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community Maine Maine Vanities

SHZA AST Destiny Hesketh

Destiny Hesketh on Maggie, her American Quarterhorse"

An excerpt from Maine Vanities

Maggie is six years old. She doesn’t drive, but she is a very sweet ride. Maggie is an American quarterhorse, and her registered name is She’s an Asset, and so the plate SHZA AST.

Destiny Hesketh is thirteen years old, and she doesn’t drive either, but she loves to ride Maggie, her best friend and thirteenth birthday gift.

Most days they can be found at Alderbrook Farm, riding, practicing for shows, or just hanging out. Destiny brushes Maggie’s flanks and glances at her mom as she speaks. “I found her online, but I was always finding horses online and asking mom if I could have them.”

Wendy Hesketh nods in agreement, “She would get home from school and go online looking for horses. You couldn’t pull her away.”

“When I found Maggie was available, I couldn’t stop asking for her. Mom and dad had always promised me I could have a horse when I turned thirteen, and my birthday was pretty close,” Destiny explains.

Wendy smiles at her daughter. “I was hoping she would outgrow it, but I should have known better. We brought her to the state fair when she was just a few years old, and all she wanted to do was ride the pony. Candy, arcade games, merry-go-round—none of that could entice her away from the pony ride.”

Destiny agrees, although she says she is not sure she really remembers. “I’ve just always wanted to ride, and to have a pony or a horse. Two weeks after my thirteenth birthday, I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen. But still I would imagine waking up and finding a horse staring at me from the foot of my bed.” She looks at her mom, then confides, ”I know it doesn’t make sense. My bedroom is on the third floor, but I just had this vision of waking up and seeing a horse—my horse—standing at the foot of my bed looking at me.”

Wendy shakes her head and shrugs. “We brought Destiny to the stable, and she just thought we were going riding, that it was a birthday party, and that Maggie was just there for the kids to ride.”
“But you mustn’t forget the bow,” Destiny interrupts. “That gave it away.” Destiny explains, “Mom had put a bow around her neck, and I knew she wouldn’t have done that unless Maggie was really for me. They hadn’t said, but I knew she was mine. I held it until I petted her, and Mom showed me the papers. Then I couldn’t keep it in any more and started to cry.”

Destiny gives Maggie a stroke, and Maggie nudges Destiny with her head.
Destiny is hoping to work with horses all her life. “I want to be a trainer or a chiropractor. I have scoliosis, so I’ve learned about backs and muscle, and cracking my back.
That brings such relief. We have a horse here that needs his back cracked everyday. I get to do it sometimes. I grab his head, shove my chest into his ribs, and crack his back. When he starts making funny sounds with his lips, you know you’ve made him feel good.”

College and a career are both still a long way off, but Destiny clearly knows what she wants her future to hold: learning more about horses, riding skills, anatomy and chiropracty, and an entire horse-filled world.

But until then, the days are long. Riding, grooming, and winning ribbons with Maggie fill them. Call her Maggie, or call her, but ask Destiny if she is an asset in her life, and the quiet smile answers that question.

Excerpt above from from Maine Vanities

Destiny is now 15, and still passionate about horses.

The message of a Maine vanity plate may raise an eyebrow, or a question, or simply cause a smile. But behind each and every plate is a personality, and the rest of the story.

These short portraits capture Maine individuality. There is quirkiness, compassion, and humor. While passions range from skiing to solving Mensa puzzles, and ages from 14 to 91, enthusiasm, curiosity, passion and delight in sharing the story behind their plate and their bit of Maine is the common thread.

community Otter Creek

Murphy visits for the Fourth of July

All across America July Fourth is celebrated with flags proudly flying, fireworks, parades and picnics. In Otter Creek the stars and stripes line the street at one home, red white and blue streamers festoon the door of another. The long weekend is also a time for getting the lawn mown, a trip to the beach, and catching up on household projects. Americans can cram a lot into three days. In the spirit of not wasting a minute, I planned to decorate for the Fourth, build an arbor, see fireworks, paint the back basement hatch cover, bike, swim, boat out to a lobsterfest, and picnic with friends. This of course was in addition to the daily routine of weeding, watering and planting that maintaining a garden requires. It could all have been handled quite comfortably, if only Murphy hadn’t come to visit.

