Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spring Sunset

Just another beautiful sunset on Peaks Island. Captured this shot from the stern of the Island Romance coming home on the 7:15 from intown. It takes a combination of different elements to make something special and tonight they were all in place. In the Pacific when the sun sets there's that magic moment of a green explosion you see from time to time as the sun sinks below the horizen. Here on Peaks, it's slower and more subtle. If the clouds are right, the air is cool and clear and you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you find yourself in the middle of something special.

First, you sense something might be happening as the sun moves toward setting. It's bright, it's rays take up a lot of space in the sky and the clouds are formed just right above the horizon. Then, as the sun sinks, the afterglow starts to slowly spread upward and cover more and more of the horizen. The last step only lasts for a few minutes but a slow gentle explosion of color forms above the horizen enveloping the clouds and just flat out glows for a few minutes before its ultimate dimming into darkness.

The stern of the boat coming into Peaks was definitely a little fuller than normal tonight as everyone wanted to just watch the show with not a lot of talking going on. Just watching and meditating over something a little better than usual. It was enjoyable watching a lot of Islanders crawling up Welch street walking backwards taking in the show snapping away with their cellphones. Unfortunately, my hands were full lugging stuff as I was walking up the hill so my camera didn't capture the afterglow, only the preglow but it was still something a little special for an early Spring night. Enjoy, I sure did.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pearlington, Mississippi

I was fortunate last week to meet a hero. Jeanne Brooks is a native and 30 year teacher/librarian for the Murphy Elementary School in Pearlington, MS. Through the efforts of fellow teachers here, she was able to spend about two weeks in Maine. One week was spent in local elementary schools sharing her Hurricane Katrina experiences with the children. The last week was spent on Peaks Island touring Maine and New Hampshire. An excellent description of her time in the schools can be found in an article in our local newspaper The Forecaster. The web address is:

Pearlington, MS was an unincorporated town of about 1,700 receiving it's services from Hancock County. It's community center was the Murphy Elementary School. It's located about five miles inland on a river which empties into the Gulf. After Katrina struck, Pearlington was literally destroyed. Today, about 900 citizens have returned. The school could not be repaired. Yet, it reopened in October with the students being bussed twenty miles to trailers established in Kiln. The students begin their day around 6am and don't get home until after 4pm. Morning naps are not uncommon.

Jeanne Brooks has become the spokesperson for the school but more importantly for her students. Through her efforts she has become the focal point for coordinating numerous volunteer efforts that have sprung up across the country to assist the school. A wonderful source of information on Pearlington and the Murphy school is the Aspen Times. It's web address is:

Huh?? The Aspen Times? Now, let's see. Maine, Portland, Peaks Island, Aspen, Carbondale, numerous others and Pearlington, MS. I told you she was a hero. Many, many individuals, organizations, churches and entire towns have adopted Pearlington and the Murphy School as projects to become involved in on a person to person and group to person basis. Some of the offers of help have been unrealistic and not extremely helpful but always appreciated. Yet, it falls on local individuals like Jeanne Brooks to sort them all out and get the word out to the various groups as to what's needed and even how to possibly get it there on top of her day job working for her students. For Jeanne, her two weeks here was a chance to meet new students, tell of her experiences and those of her students and just have a chance to look around and see fully intact houses with electricity and running water, standing trees and fully stocked stores she could just walk into at any time, buy what she wanted and walk out.

This will easily be a ten year restoration project for Pearlington and the entire Gulf Coast. While the arguments go on with insurance companies over settlements, while FEMA revises, refines and changes it's own decisions on demolition and rebuilding, the people to people assistance will continue and that's a story that's not being shared enough.

Thank you Jeanne for your efforts. You are a hero and you will be hearing from me.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Spring has Sprung!

What a beautiful early Spring day on Peaks Island. The forsythia are just entering full bloom, the grass is greening up by the minute and the bikes----many bikes----too many bikes have descended on us.

This was a school vacation week and all week long day trippers have been arriving on each boat with young people in tow pushing their bikes off the boat onto the Island in search of something to do. It's been a week which has kind of kicked off spring training for the Islanders for the full force of "silly season". While it's not here yet, you can absolutely sense it in the air. Many people buzzing around the Bay Lines trying to figure out how many tickets to buy, where to get on the boat, what to see on Peaks and above all else how do I get back and when????? The questions seem endless, pointless and often senseless but on they flow.

