In the Right Place: Tiny Miracles

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In the Right Place: Tiny Miracles

Sometimes, a tiny miracle occurs just when the fog lifts off a still sea. The world seems to turn flat – a silver plate of reflected and often connected images. During such a moment in Great Cove a few days ago, the Brigantine Actress seemed to reach down through the stillness and lightly touch the Dory Wild Rose:

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Dinghies and Skiffs slowly swung in the slight breeze and tide:

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A brief beam of sunlight found the Catboat Shenaniganz:

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The sun disappeared again and the Concordia Free Spirit waited in silvered calm:


The Belford Gray, a Friendship Sloop, pointed out to the retreating fog in Eggemoggin Reach:

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Actress remained sitting while the incoming tide wrinkled the water around her:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Tatting



Queen Anne’s Lace, an edible wild carrot plant, is starting to sweep across our fields in white waves.

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However, similar – but poisonous – plants also are blooming in some of those fields: Water Hemlock, which has fairly recently caused fatalities in Maine and elsewhere, and Poison Hemlock, which is most famous for killing Socrates a while ago. Check the stems before you pick any lacy white flowers to eat or display. Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stem; Water and Poison Hemlock do not, nor do the other white lacy plants (Cow’s Parsley, Cow’s Parsnip, etc.).

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Of course, Queen Anne’s Lace does have a bit of a bloody history. It apparently was named after a legend about the Queen pricking her finger while tatting lace, thereby ruining the lace with a drop of royal blood. As you know, many Queen Anne’s Lace flowers have a central red or purple floret “ruining” their white purity. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Run and Spin

The Catboat was developed for and by American sailing fishermen at least 200 years ago, but it was preserved from extinction by modern recreational sailors who love its maneuverability and stability.

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Typically, a Catboat has one, often unstayed, mast set as forward in the boat as practicable. It is a low and wide boat, with a beam (greatest width) that’s usually one half the hull’s length – a bulge originally created for a substantial ballast of stones. Catboats also often sport an oversized (“barn door”) rudder and a centerboard keel that can be removed in shallow water.

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There are many unsupported theories about how this boat got its name. The leading one is that the boat got a reputation for tacking and turning as quickly and gracefully as a cat can run and spin; hence, the single mast without standing rigging (“unstayed”) also is said to be “cat-rigged.”

Reply to Fran: The pictured boat is Shenaniganz, a very small (16-foot) traditional Cat in the WoodenBoat School fleet. It was designed by Fenwick Williams, a noted Catboat architect of the last century, and built in 1983 by Maynard Lowery of Tilghman Island, Maryland. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Hiding

This is a bird that lives up to its name and hides in the darker parts of the woods, where it spends its day creating flute notes that would make Mozart jealous.


On first seeing this silhouette, a black belt birder probably would ask: “What was the color of this bird’s tail and does it flick that tail a lot?” I would reply: “Rusty/rufous and yes.” The birder would nod her head, smile, and say: “Good Looking Hermit Thrush you got there!”


If only I could distinguish a Hermit Thrush from a Wood Thrush in the two seconds before the bird darts back into the shadows. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Delights

The common orange Daylilies that now are swaying in our Summer breezes are not what many think they are. First, they’re not lilies. Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis (from the Greek words “beautiful” and “day” because each bloom lasts only a day). The genus of true Lilies is Lilium (from the Greek name for white lily flowers).

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Second, although many are wild, they’re not native; Daylilies originated in Asia and were introduced here by our European colonists. Third, their flowers are tasty vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked, as many in Asia do.

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Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that the sight of swaying Daylilies along the road is one of the delights of a Summer’s drive in the country, one that we’ll try to remember in Winter. See another image in the first Comment space. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Thwack!

The Bald Eagle was chosen in 1782 as the emblem of the United States because of the animal’s majestic appearance, strength, and long life.


However, this bird always has had its critics. Even Benjamin Franklin famously complained that it was ”a rank coward” of “bad moral character.” Nonetheless, we suspect that most of the Bald Eagle’s critics have never carefully watched one soaring on its seven-foot wingspan high above a river, then banking severely, spiraling down fast in smaller and smaller circles, pulling up to skim the water, thrusting its talons straight out at the last moment, and plucking its prey with a splashy “thwack!”

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(Brooklin, Maine) [The above text and first image first appeared yesterday as my monthly ITRP column in the Ellsworth American, the award-winning weekly newspaper of Hancock County, Maine.]



In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch VI

The 170-foot Victory Chimes entered Great Cove under sail Monday afternoon, when there was a good breeze.

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The schooner, which has no propulsion motor, had to be pushed out of the Cove by its yawlboat Tuesday morning, when there was no wind. Launched in 1900, this three-master out of Rockland, Maine, is the last of the Chesapeake Rams and a National Historic Landmark.

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Curiously, credit for much of her restoration must go to pizza: Thomas Monaghan, the owner of Domino’s Pizza, bought and restored her in 1988-1989. He named her Domino Effect and used her for employee incentive cruises.

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She originally was named Edwin and Maud and then Victory Chimes, which she was renamed in 1990 when purchased from Monaghan for Maine cruising. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Greatness

It’s almost impossible to miss seeing a Great Blue Heron flying within 100 yards of you – its pointed prehistoric head and trailing long, boney legs piercing the air like a hurled spear; its six feet of wings like attached flags, furling and unfurling, then spreading out for a glide. If you’re close enough, you also can hear those big wings push and draw large amounts of air while the bird is trying to gain height – womph, womph, womph.


But it’s a different matter trying to see the slim, very slow-moving profile of a Great Blue fishing amid the cattails 100 yards away.  We know that countless numbers of unseen GBHs have watched us looking in vain for them.

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Great Blues are our largest Herons (hence the title “Great”), but they’re among our skinniest birds. They can reach almost five feet in length, but usually weigh much less than eight pounds. While slow on their feet, they can achieve a respectable air speed of about 30 miles per hour. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: What's in a Name?

Black-Eyed Susans are starting tobat their brown eyes at us. No Susan (nor anyone else) ever had black eyes without being punched, but apparently John Gay didn’t know that.

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John was the 18th Century English poet who wrote the ballad Sweet William’s Farewell to Black-Eyed Susan. That popular tune, reportedly, inspired the name for all 30 of our native species of Black-Eyed Susans.

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In the ballad, Sweet William is a seaman on a warship that is about to sail into battle; no one named a flower to honor his sweetness. (There is a flower named Sweet William [Dianthus barbatus] that some think was named after William Shakespeare.) (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch V

We awakened yesterday morning to see that Actress had spent the night alone in Great Cove. She’s a 75-foot Brigantine out of Belfast, Maine, originally launched in 1937.

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Actress apparently is the only Brigantine in the Maine coastal cruiser fleet. A Brigantine is a two-masted vessel carrying square-rigged sails on spars on the foremast and gaff-rigged, triangulated sails on the second mast. Brigantines were developed as more easily sailed hybrids of Brigs. A Brig also is two-masted, but both of its masts are square-rigged.

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The names of these vessels are derived from “Brigand,” because Brigs were favored by pirates. In fact, Brigantines were called “Hermaphrodite Brigs” for some time, but then some fusspot apparently looked up the definition of “Hermaphrodite.”

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Dowdy

Male Wood Ducks may be the handsomest birds in the pond in spring and early fall, but, at about this time of year, they look like Marine boot camp recruits – fancy hairdos are shorn off and dress uniforms are for the future:

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As we see from the bird above, the male Wood Ducks are molting into their dull “Eclipse” (aka “Basic”) plumage; they're also flightless in the process. The dowdy summer plumage probably evolved as needed camouflage during this vulnerable time. In September or October, the males again will don their full-feathered dress uniforms and helmet hairdos. When they do, they’ll be in their “Alternate Plumage,” as this male was last October:

(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Opening Act

Fragrant Water Lilies are all over the quieter ponds now; they're a native wild plant. Theipure white flower petals of the Lilies open and reflect themselves in the water during sunny summer days; they demurely close their petals when the sun’s spotlight moves away in the afternoons or when it clouds over. 


