Saturday, September 24, 2016

Closing up the cottage

Today, Ellen, Jim and Mary went back up to the Common Ground Fair. I stayed back so that I could spend some time with my friend, Phil McKean. He and his wife, Deborah, are in the throes of closing things up here in Maine, to go back to Claremont, CA, for the winter. One of the tasks Phil needed to complete was the last bit of winterizing the family cottage in Friendship, ME. So he and I went over to the cottage. My job was to bail out the two toilets, both bowl and tank, using first a cup, and then a sponge to finish the job. Then Phil put anti-freeze in every drain, including the toilets. I reminded him to do the dishwasher, which is easy to overlook. He turned off the electricity, locked the door, we emptied out a couple of outdoor flower pots, and that was that. Then we went down the road to the shore, where I have in the past enjoyed many a lobster, boiled in sea water and seaweed in a bucket over an open fire, or embarked on a sail with the  McKeans in their sail boat. Many wonderful memories. We sat and talked about Betsey and about Deborah, who is coping with Alzheimer's, and is currently in a clinical trial. Much to share! Then we walked back to the car and came back to their lovely Cushing, ME home for lunch with Deborah. Now they are at Deborah's sister's place next door for a little celebration and I am enjoying watching the tide fill the tidal river in front of their house. 

          Phil in front of the cottage

A classic scene-the living room of a Maine cottage put to bed for the winter. 

Two old geezers down by the shore 

The fire pit that has seen many fires for cooking lobsters.

View of Friendship harbor from our perch, with fire pit on the left and little bath house on the right. 

              The view from the living room where I am now.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Common Ground Fair

Yesterday, we drove over to Owl's Head, ME, and today went up to Unity, to the Common Ground Fair, now an annual event in our lives. It was raining this morning, so we were in no hurry to leave for Unity, but hoped that by arriving late, we would miss the rain. We were off by about 45 minutes. It was raining hard when we got to the parking lot, and we needed our umbrellas to make the fifteen minute walk to the fairgrounds, and it was muddy underfoot. But  shortly thereafter, it stopped raining - that was about 1:30pm. By 4pm it was sunny and windy. We were slated to meet the McKeans, but never saw them.  Cell phone didn't work. We started out in the exhibition hall, and there were some amazing squashes there. How about this one:

      Galaux di Eysines squash 

      Close - up of above! 

Pretty amazing, no?


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Took a tumble!

Yesterday morning, I went up to the Dummerston church to meet with the organist who would be playing at a memorial service for Sam Bunker in the afternoon - a service in which I would be leading the choir. On my way up the front steps, the tip of my sandal caught the edge of a step, and I pitched forward. It didn't seem like much of a fall, and I was surprised to see blood coming from between my little finger and my ring finger! I went into the rest room to deal with that and when I looked down I was even more surprised to see blood seeping through my pants at my knee! So I had to excuse myself for a moment and go downstairs in search of bandaids. When I pulled up my pantleg, I noticed a lump forming on my shin! What next?!  I managed to get myself cleaned up and bandaged, met with the organist, and then just had time to go home, get a bite to eat, change clothes, and get back for a 1 pm choir rehearsal. I got through the service fine, the choir sang beautifully, and I was even able to lead the choir around the aisles in When the Saints Go Marching In, singing and clapping. But by 4pm, lots of places were hurting. So I skipped the reception and went home. Eventually it became clear that my left side had gotten bruised and battered, but nothing seriously. I didn't go to Northampton with Ellen Saturday evening, nor did I go to hear Joanna Macy, environmental ethicist, give a talk in Brattleboro, which had been an option. I've rested all day today. This morning, I skipped church, and I again stayed home this afternoon while Ellen met Tamar and took her to a "gleaning" event (picking tomatoes for a food pantry), and again this evening while Ellen is at the movies. My left hand, elbow, hip, knee, shin, ankle and foot all have a complaint of one  sort or another, but I'm getting around ok and I think I'll be fairly free of aches and pains in a few days. Pretty lucky, actually. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Water Woes

The local drought has been a concern ever since we returned home, but up until recently, our spring has had enough water in it to allow us to use it. Not any more. I checked the water level yesterday and it had dropped into the danger zone.

Our spring is actually a dug well, 20 feet deep. Water flows into it from a vein of water deep in the ground. There is an interesting story behind it. Back in 1973, when we built the house, we were foolish enough to start building before we had determined that we had a source of water. We were well into the building process when we asked a friend and neighbor, Frank Hicken, who was a dowser, to locate a spring for us. He came over with his forked stick and did his thing, and he located a spot at which he said we would find water 20 feet down. It was in a good location in relation to the house, and we were thrilled. So we asked Pete Loomis, the local back-hoe guy, to dig the well. He came over and dug down as deep as his backhoe would reach, and the hole was dry as a bone. "How far down have you gone?" I asked. "About 19 feet," he answered. "As far as I can reach with the bucket." "Well," I said, "Frank said the water was at 20 feet. Couldn't you get your backhoe to go deeper? Maybe you could lower the backhoe by digging out holes where the pads rest on the ground, and set it down a bit." Now I can tell you that Pete Loomis was pretty skeptical of dowsing in general and of Frank Hicken in particular. So he was not enthusiastic about this suggestion. But I had hired him to do a job, and he was the sort of guy who honored a commitment. So he dug three holes about a foot deep, lowered the backhoe pads into those holes, and used the bucket to dig a foot deeper.  We looked in, and by golly, water was trickling into the bottom of the hole! Pete was flabbergasted, and I was elated. Yay, Frank!

The way the system works is that there is a pump and pressure tank in the basement of the house, with a line going out to the bottom of the well. There are five concrete tiles stacked in the well. Each tile is four feet high, and the seam between each tile is clearly visible. You can measure the level of the water in the well by counting down the number of seams you can see. The intake pipe is set about three feet above the bottom of the well to avoid sucking in sediment. So that means that we cannot allow the water level in the well to go below three feet, because then the pump would suck air, and that would burn out the pump. So when the level goes below the top of the bottom tile, we are in the danger zone. And in fact, when I checked the level yesterday, it was about two inches below the top of that bottom tile - i.e., the water level was at 3 feet, 10 inches. When we get that close to the intake pipe, I shut off the pump and we start hauling water. This has only happened a few times in the last 43 years. I think it has happened once before since Ellen and I have lived here together. Usually, the water level stays above 5 feet in the late summer and early fall, which is the driest time of the year. After the fall rains, and all through the winter and especially in the spring, the water comes virtually to the top of the well. It has been a great well, and the water is especially tasty. But when we have a prolonged drought, as we have this year, it gets very low. We are not alone in this. Others are hauling water also.
We now have a system. I have two big tubs in the kitchen. I go up to Dummerston Center to the church and fill buckets there and bring the water back to the house and fill a tub. That is water for washing dishes. We save the dishwater and put it into another tub, and we use that waste water for flushing, which we do once a day. We buy drinking water at the supermarket in those 2 ½ gallons tubs that have a spigot, and we use that for drinking and cooking. We go to the Laundromat for washing clothes. I shower at the pool. Ellen showers at the house of friends. This weekend, we'll be at the Feinlands taking care of the grandkids and she can shower there. It's inconvenient, but it works.

A last word about the water at the church. When I came to be the minister of the Dummerston Center church in 1957, there was no water in the church. We talked about drilling a well, but the church is located at the top of a hill and we wondered how far we would have to go down to get to water. Back then, one farmer down in the Connecticut River valley had recently drilled a well and had gone down 600 feet and gotten only 2-3 gallons a minute. But we decided to do it, and the drillers went down just 100 feet and hit a water vein that was close to being a true artesian well - 30 gallons a minute! I preached a sermon the next Sunday on the image of water in the Bible as a metaphor for God's abundant grace. There was enough water that the church offered to supply water to both the Grange and the Town Office, which are near the church in the Center. That arrangement continues to the present day. So I feel ok about going to the church and filling buckets. 

This is what the spring looks like - I keep a metal sheet over the top to keep it free of debris

Now I've taken off the metal sheet and opened the cover so I can use a flashlight and look down into the well
This is the tub for dishwashing water
Here is the sink set-up

This shows how low the water is - you can see the reflection way at the bottom of the well








Monday, September 12, 2016

Puppets in Paradise

Saturday and Sunday we had Tamar with us for an overnight. A primary reason for having her come up was so that we could take her to Puppets in Paradise: a unique event involving the collaboration of our local puppet theater, the amazing Sandglass Theater (brainstorm of Eric and Inez Bass), with Gordon and Mary Hayward and their equally amazing gardens, located in Westminster, Vt. For two days, hundreds of people came to see 9 different puppet shows, all outdoors, each about 15 minutes in length, and spread among the gardens. The shows were offered multiple times on each day, with three going on simultaneously at three separate locations, and if you worked the schedule right, you could see all nine shows in about 2 1/2 hours. There was also food, ice cream, music and kites being flown. The puppeteering was truly magical. In fact, the whole event was magical - I doubt that anything quite like it exists anywhere else in the world. An added feature for me was that my son, John, and his partner, Cynthia (who together form the harp-whistle duo called Coracle), provided music on Sunday. They played in between the shows while people were moving from one show to another. Ellen, Tamar and I got to see eight of the shows. The ninth we missed because before we got to see it, the puppeteer fell out of a tree and injured herself, and it was cancelled. We hope she is not hurt badly. You can get a sense of the event from these photos, but of course you had to be there to get the full magic.

Faye Dupras in I Spy a Butterfly
Crabgrass Puppet Theater and Funky Snowman who was quite a dancer!

One of the pathways in the gardens.....

...and Gordon Hayward, the creator of the gardens

I Don't Care, the story of Pierre by Maurice Sendak, in which Pierre is eaten by a lion and learns to care!
Eric and Inez Bass in MUD - a frustrated guy's truck is stuck in the mud and a billy goat is making off with his steering wheel and is about to take his six-pack of beer to boot!
Spinach: This girl is being attacked by the spinach she has been ordered to eat by her parents!

In Trunk, music magically produces beautiful origami cranes.
Cynthia and John provide a musical interlude
Along the way, I led the choir in Dummerston on Sunday morning. Tamar came with us and went to Sunday School - a first for her, I think. It helped that the teacher was someone she knew - Billie Slade had been her camp director a couple of years ago when Tamar attended the Green Mountain Camp in Dummerston. Also, last Friday (or was it Thursday?), Ellen and I went over to Hallelujah Farm Retreat and met with Sandy Daly to go over arrangements for the memorial luncheon gathering we will be holding there for Betsey on Monday, October 10th.


Proctor Academy

From Weirs' Beach, it was a short drive down to Andover, NH, where Proctor Academy is located. Proctor is a private boarding school, where Ellen's father went to high school, 1928-1932. Ellen had visited it once before, but that was years ago. I had never seen it, and was eager to do so. I had brought her father's 1932 Yearbook from Proctor as a reference.

Proctor Academy turned out to be quite the place! It is located in the center of the town of Andover, but has a 2500-acre campus, and is like a small college in appearance. It has 360 students, a 5-1 student-faculty ratio, and even has its own ski area. It has a very handsome campus, with a mix of older brick buildings and newer frame ones, white clapboard, very nicely laid out. They seem to be doing very well indeed. The students were away on a 5-day wilderness experience, but we talked with someone in alumni relations, got a campus map, some promotional materials, and enjoyed looking around. We located three buildings depicted in the 1932 Yearbook, and learned that a fourth, "Cary House," had burned down in 1977. Much of the present campus seems to have been built since 1932. 

Here are some scenes from Proctor Academy:

The Chapel - one of the buildings relatively unchanged from the 1930's. It also functions as the Unitarian-Universalist church for the local community

 
This building was brand new in 1932 - it was then called the Recitation Hall

Slocum Hall - another building relatively unchanged since the 1930's

A new building: The Meeting House - the entire student body gathers here twice a week. It has a large solar array on the roof

Also new: The Library (called "The Learning Center")

These seemed to be student residence halls

After Proctor, it was another short drive to Sunapee, NH, where "Aunt Hazel" is living in an assisted-living facility, Sunapee Cove. Aunt Hazel is the remarkable 108-year-old aunt of Maggie Hochburger, my brother Stewart's ex-wife.  We always stay at the home of Maggie and her husband, Jerry, when we visit my brother's family in Bartlett, Il, and we had met Aunt Hazel there a few years ago. She used to have a place in northern Wisconsin, but had to give up living alone. Her son, Robert, and his wife, live near Sunapee, NH, so she has settled there. We dropped in on her unannounced and had a nice visit with her. We learned that she had just recently celebrated her 108th birthday, and that when she woke up the morning of her birthday, and went out to go to breakfast, she was surprised to find the entire hallway to the dining-room festooned with 108 balloons, put there by the staff overnight!

Hazel Nilsson next to her birthday banner

Heading into the dining hall for supper

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trip to New Hampshire


Last Wednesday morning (Sept. 7th), we took Nancy Tierra to Concord, NH, where she was to meet a friend who would take her to the ferry to Star Island, a retreat center off the coast of  NH, where she was going to be part of a weekend retreat. We met her friend at the Common Man restaurant in Concord, which is right off I-93, and a convenient place to meet someone. All that was done by 11:00a.m., and we had the day before us - so why not have a little outing in New Hampshire? I thought it would be nice to make a little trip up to Lake Winnipesaukee, which is only a half-hour or so north of Concord, so that's what we did.

This was a nostalgic visit for me - Lake Winnipesaukee has an important place in my life. From 1955 to about 1969, I spent a bit of virtually every summer there, and then during the next almost 30 years, visited often. All because Shirley's family went to a cabin there for several weeks every summer for 40 years or so. Their cabin was on what was then called Morrill Beach, on the southern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, in the town of Gilford, NH.  Morrill Beach was a beautiful sandy beach, with 6-7 cabins  on it. The Harris's did not own their cabin, which was called Innisfrae, they rented it, usually for three weeks in August. Her father said those three weeks at the lake were their medical insurance. It was certainly the one time of the year when he truly relaxed. When Shirley and I were married in 1955, her folks gave us the gift of their rental of the cabin for our honeymoon - i.e., they gave up their vacation. Quite a gift! 

This is what Morrill Beach looked like back in the 1930's

The Harris family in front of their cabin, Innesfrae, c. 1939. L. to r, Ladd, Fred, Florence and Shirley
 Sometime in the 1960's, the state of New Hampshire took Morrill Beach by right of eminent domain, with the intention of making it into a state park.  The cabins were all demolished. This was devastating to the Harris's.  All the more so because the state did nothing with the land for a decade or two - it just sat there unused. Her parents found sort of a substitute down the shore a ways at a place called Chanticleer, but it was never the same as Morrill Beach. Finally, in the late '70's, after both of Shirley's parents had died, Ellacoya State Park was created where Morrill Beach had once existed. Shirley and I visited it once, but it was sort of a bittersweet experience for her. However, she did love the lake, and we went a few times to a place called the Graystone Inn, which was a motel with efficiency apartments, and right on the shore, with a view similar to the view from Morrill Beach. My last stay there was in the mid-90's.

So that was our destination. When we got to Ellacoya State Park, we found it deserted - it was closed after Labor Day but you could still drive in, park, and look around. I guess you could swim if you wanted to, but all the facilities were closed. Sort of nice, actually. We had it entirely to ourselves. I showed Ellen where the Harris's cabin had stood, and where I had spent many a lovely time back in the 50's and 60's. 

This is where the cabin, Innesfrae used to stand 


Looking out across Lake Winnipesaukee from what used to be Morrill Beach
 We drove down the shore and found a road called "Chanticleer Shores" which led down to where the Harris' rented a cabin after Morrill Beach had closed - in the later 1960's. But the cabins that they might have rented were all gone and in their place, larger, privately-owned cottages, were sitting cheek-to-jowl. Then we went down the shore farther and found the Graystone Inn. It is still functioning as it used to, the one thing that was relatively unchanged. It still has its lovely view and a nice little private beach where you can swim, and a dock where you can keep a boat. 

The Graystone Inn as it appears today
The view from Graystone Inn
From there we drove to Wiers' Beach, which is about 3 miles or so up the shore toward Meredith. It is an old honkey-tonk amusement park, and also the place where you can board the tour boats on Winnipesaukee - the Mt. Washington, a big boat, and the smaller Sophie C, which functions as a mail boat and stops at the scores of inhabited islands on the lake to deliver the mail (Winnipesaukee is large lake!).  When we got there, the Mt. Washington was just boarding passengers for a 12:30p.m. 2 ½ hour cruise ($30 per person). However, we didn’t do that. I wanted to show Ellen the penny arcade (she loves to play "Ski-Ball" - remember that game?).  But we found that it was closed - Labor Day really ends the season there. There were a couple of shops open where Ellen could get postcards, we had lunch at the one restaurant open -Weathervane - where we got fish sandwiches, and that was it. But it was a beautiful day and it was nice to look around. 

The Mt. Washington tour boat, loading for a cruise

Anthony'e Pier, at Weirs Beach, NH


Ellen looks over the postcards