Category Archives: Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor Nature Log Otter Creek

Polar deer, or, seeing white.

I had heard rumors of the primarily white deer near the genetic research laboratory a few miles away. Dyer calls him a piebald. Every morning on my way to work I would scan the woods. And there it was. I reached into the back seat for the camera bag, but, oh- it was in the trunk. Getting out of car, quietly, stealthily, almost noiselessly was enough to send the deer leaping away. It became a game. If I had the camera by my side, no sign of the deer. No camera, and there he was, grazing calmly, gazing at my car cruising by.

This past weekend the oyster mushrooms have burst out of seams and cracks in aging Aspen. We gathered 18 pounds, and have been eating, freezing and giving. Sunday we were gathering in the woods near our house. I was taking pictures of the oyster mushrooms, and there beyond the tree was the white deer. And there, with my finger on the shutter release, was the deer. He is real.

Nature log

Mushrooms and mist. I have checked everyday on my way home from work. Friday, June 12 they appeared. Oyster mushrooms, gleaming bright beacons through the green of young aspen. Last year it was June 10. We use a hand made apple picker my dad gave me many years ago. Maybe not the most effective tool, but loaded with many years of happy food gathering.

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.

Bar Harbor gardening

Two Peaches make a Pear but they Cantelope

Wonderful October, and time to harvest. Pears, apples, potatoes and then of course making chutney, apple sauce and potato many ways. We gathered the last of the chard, and made chard, anchovy, garlic, bean and pasta soup. Recipe. I actually increased the anchovy and it just enriched the broth without being intrusive. But then we really like anchovies. A local restaurant has created a Karen Salad. Not on the menu, but it is getting a small local following: start with the house Caesar, add roasted garlic and double anchovies. You’ll find it at Mama DiMatteo’s in Bar Harbor.

I am a Camera Otter Creek

Looks like a mighty wet ride. This may be the new bench for skating parties, as this is the skating pond in the center of Otter Creek.

Bar Harbor community Maine

Lighting the Green with Spirit

Small white paper bags glowing with candlelight line the paths, each with a name hand-written in bold marker across the front. Slowly, solemnly, clearly, those names are read out and echo across the night air, rising above the background noise of shoppers and traffic in the town. People pause, listening for a name they know, or wander, reading the names of cancer victims and survivors. Many are from this small community, but some are from far corners of the planet. Respect and love is heavy in the air and the murmur of soft conversations, children playing and a dog bark or whine adds to the sense of connection we all seem to share.

The reading of names alternates with a steel band playing in the gazebo, and a group of young girls hula hoop in one corner. “Carol would have loved that” someone says. Carol Dyer was the children’s librarian at the Jesup Memorial Library in a neighboring town. When she died after battling a brain tumor, a group of women started the annual Carol Dyer Illuminaria. For a donation, the name of a cancer survivor or victim will be written on a white bag, then placed along the many paths that intersect the towns’s Village Green, with a handful of sand and a tea candle. That simple. That powerful.

Benefits American Cancer Society