Underneath their large round leaves, there’s shade for fish and aquatic invertebrates, such as dragonfly nymphs. On top, their leaves become floats for frogs to loll and birds to stand, both looking for water bugs.

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The Fragrant Water Lily seeds are a favorite of ducks and other waterfowl, and their underwater stems (Rhizomes) are munched by muskrats, beaver, deer, moose, and even porcupines. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Masterpieces

You don’t have to go to a big city to see good abstract art, if you strain your imagination to the breaking point. Here we have a local masterpiece that we like to imagine was influenced by Mondrian’s geometric elements and interplay of black and white with primary colors.

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Mondrian thought that “art should be above reality.” We think it’s fair to infer that the Maine artist who created this masterpiece also sees that reality is a trap. And, this one is a Moveable Feat:

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(Brooklin, Maine)


July 4th in Brooklin

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July 4th in Brooklin

Participants and attendees at yesterday’s annual Independence Day celebration here were hot,  hungry, and happy.  While the parade was forming, the astonishingly good Brooklin Town Band performed in the shade of the tall maples in front of the Library.  When an old dance tune was played, people of a certain age showed everyone a thing or two.

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The parade wound its way up Reach Road and down Naskeag Road to the Town Green.  Old Glory and local veterans led the way and there was a wave of spontaneous clapping by the crowd as the flag went by. 

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Of course there were plenty of firetrucks from Brooklin and surrounding towns, showing our tax dollars at work and pleasing kids and kids-at-heart. Here are just three of the many:

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As usual, there were clever and unique homemade floats, including "Lobstahzilla."

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Vintage cars and trucks are popular up here; maybe the winters encourage a lot of garage time. Here are a just a few that motored by:

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You don't need a permit to participate in the Brooklin parade. Some people just march along, wanting to parade in front of neighbors; many  glide by in rigged-out bicycles.

By the time that the celebratory parade ends, a new one begins on the Town Green. Gossiping neighbors and friends move slowly in a long line that ends at gobs of barbecued chicken and hot dogs, roasted corn, potato salad, coleslaw, watermelon, and water or soft drink .

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Meanwhile, the youngsters test their skills at the Wet Sponge Throw, Dead Chicken Toss, and other games.

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As we walk to our cars parked along Naskeag Road afterwards, we can't help but notice the waving American Flags on each telephone pole: needed reminders of the importance of liberty and all that it took to shape this country into something special.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

For larger versions of the above images, as well as additional images of the July 4th celebration, click on the link below. (We recommend that your initial viewing be in full-screen mode, which can be achieved by clicking on the Slideshow [>] icon on the right above the featured image in the gallery to which the link will take you.) Here’s the link for more:



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In the Right Place: Pride

Francis Scott Key looked up on the morning after the English bombarded Fort McHenry, saw the American flag still flying, and thought, “’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave.” She’s still waving more than two centuries later in the images below, taken on prior Independence Days.

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Above, a historic version of the flag is waving on the Pride of Baltimore, which actually was sailing by that Maryland Fort where the National Anthem was inspired. Below, she’s waving on a Pride of Brooklin classic truck, actually driving down Naskeag Road, where a wonderful Town celebration was inspired:

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Happy 4th! (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Twisting

It’s a foggy, humid morning for glum thoughts, which puts us in mind of the now-blooming Vetch. Here we have two of these non-native plants, both of which are called Vetch, although they’re not in the same family. This one, which looks a little like what kings and queens sometimes wear, is Crown Vetch:


This one, which is eaten by cows, is Cow Vetch:


Their last name apparently is based on the Latin verb to twist or entwine (“vincere”), because that’s what they do to themselves and other plants. They’re certainly pretty, but if they get into your garden, we suspect that you’ll kvetch. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Bigger Is Better

We’re told that this Common Yellowthroat warbler should never be confused with the much different Yellow-Throated Warbler.


Why these birds have such similar names is a mystery. (Would the canine-naming priesthood decide that one species was a Common Poodle and an entirely different one a Poodle Dog?) Perhaps it has to do with real estate values. The Common Yellowthroat is the only warbler that nests low in reedy marshes, while the Yellow-Throated Warbler nests high in leafy trees.

