Monday, May 31, 2010

And a Good Time was had by All

We had a “family day” today. It’s Memorial Day, and Mr. Grumbles and I did not have to go to work. The kids had a holiday from school, too, so we headed to my old summer stomping grounds; to Greenwood Pond, where my father grew up, and where most of my kin still live. We spent some time on the water, both together in a row boat, and individually, in kayaks. We had a picnic lunch there in the shadow of Borestone Mountain; an Audubon Sanctuary, and the first mountain I ever climbed… way back in the Dark Ages when I was eleven years old. Then we drove around the mountain to Onawa Lake, and walked the rail road tracks until we reached the Onawa Trestle.

The trestle is an awesome piece of engineering, and my grandfather on my mother’s side had a hand in creating some of the rock cuts that the Canadian Pacific Rail Road runs through in order to cross the canyon which the trestle spans… the canyon created by the stream which is the outlet to the beautiful Onawa Lake.

I have been crossing the trestle since I was a child. It is an important monument in my family’s history. The night my parents married back in 1960, they had to cross the trestle to get to the remote camp where they were spending their honeymoon. One of them refused… chickened out… and climbed all the way to the bottom of the ravine, waded across the river, and climbed the steep wall on the other side. I’ll never say which one of my parents got cold feet, for it’s a source of embarrassment for the poor man. (And when I say “cold feet”, I mean exactly that! October river water here in Maine is some nippy!) As you can see, the Onawa Trestle is a part of my heritage.

I’ve taken all three of my children onto the trestle, and more than once. At one hundred and fifty six feet from railroad tie to the stream bed below, walking across that long span is a thrill. One’s focus is sharp when one looks down on the crowns of full-grown trees, and when there is nothing between the creosote-covered ties but air. No crushed rock, no terra firma… just 156 feet of air.

You all know by now that I am a neurotic mother. While having the desire to let my children experience many of the same things which I did in my childhood, I simply can’t relax and have fun while doing it. I am convinced that they will fall, will trip, will blow over the side. I’m positive the locomotive will come barreling down the tracks, it’s shrill whistle blowing, warning us to hurry and run to one of the three “step out” boxes which are spaced (way too far apart) along the trestle’s length. These boxes, by the way, have simple two-by-fours for railings, and trust me… they aren’t very solid. I could wiggle every one of them! (Of course I had to jiggle them! I was making a POINT! I’m a MOTHER, you know...)

So, as exciting as the prospect of walking the trestle seemed on the surface, I tried my darnedest to spoil the experience for everyone. The last time I took Josie and Eli on this same excursion, they were eight and six years old, and I could crush their hands in mine was we staggered and minced our way towards the mid-point. (Aw, heck. Even back then, Eli wanted to trot ahead… not one ounce of fear in the boy. Idiot child…) But today, they are fifteen and thirteen, and they wouldn’t hold my hand if I was dying. So instead of keeping a tight physical hold on them, I had to resort to “control by command”.

In layman’s terms, I bitched.

I hollered, I threatened, I whined.

“Keep back from the edge!” “Don’t touch that railing!” “Don’t walk so fast!” “Stop! What’s that noise?” “Don’t spit!” “Move towards the middle!” “Not that far… what if the train comes?” “I said, don’t spit! I don’t care how long it takes to reach the ground, it’s gross! What if someone’s down there?” “Dammit, get back from the side!” “The other side!” “Stop! Do you hear that? It might be the train!” “For God’s sake, will you stay away from that railing?” “If you spit over the side one more time, I’m gonna rub your nose in it!” “Judas Priest! Get away from that railing!” “Oh, my God, I think I hear the train!”

And a wonderful time was had by all.

Aw, heck. I don’t know how to be one of the “cool” mothers. I’ve tried. I really have. Why, before we went to the trestle, I let the kids take kayaks out all by themselves. So what if I had to swim alongside them? It’s a free country! They don’t own the pond! And none of their friends will know, unless they tell them, right? I certainly wouldn’t embarrass them by blabbing.

Anyway… we made it. Everyone was grumpy by the time I herded them back onto solid ground, but that’s what “family days” are all about. It’s a time of bonding, and of creating lasting memories.

