After our visit to Scott’s Landing on Sunday we drove the short distance to the Pine Hill Preserve on Little Deer Isle, another of the properties managed by the Island Heritage Trust that we had not visited before. The contrast between the two locations could not have been greater. Scott’s Landing allowed for a pleasant ramble on gently rolling meadows and beaches. Pine Hill Preserve is a lot smaller and a lot more . . . abrupt. After a short walk on old quarry road you reach its central feature: a rock outcropping that rises dramatically from the pine forest. It’s a big, steep hill, and you can get a sense of its scale if you look carefully at the photo above and see the two figures at the top who are taking a picture.
The short hike up Pine Hill is a lot more challenging than anything Scott’s Landing requires of a hiker. The key word is “up.” The trail is almost entirely vertical, as the photo above shows. Be prepared to haul yourself up the steep, rocky incline and—because, as any veteran hiker knows, coming down is usually more hazardous than going up—be prepared to get on hands and knees and carefully back down when you are descending on some stretches of the trail.
But when you reach the top you are rewarded by some magnificent views. In one direction you gaze over the rock face, where they quarried some of the stone that makes up the causeway between Little Deer Isle and Deer Isle, and acres of pine trees beyond. In another direction, you can look over the forest to the Eggemoggin Reach and the suspension bridge to the mainland.
Over the years we’ve hiked around most of the properties managed by the Island Heritage Trust, but one of the sites that we hadn’t yet checked out was Scott’s Landing—until yesterday. It’s located on the edge of the island, at one end of the causeway that connects Deer Isle to Little Deer Isle. And that means some good waterfront views, in this case of the Eggemoggin Reach that separates the islands from the mainland. You can climb up White Rock Point—an outcropping of sun-bleached Ellsworth schist, the bedrock of this part of the island—and enjoy a good view of the Reach and the suspension bridge to the mainland.
The property includes a long stretch of rocky beach. We were there when the tide was out, and a family was digging for clams at the waterline down the beach. Clam digging is a popular activity here, especially in the area near the causeway.
Scott’s Landing is an easy hike, with wide grassy trails and gradual inclines. The trails branch off in multiple directions, and inland the site features pretty meadows filled with wildflowers. The property is a popular spot for birders, although we didn’t see many of our feathered friends yesterday. We did, however, see lots of honeybees buzzing among the flowers. That’s a good summer sound.
We also saw some sailboats on the Reach taking advantage of a good breeze to let the wind fill the canvas and take the ships along at a good clip. The Reach is a long narrow channel that is popular with boaters, and it seems like there is always a sailboat on the horizon. At one end of the Scott’s Landing preserve the wildflower meadows rises up an incline, affording a good views of the flowers, the Reach, and the sailboats moving past. I found myself wishing there was a bench at that spot, so I could sit for a spell and just enjoy that scene.
Yesterday we took the mailboat out to Isle au Haut for some hiking. We disembarked at Duck Harbor at the southwest corner of the island, which is largely unspoiled forest and hiking trails, with a handful of camping sites available. Although I have been on the mailboat multiple times, this was the first time I had actually set foot on the island, and I was eager to see what it was like.
It turns out that Isle au Haut is like most of coastal Maine—only more so. There was lots of rugged and dramatic scenery, sheer cliffs, pine trees and ferns, and plenty of granite. There are lots of different hiking options, too, from simple trails with only small elevation changes to much more difficult hiking that requires you to clamber up rock faces. I enjoyed the view, in the photo above, looking south from a promontory a few hundred feet above the ocean, and the inky black pool of water, shown below, that was perfectly reflective and framed by rock outcroppings.
By the time we reached Squeaker Cove, shown below, we realized that our visit to Isle au Haut would not only feature memorable vistas, but also an unprecedented swarm of biting black flies. According to the park rangers, the flies had just appeared the day before, and no doubt the swarm would be gone a day or two later. But the flies were there yesterday, in force and ready to chomp, descending on everything that moved and giving vicious bites if you didn’t swat them away in time. There were so many flies that the legs and backs of fellow hikers would be virtually carpeted in flies. The little bloodthirsty bastards were easy to kill, in their singleminded zeal for a meal, but for every one that got swatted another ten were circling and ready to land.
Eventually the pesky flies became so annoying and unpleasant that they drove even the most ardent hikers back to the mailboat dock, where the breeze off the ocean kept the fly swarms to a minimum. As we waited for the mailboat to arrive we swapped fly tales with other hikers and sympathized with the dogs that had suffered mightily from fly bites. And as we waited even the boat dock offered some pretty views, like the one below.
I’d like to go back to Isle au Haut to do more hiking and exploring—but before I do I’m going to call the Duck Harbor ranger station for a fly report.