There’s also this: the female Common Yellowthroat, shown below, is plain (but cute), while the high-nesting female Yellow-Throated Warbler is just as spiffy as her hubby.


But, of course, the female Common Yellowthroat needs more camouflage while she broods alone among cattail roots. She’s not oblivious to spiffiness, though: research shows that female Common Yellowthroats choose their mates in large part based on the size of the males’ masks – bigger is better in those marshes. (Brooklin, Maine)


June Postcards From Maine


June Postcards From Maine

June is the beginning of Summer, which is not only a season up here, it’s a state of mind. Just walking on one of our secluded country roads can seem to be a sanity saver.

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The temperature and precipitation here in June were slightly above average. This was good for stream life. Our large, tidal streams along the coast seemed to host a larger than usual June migration of alewives (herrings) from the sea. The fish have to run a gauntlet of herring gulls, common loons, and harbor seals.

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The small streams in the woods suffered no such indignities and appeared happy to contain enough sweet water to quench the thirst of the deer and other animals that spend much of their day in the woods.

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The leaves of the deciduous trees among the spruces and balsam firs in the woods come into Summer fullness in June, acting like fluttering curtains that allow light to come and go in illuminating dapples.

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The marsh ponds become polka-dotted with water lily pads and flowers in June. The surrounding arrow arum grows large and lush and the area becomes a home for many creatures, including red-winged blackbirds, dragon flies, muskrats and painted turtles.

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Lady’s Slipper and Jack in the Pulpit plants appear in the nearby bog during June.

During the first three weeks of the month, wild lupines poke their beautiful pointy heads up in the fields and along the roadways here; then, they waste away into scragginess before the month is over, leaving us with only a colorful memory.

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Wild grasses and small flowers eventually take over our fields in June, including hawkweed, buttercups, butter and eggs, and wild iris.

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The fields attract millions of tiny insects, including skipper butterflies that love buttercups. The fields also provide hidden nesting areas for birds, including wild turkeys and bobolinks.

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This June, a particularly large black bear started coming through our north field to eat from our bird feeder. We haven’t seen him since we scared him away with shouts and, more important, removed our feeder for the summer.

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June also is when many of our lobster fishermen return their boats to the sea, at first stacked to capacity with traps that must be set in the water attached to a uniquely-colored buoy (and maybe with some herring as bait).

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Of course, fishing vessels are not our only man-made sea creatures. Memorial Day and June are when the coastal schooners start bringing their tourist passengers to visit our beautiful Great Cove and good neighbor, the famous WoodenBoat School.

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For water lovers who don’t like crowds, there are other options.

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There was a lot more to June, but the month had to end, and so do we. We leave you to watch this sunset of June 23:



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In the Right Place: Here's to Your Health!

Male American Goldfinches have finished molting into their screaming yellow summer suits and sharp black caps and soon will be selected by the more prudently-dressed females of their species.


Evolution has dictated that the brighter the male’s yellow, the healthier and more robust he is. And, the female Goldfinches instinctively know that – male color brightness is a major criterion for them when they choose a mate, according to researchers. Here's a female:


As for the new black caps, they’re used to scare off other males – studies show that the blacker and longer the cap feathers are when raised in anger, the more dominant the bird.


(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Freezers

Very small Painted Turtles are appearing in our ponds and all of them are survivors of a near-death experience.

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Painted Turtle eggs hatch in the fall, but the nickel-sized hatchlings usually remain underground in the shallow nest their mother made for them in the summer. When the ground freezes, so do they – their hearts and other organs cease to function, they get no oxygen, they’re virtually dead, and some do die if the nest temperature goes below 25 (F). Painted Turtles reportedly are the “highest” (most developed) vertebrates able to survive in a frozen state. In the spring or early summer, the young turtles dig themselves out and seek a watery home.

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An older Painted Turtle basking on the same rock is shown above for comparison. These adults usually hibernate during the winter in the muck at the bottom of ponds, where they’re not likely to freeze.  In the summer, however, they soak up as much sun as possible:

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(Brooklin, Maine)