Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was at his desk in Cambridge, far from his native Portland in January 1847 as he prepared to write “Evangeline,” the story-poem about the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. Yet as the winter descends here on Spruce Point, it is easy to see our own spruces on the edge of the Atlantic in the lines, “This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlock… Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean speaks…”
The Boothbay Region Garden Club welcomed hundreds to the third annual Festival of Trees this past weekend. Dozens of clever and beautiful trees created by members of the Club, local businesses and individuals lit up the historic Opera House. And now we turn to the festival of light – the infinite demonstrations that in the midst of the darkest season of the year, we turn to light – to candles, to holiday events, and to the Solstice to remind us that light does come again. And just as each sunrise here in the “Dawnland” of midcoast Maine is the start of a fresh day, the return of the sun means there is hope for growing things and finding our way. The festivals of lights in all our cultures lift us from dark-ness.
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.