We have a piece of slate and a stand in our kitchen, and plenty of chalk to go around. It makes for an irresistible combination that lures everyone to try their hand at a little calligraphy.
Of course, chalk reminds me of elementary school and standing at towering, wall-to-wall chalkboards, being handed that piece of chalk, and being instructed by Mrs. Haddad, my third-grade teacher, to solve a math problem or spell Mississippi or make the perfect cursive capital E, like the one on the cardboard example thumbtacked above the board. In those days, when you were handed a piece of chalk, the pressure was on, and if you didn’t perform your sorry effort would be swept away by a dusty eraser as you went slinking back to your desk.
These days, the piece of chalk isn’t quite as intimidating. In fact, it’s kind of fun to try your hand at a little printing that might meet Mrs. Haddad’s exacting standards. And we welcome the forgiveness inherent in erasure, which gives us a chance to fix those little mistakes.
The mercury climbed up to about 80 yesterday, which constitutes “extreme heat” conditions on Deer Isle. There was only one viable heat relief option in an area where no one has air conditioning: join dozens of other residents at Lily’s Pond for a refreshing swim.
I dog paddled out into the pond, dodging the two older women chatting in the shallows, the kid who was using a beach ball and a circular float to play a kind of water basketball, and the new mother who had her baby out in the water. By the time I got to more open water I floated happily, listening to some teenagers play Marco Polo and marveling at the water temperature differences you can experience in natural bodies of water, with warm sections right next to cold spots—just one of the things that distinguish pond swimming from pool swimming. By the time I emerged to towel off it was as if my internal body temperature had readjusted, and the outdoor heat felt a lot more endurable. A nice breeze ruffled the leaves overhead and completed the cooling process.
And as I sat and enjoyed the day I pondered the age-old question: why did the name of an Italian merchant and explorer from the 13th century become the key element of a game of water hide and seek?
The Stonington town cemetery, which I walk past on my morning jaunts, is an interesting place, and not just because of random deer encounters and the gravesites of Civil War veterans. I’ve also been fascinated by this battered cemetery gate, which looks like it has some interesting stories to tell, about each of the many twists and bends in the aged metal.
But the most provocative untold story is the one about why the gate is there at all–since there is no fencing whatsoever around it. Why add a gate to an otherwise open area? My guess is that the gate was added as the first step in what was supposed to be a process that involved some kind of fencing–a stone wall, perhaps–that never came to fruition.
The plans are long gone, but the old gate remains. It helps to give the cemetery an identity, and a bit of a wistful feeling, too.
Since we cut down some of the trees and cleared out the underbrush in the waste area between our house and the neighbor’s outbuilding, I’ve got a new companion when I’m out doing yard work in the down yard. I call him “Stumpy.”
Stumpy is the remnant of one of the trees that came down during the clear-out effort. I’d guess he’s between three and four feet tall, growing out of a rock ledge, with bulges at the top where the main branches were removed. On several occasions, Stumpy’s size and configuration and location, seen from the corner of my eye while I worked, made me think with a jolt that someone was watching me from the top of the yard. I then decided if Stumpy was going to startle me now and then, I might as well give him a name.
As yard work companions go, Stumpy’s not bad. He’s not a chatterbox, so he doesn’t disturb my work. He doesn’t offer advice or laugh at my little shoveling mishaps, which is appreciated. He doesn’t pitch in, either, but he stands watch over the hillside resolutely, rain or shine. I’ve grown accustomed to his presence. That’s probably a good thing, because his location next to the granite outcropping means it’s going to be a challenge to remove him from his post.
The last remnants of tropical storm Henri rolled through last night, dropping enormous quantities of rain that left large swathes of our down yard underwater. A thick fog followed the storm. The fog was so heavy this morning that you could look directly at the rising sun as it struggled to burn through the haze. I walked out onto the pebbled beach next to the mailboat dock, stepping carefully to avoid the discarded oyster and clam shells and feeling the cool touch of the water-drenched air, to take this evocative photograph.
It is mornings like this one that will make me miss Stonington when I return to Columbus next month.
Almost 10 years ago, a significant study on personal honesty was published. It indicated that simple method reduced lying by respondents who were filling out forms: if people signed an honesty declaration at the beginning of the form, rather than the end, they were supposed to be less likely to lie in their answers. The study was cited by other researchers and featured in a bestselling book written by one of its principal authors.
Now that study is being retracted. Over the years, efforts to replicate the results of the study have been unsuccessful, but now a more serious issue has been uncovered. Academics who took a close look at the underlying data cited in the study have determined that one of the main experiments cited in the study was faked, and that the data related to that experiment is fraudulent. The researchers who published the initial study agree and have asked the journal that published the initial study–the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences–to formally retract it.
