Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brunswick, Maine

We lived in Brunswick for four months this summer and were delighted with the little college town. Such a contrasting culture to the Portland Streets and the Island of Saint Simons off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia. But this blog is about Brunswick, Maine. What is it about this place?

  • Proximity to the coast. So many delightful trips in the red truck with the dogs around the inlets and mud flats of Harpswell and Bailey/Orr's Islands. Good roads. Sharp turns. Incredible scenery. The memories are pumped up by my fondness for both my father's truck and for one of my dogs who we have since lost. 
  • Ocean Kayaking (though I prefer fresh water, rough weather kayaking most... Bob Muller's camp was the best. Snow Pond is next...)
  • Neighborhood... eclectic, honest, heartfelt, interesting people. 
  • Being needed... or useful... or "adding value" to family, to old friends, to new friends.
  • Walking the cemetery and the street at night with Sampson.  We really enjoy it. He impresses me. He's 15 and not at the top of his game. He's deaf. He has seizures. He's stiff and an old dog. But he marks every post, every plant, every bush where he smells another scent. An exercise in patience for me, but what else does he have. Even without balls, he is still in the game. Instinct? Courage?  Yeah, probably both... but impressive.
  • Weather; being so close to the coast, there were some pretty good blows. One brought the big Silver Maple out by the road down on the front yard. Miraculous placement. Minimal damage.. a broken windshield.
  • Sounds: the church bells at the college, the train whistle at 6:45, wind in the "tees" .
  • Walking Bowdoin Common. Watching the young people laying in the grass, playing frisbee, the dogs running free, visiting the chapel, attending a musical at the theather.
  • Visiting Joshua Chamberlain's home, his statue and his grave. An extraordinary man.
  • The Farmer's Market in the park. Fresh, local produce.
  • The local restaurants; Vietnamese pho, Italian pasta, Wild Oats for veggie burritos.
  • The local theater, the smell of mildew, the overstuffed couches.
  • Richie and Tess. Eleanor and Bill. Jamie and Bobby... well, maybe not Bobby and his 3:00 am noisy returns from the bars.
  • The awesome, expansive kitchen with plenty of counter and cabinet space, the dishwasher, the food processor. 
  • Days at Stover Cove at the tip of the Harpswell Peninsula with K&E and R&K. A great little beach.
  • Weekends with everyone there, playing hearts and cribbage, eating vegan... ;-)
Many thanks, Rita, for renting us your home. Although we try to never do anything twice, who knows? We may try to come back next year. 

Grand Mal

Grand can mean many things. The dictionary suggests definitions of wonderful or very good, lofty, sublime or lavish. A grand mal seizure is none of these. It is devastating, debilitating, heartbreaking. It steals a person's dignity, his memory, his peace of mind and leaves him embarrassed, ashamed and vulnerable.

Three days ago I attempted to contact my friend Mark (not his real name). I first met him as a student when I was teaching high school in the 70's. He was a bright, promising student and he went on to study accounting and business management. Our paths crossed through the years. We congratulated each other in the good times and consoled each other in the bad times.

In the late 90's Mark was attacked in the Old Port on Portland's waterfront with a crow bar while withdrawing money from an ATM. The resulting brain injury disabled him and left him prone to seizures. He struggled valiantly to obtain proper medical treatment and medication to control his disorder. A lesser man would have not survived. And we were hopeful that the seizures had been minimized. He still experienced "petite mal" seizures, but he dealt with these infrequent occurrences quietly and stoically.

I tried unsuccessfully to contact him several times on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon he answered his phone. I knew immediately that something was wrong. When he let me into his one room public assistance building his face was swollen and he dragged his right leg. His eyes were dark and fearful and he clenched his right side. He was unshowered, unshaven.

"What happened, Mark," I asked as we entered his room. There was a pool of dried blood on the floor.

"I don't know. I can't remember. I must have seized. I don't know when. What day is this?" he mumbled.

"It's Thursday, January 8th", I answered.

In the course of the next two hours he asked me "what day is this?" a dozen times.

I stayed for a couple hours and promised to come back later. At 6:00PM the phone rang. He sobbed as he asked "Glen, what town am I in?" I jumped in the truck and headed over the bridge.

Mark's confusion continued to escalate. I spoke with his sister on the phone and we agreed that we needed to get him to the hospital. I drove him to the Maine Med Emergency Room and stayed with him as they processed and evaluated him, until his sister arrived at 10:30.