Yet, today coming home on the 2:15 boat there was a wonderful man with a slightly southern accent with two obvious grandkids riding with him. Two beautiful girls about the age of 7 and 4 were taking their very first boat ride on the ocean. It turns out they were all from West Virginia and it was the first time any of them had ever seen an ocean. I'm not sure who's nose was pressed more closely against the window but none of them missed anything; especially the landing. They were all duly impressed with the throwing of the lines to tie up the boat. I last saw them strolling up Welch Street with their heads on swivels taking everything in. I sure hope they enjoyed their walk around Peaks Island "downfront" as much as I enjoyed watching them. Happy Spring everyone.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Peaks Sunset

Saturday overall was a gray, foggy, damp day. Yet one hour before sunset, out popped the sun for a beautiful end to the day. Now, was Saturday a sunny day or not? If we were in Ireland, it would definitely meet the criteria for deeming it a sunny day. Any day in Ireland containing ten minutes or more of sunshine is deemed a sunny day. The rest of the day is simply deemed as "soft". A soft day sure is an apt description for many days on the Island but I believe I'll call Saturday a sunny day. What else would cause such a beautiful sunset. Enjoy it as I did.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Peaks Island Conumdrum

It's Easter weekend, the rain and thunder have passed, the fog has descended but somewhere to the west, the sun is trying to shine upon us all.

Yet, the annual Peaks Island dilemma has descended on me; to put the shovels of winter's snows away or leave them out for one last potential winter storm. That is the annual question which has no definitive answer. If you believe in the "butterfly effect" as I do, then making an incorrect decision will have a large impact on someone somewhere. I definitely remember one Easter Sunday driving back to Connecticut from Massachusetts and sitting perfectly still on the Mass Turnpike with no one going anywhere while 18" of snow filled the highway. It was nice just standing around chatting with your neighbor watching some light snowball fight breaking out while everyone just sat there until the plows cleared the way.

In New England and especially in Maine there is never a statewide news broadcast announcing the end of winter and the beginning of spring. There is always that overlap between the two when the first warm days spread over us bringing us the delusion that winter has ended. And always, year after year, there seems to be one last blast of cold along with a day of snow/sleet/hail/freezing rain to let us know we jumped the gun again one more time.

I always figure if I leave the shovels out that one last winter's day will pass us by but if I make the decision too early to put them away we'll all pay a price. Now, how can I impose that on my fellow Islanders so if you're out walking and pass a house with the shovels still out there on the back porch and it's sunny and 55 degrees, just give a wink and a nod for you'll know why they're still there. Happy Easter everyone!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Welcome to Peaks Island

I love this picture. There are many stories contained in it. It's the old Peaks Island dock in the milder days of 1976. Sure looks different than the docking complex we have today.

Of course, the Big Mac takes up far more space than the old Rebel, the world's littlest aircraft carrier, so restorations were sorely needed. But, just looking at the taxi, the falling down docking railings and the old Bread Truck bring back many fond memories.

Jimmy Brown's bread truck was an Island institution. Many business transactions were carried out from that vehicle. Ticket sales, mail delivery up the hill to the post office on the corner right next to Abe's Market, freight hauling, paper deliveries and often a free ride up the cobble laden Welch Street to an ailing friend returning from a doctor's visit uptown. Of course there always were more than a few sporting event pick-em cards sold during the football season as well. I always felt Jimmy Brown's main purpose in meeting every boat occurred during foggy times. He'd park the truck as close to the end of the pier as possible facing Portland, check his watch and when he could hear the incoming Bay Line boat approaching would begin flashing his lights and honking the horn. Radar, we don't need no stinkin' radar, we had Jimmy Brown's truck to guide us in to Peaks! Those were the days of dead reckoning by the compass. Amazingly, I only remember one time when we popped out of the fog at the Island down near Centennial Beach and had to make a hard right to get to the dock.

