Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goodnight lake--for now!

My grandson, Benjamin Connor Seguin, was born yesterday at 7:59 July 28, 2010. He weighed 7 lbs. 9 ozs. I’ve been waiting for him for a long time, and I’ve been buying him books for the last four years.

I bought a little board book just last week at the specialty food store where I buy my wine (The Good Life Market in Raymond). Its title is Good Night Lake (title of the book, not the wine), and the back cover explains that the book is one of the Good Night Our World Series ( You know, in the spirit of the children’s classic Good Night Moon. Remember that book? Its pages speak of many of the natural wonders that we enjoy here on Little Sebago Lake—a loon calling, fishing, boating, swimming, playing in the sand—all the grand things that I hope to enjoy with my new grandson here at the lake next summer. But I’ll read the book to baby Ben this weekend. Let the brainwashing begin!

So, I must leave the lake for a while in order to meet my new grandson who lives with his wonderful family in North Carolina. I’ll be back next week to blog about my Little Sebago Lake summer, which is quickly coming to an end.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More lobster!

Last weekend I ate a lot of lobster, so I decided to read up on lobsters.

In his book The Lobster Coast, Colin Woodard reports that coastal new Englanders of the early 19th century fed lobsters to prisoners and indentured servants. One group of indentured servants got so sick of this diet that they took their owners to court and sued them . The court judged that they would not be served lobster more than three times a week. Geez!

Lobsters look pretty funny too. Here’s what Woodard has to say about their appearance:

“ . . .lobsters are armored and buglike, cold blooded omnivores from an alien realm few humans ever visit . . .In basic design, Homarus americanus resembles a self-propelled Swiss Army knife, with deployable appendages for every occasion. Around the mouth is an assortment of forks, clamps, brushes, paring knives, and crushing devices . . .There are retractable stalks for each eye, long whiplike antennae for touch and smaller ones for smell. There are walking legs and cleaning brooms, plus long sets of swimming paddles, modified in the female for clutching eggs. In all, the lobster has twenty pairs of appendages . . .” Woodard, The Lobster Coast, pp. 242-3.

Sometimes in colonial New England, lobsters were strewn on the fields as fertilizer. But eventually the lobster got some respect. Maine lobster was the second food canned in the U.S. (oysters was first), and in 1850, three lobster canning factories were the only canneries of any kind in the entire country.

Now lobstering is big business in Maine, and I find Homarus americanus mighty good eating.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July excursion

This week I took a Maine history excursion with my friends Helen and Perley, a nice married couple that I met years ago when they worked together at the recycle station in the town of Gray. As a resident of Gray, I have to take my trash to the dump--excuse me, the transfer station—and recycle what I can before disposing of my trash. Sorting the milk containers from the newspapers from the cardboard from the glass takes time, and that is how I got to talking to Helen and Perley in the first place. I discovered we had a couple of strong interests in common—wildlife and Maine history. We also like to eat seafood. We’ve been chit chatting about these things for years now.

A couple of years ago I asked Perley if he knew where I might find the ruins of the old Gray woolen mill, supposedly the first such mill in the country. He said he knew it, and would I like to go there with him and Helen on their day off. Well of course I did, and then one excursion led to another, and over the past couple of years we have explored a number of interesting sites together. Helen and Perley are a little older than I am—ok, quite a bit older than I am—and they remember a lot of things about the state that I never knew. They both interesting and fun to be with.

This week I went with Helen and Perley to the town of Phippsburg to explore the site of the failed Popham Colony, an English colonial settlement founded in 1607. Then we went on to explore Fort Baldwin, a WWI fort; and Fort Popham, built during the Civil War but never used. We admired the coastal scenery, talked history and took pictures, and then we had a wonderful seafood lunch as we watched swimmers on the town beach a few feet from our restaurant window.

What better way could there be to spend a July summer day in Maine than to spend it with these two good people? Visiting Phippsburg, as it turns out, was just an excuse to spend some time with them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog sitting Oliver

Last weekend, I went to beautiful Moosehead Lake in Greenville to whoop it up with some old college friends. I asked my sister to take care of our dog Oliver. My sister is more of a “cat person” if you know what I mean, so dog sitting is a big deal for her. I am grateful. Here, with her permission, is the email she wrote to the family while I was away.

AHHHHH-Friday, 4th of July week-extremely busy week, short-handed due to vacations-busy, busy, busy week at work-thank goodness, time to go to the lake, my modest little camp nestled in the woods at the end of of a 2 mile dirt road, just waiting for me to open the windows, pour a glass of wine, sit on my cozy screened porch and finally relax.......


 Yup, this is the weekend Marilyn reunites with some of her college friends at Moosehead Lake to yukk it up, and I am caretaker of Oliver. I love Oliver, but as we all know,absence of Marilyn creates a bit of stress for him.

 I arrive at around 4pm (Marilyn left at 8am) Oliver is watching out the window (has he really been there 8 hours?) and after having some difficulty opening the door Oliver rushes out and heads up the stairs-yes, all 42 of them- to find her. Have I mentioned it is 90 and humid-I mean, REALLY hot for us? Anyway, I caught up and we came back down ...but not a good start.

 Settled in for "sparkly" time (not much wine here;glad I brought another box) and Oliver and I settled down on the deck. I decided he needed a bowl of water on the deck, so I poured him a bowl of Brita filtered water from the fridge (I think maybe the bowl I used is an expensive one Marilyn bought at the Cumberland Craft Fair-anyway, Oliver really is enjoying it).