The weekend started with dinner on an island, then a long Saturday morning bike ride. Then it was time to tackle a project. The basement hatch is old and wooden, and while it really needs more than a coat of paint, I wanted it spruced up for the weekend. Scraped, swept and washed down, I cut in the edges with glossy black oil paint, and quickly had it looking shiny and fresh. I switched the laundry, cut fresh flowers for the house, came back out and looked at the gravel and grit on the doormat. There was a broom right at hand, so I did a quick left and right sweep, then stilled the broom as I saw a spray of tiny bits land and stick to the side of the hatch. No easy fix, it would have to dry, get sanded and repainted. I moved on.

Summer had started late this year, and because of the cool days, we hadn’t yet put the screen insert on the front door. I had hauled it over to the front steps weeks ago; it was time to put it in. Leaves and grass and pollen had landed on the screen, and I decided it would be easiest to sweep it off after I placed it in the doorframe. I removed the winter glass, and positioned the screen and clipped it in. The pollen began to fall on my face, my arms and my legs, and then it was moving, no, it was crawling all over me. A spider had laid its eggs there, and what seemed like thousands of tiny spiders were swarming on me. After frantic jumping around, head shaking and swatting, I swept the door off and headed in to hang some red white and blue bunting out the upstairs window. This is something I have done for the past three or four years, and is a really easy way to dress up the house. I unsnapped the first screen and pushed it away from the frame about an inch. I began to feed the long strip of fabric out the window with the other hand, when the screen detached from the top of the window. The screen is about four and a half feet tall, and it wobbled in my hand, gravity calling it to drop two stories to the ground below. I did not want it bent or broken so grabbed it with both hands. The banner slipped out and landed, forming a drape across the yellow daylilies beside the door that had given a nesting spider a home. I tried to pull the screen through the window, but it wouldn’t fit. There I squatted, arms out the window holding this big screen.

I used my head and shoulder to push the window open wide enough to maneuver the screen inside. I retrieved the banner, and tried again. This time I had a plan. I would hold the banner inside by pressing against it with my belly, and use both hands to get the window in its upper track. Then I would pull the screen towards me, where it would connect with the banner, and I could clip it in, firmly holding the banner in place between the screen and the bottom edge of the window frame. This was working. The screen teetered, but I pressed it into the top track. Slowly I pulled the bottom toward me to get it completely in the track. The phone rang, I exhaled, my stomach moved, the banner slipped out, slid between the screen and the window edge and landed on the yellow day lilies below.

I got the darn banner, and put it in place. The second one would have to wait.

While upstairs I emptied the wastebasket, tying the little plastic liner bag tightly. I went down, opened the back door and tossed it outside. It would go in the trashcan when I put my shoes on and went out next. The bag was very light, and hit the edge of the step and bounced up. It bounced a bit sideways, too, and stuck, hanging, on the side of the hatch cover, glued to the sticky wet paint just above the grit and gravel bits. “If it can go wrong it will,” is the adage popularized as Murphy’s Law. Yep.

It is with relief I heard my husband said friends had invited us on their boat, and I have to stop work and get ready. We watch the sun set from the middle of Somes Sound, and sip wine as fireworks blaze above our heads. It is late when we are dropped at the dock. It is even later when Triple A gets there to jumpstart our dead battery.

July third: The arbor is finished; the hatch cover paint is dry. We have biked, boated, watched fireworks, weeded, and picnicked. It is Fourth of July Eve, and we are ready for the Fourth, in spite of Murphy. Happy Independence Day, America.

community Day to day gardening Nature Log Otter Creek

The Rain in Maine

Spring rain can be so constant and so gentle that it becomes a background companion to the day, rather than a threat. A few might be driven inside by the wet, but most go about their business. We do, too. Finishing an after-breakfast stroll along a favorite stream to do some trout-spotting, we encounter another walker. Hair damp we greet each other, and he mops off his glasses to see us better. “Just misting,” he says as we pass, and we share perhaps just a hint of self-satisfaction that we, at least, have not been deterred by the rain.

