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We Went to Maine to Get a Girl

Saturday, November 28, 2015

We went to Maine to pick up a girl who wasn't quite done with her classes. 

We got there on the Monday before Thanksgiving quite late, after my bedtime, but she had people she wanted us to meet.

It made us happy that she wanted anyone to meet us, so we pulled ourselves together and ran around in the freezing night with her, from building to building, meeting her friends. We kept going back to the car and our suitcases for more coats. 

The first thing Phoebe showed us was the effort made by the first year students under her care as a student advisor. They'd been working for several nights on "Fantasy Flock," and had gotten this far. They were trying to get it done before we arrived. I was impressed! The blues are ever the hardest part.

I was thrilled to pieces to see my new friend Merlin Tuttle's photograph of a lesser long-nosed bat feeding at a saguaro flower. It graces the cover of a biology textbook used at Bowdoin. What a lovely convergence of beautiful things. 

The students who'd been knocking themselves out trying to finish this puzzle paid tribute to the artist who was causing them so much agony with her dang sky washes.

It was quite humbling and very sweet. Mingo's laughing in the middle. 

When we'd finished meeting everyone, we finally got to bed at our dear friends Dede and Dave's house, about a half hour away. Bill, Liam and I were tuckered out, having flown from Ohio and driven to Maine from Boston that evening. Phoebe wanted us to accompany her to her BioGeoChem class the next morning, to get a little taste of a Bowdoin class. It was fascinating, relevant, well taught and accessible. Phoebe wants to understand what's happening to the earth, so she's planning to declare an Oceanography and Earth Sciences major, with a minor in Spanish. 

What a wonderful place to do that!

On our way to class I spied a big fatbottom campus gray squirrel and knelt to make his picture. I called my little family over and gave a short lecture on Bergmann's Rule, which says that the colder the climate, the larger and bulkier a species becomes. Bodies become burly and tanklike. Extremities may get shorter; ears, which radiate heat, will shrink; fur thickens, of course. This squirrel looks only superficially like our southern Ohio squirrels. Sort of the polar equivalent. Phoebe needled me, saying that the only genetic difference is that this squirrel lives near Moulton (a dining hall). So FAT. I begged to differ, and went all Science Chimp on her with the Bergmann's Rule stuff.

We found some cheap storm windows on a building across the alley from it reflecting most magically on an old brick wall. WOW.

Although I hadn't had much sleep, I got up early that morning (not hard in Maine, where even in late November, it's getting light at 5:30 AM). I ran for a couple of hours before we were to meet Phoebe for class, exploring some new marsh and woodland in Freeport. I have to explore when I'm in a new place, on foot, as far out as I can go in the time that I have. I'm compelled to do this, and I'm so glad that I do. I meet people and see things and get a feeling for the land under my feet, for the birds that live there, for the trees and the earth, too.

 I find that my hosts, rather than being put out by my disappearing for a couple of hours, seem to understand and appreciate this. I figure as a guest that getting out of their hair in the morning is the least I can do.

The best stuff happens then. The best light happens then.

I approached these fallen apples with high hopes for a nomad's breakfast, but subfreezing temperatures had turned them to rocksweet mush. There were apples everywhere. It was as if winter had caught the trees unawares. 

I missed my running buddy something awful, but he was back home, staying with Wally for a few nights. He was happy there, but I could feel him missing me as he woke and wondered where I was running. I felt sure he could see this sandy coastal road in my mind's eye, as I envisioned him nosing through the cold brush. I think he gets my pictures. Sometimes I get his, too.

Not far from here I heard waxwings calling, but they weren't cedar waxwings, whose every whistle, burp and ahem I know by heart, having been mama to three of them. The trill was about an octave too low-pitched and throaty to be made by a little cedar waxwing. They had to be Bohemians. I searched and searched the pine tops, but I couldn't find them. There were two, and I didn't see them. It would have been only the second time in my life to see them. Western Newfoundland, 1983, I believe, was the last time. Sigh. But I heard them, I was near them, and that is something. Better than not hearing them and being hundreds of miles away from them.

I stood dumbfounded at the light and the sky in the marsh. The mirrors were ringed with ice.

I tried to imagine seeing this every day, watching the marsh turn from green to molten gold as the ice came in. 

 And then to see it all go to white. I'm not sure I'd want to see that, color junkie that I am. Oh, Maine. You're breaking my heart. So beautiful, but so cold!


Maine is where I would love to retire (again). I love the cold and having visited Maine only twice, I would move there tomorrow.

Go Phoebe! The world needs a generation of you, seeking to understand, heal and protect.

Posted by Gail Spratley November 28, 2015 at 7:37 PM

Agree with both the comments. I grew up in Montana and dearly miss those obvious seasons. I wonder if, with my high pitch hearing loss, Bohemian Waxwings would be easier for me to hear.

So proud of Phoebe and her explorations in learning, and she is not even mine. I bet her friends are awsome, too.

Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous November 29, 2015 at 2:18 AM

I think Phoebe's theory is correct regarding the squirrels. Our squirrels here at Manderly are enormous! Not because our house is in a cold climate (we're mid-Atlantic) but because they are very well-fed. We have plenty of nut trees, berries, and, of course, our ever-popular bird feeders. Squirrel-proof -- I think not! When I go into other neighborhoods and see their squirrels, and how small they are in comparison, I sometimes get the feeling that I am running a breeding program for a super race of squirrels.

Too cold back there for me but that marsh is lovely and I do miss squirrels.

Too cold back there for me but that marsh is lovely and I do miss squirrels.

My summer assignment will be in Maine. This blog is already making me homesick for a place I've never been.

OMG Liam is taller than Phoebe! At least it appears so in the first photo. Time is flying by. It is wonderful that Phoebe is enjoying her further education. Friends...the spice of life.

Maine does look so beautiful. What a great journey!

how to explain those puny little reddish squirrels in New England?

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