30 August 2006

Misty Mornings

Well, today was one of those days. I left for a morning walk at about 6:30 a.m. and while the sun was shining through the bases of the tall pines, there was a misty fog hanging across the tops of the trees. In fact, when I left, I could see sunshine, but then the sun rose, and by the time I got back, the sun had disappeared behind the fog.

Yet, by about 10:00 a.m., the fog had completely burned off and gave way to a perfect, 70 degree Maine day. I checked the national weather map. Tropical Storm Ernesto was slugging its way through Florida. Much of the south and central part of the country was experiencing temps in the 80s and 90s. Alaska is already getting snow. But here in Maine, it was a perfect day.

I’m savoring this and I feel so thankful. Early mornings in Maine are such a treat – so fresh, clean, and perfect, even when it’s raining. But especially when it isn’t.

How about taking an early morning walk in your neighborhood this week – as the summer temperatures let up a bit, but before the autumn winds begin to blow. Wherever you live, it can be a pleasure. And if you live in Maine, well, it’s simply the way life should be.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

29 August 2006

Remembering PFC Andrew Small

I’ve been following the story about PFC Andrew Small , the 19-year-old soldier from Wiscasset who died nearly three weeks ago in Afghanistan. This story, like all the others about our young service men and women who have lost their lives serving their country, is tragic and sad. Here in Maine, when one of our own is lost, it is like losing a family member.

My own son is 19-years-old, and ironically, also named Andrew. He’s thought seriously about the military, but decided instead to go to college first. His heart is with the young soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and I know he imagines that he could be one of them – one of the brave, one of the proud… and one of the fallen.

When driving up Coastal Route One last week, we noticed a sign at a local diner, giving homage to PFC Small. It’s the least we can do. He was a brave young man, yet only a boy. And he was one of ours. We will miss him terribly.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

27 August 2006

Hints of Autumn

I drove out into the countryside today; a phrase that is a bit paradoxical, considering that when one lives in Maine, just about anywhere can classify as “in the countryside.” What I mean is, I left our small town, where we have a main street, concrete sidewalks, and stoplights, and went out into the rolling hills and farmlands; the back roads that are off the beaten path, where the houses are old, the trees are older, and the cows are often more populous than the humans.

It was a bit of a rainy day with a chill in the air. The thermometer on my car checked in at 59 degrees Fahrenheit at 2:00 this afternoon. I wore a sweatshirt and I confess, I even turned the heat on low. I switched the radio dial to my favorite classical station. Cool, cozy Sundays always turn my heart toward the soothing music of strings and pianos.

As the car wound around the hills, I passed an old stone wall, a country store, now boarded up and closed, and an apple orchard humming with activity, and signs promising cider, pumpkins, and other autumn treats. Momentarily, I thought it was all a bit premature, what with it still being August, and the fact that many of the schools don’t start until later this week or even the next.

Then I came around a bend and saw a tall, lone maple that had its branches partially scooped out to allow power lines to pass by. While all the trees for miles around were still a bright hue of green, the top of this lone maple was a bright scarlet. It was the first – the first sign of autumn.

We still have a few weeks of warmth, but the dye has been cast, so to speak. Autumn is on its way and there will be no stopping it.

I can’t wait. :)

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

12 August 2006

Perseid Meteor Showers

Tonight my daughters and I donned sweatshirts and crept into our backyard after dark to look for the Perseid Meteor Showers. It was a crisp 50 degrees that felt more like mid September than mid August, and we reveled in it.

After craning our necks for a few moments, looking at the clear, starlit sky, we decided to lie on the trampoline, for an easier, more relaxing view.

We chatted as we lay there, trying to name constellations, lamenting the few wispy clouds that were floating by, and we wondered about the various digging and scratching sounds we could hear in the woods around us. My oldest daughter spotted one meteor as my other daughter and I were getting settled, and then we waited for more.

As we waited, suddenly we saw great flashes of light, followed by a thundering boom. After our initial surprise, we realized it was the fireworks show at a local festival, just a few miles from our home. We peered through the trees to see if we could view the fireworks, but all we were able to enjoy was the light reflecting on those few wispy clouds.