The rain does not prevent activity, but it does direct it. We leave our bikes in the shed and finally tackle a long-avoided list of chores, recycling the computer, buying cleaning supplies, selecting annuals for hanging baskets and pots, and hauling unwanted clothes to a collection box. These only take a few hours, though, and there is a long afternoon ahead.

The uniform gray of the sky is not only unvarying from horizon to horizon, but seems the same at five pm as it did at noon. The day has a peculiar sense of timelessness. Inside the house the steady beat of rain on the roof calms and the occasional louder ping of a drop against the metal rim of the birdbath proclaims breaks the monotony. Donning rain gear, I go out and pull weeds. They slide out easily from the wet soil. I have this day to myself, and dart from flower bed to flower bed, giddy with the gift of these endless hours. It is too wet to scrape the peeling windowsills, certainly can’t paint the outdoor tables, though they need it, and it would be silly to think of building that grape arbor.

I sing and skip, and belt out a hackneyed version of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” from Lerner and Lowe’s 1958 musical Gigi. “Thank heaven, for rai-neee days,” I shout in a heavy French accent, safe in the knowledge that I am the only one home.

Bags of pine needles that were raked last fall refresh the short path that goes by the Pieris japonica and through the Solomon’s seal. Witch grass is gently coaxed to give up its roots, newly discovered invasions of garlic mustard are eradicated, and plants that are trying to take over other plants are reminded of their place. A twelve-inch circle of Lily of the Valley gets taken out of the lawn and put into a glass planter for the house. It is a day without focus, without time, bouncing from weeding to picking oregano and mint for dinner, to weeding and picking flowers for arrangements in the house. It is a rainy day.

The sound of drops rhythmically hitting the windows, roofs, trees and plants that get in the way of their descent is soft and hushed. This is no storm, there is no wind. The sway of the flowering cherry and the nodding of the forsythia are caused by the rain. Colors are intense. When buying annuals this morning a woman said, “This is my favorite kind of day for getting plants. The true colors of things can be seen.” I had agreed with her.

After hours of gardening in the midst of vibrant green grass, laying neon orange pine needles, and picking luminous creamy Viburnum the truth of that resonates.

community Maine Otter Creek

Pick up lines

Every April our town offers a roadside pick up. Things too big to put in the weekly household trash collection can be hauled to the curb and taken away for burning, chipping, recycling or to the landfill, whatever the town deems best. This is a wonderful service, and while every year there is discussion of stopping it as an unnecessary expense it is always voted back in.

Refrigerators, three-legged chairs, new-in-the-box mattresses, dysfunctional propane heaters, table umbrellas with torn canvas, a Nordic track with no visible flaw except being out-of-date­, the items are motley and incongruous. A clean, pristine, aqua-glazed flowerpot, price tag attached, leaves one wondering why it is on the curb. Did its mate die an untimely death, and it was unwanted as a single? Nearby a jumble of broken and unidentifiable parts leave no doubt why they are awaiting pick up. Most things are in poor condition, truly worthy of being hauled and away and mashed, but there is a fair amount of stuff that has a lot of life left.

I grew up in suburban Connecticut, and the idea of a week of unwanted items adorning our groomed lawns and perfectly trimmed hedges was unthinkable. These roadside discards fascinate me. I love to slow down as I pass a pile. I am not looking for a treasure, I am simply mesmerized by the stuff. I spot two matching twin maple beds with frames, and remember someone asking me if I knew of any. There is no way am I going to remember which friend needs some. As I look at them and force my brain to cough up the name, a van pulls up and the beds are gone. I admire a vintage rucksack with dusty labels. Some venturesome soul from Otter Creek went to Paris, departing on a Holland America cruise ship October 13, 1951. I cannot make out the name, and really want to know. Was it a neighbor, or a relative of my husband? I stoop to photograph the graphically beautiful label, and a couple prodding the pile near me ask if I am taking it. “No” I reply, and it is pulled away while I quickly snap a picture, and in less than a minute they open it and dump the leather sandals, men’s size 10 and in excellent condition, circa 1950, onto the ground, hop back in their bulging station wagon, and head off to the next pile.

