Thursday, February 25, 2010

Drawn to the Sea

I am drawn to the sounds, smells and seclusion of the sea. At the sea's edge, I wander for hours taking pictures, kicking sand and watching waves roll in from somewhere out in the expansive heather-gray pond. The clapping of the waves, squawking of the occasional gull and whisper of the sand skipping through clumps of tall grass instantly remind me where I am when I close my eyes.

I could never live in Denver or Austin. Sure they each have their advantages: the dramatic Rockies border Denver's backyard and Austin gets 300 days of sun per year. Despite these incentives, I would rather live in a cold, rainy place where I could go walk along the ocean each day and listen to the sea slap against the shore and smell the bitter scent of salt in stagnant tidepools. In my free time, I often drive to the sea, even for just an hour or two, to meander the shore.

My favorite sign, Owl's Head state park.

An oil shed on Pemaquid Point.

A sunset Down East.

Ernie looking for footing on the a rugged point in Owl's Head state park.

A granite beach in Bass Harbor.

Dogs know the sea is playful. They run feverishly to and fro, chasing other dogs and kicking up sand in their wake like jet contrails in the sky. I try my best to follow suit.

Looking south from the southernmost tip of Mt. Desert Island.

A weathered tree on Owl's Head.

Ernie skipping stones in West Penobscot Bay.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Hike in the Beginning of Spring

Sitting on a barren ridge overlooking the Belgrade lakes, I kicked spots of lichen looking for marble sized rocks. Wind gusts flexed the trees and wrestled pine needles as I picked up a small dice sized piece of granite, pulled back the pouch of my wrist rocket and let go in the general direction of a nearby tree. With a zing, the rock chipped off a quarter sized piece of bark and ricocheted towards the frozen lake some 600 feet below.

After exhausting the aerodynamic rocks within reach of my feet, I set my wrist rocket down to enjoy the unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon unfuddled by boyish temptation.

I kicked my feet out on an ottoman-like rock, rested my head on my scrunched up Filson Mackinaw cruiser, and crossed my fingers on my chest.

Two hours earlier, Dan and I had set off on a quest to carpe diem despite having celebrated my 22nd birthday the night before. After deliberating between a trip to the coast and a local gun show, we opted for a more feral outing and headed due west towards the Belgrade lakes region of central Maine. I threw two wrist rockets into the back of our car and we set off. After a thirty minute hike under the canopy of fir trees, the foliage opened up exposing an easterly view of central Maine's lakes and rivers. For the next few hours we shot at trees with our wrist rockets, captured the season's first cosmic rays and watched the occasional jet on the final leg of its transatlantic journey.

After twenty minutes of daydreaming and listening to the sounds of snow melting, my boyish impulses returned. I thumbed the blade of my Swiss Army Knife open and whittled a fir branch with no intended destination or journey other than tapping the smell of fresh fir. As the branch shortened and narrowed, my mind jumped to an earlier day some 15 years ago when woods-lore captured my imagination and time.

Building on my countless hours spent struggling to make fire with pieces of wood in my back yard as a seven year old, I started shaping the piece of fir in my left hand into a spindle as part of a bow drill. A bow drill uses a friction to create a small coal.

After finalizing the spindle, I set out in search of the board and hand piece. Scavenging through the underbrush, I narrowly avoided two branches to the face and eventually settled on a dead fir branch and spent five minutes banging it against a pointy rock like one of those dudes from a Geico commercial. Next, I pulled out my red lace from my Danner boot and was off to the races. A half an hour of swearing, bloodied knuckles and frantic blows into a small nest of dried grass later, we finally got a flame.

The fruits of our labor.

Yours truly in my Filson Mackinaw Cruiser and an LL Bean Chambray work shirt.

Dan letting one rip.

Searching for a target.

As the sun sank towards the mountains we shot our last rocks off towards the distant lakes and headed back towards town and the promise of warm food. It was a good day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Out of Reception: A Dry Winter

Defined by Wikipedia as "a transformation from the solid to gas phase with no intermediate liquid stage," my only knowledge of sublimation before moving to Maine was 10th grade chemistry. Applied to pubescent science labs this translates into tedious experiments on dry ice turning into C02. In the bitter Maine winters, snow and ice skip a step and evaporate, creating low-tide like formations on snowbanks and fields. In January and February, the snow slowly receded exposing dead grass, frozen dirt and the remnants of a warmer time. Taking full advantage of the lack of snow this winter, I have traveled far and wide, exploring the state and taking photos with my iPhone along the way. Here are some of my favorites from the last six weeks.

Smelt Shanties near Wiscasset, Maine.

A Canoe at low tide at Popham Beach, Maine.

A frozen river near Farmington, Maine.

Soft sand at Seaswell Beach, Maine.

A space capsule on Damariscotta Lake, Maine.

Looking out at some islands at Pemaquid Point, Maine.

A log skidder near Whitefield, Maine.

An old fuel pump near South China, Maine.

A look out over Lake Champlain from Charlotte, Vermont.

The Johnson living room in Charlotte, Vermont.

Someday soon, the warm, wet weather from the Atlantic will meet cold air from the arctic and blanket the dead and frozen grass in a few inches of snow. When the snow returns, I will be there, taking photos with my iPhone and using the Camerabag Application.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wearing Red on Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day I awoke at seven, put on my red Eddie Bauer vintage down, my Danners with the red laces and had breakfast with my roommates at a local diner. After mowing down a breakfast sandwich and a bowl of oatmeal, I bid farewell to my friends and drove off alone, dead set to carve out my own Valentine's Day. I called my mom and grandmother to wish them my love as I left Waterville and then put a Dire Straits tape into the deck.

I headed southeast towards the coast, driving slowly and enjoying the freedom of solitude. After two complete rotations of Brothers In Arms and a half a dozen stops, I stopped at a fork in the road to pick my next move. As the various potential routes percolated through my mind, I looked through my photos on the LCD of my 5D Mark II. At first the red in the images I photographed seemed like a mere coincidence but as the sound of the selection wheel clicking rhythmically continued and the red pixels hopped around the screen with increasing fervor, I had my shivering moment like the first time you share a gaze with a pretty women.

I would live here in a second. Bunker Hill, twenty minutes north of Route 1.

Open Sesame.

I failed to understand my attraction to the red details in the photos I captured, but half way through my explorations, I followed my instincts across the party in search of a pretty girl, except this time I had a my camera in my hand, not a beverage, and was chasing weathered red paint on 100 year old buildings.

Note the hay on the lip of the second level.


I wouldn't try to jam on that hoop.

Barns look like faces that make me smile.

My favorite red that I saw all day.

The spirit of my Valentine's Day materialized in my capturing of red objects on the Maine countryside with the same uncontrollable attraction that leads men my age to buy flowers and fancy dinners for the special people in their lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Hike on the Beach

On Tuesday, temperatures crested 40 degrees for the first time in months. Feeling like millionaires in Vegas, Dan and I headed to the beach to catch some cosmic rays and go on a short hike on Morris Mountain and the surrounding beaches. Arriving at the parking lot just after 12:30, we set out for the beach. Dan sped up ahead towards the water, eager to do his geological research, studying erosion of a nearby river system, and wandering slowly down the trail towards the beach with the urgency of grandmother on Christmas morning.

The three and a half mile trail follows a seasonal gravel road through marshlands, woods and iconic summer houses towards Seawall Beach. I moved slowly, humming various Pink Floyd songs to myself as I took in the scenery and snapped pictures.

Boarded up for the winter.

Ice, shaded from the sun by evergreens.

After an hour, I finally crested a small hill and heard the faint clapping of shin-high waves. My slow and carefree stroll evolved into a purpose-driven walk as the sand drew near.
Low tide and a washed-up tree.
Where the grass meets the sand and water.

Sand arranged by tides and storms.

Erosion at Popham State park.

Clam pits at high tide.

Clammers digging through the exposed sands of Popham Beach.

I wandered through the knee-high grass and soft sand, enjoying the relative tropic temperatures for hours. I didn't see Dan for some time, but I knew he was out there enjoying the day in his own way. Finally I spotted Dan's blond head bobbing around against the blue of the Atlantic and yelled "Ohhh Helllloooo" in my best Mrs. Doubtfire impression. We sat on a washed-up tree lying parallel to the beach and took in the rolling waves and rustle of sand and wind through the tall grass. I longed for a match to start a campfire but settled on playing music on my iPhone as Dan and I watched the sun sink towards the west.

Here are some more links,
A Hike on the Beach (Picasa).