Anyway, we're all settled in for now-planning to go for a swim later, so wait for our next blog! Love you all- hope you enjoy our blog!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Dog's Life

At camp, it truly is a dog’s life. There are no sidewalks or leash laws (well, there might be, but no one pays much attention to them), and most of the dogs on my dirt road are allowed to roam freely.

My own dog Oliver loves to be at camp. One reason is that he has my undivided attention. I don’t get up and leave for work every morning, and because I’m at camp, I don’t go away on long business trips or vacations. I confess that all the dogs we have owned have been allowed to sleep on the furniture, and at night, slumber along beside us in the bed. Oliver sleeps attached to me like a tick. He doesn’t bother me much except for the occasional leg twitching during chipmunk chasing episodes during his REM sleep.

Oliver's dog friend Elli visits him every day.  She knows he is old, so she just touches his nose to say hi and then she leaves to find more frisky companions.

Oliver is an old dog. He’s lost a few teeth. He used to bark happily when I had been gone and returned. Now, he can’t hear me when I come home so it might be ten or fifteen minutes before he realizes I’m there, but then he barks happily, just like always. Oliver still likes to play “throw toy” after dinner. He enjoys the company of children and other dogs. He loves to swim in the lake and ride in the kayak.

Although his eyes are cloudy, he can still see anyone who approaches the camp by land or by water. Oliver is still a great watchdog, but he’s easily startled when anyone approaches him from behind. I can leave the room and he doesn’t realize I’m gone. Sometimes his hips hurt and his legs fail him after he’s been sleeping for a long time, and he has a hard time climbing the stairs. He no longer chases chipmunks, but he insists on a morning walk. We walk the same distance as always, but we do it much more slowly than we did, say, five years ago.

I once wrote a book about dogs, called The Dogs of War. It is a collection of stories about the role of companion animals, mostly dogs, during the American Civil War, spin off research from a historical novel I was writing at the same time. Oliver was by my side as I was writing both of these books, listening as I tried out my stories on him. I talk out loud when I write, and then I type what I say—it sounds strange, but it works for me. Oliver has heard many of my stories over the last 13 years. I imagine if he could tell me a story, he would tell me about a woman who spends her summers in Maine with a wonderful dog.

“Is that all?” I ask.

“Isn’t that enough?” he replies.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kayaking on Little Sebago Lake

A few years ago, I bought a pair of bright orange 1-person kayaks as a birthday present to myself. The opening in my kayak is large enough to carry a medium sized dog as a passenger, and on hot days like today, my old dog Oliver and I like to go kayaking on our end of Little Sebago Lake.

Oliver and I can glide through the water swiftly, but not fast enough to wreck my hair do. Once I tipped us over in deep water and wasn’t able to turn the kayak right again in the deep water. Oliver and I had to swim back to shore. We both wear life jackets.

A good kayaking excursion is a close circuit of the shoreline, including the coves that are not visible from the middle of the lake. It is not unusual to spot ducks, loons, cormorants, and eagles. We see many turtles, and once, a pair of muskrats. I’m lucky enough to live on the water, so I like to find a way to engage with the lake as well as the woods. The kayak is the perfect watercraft for me—no engine, no registration needed, and I can practically lift the boat in and out of the water with one hand. Don’t even get me started on motor boats (we have two). I’ll blog about that issue when Rollie gets here to put them in the water.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Moosehead Lake Trip

Moosehead Lake in Maine is the largest lake east of the Mississippi contained within one state. It is awesome, and I am headed up there this weekend for a college girlfriends reunion (6th annual event). While I’m there, I’m sure to see a real live moose or two. In that spirit, I will include a link here to a short article I wrote about moose that appeared in an online magazine a few years ago. I took the picture below on a visit to the Moosehead area two years ago. I could have reached out of the car window and touched that moose!

Monday, July 5, 2010


One of the things I love about my time in Maine is that I get a chance to reconnect with friends with whom I grew up and went to school when I lived in Maine all the time. Last week, I drove with two high school girlfriends to visit at third friend at his home on Snow Pond, near where we all grew up. In the car, I did some math. WE HAVE BEEN OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL FOR MORE THAN FORTY YEARS!

A lot had changed in forty years. Over lunch (lobster rolls, sweet potato chips, hummus and a good bottle of pinot noir), we spoke of marriages, divorces, children and grandchildren. There was the usual litany of physical ailments—knee replacements, failed thyroids, arthritis, cancer. So many changes.

After dessert, we took a boat ride and got caught in a sudden rain shower. We stopped the boat, pulled the canvas over our heads to wait out the rain, and told stories and laughed as we remembered people and events from a long time ago. We used old nicknames—Malsie for me, or maybe Malsey, nobody ever wrote it down.


When the rain stopped, we threw back the canvas and continued our boat ride. We spotted a bald eagle high in a pine tree, fanning its wings to dry in the sun. A loon popped up in the water beside us. We told more stories. We laughed some more. Old friends with a shared history.

Note to self: Some things never change.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Settled in

I always have a writing project planned while I’m at camp. This year, I have several, including this blog. For two summers, I was lucky that my university supported my writing projects with grant money. Ordinarily, I stay very busy writing for at least the first few weeks I’m at camp—mostly during the rainy days of June, before I “settle in” as my mother would say. By mid July the humidity usually sets in. It makes the crackers soggy, the toilet paper damp, the salt unshakeable, and me lazy. I set aside my writing and spend the muggy days sitting on the newly painted deck , making a bigger dent in my stack of novels than my research books. At last I feel settled in to lazy lakeside living. Some places, like an ocean beach, are best when arrived at. But the lake is best for settling in, which is infinitely more satisfying than arriving.

From my reading (note how I rationalize my laziness):

“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.” —May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude