Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Secret Treasures Revealed

I've been away for a few days, my friends.  Well, I've been here, but I've been writing and immersing myself in the work that needs to be done.  When I need a break from sentences, I go scavenging for treasures, as you've been seeing in recent posts.  A few weeks ago I bought an old, beat-up painter's box at a yard sale.  I own many of these boxes, and I use them to store art supplies, trinkets, bits and magpie-baubles.  This particular box I love.  It's spattered and smeared with paint--a well-loved, well-used box, just right for housing treasures:
a vintage-style postcard from the island,
wave-worn stones,
pieces of birch bark curling like parchment, 
tiny pine cones, dried Queen Anne's lace,

gull feathers, berries and greens,

dried lavender blossoms, white sea shells,
and the unseen but deeply felt scent of the sea.

Hope you're having a beautiful week.  
Thank you for inspiring me every single day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Organic Inspiration: Angela Adams

Angela Adams is a Portland, Maine, designer whose work I love.  She dreams up everything from custom made rugs to furniture to delicious tiles and glassware.  Her colors are vibrant and her shapes and themes are drawn from nature.
Her Portland showroom is in the heart of the very hip east side neighborhood on Munjoy Hill.  You can also find her tiles at Old Port Specialty Tile just a couple of blocks away on Middle Street.    
Photos from Apartment Therapy

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Way to a Girl's Heart

I was minding my business,
photographing some Chinese lanterns I'd just bought,
when I realized that I wasn't alone in the kitchen.

The baker man had arrived 
to make some amazing, magical bread.
The key to staying together nineteen years: marry a man who can bake.
(Oh, and it doesn't hurt if he's cute!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Contents of My Pockets & Bowls & Jars & Soul

When fall arrives I become like a squirrel 
out gathering food for winter.  

In addition to craving all sorts of hearty, starchy foods, 
my soul and eyes and nose and hands also crave 
a good rich, earthy feast. 
Everywhere I go, I rather greedily stuff 
my pockets and bags with beauty.
The roadside, salt marsh, and sandy beach 
are among my favorite places to hunt & gather.
Once home, I spill my treasures
onto the table--the better to admire and plan.
I fill a wooden bowl with buttery-gold farmers market pears 
and a metal sap bucket with wild asters. 
These miniature, often temporary, collections serve as touchstones
around our house, places to rest the eye and let the mind wander 
before focusing again on paying bills or cooking dinner.  
I like to think they ground me, 
although to say that they distract me 
from what needs doing is probably much closer to the truth.  
This magpie will never be as practical 
as the clever, prudent squirrel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ebb Tide

I've been thinking about relationships I've known that have weathered tough times and have even thrived after seemingly insurmountable challenges.  Less dramatic, but also difficult, is learning how to see the beauty in the every day, the shifts and rhythms of a relationship during times of abundance as well as times when one feels stripped down to the bone, raw, alone.  This is perhaps a quieter lesson, but it is one that asks for patience, respect, and no small dose of faith.  Expressing this beautifully is the passage below from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea: "Intermittency," she writes, "-- an impossible lesson for human beings to learn. How can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one's existence? How can one learn to take the trough of the wave? 

It is easier to understand here on the beach, where the breathlessly still ebb tides reveal another life below the level which mortals usually reach. In this crystalline moment of suspense, one has a sudden revelation of the secret kingdom at the bottom of the sea. Here in the shallow flats one finds, wading through warm ripples, great horse conchs pivoting on a leg; white sand dollars, marble medallions engraved in the mud; and myriads of bright-colored cochina-clams, glistening in the foam, their shells opening and shutting like butterflies' wings. 

So beautiful is the still hour of the sea's withdrawal, as beautiful as the sea's return when the encroaching waves pound up the beach, pressing to reach those dark rumpled chains of seaweed which mark the last high tide.

Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally."
 I've been rereading this passage off and on all afternoon.  It's low tide now as I type this.  The waves have pulled back to reveal dinner for the seagulls as well as rocks upon which to sit and soak in the last rays of the afternoon sun.  My love sits near me reading a book.  Tonight there will be pasta and candles and the moon and stars.  We will celebrate the equinox and another autumn together as the tide rolls back in toward the shore.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Ferry to America

Some people who live on the island refer to the mainland as "America," as in, "You goin' over to America today?"  And while it's a mere fifteen minutes over to Portland, it does often feel like a world--or at least a country--away.  Most of the time I'd rather stay here, but one does need things like hair salons and farmers' markets and banks, so trips to America are necessary.  Plus, the ferry ride weaves its own kind of magic.  Whatever the weather, whatever your mood, there's this harbor and the seagulls and boats of all shapes and sizes, and salty wind in your hair.  If one has to make a commute, this is the way to travel.
Before you even leave the island, you wait down at the landing next to Forest City Seafoods; they are open in the afternoons and they actually sell only lobster, which for some people in these parts covers the entire category of "seafoods."  If you like lobster, it doesn't come much fresher than this.
On weekends and warm days, you need to fight for a good seat on the open upper deck, but the day I took this shot was windy, so only brave souls toughed it out for the whole journey.  Yep, that's Todd on the right.  He thinks of the front seat as "his" and doesn't care if it's windy.

Once in Portland, there are endless choices and places to go.  I grew up near here, and I went to college here, so even though it's been 18 years since I lived in Portland, I still think of it as home.  It is the place where I feel most myself, most comfortable in my own skin.  Do you have a place like that, too?  
On Wednesdays and Saturdays we go to the farmers' market.  I love the picture above because this farmer's young daughter had made the "onions" sign and had arranged this wonderfully minimalist display.  Very zen.  I liked that her mum had let her do this.  
I snapped the picture above on Congress Street where you can find the Maine College of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, the Portland Library, and loads of funky antiques stores and restaurants.  It runs west to east, straight through the city's heart.
Portland's Old Port, down on the waterfront, is the center of tourism and shopping.  When I first graduated from college I worked (and played) down here.  It's wonderfully local and pretty and hip, even after all these years.  Blanche and Mimi is a cool little French-inspired homewares shop.
The east side of Portland is the up and coming hip neighborhood.  The area called Munjoy Hill used to be a little bit scary, but today it is the place to go for great shopping and AMAZING food.  Portland is a foodie's paradise.  I'd choose it over Boston any day, plus it is more reasonable and far less pretentious.  The photo above was shot in a great little coffeehouse on India Street called Coffee by Design.  They roast their own beans and have a few locations around town.  

My cats opened a bakery!  No, not really, but I kid you not when I say that this place is phenomenal.  If you are in Portland, you must go there!
I want to show you dozens more pretty and inspiring places (oh, like Z Fabrics--I'll take you there in another post), but we mustn't miss the ferry back home!
We make the ferry just in time, and I toss my bag on the bench beside me.  It's stuffed with fresh veggies from the market, so tonight I'll make a white bean and swiss chard soup.  
A quarter of an hour and one chapter of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte later, the island landing welcomes us back from our journey to America.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Island Time

When we first arrived on the island, a woman I met here told me, "You're on island time now."  I had a feeling then that I knew what she meant, but it's only after being here a couple of weeks that it's just beginning to sink in.  I wake at sunrise without an alarm.  I watch every sunset.  I see my neighbors walking their dogs or riding their bikes past my doorstep each morning and evening.   

I read or work on my writing for what feels like half an hour, then I look up at the clock, and three hours have passed.  I've stopped wearing my watch (gasp).  The only thing I rush for is to catch the ferry to the mainland, because unlike everything else around here, it does run like clockwork.  
Yesterday I arrived at the post office around lunch time to find the door locked.  No worries.  I just waited fifteen minutes until the postmistress came back from her lunch break.  It was a good excuse to go buy myself a pumpkin pie ice cream "Down Front" and to catch up on the announcements posted on the community bulletin board near the ferry landing.
Moments stretch into whole afternoons, and a brief glimpse of a seashell or a wildflower colors the entire day with a particular mood.

We have always been avid readers, but here, reading does not have to be squeezed into the gaps between appointments and meetings and classes; on the island it is the center of our days again.  

Sunlight and shadows shift across a room, a cove, a salt marsh, and with these changes come new thoughts, a new sense of being in the moment.
I forget thirty-five years when I climb among the rocks, collecting heart-shaped stones, sea glass, and shells with which to stuff my pockets.
When the wind picks up and clouds roll in, I am fastened to the view in front of my house, watching wave after wave reach for the shore.
As sunset arrives, the marsh turns golden and the cattails come alive.
We head down the road to see what new towers and totems have been built today.  

Bedtime will come when exhaustion takes over.  My conscious mind swims on the surface for how long--seconds an hour?--before it dives down deep into the sound of ocean waves and the oblivion it needs before the coming of a new day.