Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Morning in Maine

Bucks Harbor, seen from Smalls Cove
What day of the week is it when you and your entire family have been awake for 3 hours and it is only 8:15 in the morning?  In this household, any given day of the week.

Last week I decided that I would get some quiet time by hook or by crook, and that the best way to do that would be to set an alarm to wake up before Quinn.  The alarm has to be for 5am, based on Quinn's vacation habit of waking up at 5:45.   Quinn, either through his own determination or with the assistance of his pet gremlins, has managed to see to it that no matter when I leave bed, he wakes up 15 minutes later.  He comes bombing out of the bedroom, eyes closed to the lamp I have on, hair pointing in 42 different directions and yelling, "Good Morning Mom!".  The last part might be what ensures us the company of Griffin 15 minutes later. 

It is no mean feat to have all of your family up before first light, especially here in the easternmost tip of the United States.  I'm on my 2nd cup of coffee, a rare amount of caffeine for me these days, and beside me on the couch, Quinn has the nerve to be yawning.  My Personal Charm Meter is reading Low

Indian Point
To glean some benefit from our cranky early morning, I decided to get my exercise by taking a sunrise walk instead of heading into Machias for a swim at the University pool.  The tide was obligingly low, and the air was so brisk I put on sweatpants and my Dad's fashionable red and black buffalo check wool shirt.  I like to look the part when I'm in Maine.

The road we live on is relatively short.  A few minutes to the right takes us past the Salmon plant and dead ends at Bucks Harbor, a picturesque working harbor full of fishing boats, or small dories anchored where the lobster boats will be when they come home.  Big on beauty, short on cardio.    A few minutes to the left gives you the chance to walk past a bait company, 5 or 6 fisherman's homes, a signifant amount of bait containers stashed into the woods, and then finally onto a balsam-scented dirt road.  Bait containers are very good for my workout, as I have to get past them as quickly as possible.  The smell is, well, indescribable. 

Looking toward home on the sandbar
This morning instead of walking on the road, I went across the street, down the steep and muddy footpath and out into Smalls Cove.  We do not own the beach, but we're fortunate that access by the footpath is protected as an ancient clammer's path.  The cove contains a large amount of soft shell clams, and most days of the week we see the trucks of one or two clammers parked near the path entrance. 

I am slightly intimidated by these people.  We have waved to one man, and one woman, both in their late 50s, or early 60s.  They work as quiet competitors on opposite ends of the cove, bent over at a 90 degree angle, digging their clamming rakes into the heavy wet clay.  My aching back muscles are humbled into silence when we watch them.  They fill their wooden clam baskets that they then drag behind them on a mud sled.  Walking through wet clay in big rubber waders alone is a formidable task, and these people do it dragging their muddy catch and supplies behind them. Some clammers then park their sleds on the mud, anchored with giant rocks, to be hidden under the next high tide, and ready for their return at the next low.  It is grueling, unpredictable work, and unavailable to them if the tide should go out, say, at 10pm. 
Bucks Harbor

But today I was the only human on the beach.  Walking east out into the cove at sunrise meant that I needed to keep eyes to the ground, which was just as well because the receeding tide had left the rocks covered in slippery seaweed.  It really is an extraordinary cove.  As the tide pulls out, a perfect footpath of rocks and shells stands about 3' above the muddy cove floor.  It winds its way over half a mile,  out to a pine-covered island.  Because of a low point on the path, dry walking access occurs during a short window.  We have miscalculated the tide in the past and walked home in wet sneakers as a consequence.

Where the cormorant was
The edge of the beach, like so much of this area, is dotted with wild apple trees.  It is against the law in Maine to cut down an apple tree, out of regard for the food they provide the wildlife.  Our own property has 3 or 4 trees on it, none of them particularly palatable to me but fine for, say, deer and porcupine.  Along the beach, piles of old apples sit just below the trees, and some of them bob out on the tide, making a lovely picture of autumn on the Maine coast.

Michaelmas daisies along the footpath
 I passed a large flock of canada geese who fly in every day as the tide is halfway out.  We hear them squawking their way over our house on their way to their dinner.  They land in the same part of the cove every day, and we are not sure what it is that they are eating.  All of the gulls I passed were peacefully standing or floating facing east.  To the right, from Bucks Harbor,  I could hear the boats firing up, and the sound of one of their radios coming over the water.  I watched a water bird, I  believe it was a cormorant, but it could have been a loon.  It would disappear under the waves and come up 10' or 15' away.  It seems to me that loons typically stay down longer and swim farther, so I believe it was a cormorant. 

The Birthday Girl, 5 minutes ago
The pine trees on the islands, the water, the brisk morning air, it was all so lovely.  I could have stayed longer, but the 2nd lowest portion of the path was shrinking, so I decided to turn and head for home. 

Before I did, I took advantage of the cell signal which we strangely have in spades in the middle of the cove, but none of at home.  Today my darling niece Abigail turns 13 years old.  I would scold her for all this endless growing up, but I'm so interested to see who she becomes next, I can hold my tongue.  I called to wish her a happy birthday.

Two days ago I would have paid a king's ransom to get Quinn to take a nap, but he and his gremlins thwarted me.  Today, no nap for Quinn or his damn gremlins.  I want this child begging to go to bed at 7:30, and sleeping for 12 hours in a row.  Wish me luck.

Best -


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