It’s ironic that a study drawing conclusions about personal honesty would be based on fake data, but it’s the latest high-publicity example of a significant problem in the scientific community. Some have called it the “replication crisis.” We remember from our high school science classes that the scientific method involved developing a hypothesis, creating and conducting an experiment designed to test the hypothesis, describing the experiment and honestly publishing its results, and then letting the rest of the scientific community challenge the hypothesis, the experiment, and the data. The last step, in which other scientists played the role of skeptic and fact-checker and verifier by trying to replicate the experiment and test its results, was a key part of the whole process. And in the past, peer-reviewed journals played an important role in ensuring that the results of the experiments could, in fact, be faithfully replicated and the conclusions drawn were credible.
But something has obviously gone wrong, as a number of high-profile research findings can’t be replicated and there is increasing concern that data isn’t being collected or reported honestly or accurately. The “social sciences,” which encompasses the honesty study noted above, has been especially affected by the replication problem. And in the case of the honesty study, no one seems to know how the faked data was created in the first place. Four of the five authors of the study say they weren’t involved with collecting the false data, and the other one denies that he had anything to do with it. So, how did it happen, and why didn’t the initial authors of the study carefully review the faked data and question its bona fides before publishing the results? Some observers wonder if the behavioral studies that are now a staple of news feeds aren’t being influenced by the desire to create headlines and achieve clicks, leading researchers to overlook questionable data or methodologies.
You see signs these days that say that “science is real.” That’s obviously true, but the replication crisis demonstrates that not all scientific results are real. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy skepticism about groundbreaking studies or sweeping pronouncements until after the underlying data has been thoroughly vetted and other researchers have replicated the results. As our high school science teachers instructed us, that’s what should have been happening in the first place.
Our firm’s restrooms always feature high-end hand soaps, so you can add a pleasant smell to your day as you do your 20 seconds of hand washing. The scents of the soaps are ever changing and always intriguing. Usually there’s a fruity or flowery option and also a woody option. I tend to favor the teakwood and mahogany choices.
On one recent visit I saw this new sunshine and lemons hand soap, and I think it means we’ve broken through a soap bubble barrier and entered entirely new hygienic fragrance territory. Sunshine, of course, is warm and bright, but it has no discernible aroma, so when I tried this concoction it smelled like your standard lemon soap. But perhaps the sunshine notion is meant to be aspirational and mood-setting, rather than a component of the soap’s odor, and intended to put the user into a sunny frame of mind.
What’s going to be next? Caribbean moonlight and coconut? Cool shade and carnations? Wisdom and witch hazel? Once you get away from actual smells, the possibilities are pretty much endless.
Our weather app advises that, for now at least, tropical storm Henri is supposed to make landfall somewhere in southern New England, several hundred miles below Deer Isle. We’re forecast to get three days of rain as the remnants of Henri pass through, but are supposed to avoid the high winds and storm surge that would accompany a direct hit.
As we’ve heard about the path of Henri over the last few days, I’ve wondered why they would name a tropical storm “Henri” in the first place. I know that, long ago, we stopped giving exclusively women’s names to hurricanes and tropical storms, but now we seem to have crossed the threshold into foreign name territory, which opens up an entirely new realm of possibilities. To my mind, “Henri” isn’t a particularly threatening name for a potentially devastating storm; instead, it conjures up images of annoying French mimes and suggests that you should welcome the arrival of the storm with some brie, pate, and a good Bordeaux. It also causes those of us who took French in high school–the “language of diplomacy,” as our French teacher constantly reminded us–to dig deep into the lingering remnants of our French vocabulary and work on our pronunciation skills.
In my view, tropical storms should be given names that encourage feelings of fear and concern, in order to incentivize people to take the storm seriously, prepare for the worst, and evacuate if necessary. Hurricane Genghis would do that, or tropical storm Rasputin. I think Hurricane Svetlana would be a good choice, too.
Every morning I walk past an antiques store that sells all kinds of stuff, from ancient magazines to old-style crafts to lobster buoys. There’s always a table out front with items selling for a dollar. It’s a savvy bit of marketing by the proprietor. Passers by see the items, think that they’re only a dollar, wander over to take a look, pick the items up to examine them, and wonder whether they could find a use for, say, that tin camping percolator. Then they wander inside to see what additional treasures might be available.
The dollar table items must sell, because the items on the tabletop are ever changing. Eventually, every bit of household detritus seems to find a place on the table. It makes you realize how much stuff is found in an American house: sugar bowls, napkin holders, glassware, random plates, pots and pans, old bottles, ashtrays, and every other piece of bric a brac you can imagine.
