Friday, August 31, 2007

Simple Musings At Summer's End

The day here today is rather cloudy, and a 'coolish' 52F\11C, with our normal 10mph\16kph steady breeze carrying all the magnificent aromas of the woods to our door. I was just outside mulling over how soon the autumn foliage will be enchanting us with its rich tapestry of colors as far as the eye can see in every direction. Our summer season here is famously short, and therefore cherished all the more for its fleeting kiss of warmth and greenery. Some of the trees at this elevation have already started to don their fall finery, and most of the flowers are soon to be only a memory and a few bytes in the digicam. The photos above are some of the simple viewing pleasures to be found on the north side, or backyard, of our home. The house shown is our neighbor to the north, and the trees are part of our own little touch of the local forests. The flowers are those tenderly cared for by my gardener wife, and only a small representation of those she coaxes to life each summer without fail. Some are carefully planted, others the product of the mixed wildflower seeds she strews randomly around the yard perimeter. The last photo is the walkway to my Doctor's office.
This time of year signals the ending of most harvests, the beginning of others, such as apples, and the return to school of the shorter members of our community, with heads ready to be stuffed full of new information. For the older students, it's off to college, high school sports, hunting season, and homework woes. How little they realize that the world after school is much the same, without the summer vacation and the fun, but many of the sorrows, that they find in their lives now. The last of the agricultural fairs are wrapping up soon as well, and the roadside vendors and farmer's markets will soon be gone too. In many ways, it's much like the end of one of life's shorter journeys and the beginning of the next.
One of the many things I missed most, while living in other climates, was this rapid switching from one season to the next. I suppose if you've never had it, or disliked the colder days, you'd not miss it a bit. On the other hand, there are those like myself, who find something joyous in every season, even the blizzards, high snow drifts, and biting winds of our normally harsh winters. What better time to view the world, than after nature has painted everything a clean, sparkling white? Or after an ice storm, when the morning sun twinkles through thousands upon thousands of icicles of all sizes clinging effortlessly to the trees. The smell of a wood fire, the warmth of a meal, and conversation shared with good friends on a cold January night, combine to create a glow within the participants like no other.
As fall gives way soon to the cold of winter, so winter eventually wanes as well, allowing the air to come alive with the smell of maple syrup, more wood smoke, and the smell of new life emerging from the fields and forest floor alike. The ice finally goes out, fishing, swimming, boating, and planting, become the activities of the day, and summer is soon behind. Then, after what seems to many the shortest season of all, if we're among the lucky, we're still able to drink in all the beauty that's giving way to the newer beauty of fall. Usually on a cloudy, somewhat 'coolish' day. Perhaps a day not unlike today. Until next time, take care my friends.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Can See Clearly Now

Hi folks, it's GREAT to be back, especially as this is the first time in several years I can actually see things as well as I could in the past. When the other eye is finished the vision should be as good, if not better, than I enjoyed as a youth.
This is just a short account of how it feels to be able to see all the beauty we all take for granted in our busy lives. Yesterday was the first time my brain really figured out the new focus signals to the extent that driving was once again possible, and ENJOYABLE!! As we had cause to be on the road to the University town just to our north, I chose to make the return trip into a "rediscovery" of some of the many sights that had been so diminished for so long. As fate would have it (more habit of neglect really) the camera was left on the computer table at home, an occurrence more and more common as the sight waned. I'll have to retrain myself to always take it as in the past. Fortunately, my wife had taken some photos of some of my favorite local places (within five miles of home),and four are shown above.
The first is the west dam in the river, as viewed from the little island where we often go for easy access to outdoor solitude. The next is a view of the lower part of our hill, which also shows the Town Ski Slope across the river from us. Then a rest area beside one of the numerous local lakes. And lastly, a view of the lake our friends live on, taken from their driveway, looking through the trees where he's cleared away the undergrowth. These places, and many more, are the reason I returned here to such a harsh climate and remote location when I retired.
The little island by the dam is where I decided to stop first, and reintroduce the view to my eyes, and it was nearly like experiencing it for the first time years ago. We live on the eastern slope of the river valley created by one of Maine's largest and longest rivers. Although grossly polluted in years past, and some purist environmentalists would say still polluted, the water is actually now safe to swim in and even drink. This is the result of the 1970s environmental laws pushed through by Senator Ed Muskie, who grew up in Rumford along the river, and was alarmed and saddened by what the river had become as a result of wanton waste disposal by towns and the paper mills along its length. Following the enactment of the Federal Statutes, the State enacted even more stringent laws, and then many mill towns, the one we now call home among them, enacted even stricter laws and created Environmental Monitor positions within the town government.
The island is about one and a half miles downstream from the larger of the town paper mills, and was made into a public park, canoe portage, and picnic area, before opening it up to the people. The dam in the photo is the western part, then the island is about one hundred fifty feet wide before the eastern dam extends across a wider stretch of the river and ends at an old hydro-electric station. The station is inaccessible, and I've always meant to ask how often the thing is online, if ever. If it's working, it's damned quiet! The little island has a small dirt road leading from the mill road and across the bridge below the dam, ending in a postage stamp of a dirt parking lot. Even though there's a sign at the access road, few people other than locals ever wander down it, as it doesn't look especially interesting. There's a nice landing on both the upstream and downstream banks of the island, with a well maintained trail between for the use of the many canoe and kayak enthusiasts, who paddle the river from the source in New Hampshire to the sea.
The joy of the place is in finding it deserted, as we did yesterday, and simply shutting off the car and sitting quietly, listening to the water rushing over the dam. As a couple, we have many things in common, one being the ability and desire to sit quietly for long stretches of time, just enjoying our surroundings. After an hour or so of watching the birds, the fish jumping, the water flowing, and the leaves rustling from the almost constant valley wind, I find it hard to return to the reality that calls us back to the things humans create to vex themselves. Human things done in a seemingly fruitless attempt to make life easier. How much easier can it get than living in the midst of a gift from nature, and marvelling peacefully at all the wonders therein? Until next time, take care.