Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Last Postcards from Maine

It's the end of August, time for new adventures, and I hope we'll all have some good ones. Alas, it's still late spring in Old New Yorker Land, although I'm doing my darnedest to get caught up. There's too much good reading in the June fiction issue; more on that later.

Here are the final postcards from Maine because we all need to be getting busy organizing our desks and school supplies, even if school is a distant memory. At this time of year, it's a pleasant ritual and an excuse to finally stock up on pens, automatic pencils, and so on. Every time I need to take a phone message, I grab a pencil from my husband's stash and it won't write, so I toss it, and try again.

We also need to consider fall fashion. I have a free Vogue subscription via Garnet Hill and the September issue arrived yesterday. The postman rang my doorbell because it is bigger than a telephone book and wouldn't fit in the mail slot. He was barely audible on the intercom, exhausted from rolling it in his cart and carrying it up the steps. So let's hope it answers the burning question: Will we be seeing wool and corduroy micro-rompers this September?

Which, naturally, brings me to thoughts of donuts. If you are in Freeport, you'd be a fool to miss Frosty's. Their donuts are everything they should be, whether you want a classic chocolate-frosted or a wilder creation with custom toppings. Also consider the blueberry donut and the twist, a glazed log that's big enough to feed two but probably won't.

The Inn at Southwest Harbor, on Main Street. I've never stayed here but I admire its fanciful architecture:

The obligatory dinghy photo:

We visited Woodlawn, a historic house museum in Ellsworth featuring 18th- and 19th-century furnishings from three generations of the Black family. I took a full set of photos but they ask that photos not be published without permission. So go visit! It's a beautiful house with extensive gardens and grounds.

Here's the iconic view of Otter Cliff on the Park Loop Road in Acadia . . . obscured by fog. Fog happens, and I like it. For one thing, there are few sightseers when there are fewer sights. For another, you get to use your imagination.

This seagull insisted on posing for me, coming closer and closer and presenting frontal and profile views. I often ask a likely seagull to come live with us, because the cats say they would like a bird friend, but they all refuse. This one flew off as soon after my invitation.

Postcards from Maine: Camden

On our drive home, we consoled ourselves after missing the House in Searsport by finally visiting Norumbega, a magnificent inn on Route 1 in Camden. We look for it and admire it on every drive, and I can now report that the inside fulfills every promise of the outside.

Just from driving past it for about 20 years, we could tell when the place was having its ups and downs, including some obvious "deferred maintenance" many years ago. The place has changed hands a few times, and the current owners have been in business for just a few years. They seem to be keeping it excellent shape. 

As soon as we set foot in the entry, we knew it was our kind of place:

I could almost live happily just in the entryway:

A young woman who worked in the kitchen answered the bell and gave us a tour in the innkeeper's absence. (She was so welcoming and well-informed that I thought she was the innkeeper.) I didn't take many photos but here's the library:

A sitting room with a piano. You can see the elegant oak hallway in the background:

There's original woodwork and detailing everywhere throughout the inn:

To see all the rooms and rates, here's the inn's website. We plan to stay there sometime soon, in the off-season when rates are much better. We saw a few rooms; the bigger ones, like the penthouse suite, are too upscale (and "mod") for us, but the smaller ones seem charming and comfortable. The best ones face the back, with ocean views in the distance and less street noise. Some have little balconies, some have clawfoot tubs, and each is different.

From Norumbega one can walk or drive to downtown Camden, which wraps around its lively harbor:

We wander and eat there, and walk down to the harbor to see the tall ships and other boats at their moorings. There's a Sherman's bookstore, a good deli with two cases of serious baked goods, and several independent shops selling home goods and Maine crafts. Camden's library is also worth a visit for its creative architecture inside and out. Here's the outdoor seating area, with a curved bench in the form of a bookshelf, set in a garden:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Postcards from Maine: This and That

Let's admire some of the homemade offerings next to the cash register at Gott's Store in Southwest Harbor:

I resisted all of that high-powered yum only because I was already weighed down with a slab of carrot cake. (Cakes, pies, and puddings are in the fridge section.) 

Check out this hilarious homemade musical commercial for Gott's. It made me laugh and then it made me desperate to go back there. They are open from 2:30 am to 11 pm, so if we left now, we could have cake for breakfast. ("Or crab rangoon in a wonton shell...")

I also miss the pool. Those are my footprints heading into the hot tub. Sigh.

I didn't see a really great pink sunset in Southwest Harbor, but at least there was this:

Proof that we got off our duffs another time and drove into Bar Harbor. That is Bar Island across the way. At low tide a sandbar stretches right across the harbor so people can walk to the island, hence the town's name. (Some friends thought it was named for its quantity of drinking establishments. No.)

I use the ladder to the loft in our bungalow as shelves. You can see my trusty "travel iron," the green spray bottle, which usually goes to Europe with us but came to Maine by accident. I mist wrinkled clothes and hang them in the bathroom when we shower. Mostly we just look rumpled, which is fine in Maine unless we are going to an art show or a fancier dinner. And yes, I packed an owl. And there is a stack of New Yorkers.

It is finally early June in Old New Yorker Land. A long May article on trigger warnings and other political over-correctness on college campuses was so annoying that it took me a solid week to get through it. And now I'm in the fiction issue.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recent Adorableness: Lion

We've gone too long without the cats here. When I take over his armchair, Lion will perch on the mantel and stare down at me, willing me to move. I think he imagines himself as a fierce, predatory bird — buzzard, vulture — but with that little pink nose he doesn't scare me.

But he always gets his chair back.

Postcards from Maine: Thuya Lodge

We always feel at home in Thuya Lodge, Joseph Curtis's simple home in Northeast Harbor. My husband has been visiting it since the 1960s, so he often look for his family's signatures in the guestbooks from those years. The house, like Acadia National Park, is celebrating its centennial this year. The old guestbooks had been temporarily removed for unknown reasons, but they are supposed to reappear. It's alway nice to talk to the docents, who don't give tours but serve as welcoming, informed hosts. Some have been volunteering for decades.

It's a comfortable but elegant summer house, and the upstairs rooms are filled with old books about gardening, plants, Maine, and similar subjects. We like to browse; on this trip I looked at decorating advice books from the 1920s. Usually I settle down with the mushroom guides.

The house is well decorated with garden flowers at this time of year:

And there was a real butterfly lying on a coaster in the kitchen:

Books in Curtis's study:

As we make our way back down the hilly, wooded path to the road, we can see sparkly views of Northeast Harbor:

Postcards from Maine: Thuya Garden, Part 2

Photographing flowers is a perfect activity for me because they never turn their little heads away or blink, like cats. When I want more of a challenge, there are butterflies and bees.

Lilies make me cringe even when there are no cats around:



Butterflies like pale purple ageratum:

A monarch was enjoying this plant, and monarch caterpillars were all over it, too:

Not sure what these are — I thought a single zinnia, but now I don't think so, and I rarely remember to photograph the labels provided for every species. Whatever they are, bees like them:

More dahlias:

Postcards from Maine: Thuya Garden, Part 1

Thuya Garden only looked promising in June; in August, it was in peak form, bursting with old-fashioned flowers, butterflies, and bees.

Also frogs. As usual, we went straight to the tiny pond to count them. There were five.

Even the ground cover was colorful and interesting:

There were dahlias everywhere:

Zinnias, snapdragons, and other old-fashioned flowers:

This is Datura — sort of a super-sized, industrial-strength, non-climbing morning glory:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Postcards from Maine: Trespassing

On our first evening at the inn, our friend invited us to visit a coastal property in Southwest Harbor that had just been sold. The sellers want him to sell the contents of the house in his antique shop and he wanted company. The sellers are long-time residents who bought the place decades ago but never spent a one night in the old-fashioned wooden house overlooking Somes Sound. It turned out to be an excellent investment.

It's a stunning, expansive stretch of waterfront on a quiet, woodsy road. The new owners are in the Rockefeller family, revered on the island for their past generosity (donating much of the land that is now Acadia National Park) and continuing philanthropy. They will preserve the land and keep their usual low profile. No hedge-fund or big-pharma MegaMansion will disturb that pristine shore.

The full moon was rising and the sun was setting when we arrived. We ate a pizza on a picnic table as it grew dark. 

Our friend told us that the property stretched as far along the coast as we could see. Across Somes Sound, we caught glimpses the water sides of the wonderful old Shingle-style houses we often drool over in Northeast Harbor. The water sides are usually more interesting the the sides facing the road. I recognized the back of Rosserne, which I've only seen in photos, and once from a boat:

Imagine having this as your view:

We walked along the pebbly beach.

It was as quiet as it looks.

Inside the house there was no power, so we were glad to have our iPhone flashlights, especially in the basement, which had many more cobwebs than I like (I like NO cobwebs and was happy to get out of there). There were about four bedrooms, all empty.

There were three leaded-glass windows and a few chairs in the sunroom. A friend of the family was camping there, using a sleeping bag and candles.

A pair of Adirondack chairs sat before the living room fireplace. The house was mostly empty but felt like a good, happy place even so.

We drove away in the moonlight. Before we went back to the inn, we trespassed on someone's boatyard on the other side of the harbor — our friend wanted to show us a boat he was thinking of renting for a party. He apologized to an annoyed neighbor as we continued along the dock, and then we met and charmed the captain, who came striding toward us in the darkness and turned out to be a kindly and patient man. It was too dark to actually see the boat.

Then we drove to see yet another piece of waterfront property, newly purchased by the same people who had just sold the one on Somes Sound. (They won't be living there, either, apparently, at least not for a while.) We trespassed there only briefly, deciding we'd come back when it wasn't so dark. We'd gotten lost finding it and had trespassed on a few private driveways and roads along the way.

By the time we got home I was somewhat queasy from rattling around in a smoky truck on dirt roads. I was also melancholy, realizing that even though I'd never been brave enough to venture inside the condemned house in Searsport, for example, trespassing turns out not to be such a big deal. I have experience, especially in the dark.