But the undisputed lord of the dollar table is the coffee cup. The table always features at least a dozen, ranging in size from dainty to gargantuan. Single cups from what obviously once was a set, cups with branded logos, cups with lids to keep the coffee hot longer—they all testify to the U.S.A.’s love affair with java, and the dollar table allows them to be recycled to new users. It’s a small coffee-flavored undercurrent in the flow of the Stonington economy.
On my walk yesterday morning, I encountered the deer that gave Deer Isle its name in the town cemetery. Perhaps a half dozen deer were there, grazing among the headstones and picking at some of the planted flowers and shrubs. The deer herd seems to have kept largely to the wooded area behind the cemetery this summer, much to the relief of gardeners and flower lovers across the island.
The deer noticed me before I noticed them, and all but one promptly headed, with leaps and bounds, back into the trees, disappearing with a final flash of their white tails. This deer, however, stood its ground and stared me down as I took its picture. Because I didn’t want to recreate scenes from When Animals Attack I promptly took my leave. As I walked down the road, the deer kept pace with me for a bit, as if to show that he wasn’t afraid, and then finally turned and headed into the forest.
It’s nice to know that there’s a tough guy keeping an eye on the town cemetery.
It was a beautiful scene this morning, with some interesting cloud formations making for a fabulous sunrise as I set off on my morning walk. And thanks to our tree removal efforts, by the time I got back home the view from just outside our front door wasn’t bad, either.
I’ve just finished Andrew Roberts’ titanic Churchill: Walking With Destiny, about one of the leading historical figures of the 20th century. The 1,000-page volume, published in 2018, draws upon recently released historical documents to trace Winston Churchill’s life in exacting detail, from his early childhood and painful desire to be loved and respected by his father–something that never happened, sadly–through years of turmoil, disaster, and triumph. It’s a fascinating tale of a colossal figure who first came to prominence in the high Victorian era, at the apex of the British Empire, saw Great Britain and its empire fight two world wars, witnessed the dissolution of that empire, lived into the era of the Beatles, and was celebrated with one of the largest state funerals ever given to a non-royal Brit.
Roberts’ book is a compelling read about a fascinating individual. Churchill was a well-rounded figure, with many virtues, and a lot of flaws, too. He was a glory hound in his early days, and his love for the British Empire brought with it a benighted attitude about race and people in the Empire, as well as a belief in the superiority of the British approach that caused him to accept risks that shouldn’t have been accepted. On the other hand, he was extraordinarily hard-working, brilliant, a gifted writer, a great wit, a compelling speaker who turned many a memorable phrase, and the unyielding leader whose fight and pluck and rhetoric stiffened Great Britain’s resolve and kept it in the war when it faced the German war machine, alone, during the dark days of World War II.
One of the book’s themes is that, for all of his brilliance and self-confidence, Churchill was someone who could learn from his many mistakes, rise above them, and–crucially–identify and assimilate changes to his world view that allowed him to avoid repeating them. Churchill’s advocacy of the bloody, ill-fated and ultimately disastrous Dardanelles expedition in World War I could have sent a lesser person slinking off to a life of obscurity, and it haunted Churchill, and was repeatedly mentioned by his adversaries, even when Churchill began serving as Prime Minister in 1940 after the fall of France. But Churchill didn’t let that colossal failure forever cripple his career; he learned from it and other errors and ultimately profited from the very hard lessons it taught. Churchill’s approach to his stout-hearted service during World War II was strongly informed by those lessons and his prior experiences–good and bad.
I’ve been reflecting on Churchill and that important element of his personality these days, when we have seen the United States take a huge black eye with its inept, disastrous, and humiliating failure in Afghanistan. Obviously, many mistakes were made, and there is plenty of blame to go around for all of the four Presidents, and their administrations, who contributed to the Afghan debacle. But the key point now is how to react to those obvious mistakes. Those of us who lived through Vietnam feel like we’ve seen this show before, and now wonder whether our country will ever learn. Will we finally focus our attention–and treasure, and finite resources–on the matters that are truly essential to our national security? Will we resist future temptations to try to build mini-Americas in faraway countries with radically different cultures and perspectives? Will we be able to recognize and avoid “mission creep,” identify the policies and institutional processes that produced the Afghan fiasco and change them, and actually hold accountable the incompetent people who failed to do their job and, in the process, put thousands of people at risk and cost us billions of dollars in equipment and money and a considerable part of our national reputation?
What has happened in Afghanistan is an embarrassment and an epic failure that featured countless mistakes and misjudgments. Having read Roberts’ biography, I’m convinced Churchill would have learned from those errors and recognized how to avoid them in the future. Can our country do the same?