In the end, my younger daughter got bored and went back inside. I finally joined her, not because I couldn’t have remained on that trampoline and looked at the stars all night, but because it was getting late. My older daughter saw two more meteors before the bright August moon rose and brightened up the sky.

Scientists tell us that although tonight was the peak, we may still see more of the Perseid Showers for at least another week. The best time is just after dark, before the moon rises. Try to find a dark spot away from city lights; perhaps a beach or an open field. A trampoline in a backyard works quite nicely. And even if you don’t see any shooting stars, the stars that stay in place coupled with the fresh, crisp Maine nighttime makes it well worth the effort.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

08 August 2006

Sunset

Two days ago I was privileged to take one of my favorite drives down Coastal Route One between Newcastle and Bath. It was about 7:00 p.m. and after an off and on hazy day, the sun was beginning to sink into the cloudy horizon.

As I coasted along the winding road, drinking in the always-spectacular scenery, the small towns along the way seemed more inviting than ever. The sun and the surrounding pink clouds were slightly to the right of the roadway, and each time I passed a body of water (which is often along that route), the entire reflection was pink, as well.

Driving across the long, flat bridge into Wiscasset was what postcards are made of, what with the small town skyline in the background and the shimmering pink/gold water in the foreground. The stretch between Wiscasset and Woolwich - always a treat - was cozy and quaint.

And as always, ascending and then reaching the summit of the Bath bridge took my breath away. The sky was completely pink by this time, with the sun virtually hiding in the background; the river water was pink, the church steeples were pink... the entire town was pink. I found myself, alone in the car, exclaiming outloud.

I marveled, as I drove, wondering as I so often do, if my fellow drivers were noticing what I was seeing. Were they, in their rush to get home or to arrive at their destination glancing up off the road to see the beauty of our fair state? I certainly hope so.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

04 August 2006

East vs. West

Earlier this summer, my family traveled to New Mexico and Colorado to visit family and friends. Having grown up out west, I like to go back every few years to once again see the wide open spaces, feel the dry air, and enjoy the abundant sunshine.

When we first moved to Maine, many years ago, I wasn't sure I'd like it. I felt a bit claustrophobic by all the trees and the change in seasons was more drastic than anything I was used to. Yet as the years have passed, Maine hasn't just grown on me; it has gotten into my blood. I used to make my husband promise that when we retire in 20 years or so, we will move back to the west; yet now I find myself questioning that idea more and more.

This last time I went west, it was as wonderful as ever. Every day in the mountains was 75 degrees and dry, and the sky was eternally blue. There were no black flies, hardly any mosquitoes, and few trees to block the views. But when I came back to Maine, I knew I was coming home. No longer do I say I'm going to visit out west because it's home - it's simply where I grew up.

The west is always beautiful, but it is always changing. People are moving there in droves because of all the aforementioned reasons. People visit Maine, but few move here because the winters frighten them - and we like it that way!

I would still like to visit the west every year, because part of my heart will always be there; but only part. The rest of my heart is now in Maine, in our cozy little house in the woods, surrounded by trees that block the view, blue skies only about half the time, and humid air in summer and frigid temps in winter. I love our small town, our clean environment, and our practical people. I love that we can personally know those running for state government, because they are our neighbors and they go to our church.

Yes, I think I'd like to stay in Maine forever - just don't tell my husband, because he'll only say, "I told you so."

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

02 August 2006

Catching up... and staying cool...

Well, there have been no entries here since the early Spring - - but let's face it, this is a great time of year to be outside in Maine, so I'll use that excuse. And now, with the painfully hot weather we're having, and temperatures today expected to come frighteningly close to the 100 degree mark, I'm finding that time indoors at the computer is a bit more appealing.

My mom came for a visit from the southwestern part of the United States. She keeps telling me that whoever said that Maine is cool in the summertime was a liar. But those of us who live here know she's wrong. Sure, it's hot right now, but look at the temps across the rest of the country (well over 100 degrees in Chicago, Washington, New York, and we won't even talk about Florida) and we can all see that Maine is, indeed, cooler. Plus, lest we forget, three days ago we woke up to temps in the low 50s.

Even on these hot and humid summer days when the only places to be are in air conditioned buildings or in water, we know that tomorrow, when it's still in the upper 90s in many places, Maine will be back down in the 70s... because, as we all know, this is the way life should be.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes