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In the Right Place: Plan Be

The weather tellers now warn us that Harper, the biggest Winter Storm yet, will visit us with heavy snow tonight, which will continue into Sunday until it turns to freezing rain.

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This has forced us into Code White:

(1) early today, we checked the propane tank and generator oil levels and made sure we’re good to go electricity-wise;

(2) this afternoon, we’ll go to the supermarket for a week’s worth of basic groceries and de-icer pellets, plus the weekend essentials –wine, beer, and snacks;

(3) Sunday morning, clear the walkway and make sure that the driveway markers are obvious for the plow truck’s first of what may be several runs;

(4) Sunday afternoon,  build a fire, get out the beverages and snacks, and watch the Rams and the Saints go at it in the sultry South while freezing rain sheets down here;

(5) Sunday evening, eat an appropriate dinner (hot dogs and beans?) while watching the underdog Patriots surprise the Chiefs;

(6) to bed soon after, so that we can try to sneak in an early Monday walk in the silent, snowy woods, where we’ll regain sanity and resume wondering what it’s all about.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Insensitive

The January weather here can be frightful, but our Bald Eagle winter residents don’t seem to mind; they’re built for it. Their skin is protected by feathers lined with down and their external parts have a winter-proof design that reduces the need for blood flow and has few nerves.

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As with most fish-hunting raptors, their powerful lower legs and feet are scaled and consist mostly of tendons; there are no leg-covering feathers to get cold, wet, and bloody. Their toes are padded with Velcro®-like spicules to help keep slippery fish in place.

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Their dig-and-rip beaks and their hold-and-kill claws are made primarily of insensitive keratin protein (think fingernails). See also the image in the first Comment space. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Whoops

While countless frogs, salamanders, and turtles lie in suspended animation in the ground below, the bogs continue to collect water that freezes solid in winter – layer upon layer of slippery ice buildup.

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We saw a doe slip and nearly fall yesterday near this spot; she pranced off with an embarrassed look on her face. Memo to self: order boot cleats.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Spitters

The intriguing architecture of ancient apple trees is best seen in winter. Many of these now-abandoned trees were planted here over 100 years ago in groups of four or five for easier picking. Some of these tree groupings, with twisted trunks and leafless, angled limbs swaying, appear as arboreal stringed quartets and quintets in perfect harmony.

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We suspect that virtually all the old apple trees around here were planted to produce hard cider and applejack liquor. Their apples are extremely tart – what some call “spitters” in memory of what they did after their first bite. In days of yore in rural areas, cider often was preferred over coffee and tea (because water in those drinks frequently got contaminated) and even more popular than beer and wine (because cider was less expensive). (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Hoodies

We seem to be seeing more Hooded Mergansers this winter. These shy fishing ducks are the smallest and oddest of our three types of American merganser.

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They appear to erect their proportionately massive hoods (crests, really) not only when excited, but just when they feel like it – sort of a flexing move, it appears. This flex makes their heads weirdly tomahawk-shaped.

The dark-eyed and grayish female often has a coffee-with-cream color crest that usually is not as fulsome as the male’s.

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The flexing effect is more spectacular on the male because his hood is mostly white on a black head and he has yellow-orange eyes. When his crest is down, it’s just a white racing stripe. y

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Eager

Here we have several of the vessels in our Naskeag Harbor scalloping fleet taking Saturday off.

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That day (January 12) was one of the many days closed to scallop fishing to conserve the State’s precious mollusks during the long December-April fishing season.

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Although at rest, these trawler-rigged vessels look eager to get back out there.

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 (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Clarity

January, the first month after the Winter Solstice, is a time when we enjoy many clear days and nights – times to see farther out into our island-studded seas and sequined skies. It’s also our coldest month, which is one reason for the increased clarity: cold air can’t hold as much obscuring moisture as warm air and, in combination with the increasing (but still low) sunlight, colors are made richer, especially sea blues and greens.

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The image above is of our sunset here on Friday (January 11); it was just marginally better than last night’s sunset. (Brooklin, Maine) Go Pats!

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In the Right Place: Smiles


For People of a Certain Age –

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“Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile.
Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?

“Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?”

(Brooklin, Maine. Apologies to: Mona Lisa songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, singer Nat King Cole, and artist Leonardo da Vinci.)

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In the Right Place: Vacation

As usual, our annual winter trip to the tropics consists of visiting our stair landing and admiring our Hibiscus bloom. It’s a curious experience to be there while snow covers the ground outside the windows. This flower is the first of 2019.

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The bloom offers all that it has during the day – an exotic explosion of unfurling colors and soft shapes meant to attract pollinators. At night, it wants to rest alone and closes itself tightly. This bloom soon will fall to the floor, a victim of its own exuberance. But, there are at least two more buds waiting for their chance to give away a Hawaiian vacation. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Buoyant

Common Cattails (Typha latifolia) look like corn dogs on a stick most of the year. Now, in the bare winter, those Cattails that have discharged their seeds (which is most of them) look like cannon bore cleaners after a big battle:

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So, why are these native plants called Cattails? It has to do with a short time in the lush summer, when a wiggly, cat-tailish male spike appears for a while atop the female corn-doggish flower cluster:

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Native Americans and our original settlors not only ate most parts of this plant, they used its “down” or “fluff” for lining moccasins and papoose swaddle boards and stuffing quilts and pillows. During World War II, when kapok (a buoyant tropical fiber) became unavailable, Cattail down (also very buoyant) was used in American Navy life vests.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: It's Okay

It’s snowing as we speak. We brought a camera to the desk about 15 minutes ago because a yearling White-Tailed Deer slowly slipped through these spruce trees outside our office window – and we weren’t quick enough. We’re ready and waiting for the other three members of our daily deer quartet to follow. We write and look up; read and look up; drink coffee and look up; listen to Maine Public Radio and look up; take this image and put the camera down ….