The taxi stories I'll save for another day. The drivers I knew from back then deserve tales of their own. Needless to say, Jimmy Brown was just one of many quiet, smiling Islanders that didn't take up a lot of space but just kept the Island functioning. Thanks Jimmy for all you did.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

An Hommage to Fenway

Nothing resonates through New England as Opening Day at Fenway Park. The first home game of the Red Sox is as sure a sign spring has arrived in New England as the crocuses blooming. Fenway Park, our own little band box originally opening in 1912 the same week the Titanic sank with seats too small, too many posts obstructing our view, way too little parking, standing puddles after a rain delay and facilities clearly built in 1912. Yet, no greater monument to the first church of baseball exists today. The only park that even comes close anymore is sited in Chicago where the Cubs annually endure another year of frustration. If by some miracle the Sox and Cubs ever meet in the World Series, more innings will be played in that series than has ever been played in history and at the last out, the world will end. Revelations will have nothing on this experience.

Yet, Fenway is our band box, it's our house of memories, it's our linkage between the many generations of fans. It's my memories of sitting with my grandfather bemoaning whatever the most current plight of some Red Sox player who was not performing up to the exhalted expectations placed upon him by the Boston media writers. It's where Ted Williams roamed left field knowing every bump and dent in the Green Monster to play the caroms, it's Mel Parnell pitching brilliantly and losing another 2-1 game, it's Carl Yastremski alone dragging the team to the Series in 1967, it's Luis Tiant in 1975 looking every fan in the park in the eye before delivering another pitch, it's Dick Stuart hitting two home runs but allowing three runs in on errors (they didn't call him Dr. Stoneglove for nothing), it's year after year after year of wonderful and haunting memories. Too many games I've watched between my fingers chanting whatever mantra I thought could lead them to victory.

Yes, today is Opening Day the rebirth of another baseball year and the rebirth of the memories of my youth. Nothing is ever wrong on Opening Day; the grass is greener, the sky is bluer, the hopes never more optimistic. Let the reality begin.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Peaks Red Sox Nation

Yes, Red Sox Nation has a strong presence on the Island. Many Islanders have lived in other places but The Nation has definitely followed us all here. And yes, there are two or three Yankee fanatics, but they are tolerated in the interests of achieving Island diversity.

I've been a Red Sox follower since the 1953 season. I got hooked while delivering newspapers in my central Massachusetts home town of Hopedale. I just read the sports page while walking my paper route which lead to many nights listening to the Sox on my little radio in my bedroom. Of course between 1953 and 1967 I have no memory of ever moving out of the bottom of the American League. All during high school and college I managed to make five or six games a season at Fenway and have fond memories of watching Ted Williams and many others play, not all of them majestically.

Today's pictures reflect a magical trip made by our oldest son Sean and I to his first Sox game in about 1977. He was desperate to make the trek so one day off we went to Boston arriving at the Park around 12:30 for a 1pm game. Unfortunately, the starting time had been kicked back to 2pm for television reasons. So we sat, watched batting practice, jogging in the outfield and ate hot dogs and ice cream. About 1:45, the fans filled the old ballpark and the noise seriously increased as the Sox took the field. Poor Sean at the ripe old age of 6, turned to me and said "Dad, it's too noisy, I'm scared, can we go home now?" A major ethical dilemma but I said, of course we can go home so we left. I parked the car in our Hub Furniture parking lot as the last out was made. It was an absolute memory maker, at least for me.

In the 2004, League Championship Series we were in Boulder visiting Sean and we all watched games four and five. While Sean's interests today mainly lie in the Colorado Avalanche hockey team and the Denver Broncos football team, some inner Sox heartbeat was restarted and he was going crazy with the rest of us as inning after inning piled up and the Sox managed to come back from a 3-0 deficit to take the series and advance to the World Series. Red Sox attire now resides in Boulder just as it always has on Peaks Island.

Yes, the Red Sox Nation is alive and well in Maine and in Colorado!!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sam McCain

It's been two months since Sam McCain passed away on Peaks Island. I, and many many others, considered Sam a friend and an Island institution. Sam was a retired Episcopal minister who served his church in Kauai, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Maine. Peaks Island was so fortunate to be able to share in his life. It took him a very long time to get home from the boat since he absolutely stopped and talked with everyone he met. Even when his vision was failing he still had a wave and kind hello from his scooter.

Sam was a rarity in today's world; he was an individual of committment. Too often today, positions and views are altered on a dime in order to gain some small tactical short-term political advantage. Sam's views never waivered. Shortly before his death he managed to get off a letter to President Bush admonishing him on not doing more for the homeless. His last task was to sit on a committee which accepted applications for financial assistance with property taxes. No one would ever question the outcome of a decision he made.

Thanks Sam. I'm glad I knew you. Rest in peace.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Peaks Memories

At least the sun has made an appearance today. Watching the Red Sox take a 2-1 decision over the Rangers last night while the snow was falling all around us was unsettling. Nothing like early April in Maine!! While the waters of revaluation and property tax increases roil around us as well, I am constantly dragged back to the Island we came to back in the mid 1970's.

It was a simpler Island back then. No sidewalks, no paved parking lot, no boats with lights on them for reading, no 10:30 pm boat, no early Sunday morning boat, no library, no restaurants in the winter, no big item pickup in September, more year round rentals, an average of about 75 students at the school and nowhere near the influx of visitors in the Summer. I'm sure I missed quite a few things but it did seem simpler back then.

It seemed like we had walked into utter chaos our first winter on the Island. It felt like we lived in Nor'easter heaven as one after another just pounded us. Ice floes stretched across the Bay and you could almost walk to Little Diamond Island or House Island. Even the Coast Guard Cutter was called in to keep the Islands open for the Bay Line boats. In the midst of that, in early December the captains and deck hands of the Bay Lines went on strike. Now, that caught our attention. One boat off the Island at 7:15am and two boats back at 3:15 and 5:30pm. Talk about a screeching halt to the old idiom of "there's always another boat". Christmas shopping and dinner out took place on early Saturday afternoons. Talk about a town meeting twice a day; that was it. 350 souls (at least) cheek to jowell twice a day packed on both the upper and lower decks. We even made Walter Cronkite's Evening News it was such a filmable event. This strike lasted about two months and frankly, it was one of the best Christmases we ever had. Certainly it halted all the extraneous hu-ha's that go on around it for that year. Life got whittled down to the pure essentials that winter.

I'll admit I've always enjoyed the term of "silly season" for the summer months. It's always seemed appropriate since the one thing all Islanders seem to know instinctively is that they're not in charge; mother nature is. Living on the ocean does that to you. Living on an Island and depending on a boat for your transportation subject to winds, tides and mechanical failures simply puts an added emphasis on the belief. Yet, like the incoming tide, the swell of humanity each May that descends on us all seem to carry the singular belief (along with their cellphones) that they are in charge of their destiny and everything must conform to their wants and desires. Silly Season sure works for me. Each year like Capistrano, they return and as a sign of warmth, long days, a world of green and golden sunsets I welcome them but they sure make Labor Day my favorite day as they depart.

Enjoy the pictures from the winter of 1976 of Welsh Street. Where did the Landing and Port Island Realty go? Man, that ice was thick that year. One of my favorite house restorations done at Spar Cove. Enjoy my memories; I have many more and I'll share as they bubble up from time to time.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's a gray damp early Spring day on Peaks Island. Peaks is as much a state of mind as a pile of rocks off of Portland, Maine in Casco Bay. We've been in the sun and warmth of Spring for nearly two weeks now but yesterday crashed through the illusion with driving rain/sleet/snow/wind and generally a foul day. Yet, the early flowers drank all they could get since nothing had fallen for nearly a month.

I have no idea what will flow from these aging fingers but we'll see if I have anything to put forth. I tend to just watch as the incongruities of life march on by creating mirthful laughter at the follies of the human race.

Peaks Island has been our home for over thirty years now. We moved here in 1975 to a far different Island than we're occupying today. We fell into a home built in 1860 and began decades of attempts to keep it from falling into the sea in a pile of rubble. Not much didn't need replacing or shoring up. Hell, just trying to find someone to provide assistance has always been a constant here. Not many people choose to spend time waiting for a boat to come out and perform repairs not knowing when they can get their truck and equipment off the Island. That is one thing that has definitely not changed over the years. Annual property taxes were a hefty $800 back in 1975; today, next year they will be over $9,000. Ahhh, progress!!

OK, as stuff slides by I'll post a comment or two as it interests me.