I can’t wait to hear what their version of the day will be a few years from now.
Top photo was taken from the middle of Greenwood Pond in Elliotsville Plantation, Maine, with Borestone Mountain rising above it.
Second photo is of the Onawa Trestle, above Lake Onawa.
Third photo is Josie-Earl and Eli Pease, standing on the Onawa Trestle with Borestone Mountain in the backgroud. Note the smiling faces...
Fourth photo is of Josie and Eli paddling kayaks on Greenwood Pond.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poem Contest!

It's once again time for me to make a complete idiot of myself in front of friends and strangers, alike. And since I like to spread the love around, I am inviting readers of Gag to enter a short-running poem contest. I am the "comedic entertainment" at the Big Wind Regatta at the incredible (and way swankier than I'm used to!) Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine. And I would like to treat one of my GAG readers and their guest to a night out on the town! Mrs. Gray, owner of the Inn, is the generous sponsor of this fund-raiser, and she is a hostess without equal. Enter, and maybe you can come down to the town that's home to the world-famous LL Bean and hang out with the classy folks! And ME!!

Just write a short (or not) four line poem using the words "wind", "blow(s)" and "gust" and put it in the comments section of this blog posting. I will read them all, and love them all, I promise! But I will have someone in my family draw the winner out of my droopy straw hat... so your poetic skills aren't on the line, here. It will be the luck of the draw!

The contest ends in six days, so hurry up and enter! And if you are "from away" (or if you're already planning to attend) and want to try your hand at winning this poetry contest... I'll make sure you get a prize sent to you in the mail. How about a "Lexington, Maine" t-shirt and an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff? (Surely, not everyone in Australia and Scotland and Tennessee and Florida and Arizona has already read my book? It makes a great gift, and Christmas is right around the corner!)

So... get your poetic juices flowing! I don't have much free time to promote this contest, so please tell your friends!

Below, for the fun of it and because he deserves a bit of recognition for his talent and generosity, I'm pasting in photos of the birch bark and bitter-sweet-framed mirror Mr. Grumbles has built to auction off at the event. Just because... (it was sheer hell living here through the building of this! A perfectionist such as Mr. Grumbles is NEVER happy with what he creates! Much storming, stomping and grumbling went on. Just saying.... hehehe.)

All right... let me see a poem or two!


The finished product...

Top corner before the glass...

Curly little pieces of bitter-sweet...

The bottom arch with bitter-sweet... Pretty nifty, huh?

Monday, May 24, 2010

There Are Snakes, and Then... There Are SNAKES!

I’ve mentioned this before (and some of you might add under your breath “ad nauseum!”) but I’ll say it again… Maine is a wicked nice place to live!

My daughter Josie-Earl took this photo last fall. We’d all gone for a walk in the woods, just to see what there was to see and to enjoy the crisp autumn air. My daughter and I always lug our cameras along. After all, you never know when a photo op might present itself. We learned this the hard way, after that time her father picked up the really neat-looking dog turd, thinking it was a rock. It was a priceless moment—and one which still makes me laugh--but regrettably, it’s not one we captured on film. (Or memory card, as the case may be…)

As we walked along the side of the brook that marks one of our property boundaries, she spied a snake slithering its way across the top of a mossy stump. Out of her pocket came the camera, and the next thing I knew, she was lying on the leaf-strewn forest floor, snapping away. We waited a few minutes for her to get the “perfect shot”, but she was having too much fun. No matter that we said, “Come on, Jos!”; there she remained, eye to eye and nose to tongue with the genial garter. He was a very cooperative snake.

Eventually, we left her. Mr. Grumbles, Eli and I continued our walk, and ten minutes later, my girl caught up with us. She’d taken dozens of photos of the little snake, and this one is one of my favorites. I look at him, and he makes me smile.

And then, there came this photo. Once again, one of my Aussie friends attempted to tell me--in his not-so-subtle way--that Australia is a land of HOLY GUACAMOLE, WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS THAT???

Do you see this? Can you believe it??? Judas Priest on a pony! I HATE that crap!! I want to GO to Australia, and just when I think I might buy myself a plane ticket and fly Down Under, one of my Aussie mates does something like this to me.

