Sunday, September 02, 2012

Maine Day 7: Penobscot and Moose Point

Day 7 found us on our way out of Acadia and back down south... the first leg of our long journey's home. We had learned a bit on this trip, deciding to take a more direct route home that allowed us time for just a few more restful stops along the way. We had seen the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on our way into Acadia. A quick stop before crossing. Suddenly taken in by the beauty of the bridge. Cathy pulling out her camera, rolling down the window, and trying to capture the effect. Luckily there was only one car behind us at the time as we inched across the bridge! On the way back, we turned off before crossing to take a few more scenic pictures...
To be honest, whenever I hear the word "Penobscot," I immediately think of the television show MASH. Major Houlihan was, of course, married to Donald Penobscot, most likely of the Maine Penobscots... quite an upper crust family, if I remember correctly! Which reminds me of evenings sitting around the coffee table in the family room eating dinner and watching television with the family... for some reason MASH and Hogan's Heroes are what I remember best. Mixed memories... a love of television and classic tv, shared family experiences, time with Dad combined with memories of passive meals spent watching rather than talking or sharing together. I suppose most memories are mixed... even this vacation will have mixed memories associated with it. There are very few moments in life that are pure joy... or pure sorrow. I realize that with travel and vacation I am so much more likely to filter out the bad, to just remember the good. I don't think it is a false way of remembering, unless of course you completely romanticize the experience! I think sometimes it is a choice, a choice to see the good, to see the positive, to see what built one up rather than pulled one down. If only I could apply my travel filter to the rest of my life... to my childhood, my family, my years in junior and senior high... To see the gifts in each moment rather than focusing on what was missed or lost. Of course, we couldn't complete the drive home without stopping at at least one park to do a bit of rock hopping along the shore. Moose Point (no moose, unfortunately) was a quiet little park with amazing rocks along the shore that looked like petrified wood.
An amazingly friendly park employee kept us entertained with his stories and background. He loved what he did and his joy was contagious. Do I ever talk about my work like that? What a privilege to work... what a privilege to love what one does... And then... the long drive home. Well, home to my parents for one more night of looking at pictures, blogging, and relaxing in front the television... yes, some things never change in my family! But now they are a joy, shared interests with extended family that keep us connected through the generations. And one last stop... a coffee roasting factory just a few miles from my parents called Carpe Diem. Fair Trade. Locally processed. We walked in and found a stack of coffee bean burlap sacks stacked on the floor by the door. We asked how much they cost and the woman behind the counter looked at us as if we were crazy! They were trying to get rid of them... would we be willing to take some??? One persons trash is, as always, another persons treasure... and so we found one's with the names of our favorite countries: Peru, Costa Rica, Kenya... one more item to drag home. Is it strange that something not at all connected with Maine or Acadia may be one of my favorite finds along the journey? As always, it is the unexpected that often brings me the most joy... so why do I keep trying to plan to much! O Lord, help me to continue to make space for the serendipitous moments you bring into our lives. Give me the eyes to see!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Maine 6: The Quiet Side

On our last full day in Acadia, we headed to the quiet side of the island... out to Southwest Harbor and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Southwest Harbor was a cute town with an art fair going on outside the town visitor center. The main street was full of shops and small restaurants. Off the main street, down a small winding road, past some beautiful old mansions that are bed and breakfasts, we pulled up to a dock near the US Coast Guard Station.
The docks and pier were open to the public. There were families fishing off the end of one of the piers. There were lobster boats docked and the dinghys that they used to go back and forth from shore. There were lobster traps stored on floats out on the water. Plastic bins floating alongside the dock filled with live lobster. A great place for photos... I wish I had better shots from that morning!
I imagine it is strange for lobster fisherman to have us running around taking pictures of their work. Imagine someone walking into your office and taking pictures of your desk, your phone, your stapler. Taking pictures of you typing or talking on the phone. I know that a part of me romanticizes lobster fishing, but I know it is hard labor. I know it requires risk and tenacity and faith in the sea. And that at times it doesn't pay an awful lot. I wonder why we are so prone to do that. To romanticize the ordinary in the life of those who are other, those who are different than us. The good part is that we do sometimes see the beauty in what has become ordinary to others. The bad part is that we pretend things are beautiful as a way to avoid the harsh realities of another person's life. After we left the lobstermen/women to themselves, we headed farther around the point. We were looking for tidepools, but the tide was not quite low enough and it was rainy and misty. The rocks were slippery. I suppose after such beautiful sights the last few days, were ready to pass a few by. We did, however, stop at Bass Harbor Lighthouse.
Just a word of advice, from the parking lot, as you face the water, don't take the main path to the right down to the light. Head left, on the path that heads into the woods and then sends you down a set of steps to the rocks below. I much better view!
We finished the day by heading into Bar Harbor... the hub of Acadia. Full of tourists shops. The streets are just so crowded! Cruise ships parked at the wharf. Restaurants. Some cute buildings, but so hard to appreciate after the majesty of the coast. We did hang out at a tiny coffee shop for an hour or so, just relaxing, writing, looking at photos. Then decided to pick up some dinner and take back to our room. We found a little pizza/pasta place just off the main drag that Cathy claims had the best blueberry? pie that she had ever tasted! To be honest, I am glad we didn't stay in Bar Harbor... I wish we had been in a bit more picturesque inn, but glad for the peace and quiet which went so well with our experience of Arcadia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maine Day 5: Cadillac Mountain

After a long day on the Schoodic Peninsula, we were headed back to our room for the evening when suddenly, for the first time since arriving in Acadia, the clouds began to clear and the sun came up. We could hardly believe it! And we seized the moment deciding to head up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Acadia. Of course we stopped at the local gas station/pizza place on the way up. Honestly, I was surprised that no one else had dinner with them! It was a beautiful evening and what a great location for a picnic... Okay, no picnic tables or garbage cans... not really anywhere to sit... but that didn't stop us from settling down on some of the rocks to enjoy the sunset.
What a beautiful view... from a rocky mountaintop... out over the islands and oceans that were wrapped in fog. It made me miss the Bay Area... Berkeley was such a great place to watch the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge and across the bay. Driving into San Francisco from Marin on foggy days was a magical experience as the fingers of fog reached down from the tops of the hills and over the highway. And you never knew what view would await you as you exited the final tunnel leading into the city and the bridge and panorama of the city opened up before you. I love unexpected moments like that evening on Cadillac Mountain. Totally unplanned. No expectations. Just a serendipitous gift. I wish I had more space in my life for those. And that I took more opportunities to enjoy them. It seems that most of my favorite moments in travel have occurred unexpectedly. So why do I try so hard to plan them? Why can't I just let God unfold the surprises of the day? And trust that in God's creation there will be miracles and wonders and beauty? To top off our evening on Cadillac Mountain... a Scottish bagpiper showed up as the sun was setting and began playing for the crowd. Singing the sun down beyond the horizon. That beautiful, eerie music drawn from a heritage that was so tied to the earth and nature. So fitting... a little benediction to the evening. And as the music played, silent prayers of praise were lifted up all around.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Maine Day 5: The Schoodic Peninsula

It would have been enough to spend three days exploring the main park at Acadia. There was so much to see and it is one of those places where you can just hike and wander and climb and explore for days. But, of course, I love to get off the beaten track. While Cathy and I were looking for places to stay, we had come upon information about the Schoodic Peninsula, just 45 minutes from the main park. And it did not disappoint! It began as quite an adventure. Google Maps, taking the direct route, had us winding down a small road that turned into a gravel road that turned into a dirt road through the middle of some sort of quarry. Not sure we were really supposed to be there, but it was quite on a Saturday morning, and I didn't feel like backtracking and finding the long way around... so through the quarry we went. A short cut to the Schoodic Peninsula. We were hoping to hit the Lobster Festival at Winter Harbor on the way, but poor planning on our part and poor weather on God's part made that a very unproductive side trip. Except, of course, the Winter Harbor Visitor Center. Beautiful. Fairly inexpensive sandwiches, salads, and coffee. Free wifi. And a great view of the water. So, on we went out to the Peninsula. It seemed that with each bend in the road, we would come upon another beautiful vista and move farther away from civilization. Each stop was a new beach, each unique, each stunning and so interesting! I have heard of sand beaches and rock beaches... but never a beach that was covered entirely with shells! Okay, there were some rocks and a lot of seaweed...
A beautiful beach off in the distance... the sound of two loons calling to each other. A family fishing off the pier. A few picnickers on the shore.
The next stop was a true rock beach... not pebbles and not boulders... baseball sized rocks... of course in a cove between larger boulders... with a view of our first lighthouse off in the distance.
And then out to the point. The one place that was slightly crowded on the whole peninsula. As with most of Acadia, it seemed as if rocks had just erupted from the ocean, pushed up from the sea floor, and formed this beautiful barren coastline.
The mist and the wind were perfect on this day... waves crashing. I realize they were probably minimal compared to what might occur during a storm. I would love to be there on a stormy day! I don't know what draws me to the coast on storming days. I love the power and the beauty. I would much rather go to the beach during a storm than on a sunny day. Something about sitting in silence just listening, feeling, sensing... On the way back we passed a misty cove with a single lobster boat docked in the middle. A bit farther up was the boat house at Wonsqueak Harbor, stacks of lobster traps on the shore. A beautiful final scene on our way out of Schoodic.
There is more to the day... if you can believe it. A surprise at sunset, but that will need to come in another post.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maine Day 4: Acadia

Finally, after the long and winding road up the coast, Day 4 of vacation found us in Acadia National Park. Amazing. Beautiful. And, for our trip, very misty. Grey days with the fog rolling in and hovering over the ocean, winding its way up the mountains, over the islands, and onto the shore.
We had tried not to overplan for the day. Just a drive around the main loop in Acadia with a stop at the four major sights: Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. We received excellent guidance from the two women who ran the visitor center just outside the park... (Just a word of advice, stop at the smaller center outside the park rather than the main center. Much less crowded and excellent help!)
As it turns out, we did overplan... but luckily two of the sights were not really worth seeing that particular day. Thunder Hole was but a whisper with no waves to be seen thundering into the cave. And Cadillac Mountain was shrouded in mist. No view at all. Which makes it all the more fortuitous that we began our exploration of Acadia off the beaten path. We stopped at a pull out wondering what all the fuss was about. As we walked down the path towards the water, we were told to check out the cave.
Anenomie Cave it was called. We scrambled over slick rocks, slipping and sliding, trying to keep from dropping our cameras, to find a series of tide pools filled with wonders! (Well, wonders to someone who once dreamed of being an oceanographer!) Starfish. Snails. A few anenomies. Seaweed that seemed to glow in the dark. Beautiful. And a young girl, her mother, and father, a former oceanographer, to share in the wonder.
It was near the cave that we got our first view of a working lobster boat... off the coast, in the midst, with a real lobster woman!
We could have... and probably should have spent more time here. It was a great spot for taking pictures, scrambling on rocks, exploring tide pools...
But we did eventually make our way around to the famous Jordan Pond for popovers and chili... sitting out on the lawn overlooking the lake.
In between, we stopped at Sand Beach and built our own little rock tower, an ebenezer or sorts. I need to do more of that in my life. Stop along the way to build ebenezers, markers of those moments when you experience God's presence. I tend to pass by them so quickly. Failing to mark them. And in doing so, they pass so quickly from my memory. May I learn to do that in my life... take more time to mark God's presence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Maine Day 3: The Long Way

Day 3 found us taking the long and winding road up Rte 1 from Wells to Trenton. We got a late start in the morning... it was vacation after all! And had to make a few stops as we headed out... gas, a few items we still needed for the trip. And, of course, Freeport, was on the way. But neither Cathy or I were here to shop... at least not for long. Our plan was to stop at Bowdoin College, Cathy's alma mater, and then quickly head up the coast to a few small towns in the north, Castine and Blue Hill. Bowdoin had some beautiful buildings and it was great to hear stories from Cathy's college days. Go Polar Bears!
Perhaps my favorite part was when two security guards saw us wandering around the chapel taking pictures and offered to let us in...
And then... we started up Route 1. We wound through great little towns, saw some wonderful views, pointed out landmarks that people had told us to look for along the way, but didn't stop. We had a destination to get to. But as we drove, the time seemed to fly by... and the next thing we knew, it was already 5:30 pm and we felt like we were nowhere near the inn we were staying in. Panic set in. Would we get there on time? Would be able to find it in the dark? We ended up skipping our planned stops and booking it to Trenton. I am not sure what the lesson is hear. Should we have stopped earlier on the trip and simply enjoyed ourselves, not worrying about when we would arrive? Should we have planned ahead more to make sure we reached our destinations in time? The one thing I do know... our expectations got in the way of our enjoyment. Expecting the trip to go faster (thank you very much, google maps... for making us think it would take just a few hours!) Expecting great iconic small fishing towns with great photo ops. Expecting a drive along the coast to be relaxing. Expecting ourselves to be much more together before we left for the drive. I've struggled with expectations in life in general. Especially my expectations about what God has for me in life. Especially those promise that God seems to be holding out there for me. Promises that cause me to look ahead rather than enjoying the moment. It would be easy to say that I should let go of those "false" promises and simply enjoy what God has for me each day... but what if those promises really are from God? I imagine Israel struggled with many of the same feelings as they wandered through the wilderness making their way to the Promised Land. They lost sight of God providing for them along the way. They lost sight of God's promises for them. They became myopic in view, neither farsighted nor nearsighted... just focused on what was lacking. May I learn to somehow remain both farsighted and nearsighted in my life... continuing to cling to God's promises (even if the answer is a generation away!) while recognizing God's presence every moment of every day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Maine Day 2: Walking on the Margins

Day two in Maine found us waking up to my Mom's fantastic breakfasts... a dutch baby (actually a puffed pastry pie... not a little child from the Netherlands!) with apples and blueberries. She is a great host and I wish I had inherited some of her love of cooking (and good food... and gardening... and her energy... and a few other things!). Then began the first of many changed plans on this trip. Three options for the day that we eventually widdled down to two... trying to be more realistic about time. Eventually widdled down to one, because we were still being unrealistic. But, it was not the one we originally intended to see. We actually began our day at the beautiful Laudholm Farms in Wells, ME. An old barn and farmhouse. Rolling meadows. A hike through the meadows and woods to a long sandy beach.
But... after standing at the overlook, gazing out at this view for about 5 minutes, I looked over at Cathy and saw a mosquito. Well, not one mosquito, but several. Not just on Cathy, but on me as well. We swatted a few away, tried to keep going, but it was useless. We finally turned around and went to plan b. A wise choice considering I still woke up from all the itching two night later!) Plan B was a walk along the Marginal Way. One of my favorite places in Southern Maine. A paved path along the edge of the cliffs in Ogunquit. There are benches along the way to sit and contemplate the view. Rocky beaches to climb down to. Just amazing.
The way ends at a pier filled with little shops, cafes, and a pier where tour boats, sailboats, and lobster boats dock.
Cathy and I have struggled throughout the trip with plans that did not work out... a thundering hole that barely whispered, days full of mist and rain, a drive in which we bypassed great little towns in order to reach towns further up the road... only to arrive too late to actually stop. Missed opportunities. Unmet expectations. Too much to do and too little time... sounds more like day to day life for each of us than a vacation. It left us grumpy and complaining, stressed rather than relaxing. I am not sure how we missed God speaking to us early in the trip... telling us to relax, enjoy Plan B. At least that is how I see it now looking back. On our first Plan B, walking the marginal way, we came upon three small stone towers built upon the beach. In the Old Testament, people often erected towers of rocks as a sign of praise to God, marking a spot where God had been particularly present. We were a bit enamored by these three towers. Then my mom, who was up ahead a bit, said, "Just wait until to you round the corner..." An amazing scene. An entire rocky beach covered with towers.
I realize this may have not been the original intention of the builders, but we experienced them as a gift from God. And I see them now as a sign. God is present in Plan B. Why can't I just see that? In fact, sometimes Plan B is exactly where God wants us... walking not along Main Street, but along the marginal way. May I learn not to look at the missed opportunities and unmet expectations in life and instead look for the signs of God's presence, the rock monuments along the marginal ways.