I look at an old victrola, the legs are rotted and it struggles to stand erect. A neighbor wanders over and says, “I’m going to take that,” as he rubs his index finger with his thumb. “It’s worth money, and I sure need some.” He heads back home, presumably to get something to move it with, but when I pass by the next day I see two energetic fellows toss it on their truck and move on. Pick up week is not a waiting game. They are not bumper-to-bumper, but the cruising vans and trucks form a steady line through the town, and hesitating is not a good choice.

Looking at other people’s discards and speculating on the history behind them is only one aspect of the annual pick up. I also have the chance to do my own housecleaning. Dragging things out of the shed or basement to the roadside is satisfying, a general spring-cleaning, good feeling. Finding it gone the next morning, picked up by someone in one of the slowly cruising pickup trucks that populate our streets every year at this time, is also satisfying. I ponder; do I really want to get rid of this wooden swinging patio chair? It works, it’s cool, just needs to be refinished. In the pile it goes. I do have the option of snatching it back on Wednesday, which is the day the town picks up on our street. I have yet to snatch anything back. I rarely know who takes my offerings, but they are in my mind. There is a connection between us. The plaster lion, once boldly painted, was used as a doorstop until he had his tail whacked off by a vehement door closer. I brought him outside, intending to repair the tail. Instead the rain washed off his lovely colors. He was now not only tailless, but also colorless. My husband several times picked it up. “Garbage?” he asked. “No,” I said. Eight months later it becomes part of town pick up week, as I lovingly set the lion down by the road. In less than six hours he has a new home. I do not know who saw him and wanted him, but I smile with pleasure that someone did, and whoever they are, we are connected, because we both saw something we loved in that plaster lion.

Cruising and checking out other people’s leavings is fascinating. I also appreciate being able to offload things that cannot go in household trash. Without pick up week, I would waste a Saturday morning, as it’s over half an hour drive to the transfer station which then charges you by the pound. It probably wouldn’t happen. The piles in the shed would grow, and grow, overwhelming my daughter and family when I move on.

Since I do have this convenient method of disposal at hand I have turned it into a game. I have become obsessed with rating my leavings, and guessing how long they will be sitting unwanted by the road. I haul a matched set of spring steel chairs to end of the drive. These have to be the most comfortable pieces of lawn furniture around. But they need to be sand blasted and I am not going to do that. They don’t last long.

My goal is to have everything I put out taken before the town truck comes around. I come close. I like to think I have a pretty high quality of discard. I have also spotted some of my leavings in the home of my stepdaughter, and that of neighbors who live down the road. My stepdaughter rescued the pink and black marble chess set with four broken men, a Bermuda souvenir that has been replaced. The neighbors took the sunny yellow lavatory sink, and thanked me. They said they liked passing my house at pick up week because I had such interesting stuff. Maybe they took the lion.

This exchange of goods is a phenomenon few towns share. The gains are innumerable. The vast piles shrink as people who have either a use or a market for them take things. These objects are given a second life rather than being disposed of by the town, which costs not only labor but disposal fees. Bar Harbor, a neighboring town, has forbidden removal of anything from their transfer station. Liability is the reason, and yet what a shame. Instead of recycling they are adding to the mass of garbage that has to be dealt with at great expense.

I check my pile, and am delighted that someone took the glass carboy with some nameless liquid inside. It is a great bottle, but I’d planned to clean it for ten years, it was time to let someone else plan to clean it. The table saw my dad and I bought at a yard sale for him to use was sadly put out; he is no longer here to use it. A friend spotted it, and was ecstatic. I helped carry it to his house, pleased it would continue to be used, and by someone who knew and admired my dad.

Town pick-up is not about the town generously removing our big trash, though we appreciate it. It is about passing on tales and tools, being tantalized by incomplete stories, and giving things another purpose and another life before they get trashed.

Now, will someone please tell me who went to Paris in 1951?

community Dramatis Personae Maine Otter Creek

Hughie Wright, houseman and whisker maker

Hughie Wright with Freckles (the beagle) and Missy (the Weimaraner)

in Seal Harbor, Maine courtesy Jackie Davidson

Hughie Wright was a Seal Harborite, fly fisherman, loyal husband, maker of whiskers and Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s houseman.

One does not hear the word houseman very much any more. There are caretakers and estate managers, but houseman is rarely used. Yet it was a respected profession only a generation ago. A houseman was a trusted and essential employee. Most of the families that summered in the neighboring villages of Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor would have a houseman. Hughie Wright was one of the best.

There is no trade school or correspondence course for houseman. It was a profession frequently passed on from father to son, and always learned on the spot. Hughie was self-taught. His job was, quite simply, to ensure the family he cared for had a perfect stay. He molded his skills to the desires of his employers Edsel and Eleanor Clay Ford during their stay at their summer home, Skylands. This was not demeaning, but rather a matter of pride. It takes keen observation, real affection, and a wide range of skills to be a good houseman. The bond between Hughie and the Fords, who he referred to as his “family” was the best of a master and servant relationship. Together over fifty years, Hughie called Eleanor Mother Ford and was devoted to her, even bringing her shoes home to clean at night. The Fords in turn depended on him, and took care of him.

At Skylands, cool Maine evenings were commonly warmed with a birch fire. Birch burns with snaps and cheery crackles, looks clean and pristine, gives off a lot of heat, and is the wood of choice for open fireplaces. One of Hughie’s many responsibilities was the building of the fire. And so the whiskers.

Whether it was Hughie’s grandfather or the Ford children who coined the phrase whiskers is uncertain, but old-timers still talk about Hughie’s whiskers. They are referring to his fire-starters. Every winter he would take clear pine, a beveled jack knife and make whiskers. He would spend close to half an hour on each one, shaving eighteen-inch lengths of pine board into thin curls. He then put them in a vise and used a drawshave to smooth their spine and drilled a hole hang them for storage.

Whisker, or pine fire starter c. 1960. Hand-shaved by Hughie Wright

Hughie learned to make the whiskers from his grandfather, starting when he was five years old. By the time he was a teen, he was allowed to make the whiskers not just for the kitchen fires, but for the living room as well. When Hughie started work at the Ford home in 1926, he introduced the fire starters and they at once became a required element in laying a fire. There were nine fireplaces in the house, and it took all winter to create a supply for the following summer. When stainless steel pocketknives became the only kind readily available, Hughie had a blacksmith hand-forge a beveled edge knife for him, so he could continue to shave the thin curls of the whiskers. Wood became more difficult to find too, but Hughie sought out clear pine, as pink was not acceptable in the Ford house.

There are only a few of these whiskers left. We were given one by Jane Smith, my mother-in-law, who is not sure how she ended up with it, and there is one in the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. When Margaret, Hughie’s wife, died, she believed there may have been a few still left in the whisker closet of Skylands, now owned by Martha Stewart.

Skylands, where Hughie Wright was Houseman

Hughie lived the life he wanted, and being remembered for his whiskers would please him. They epitomize his quiet quest to make life good for his family. He was never one for glory, but was well mannered, professional and dignified. Married over forty years to Margaret, he went to work every day. A familiar sight in Seal Harbor with his long-billed hat and cigar in hand, he was a man of routine. He went home for lunch every day, and Margaret would make a large and hearty meal. Every evening he would shave a few whiskers. Every year he and Margaret went to the annual Wayback Ball, a social gathering held after the departure of all the summer folk. He fished in the spring, raised Springer Spaniels, and in the winters sometimes had a nip or two with friends. Not given to jokes, a rare example of his humor is the sign for their dog kennels, designed to emulate the signs of the wealthy cottagers. Small and discrete, it reads Dogterd Ridge.

Sign from Hughie and Margaret’s Kennel in Seal Harbor, Maine

Collecting the mail was part of Hughie’s routine, and all summer long without variation he would stop at the post office after lunch.

On one of those summer days, no different from any other, he dropped dead outside the post office. Margaret had made her fried clams, each individually dipped in batter and tenderly browned, and sent him back to work. Jackie Davidson, a family friend, says “Margaret said it was a terrible shock, but that Hughie would have hated being sick, he’d have made a terrible patient.”

The art of shaving whiskers is gone, too. Hughie tried to show others how to carve them, including directions for the hand-forged knife, but was never able to pass it on. We will keep ours in a safe place.

Thank you to Jackie Davidson, Rodney Smith, Jane Smith, and David and Muriel Billings and for sharing their recollections and photos of Hughie.

Dramatis Personae is a series of portraits of Otter Creekers, and other local characters.

community Otter Creek

Surviving, or Trial by Fire

McKinley and Eden are two villages that have vanished from this Island of ours. They have left merely traces of their existence. Otter Creek has lost its school, its post office and this year the market is closed. And yet the spirit of this little village is strong. It will survive.

Survivors, who are they, what are they, why them and not another?

Several years ago the Christmas tree fell over, with a bit of assistance from Mouchoir the cat. The crystal snowflakes the Man of Few Words brought me from Germany took a direct hit. One was shattered, a broom and dustpan the only way to deal with it. Another lost a few brilliant glass branches, I have them and may super glue it back together some day. The last two are a bit chipped and damaged, but survived enough to go back on the tree.

I now have a ritual, the broken crystal ornaments awaiting glue stay in the triangular Swaroski box, the others I hang with care and appreciation. I loved all the crystal snowflakes before the accident, but since the two I hang are the only ones that survived the tree disaster I cherish them in spite of, or perhaps because, of the chips and nicks.

Is it the near loss that makes me appreciate even more than before? Is it sad to have to almost lose something to increase appreciation?

It was almost three months ago that our house burned to the ground. It was my husband’s house, with all of his belongings. We lived a quarter mile away from each other, met, married, and were together either up there (his house, we called it Music Hill) or down here (my house, on Ben’s Hill). The root cellar was at Music Hill, as was the computer room, exercise space, movie monitor, the pantry and what we called survival food. Airtight containers filled with pasta, grains, dried vegetables, seeds, a wide assortment of basics that would feed us for a year. The fire that destroyed most of his belongings left a smoldering, smelly and charred skeleton but also randomly left areas virtually untouched. The survival food survived. Dried mushrooms and peas were rehydrated and served over gnocchi, one of several meals we have dubbed fire dinners. A chamber pot survived. We lifted a blackened bookcase and our sodden clothing underneath to find a photo album with photos still intact. In it were photos from neighbor Mike Bracy’s funeral when a doe came to pay her respects. This event and its images were remarkable, a curiosity, before. But now that it emerged from the flames when we were sure it was gone, it is priceless.

A fire that consumes one’s home is more than most people have to contend with. Rebuilding is time consuming and involves endless decisions. Just when my husband and I are ready to enjoy our time together biking, traveling and entertaining friends, we instead need to contemplate floor plans, building codes, sinks, windows, electricians, siding–it seems formidably endless. This fire also destroyed some of my husband’s family’s belongings, as his daughter was staying there at the time of the fire. Stress, emotion, uncertainty, the aftershocks of a home fire are as difficult as the fire itself. But like the chamber pot and dried ravioli, we have survived. Dennis’ daughter and family are back in their home rebuilding their lives, and we will rebuild ours. We will cherish the chamber pot, a grandson’s quilt, a pair of candlesticks and a photo album because they withstood the flames and are dearer for it. We almost lost them.

We have a village that will overcome a lack of post office and market. Otter Creek will not be as easily lost in time as Eden and McKinley. From the ashes of our house fire we have made dinners and plan a new energy efficient home. We pick the flowers from the house site for our table and look at them and marvel. They are indeed more special than any other wildflowers. We are surviving trial by fire.


Wooly caterpillars on the prowl, Monarch Chrysalis turns transparent, a flock of wild turkeys block the road on the way home from work.

community Otter Creek

Salt Selling

Zea Salt has hit the stores!

Biting winds, icy air, uncovered hands aching with cold– it seems impossible that is just as much a part of our lives here in Otter Creek as warm days with a gentle rain, the occasional scorching August afternoon, and sparkling sun on a calm sea. But those bitter days are when we are collecting sea water to make our own local sea salt. First we filter it, then heat it over a wood stove and let it slowly, without boiling, evaporate. Packaging is fun, too, bold red and black graphics almost as bold as the salt itself. 1.5 oz glass hexangonal jars are a perfect small gift size. We make up baskets of Maine items for guests, and Zea Salt is always a hit. (Along with Otter Creek Red, our maple syrup from red maple sap). My family members like to send the empty containers back with a request for refills. The 5.5 oz. containers are fun, too, big round labels, and flat plastic container that could simply be plated and set right on the table.

I don’t really want to think about the winter winds, but do want to be ready to go when salting time is here. We are looking for a source for industrial strength stove top glass pans, about 24″ x 12″ and 8″ deep.

But, about the salt!

The Salt

Zea Salt is not for the faint-hearted. Straight salt, Zea Salt is intense. It has no smoke, no flavoring, no additives. It is as full of character as the wild Atlantic Ocean.

Robust, Zea Salt brightens grilled vegetables, adds bite to sliced sun ripe tomatoes and enhances meat and game when sprinkled just before serving. An excellent finishing salt with a flavor that says “Maine.”

Hand-collected, dried in small batches over a wood fire in Otter Creek, Mount Desert Island, Maine.

And who are the salt sellers?
Zea Salt is available exclusively at Our New England on Main Street in Bar Harbor, and the Otter Creek Market, Otter Creek.

Bar Harbor community

Frozen in Time, for dad

“Would you please donate a piece of art to our benefit auction?” I had skipped the past two years, and so just said yes, inwardly wondering how on earth I was going to squeeze it in. But the creation of this artist book became a rock in my life. I looked forward to the hours spent working on it. It was not a burden, or yet another thing on the list. It was my lover, my illicit escape from making dinner and stacking wood. It absorbed me and consumed me, and it gave my father back to me.

This work on this artist book flowed, speeding in some places, slowing, taking detours, then gathering momentum. It carried me along with it. The idea was already surfacing to my consciousness as I hung up the phone. Museum, fossils, my unstrung amber necklace, wood, it just emerged, developed, led me, as I sketched it out and set to work. And my dad was at my side every step of the way.

I Dremelled out cavities in the surface of the wooden pages, with the thick board clamped firmly in a borrowed vise. And I remember being 10 years old in my dad’s shop, helping him, so he let me believe. “Tighten this way,” he demonstrated, “feel resistance, but don’t tighten too fast or hard or it will crack.” I heard him as I tested how secure my board for this book was. “Put your goggles on.” says dad. And 40 years later I do.

I remember the care he took to be neat. I look at the little table I have set up in the living room for this project, and get out boxes, one for the tools, one for the watercolors, another for the ammonites and amber. The glues are lined up to the left, and my stack of reference books are on the floor to my right. “Always work in stages” I remember him saying when we made a wooden chuckwagon style kitchen for our camping trips. I was anxious to see the whole thing, but we made sections at a time, and then put them together, and then there it was, done, without my even noticing we were nearing the end.
And so I approach this book, not thinking about the whole project, which was unquestionably larger than I should have made it. First I do the watercolors for the jewelry. That, and nothing more.

“Mistakes happen” I hear dad saying when as a little girl the chisel I am using peels off more than I wanted it to. He takes it from me and chisels off the other side of the pattern. It is different than we planned, but perfectly fine. And so I finish the watercolors, not what I had in mind, less technical, looser, but somehow more appropriate.

He always loved details, miniatures. He had tiny finger planes for smoothing in small spaces. I use a file, it doesn’t work as well, but as I file back and forth I am content, dad is at my side.

I work peacefully into the night. The family is asleep, not even dad in my ear, and I paint ammonites and amber, and am immersed in soft resin and my head spins in perfect spirals.

I begin to put the parts together, using the book press dad made for me from an old cider press. I cut leather hinges, and remember resoling my huraches. Dad had gotten my sisters and I Mexican sandals when he was on a business trip. I had worn mine out, the soles were showing skin. So down to the workshop we went. We found some old leather, and big heavy scissors to cut the soles out. We punched holes with an awl, the shoe firmly (but not too tightly,) clamped in a vise. And I stitched the new sole on.

As I work on the necklace for this book, I punch holes into copper, and feel my dad guiding my hand as he did when I used his awls on my hurachas. I tighten the press on the book and leather, and turn my attention to another piece of this book. How to make the copper covers of the accordion fold book of the necklace close. I look at mini copper hinges online. Too ornate and out-of-character. I consider punching more holes, having wire wrap all the way around, twist together and wrap back. Too complicated. Then I think I have it. Punching a hole in the back and wrapping wire through it, and gluing a small brass bead (a BB from my Red Ryder) to the front for the wire to hook over.

“Walk away if you can’t figure it out. Come back in a day or two,” Dad says in my head, as he said to me many years ago. And I come back with a simple solution, a bendable wire closure attached with leather.

“Now you’re thinking.” I hear dad exclaim. “that’s really using your head.” And at ten years old, fourteen years old, forty and fifty-four, those words always made me proud.

I don’t have dad’s awls or vises or pliers or leather needles or mini planes. But I have something better. The book is finished now. I want to do more, make more. I want to keep on creating.

Thank you, dad.

community Uncategorized

Sea of Donkeys

A little detour on the way to work this morning found me in a sea of donkeys. Claire Wallace, owner of Haffas Farm, introduced my to Elvis, Clementine (“cuz she’s a darlin”) and Gladys Done. “She took so long to be birthed, and it wasn’t easy. When she finally come out I said, there now, ain’t you glad it’s done?” and that’s her name.”

community Day to day Maine

Help name this kitty

He has love, now he needs a name

He has love, now he needs a name

He was found in a blizzard in Northern Maine, outside the police station of a small town on the Canadian border. This was one the wildest blizzards in years, with record-breaking precipitation and high winds.

Over one hundred miles to the south we were driving home from seeing the Nutcracker Ballet. Walking from the concert hall to the car was a challenge. Whirling wet snow thick in the air peppered our faces, we opened our eyes to get our bearings, then they were forced closed against the icy pellets. It was a long ride home, warily passing the pinkish glow from the tail lights of cars that had spun off the road and were buried in the snow. Melissa kept watch for the edge of the road, Kymry gave encouragement from the back seat. There was a good six inches of unplowed powder to slide through and visibility was about 20 feet except when the wind picked up, and then it was a blinding glow of head light reflected off the snow, and nothing beyond the shadowy outline of the hood of the car could be seen.

Nameless kitty appeared on this night, and he isn’t telling us where he came from. Two years old, sick and thin, he stayed outside the police station a week or so, then finally slipped in for food. He was caught and brought to the shelter.

I heard about him a month later, and MOFW and I went north to fetch him. While the shelter did the best they could, unknown time in the wild plus a month in a small cage sleeping in his litter box left him thin, matted, scabby behind the ears and with a persistent sneeze.

Now he is sociable and playful. He is a very mellow and relaxed kitty. During dinner parties he comes out and mingles, rolling over for belly scratching, and swatting at the toys and strings offered him. His fur mats are gone, sneezing has lessened, and he has begun to groom and clean himself.

It is time to find his name.

__ Lumikki Finnish for snow.

__ Drosselmeyer In The Nutcracker he arrives on a snowy night bringing the Nutcracker for Clara.

__ Mawson Antarctic explorer who survived brutal weather and an amazing number of catastrophes.

__ Denali Park and mountain in Alaska, SUV, and great snowshoess .

__ Bombadil A merry fellow from Tolkein’s The Hobbit who wanders and explores the woods, cheerfully eating and dancing with the folk he meets.

__ Other