Look at it! LOOK at it!! Sufferin’ succotash, that’s a SNAKE! And not just a snake, mind you, but a sheep-eating snake. A sheep-SWALLOWING snake! See… a farmer noticed his sheep were going missing. No trace of them… no blood, no wool, no bones. Just…poof! One minute they were there, calmly standing around, chewing their cuds and looking stupid, and the next…Poof! POOF, I say! One bite. One swallow. One sheep swallowing snake was decimating his herd. Or flock, or whatever the heck sheep congregate in. So, this sneaky sheep shepherd strung a string. A static-saturated string so strung so’s to safely store his stupid sheep. And along came the snake… a python, to be perfectly precise. He started under the wire, got zapped, and did what any respectable python would do. He attacked the source of the pain. Bit the wires. Completed the circuit. ZAP! That surge of electricity caused the python’s muscles to contract, and he was stuck right there, caught open-mouthed as he fried.

Oh, man. I’m an animal lover, you know? As guilty I feel about this, I’ve gotta say… THANK GOD!

I’ve never been afraid of snakes, but there’s a first time for everything. I’m thinking seriously about developing a snake phobia. This picture is horrifying, and… I mean… LOOK AT IT! Holy smokes.

And I really wanted to go to Oz, too…
Below are some photos of an actual Australian snake (ask Crookedpaw for the name... he's smart that way!) swallowing a kangaroo. Yes, I feel much better now...

The photo below is of a couple of Aussie possums sent me by my pal, Jack. They have NOT (yet) been consummed by Monty python...

Living With Critters

I live on a beautiful hillside, with a distant view of Mt. Abram and Sugarloaf, and the mountains of Highland and Lexington ringing close around my homestead. Sometimes I worry…. afraid that I’m too lucky… that I don’t deserve to live in this gorgeous and peaceful place, where the mountainside shelters me from wind, where the babbling brooks lull me into a sense of contentedness, and where the air is crisp and clear. I watch thunder clouds roll across the peaks to the west until the Sandy Stream Valley is shrouded in swirling darkness. In wonder I behold spectacular sunsets, especially in November, and they end my day with color and splendor.

I am lucky to live in the western mountains of Maine.

Country girls such as myself naturally have an affinity for wild creatures. I have a few “city” friends who’ve never laid eyes on anything more exotic than a pigeon or a gray squirrel. I don’t think I could stand that type of existence, although I’m sure it’s “all in what you know”. If I hadn’t started life as a game warden’s daughter, if I hadn’t grown up on a hundred acre wood, perhaps I wouldn’t miss seeing critters about the place. But I did… and I would miss the country life if I lost it.

Spring time in these hills is a marvelous time. The animals which hibernated all winter long have emerged from their dens; hungry and newly curious about the world around them. Larger animals such as moose and deer are leaving their winter grounds and yards and venturing forth to find new glades and fields and swamps and thickets in which to browse or shelter or give birth.

Here on The F.A.R.M. we’ve always had an abundance of wildlife nearby. From my front porch I have watched white-tail deer and their fawns graze and carouse in the field. I’ve watched moose nibble buds from the trees and have seen them leaning over my fence, curious about the cows or the goats on the other side of the page-wire. I’ve seen bald eagles and red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures soar overhead. Woodchucks, raccoons, hedgehogs… otters and turkeys and foxes and bears… all gifted me with a glimpse of their uniqueness without ever having to leave my home.

I’ll say it again. I’m a very lucky woman.

As much as we love to observe our wildlife, sometimes they can become a nuisance. A porcupine can cause a tremendous amount of damage over the course of a night or two as it chews its merry way though a sheet of plywood. A raccoon can make a heck of a mess as it devours sunflower seeds meant for our songbirds.

And a bear can cause a lot of destruction simply by being a bear. (Note to self… don’t throw the trash into the truck until just before taking it to the dump, and close window to the porch to help with continence issues…)

These photos were all taken this week… here around my home (and sometimes, ON it!)

Am I a lucky woman, or what?


Sorry about the "Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear" photo... it was a "Quick! Turn on the light!" moment, and was taken (by daughter Josie) through the window on my kitchen door... and then... the bear sat back on his butt to look at the light, and I tried to get a good one with MY camera, and I had the knob on the top set in the wrong position...I kept clicking, and nothing happened... grrrr.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quiet and Respectful While Being Insulted

On Friday, May 21st, I had the opportunity to hear former governor Angus King speak to the Somerset Economic Development Corporation. Since he was an invited guest and I was not, I remained silent throughout his hour-long speech about his company’s plans to build a 48 turbine grid-scale industrial plant along Highland’s five mountaintops. I remained silent, yes… but it was difficult.

Perhaps hardest to bear was the fact that those like myself who oppose this and similar projects had no opportunity to present the other side, and I was left to wonder if the SEDC members believed everything Mr. King had to say. A very large portion of what he said was not completely truthful. Most of it can be refuted with factual information provided by experts with no stake in industrial wind.

And honestly? Some of what he said was just plain insulting. He told the SEDC that "Jonathan Carter's people" were opposing the Highland wind project due to its scenic impact, only. This, despite having received a personal letter from me going into great detail about the many diverse reasons for our opposition. His labeling us as Jonathan's "people" was intended to invoke a negative reaction, as Jonathan has been at the forefront of several environmental fights in Maine over the last two decades, and those efforts have riled people up. Sadly, such things are bound to happen. Jonathan IS a member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains, living as he does in the shadow of those very hills. But he is no more central to the group than any of the rest of our members. We are not "his people" and Mr. King intended for his statement to stir up contention and an instant dismissal of our cause.

Mr. King told the group there would be NO impact to wildlife… but both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have admitted there most likely WILL be an adverse effect on our animals. They just aren’t sure how big that impact will be… until AFTER the turbines are installed.

Mr. King said there will be NO negative impact to birds and bats and yet, new studies being done are showing that the opposite is true. For just one example of how turbines are negatively impacting our flying creatures, check out this link: The information contained in just that one article will frighten even the stoutest of men.

He said the sound of the turbines would NOT be an issue because these things couldn’t be heard "beyond a half-mile or so”. He completely discounted the rights of the two closest property owners, stating that their structures were only summer camps, and due to the masking effect of leaves on the trees in the summer time, the owners wouldn’t be affected. It didn’t matter to him that one of those camp owners has always dreamed of retiring to Highland Plantation. His right to use and enjoy his property was callously disregarded. In addition, more than one acoustics engineer has assured us that sound travels differently in mountainous terrain, and that set-backs of 2 miles or more is more appropriate. Those of us who have made these mountains our home know how far sound travels here, even without unbiased experts telling us so.

I could go on to refute another dozen statements Mr. King made as he tried to sell his product to the folks at the SEDC. The facts are readily available, and the Friends of the Highland Mountains are working hard to get them out to the general public. We don’t need to resort to rhetoric or half-truths. Science and economics have decided the issue for us. And for the record, we are NOT opposing land-based industrial wind due to its negative scenic impacts, only. To do so would be selfish, and this group is made up of fine, altruistic folks from all walks of life, all political parties and all income levels. There is not a single one of us who wouldn’t prefer to spend our precious free time doing something other than trying to stop this ill-fated plan for our mountains. Truthfully, there’s not a petty or selfish one amongst us, and I’m honored to know each of them.

It wasn’t easy to sit quietly and respectfully while we were publicly insulted and while we listened to half-truths and pat phrases intended to placate a dubious public. But we did it, and I was very proud of the caliber of men and women who sat beside me.

Sometimes, the right side actually wins. Today, I was more convinced than ever that this will be one of those times.

For more information on the governor’s plans for mountaintop wind development, please go to This site can give you a start as you begin your own search for the truth. Science and economics… those are the deciding factors for me and many of the people who oppose this and other mountaintop industrial wind projects across the state. Don’t take it from me, though. Do a little research and make up your own mind. You’ll be glad you did.

For the mountains... and for the truth,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

By the Time I'm Your Age...

What is age?

Oh, I know it’s a number, but must we get hung up on that? I’m reminded of my chronological age often enough. Every time I fill out paperwork, I’m asked for my date of birth. Every time I take a survey, I have to tell what ‘age group’ I fall under. And every time September 20th rolls around, I have to add another candle to my cake. In recent years, I’ve needed to get a ‘burn permit’ on that date, as well.

I know how old I am. What I want to know is how to tell what my age is on the INSIDE. See, in my mind and spirit, I still feel like an eighteen year old. I still like to giggle and act silly. I still find wonder in simple things. I still want to make my parents proud of me, even while raising children of my own. Once in awhile, I even think I’m young enough to be attractive to the opposite sex.

But then, I get a reality check. I walk by a mirror, for example. In masochistic fashion, I sometimes pause and take a gander. The proof is in the reflection… gray hairs, small wrinkles, medium wrinkles, even one or two good-sized ones. Occasionally, I am reminded of my advancing years by my own body’s rebellion to tasks or movements which–once upon a time–wouldn’t have been worth remarking on. But now, if I spend an hour or two piling firewood, I’m lame for hours. When I rake the lawn or weed the garden, my back gives out, forcing me to walk like a hunchback for several days afterwards. I can get a stiff neck by sneezing. I can get stiff muscles by doing nothing more than sitting still for a half an hour. My outer shell and my physical body tell me that I am growing old.

And then, there are other peripheral reminders. I was chatting with a man the other day; laughing, sharing interests, talking peer to peer. That’s how I felt, anyway. Until the fellow caught me off guard with this statement: “By the time I’m your age…”

My head snapped around.

“Why, you little…!”

All of a sudden, I was reminded that this man is only five years older than my son Guy. All of a sudden, I realized that when you are thirty-two, a forty-six-year-old seems part of another age group. Another generation. I felt old. By the time he is my age, I will be sixty.

A piece of furniture over fifty years old is considered an antique.


This wonderful young fellow (whom I reflexively called a naughty name...sorry, sweetheart) meant nothing disparaging by his remark. He’s NOT my age, and by the time he IS, we will have colonized Mars. I need to accept reality. To him, I’m fast approaching my dotage.

The little…

On the opposite side of the coin, I was made to feel youthful and spritely by a friend who gave me these words. “I’ll leave that work to you young kids, who still have energy and spunk.” Well, everything is relative. Comparatively speaking, my spunk level is pretty low. But to this seventy year old gentleman, I’m a kid. And I can live with that.

And so, I see-saw. One minute I feel like a girl…funny, vivacious, full of spirit and life. The next, an old crone covered in cobwebs and camphor and sporting Depends.

Age is state of mind as much as it is a number. The trick is to remind myself that every time a youngster views me as an ancient one, there is an older person looking at my comparative youth with longing. It’s best if I learn to embrace my maturity, yet feel free to occasionally act a little bit immature. There are benefits to being older, just as being a kid has its perks. And once in a while, even an old gal like me gets a nice surprise.

In the tire store the other day, the man behind the counter not only handed me a card with his phone number scribbled on the back, but he knocked eighty bucks off the total cost of my four tires. The phone number was useless, as I’m a happily married woman. But the number on my invoice was very welcome. After all, I’m approaching retirement age, and every little bit of savings helps.

I’ve got to admit… getting hit on at my age made me feel good. It made me feel YOUNG. And the guy who showed the interest? He wasn’t an old man, by any means. He was just a young pup of fifty-five or so.
Bottom photo is author Karen Bessey Pease at 16 years old.
Top photo is Author Karen Bessey Pease (note the same sexy specs) as she sees herself in 54 years. Lord willing and the creek don't rise...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kill a Baby, but Build an Orphanage

Kill a baby, but build an orphanage…

In the murky world of Industrial Wind permitting, it’s referred to as “mitigation”.

At forty-six, you’d think I would have “seen it all”. That I would be cynical, hardened, and wiser than I am. But I’m not. I’m still naïve; still believe in the innate goodness of all mankind... still believe that there are some things which money can’t buy. Yep, I’m naïve…

But I’m growing out of it fast.

Today, to show support for the citizens opposing the development of another of Maine's beautiful and rugged mountains, I attended the Land Use Regulation Commission’s technical hearing for the Sisk Mountain/Trans-Canada proposal. Three environmentally-minded agencies were opposing a part of the development… not all of it, but a section. Each representative stated their agency’s reasons for opposing the placement of 400' tall turbines on the south end of Sisk Mountain; one of the Boundary Mountains between Maine and Canada, along the historic Arnold Trail. One wanted to protect a rare tree; another, a rare bird; and the third… the wilderness experience in a remote-feeling outpost. After their testimony, Trans-Canada’s razor-sharp attorneys cross-examined them. These same three entities had endorsed the Kibby Mountain project just a few miles away, and the wind developer’s lawyers quoted their testimony given at those hearings back to them.

They made them look like fools.

You know what, though? Those red cheeks and shuffling feet were well deserved. These agencies are each charged with protecting a segment of Maine’s natural resources. In my opinion, they shouldn’t have endorsed the Kibby Project in the first place. They should have been taken to task, should have had their words thrown back at them! And when the Trans-Canada fire got a little too hot, what happened?

Oh, man. I was mad enough to spit nails...

One expert attempted to clarify his agency’s position on the Kibby project. He stated that they never actually ENDORSED the wind turbine development that is being built there… they simply withdrew their opposition because Trans-Canada had enabled them to purchase a large parcel of land elsewhere to put into a conservation easement. They had received “mitigation”, and so they withdrew their opposition. And then that gentleman--that expert--went one step further. He stated that if Trans-Canada wished to offer similar “mitigation” for the Sisk proposal…

Oh, hell.

Before the cross-examination was over, another of the three agencies admitted to the same thing… that they had sacrificed that which they are duty-bound to protect in exchange for something else of value. That the natural resources of Kibby had been important, but not so important that they couldn’t be forfeited if that agency received something bigger and better. It was justified, you see…

It was all for the greater good.

That saddest part of this whole thing? Our government endorses this practice. After all, “mitigation” is written into that misguided Expedited Permitting Law, LD 2283. I believe our administration may even encourage it, since if the opposing parties can reach a “meeting of the minds”, then the desired development is approved that much quicker, LURC is saved the trouble of having to agonize over a decision, and our governor gets closer to reaching his goal of 2,700 megawatts of land-based wind power by 2020.

Mitigation. Kill a baby, but build an orphanage. I guess that makes it all okay.

Top photo is of the Boundary Mountains, Maine

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Not as Old as Terri

One of my very best friends has just returned home after spending her first winter in Florida as a Snowbird. I've missed Terri. More than she knows, and more than I imagined. And just because I love her so much, and want to welcome her home, I thought I would post this silly poem that I wrote for her. Once upon a time...

The microwave invention was a wondrous thing,
Heating food so fast on it’s turning ring,
Saying, “Supper’s ready!” with it’s little ding....
But-- it’s not as old as Terri.

Laptop computers-- now they are great!
You can get your work done while you’re out on a date.
Finish homework on the bus, so it’s not late...
Yet, they aren’t as old as Terri.

VCR’s have been around for ages,
Keeping kids from turning their book pages,
Creating movie experts- instead of sages...
Still-- they’re not as old as Terri.

Cell phones, cordless phones, even C.B.’s
Have helped us communicate with much more ease,
No operator connects us with her, “One moment, please...”
Yet-- they’re not as old as Terri.

We think of an 8-track as obsolete,
That scratchy music would just repeat,
While the miles flew by under tapping feet...
But-- it’s not as old as Terri.

Space exploration is nothing new,
It seems forever since we first flew,
From this little rock to the heavens blue...
Still-- it’s not as old as Terri.

Ziplocks, Velcro, turkeys in Maine,
Super fast, super-sonic aero-plane,
Magnetic, float-on-air commuter train...
None of these are as old as Terri.

But there’s something timeless about this friend of mine,
She’s pretty and vibrant, intelligent and fine,
And she continues to love me, though I sometimes whine,
“Yeah, well, I’m not as old as Terri!”

Welcome home, old friend. Hehehehe...

Terri is the lovely lady on the far right wearing the CROWN! Pffft! Well, she might have won the crown, but I'm still younger! (Love you, Ter!)