November mornings still bring the occasional “V” of migrating ducks, Canada geese and raptors, heading for sheltering harbors and marsh bays where they can winter over, secure from the northeast storms that will batter their summer islands. We welcome back the chickadees, bluejays and dozens of others who spent summer deep in the forest and watch the woodpeckers foraging for suet and the tasty delights beneath the bark of birch trees past their prime.
While we were prolonging the season, holding out for an authentic “Indian Summer” – defined by the Old Farmer’s Almanac as warm days following the first hard frost -- the climate caught up with us in a blast of wintery weather on the first day of Standard Time. If ever there was a day good for turning the clock back an hour and going back to bed, it was this past Sunday.
The “Peanuts” cartoon this morning had Snoopy wishing one of his feathered friends a fond farewell. The last panel showed the bird flying back across the frame, with Snoopy thinking “I knew he was headed the wrong way, but didn’t want to tell him.”
This year is the 150th anniversary of the posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, and the musings he derived from three trips on the lakes, rivers and mountains between 1846 and 1857. We’re reminded of it now when September brings the yellow woods that Robert Frost wrote about. Frost’s “path diverged in a yellow woods” and taking the one “less traveled by, made all the difference.”
Looking out the kitchen window the other day, we noticed the very tips of some of the hardwoods are starting to turn color. As we stood watching them in the morning sun, we were trying to decide how we would describe the gradual lengthening of the fall foliage ‘shadow’ as it spreads across the branches of Mid-Coast Maine. We hit upon the comparison with ripening fruit (or pumpkins). And that brought us around to apples.
Some of us think of September days in the caramel colors that marked the end of the old Super 8 home movie films. When the light got into the canister when you opened the camera and tinged those last frames you strained to include in the reel. Though this sounds like ancient history to those accustomed to shooting video with their smart phones, the analogy applies to the idea of grasping onto the gilded days of the end of the season to make sure they make it onto the memory reel called “Summer 2014.”
In 1682 when two English noblemen teed off at Hoy Lake against the Duke of York and local shoemaker, John Patersone to determine whether the game of golf had originated in England or Scotland (the Duke and the Scots won), Maine was still the American frontier, a wilderness of dark spruce forests crowding down to a rocky shore. Yet already Maine was being eyed for settlement, by 1764, Europeans had settled Boothbay sufficiently to incorporate a town. Another hundred years and the coast of Maine had become vacationland for rusticators and holiday-makers streaming out of the Northeast cities on trains and steamers to places like Spruce Point Inn, expanded from a gentleman’s hunting/fishing lodge to an inn in 1892. Golf kept pace.