He called me today. They had released him from the hospital at midnight and he was back in his room. He sounded scared and confused. When I entered his room he pointed out the pool of blood on the floor. He had no recollection that I had been there the previous day or that I had taken him to the hospital. We talked for several hours and it was painfully clear how hard he was working to put the pieces of the puzzle that was his scattered brain back together.  He irrationally tortured himself with guilt.

I tried to help him remember our shared good times. But he kept asking about my son Eric who had died 15 years ago and of his brother who had died of brain cancer in April. When I explained to him that his brother had died, he looked at me in abject horror and I realized that he was processing all the horrible events of his life again for the first time. He was terrified for what he might be forced to remember next. He was awakening to the nightmare that was his life.

Life is not fair. We expect it to be. We demand that it be. But it is not. It is Life. It calls upon us to survive... until we cannot.

Grand? I think not.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Living the Minimalist Life

Leo’s Principles of Living the Minimalist Life

1.  Omit needless things. Notice this doesn’t say to omit everything.  Just needless things.
2.  Identify the essential. What’s most important to you?  What makes you happy?  What will have the highest impact on your life, your career?
3. Make everything count. Whatever you do or keep in your life, make it worthy of keeping.  Make it really count.
4.  Fill your life with joy. Don’t just empty your life.  Put something wonderful in it.
5.  Edit, edit.  Minimalism isn’t an end point.  It’s a constant process of editing, revisiting, editing some more.
6.  Hold on loosely. Even to your prized possessions.  At the end of the day its relationships, not possessions, that make life worth living.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Delilah "Lulu" Foss; Jan 11, 2000-Sept 9, 2014

Such a wonderful companion. She was there for us when we needed her most and we so enjoyed her company over these almost 15 years. For such a little dog, she had the biggest heart and, in the end, it was her heart that failed. Probably from too much lovin... Just wanted to honor her to those who knew/loved her with this little tribute ... 

Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, its something in between eccentric and obscene to morn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal- indeed, deeply human- to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty. Should we not be moved when it produces a vision- a creature- of the purest sweetness?”

Charles Krauthammer

Time, June 16, 2003

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The North Pond Hermit

Good writing...

"Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Wonderful Years

We don't like Face Book. Too impersonal and, at the same time, too profoundly personal. Too competitive. Too vulnerable to scammers, hackers, stalkers, too revealing and grabby for our privacy. So why do I post a blog? Good question. Sometimes I stop posting for weeks on end. And, recently, all the blogs have been plagued by spammers using the platform to post their pharmaceuticals, sex toys, performance enhancers. It's enough to make me want to shut it all down.

And then I remember why I blog. Because I like to write and tell the stories for those who matter to me and for those yet to be born; stories of our little lives, unimportant to the Face Book crowd and the online advertisers. I would have loved to read about how my mother and father or their families lived and loved and thought through the generations. And my fairly innocuous and benign little blog is only read by those who seek it out, presumably caring friends and family. That's my justification... at least for now.

My bride and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary last week. The occasion of this day always provides me an opportunity to tell a story that Connie is sooo sick of hearing... but I can't help myself. It brings me too much joy. The story is true. Only the number of anniversary years change.

I awake at first light on our anniversary morn and gaze at my sleeping bride. When she stirs I say,

"Happy anniversary, darlin."

She smiles, still sorta sleeping. I say;

"It's been 10 wonderful years..."

Her eyes pop open, a confused look on her face.

"10 years? But we've been married 38 years?" she mumbles.

"Yes, but only 10 have been wonderful" I reply.

She is fully awake now and ponders silently for a few moments. Am I kidding or am I serious...

"Which 10?" she asks.

"Oh, half hour here, 10 minutes there. It adds up." I snort, unable to keep my composure any longer.

She knows I'm teasing her now and lashes out with a well aimed leg kick. "You weirdo!" she laughs.

Maybe I'll give this joke a rest... just like my Ezra and Martha jokes. Time for some new material.

It's truly been 38 amazing, wonderful years, honey. I adore you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


First direct evidence of cosmic inflation

 "Researchers from the BICEP2 telescope collaboration announced Monday the first direct evidence for cosmic inflation."

"The inflation theory posits that almost 14 billion years ago, the universe we inhabit burst into existence in an extraordinary event that initiated the Big Bang. In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the current view of our best telescopes."

Amazing... The Universe "burst into existence". Mankind's science has got us all the way back to the beginning of everything. So what caused this "extraordinary event"? Suppose it was just random? Or was it the result of some "extraordinary force"?

hmmm... "Curiouser and curiouser", cried Alice.