkle in a catch-up visit with family and life is good.  Add three more days to the weekend and I’d have visited everyone else on my “I miss you and owe you a visit” list.

But then a friend dialed in a favor and the weekend got gobbled up.  No problem.  Life happens.  Death happens. Friends help friends get through the day.  So here it is Monday night and tomorrow I earn my paycheck.  My pillow beckons and my grand schemes for blogging about the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator have blown away like so much milkweed fluff.  (As Attorney General of Oklahoma Pruitt sued the agency he will now lead.  THIRTEEN TIMES.  This is deeply alarming for anyone who cares about the health of our planet.)

Although the weekend did not turn out as I’d planned, I’m grateful for the reminder that gratitude and flexibility are important mindsets to maintain.

So briefly, then, a few photos that I’ve captured in the last week:

Red-bellied woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus) feeding in my yard
Male mallard on an inlet to Annabessacook Lake

Took the picture of the mallard late Monday afternoon, with Step Dog 1 balancing on my knees.

Flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict*

My husband and I made the bold decision to go on a date Sunday.  This happens about twice a year.  We snuck away to Popham for a few hours and enjoyed the mild temperatures.   Much to our surprise the park attendants were collecting fees, so in addition to a cracked windshield (thanks, rock on the highway) we plunked down $12 to walk on the beach for two hours.  I don’t mind paying my fair share and supporting Maine’s lovely public places, but I was a bit surprised to see them.  I wonder what they charge for horses?


Bewildered gull – Couldn’t understand why people came to the beach without lunch

Tidal pools have fascinated me ever since second or third grad when I read Mimi Carpenter’s What The Sea Left Behind, published by Down East Books in 1981.  It’s a beautiful book and perfect for young children.  This tidal pool is on Fox Island, the island you can walk to at low tide from Popham Beach.

Low tide
Rippled sand, rippled clouds

The collective mood on the beach was as sweet and light as freshly-spooled cotton candy.  Dogs ran loose (against the rules) and nobody seemed to mind.  A woman did yoga while her husband (I assume) tended their young children.  Horses rolled in the sand.  (Why?)   I relaxed, clowned for the camera, and held the hand of the boy/boyfriend-man/husband who took me to this same beach on a date in high school.

Maine is charming and full of beautiful spaces.  Additionally, Maine can be a tough place to live.   The state is geographically vast and the opportunities for high-wage jobs are limited.  My husband and I are the kids who stayed.  More precisely, we are the ones who came back – promptly and deliberately, after I’d wrestled law school to the ground and won.  Staying in Maine, or coming home, or moving here from away (I love that single word that means “You aren’t from here but it’s okay”) is for many people a choice about quality of life.   Now, one woman’s “quality of life” is another woman’s “trapped in hell.”  I get that.  Some of us are country mice and some of us are city mice.  (Remember that particular Aesop’s Fable?).  I’m decidedly a country mouse, and I hope to enjoy Maine’s natural beauty for decades to come.  More importantly, I want to ensure that future generations have the same opportunity.

Regardless of where we make our homes, the vast majority of us long for clean air, safe spaces, and brighter futures for the children we love.  How do we get there together?  What did you do this weekend?  Fish?  Snowmobile?  Go to the theater?  Nurse a cold?  Sit vigil?  Watch too much television?  What contributes to your quality of life?  Your local library?  Thriving public schools?  A house of worship?  The air you breath?

If the river is on fire, and we know how to smother the flames, why are we just watching it burn?  If the ice is so thin that polar bears are drowning in search of a meal, why do we continue to turn up the heat?


* Flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict are actually specific kinds of shipwreck in maritime law.  But those four words are much more interesting than “lobster buoys that busted loose and got put up here on the rocks.”

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