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We realize that Mother Nature (again) has decided that we need to work on Patience and Acceptance. We finally agree: things are good enough the way they are. Click on image to enlarge it. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: High

This is the tide eagerly coming to us in Great Cove on New Year’s Day, 2019. Our two daily high tides in January range from almost 9 to above 12 feet. (Imagine an 8-foot stick arising vertically at our low tide sea edge; at high tide, its top would be almost 1 foot to more than 3 feet under water.)

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If we had stayed on the spot from which this image was taken, we would have been under water at high tide. With such relatively large ocean bulges here, we usually can see the tide’s small waves chasing each other to the shore. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Provocative

Yesterday was dark and moody. There’s a lot said and shown of the sparkling and bright side of the January weather coin here, but the moody side seems to have been repressed. It’s understandable that some feel that gray winter days here are dull and dreary, perhaps even bleak.

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Yet, when we go out into most of those days, we find them to be more provocative than anything else – especially when we come to familiar places such as the one above. That place yesterday spoke to us of a silent eternity and wooden lace that three months ago was soft layers of reds and yellows and greens in which fall warblers teemed. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Jail Bird

You’re more likely to see Barred Owls in the winter because they court now and they often emerge from the conifer shadows to soak up the warming sun.

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They’re the only common owl in Maine with dark eyes. (Barn Owls have dark eyes, but they’re uncommon in Maine and rare in these parts.) All other northeastern owls have bright yellow eyes.

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Barred Owls get their name from the vertical, jail-like bars on their chests. The first image is of an injured captive bird; the other two images here are of our wild neighbors.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Gesundheit

We had the first prolonged snow flurry of the new year yesterday. It wasn’t much more than a long sneezing fit by Mother Nature, but it was enough to brighten the landscape without causing traffic troubles or making the grazing white-tailed deer dig deeper than their big noses.

Yesterday, most of the fishing vessels lay at their moorings while the constantly-prowling snow trucks salt-sanded and plowed the roads into slush:

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There wasn’t enough snow to plow driveways and, by early this morning, things had brightened.

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A thin frosting covered garden plants and fields.

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The light snow posed no navigation or browsing problem for our resident White-Tailed Deer who were out for their morning walks.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Animal Houses

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We humans have been decorating our homes with replicas of other animals since our homes were caves. Why? That’s part of the question raised by the fascinating January Exhibit at the Friend Memorial Public Library in Brooklin, which opened yesterday.

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Titled “Animals That Bring Us Joy,” the show was conceived by neighbor Si Balch. It fills the Library exhibit room with more than 50 animal works from area homes. Some are fine works of art, others are fine works of fun, and others are fine works of I’ve-Never-Seen-Anything-Like-That-Before” – all joyous to their owners. There’s even a game that you can play: how many figures can you find in the background of the beautifully drawn framed picture of horses below?

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Here are a few more images of pieces in the show, which must be seen in person to be fully appreciated:

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Highly Recommended. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Respectable

Yesterday, we posted images of daybreak on that first day of the year – a miserable combination of driving rain and 22-mile-per-hour winds in semi-darkness. About three hours after those images were taken, the sun finally arrived. It made up for its poor sunrise performance with a respectable New Year’s Day sunset, shown below:

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All’s well that ends well. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Not Pretty

This is the first daybreak of 2019 in Naskeag Harbor, a few hours ago, which means it’s among the first daybreaks in the United States. (The top of very nearby Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park wins the contest for the first sun rays most of the time – when there is sun – according to a study last month by Yankee Magazine.)

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Let’s face it: our new year baby is not pretty – she was snow and sleet in the early a.m. and whipping rain with wind gusts of 22 miles per hour at the appointed time for “sunrise,” when these images were taken.  Glad we don’t believe in omens.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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December Postcards From Maine

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December Postcards From Maine

We say goodbye to 2018 today, the last day of December. The month has many moods, from melancholy to merry, including weather variations that change the character of familiar sights.

December waterscapes can range from silver haze to eye-popping clarity, from smooth water to jagged sea ice :

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Snow in the woods and ice in the streams and ponds can create alternative December worlds:

Most of the lobster boats brought in their traps and ended their seasons in November. But, some remained alone in coves and others sprouted booms and masts and became trawlers when the scallop fishing season began in early December:

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The December snows mostly were of the fat-flake variety that sprinkled more beauty than inconvenience; we even had sun during one snow flurry:

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As for winter birdlife, the Great Blue Herons that we saw during the month were of the abstract kind, but they did have a merriness about them; the Wild Turkeys thrived during cold snowy December days as well as on unusually warm ones, and a Great Black Hawk — a native or Mexico and Central America that is extremely rare here — decided to celebrate the winter holidays in Portland, Maine, where we “caught” it:

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As for flora, there was little Winterberry here to brighten December roadsides this year, but the Red Twig Dogwood did its best, while Rhododendron leaves curled in the cold and their firm buds held a promise of a colorful spring:

The annual Holiday Concert of the Bagaduce Chorale always provides musical color in December. It was magnificent this year:

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December, of course, contains important secular and religious holidays, which were celebrated in Brooklin a number of ways, including neighbor Judith Fuller’s road banners and the General Store’s decorations:

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The Winter Solstice occurs in late December, when the low sun often produces spectacular sunsets to end the year with drama:

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(All the above images were taken in Down East, Maine, during December 2018, except the images of the Great Black Hawk, which were taken in Portland, Maine, during the month.)

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