I’ve written before–see here, and here–about the deep concerns the people of Stonington, Maine have had about impending federal regulations that would drastically affect the lobster fishing that is a crucial pillar of the local economy. Those working in the lobster trade were convinced that regulations designed to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale would make lobster fishing practically and economically impossible.
Those concerns have been deferred by recent actions by Congress and President Biden. As is often the case with Congress these days, the $1.7 trillion spending bill that was passed and then signed into law on December 29 included an array of additional provisions–including one that delays the implementation of the right whale regulations for six years. The bill also allocated $55 million to try to accomplish two tasks related to the regulations. First, some of the money will be spent to develop workable ropeless lobster fishing gear and techniques, since the right whale regulations will require an end to the traditional rope-and-buoy system that have been a foundation of Maine lobster fishing for decades. Second, the money will fund research to determine if the North Atlantic right whale is in fact found in the Gulf of Maine, and if so where and when.
An article in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle, Maine, reports on the legislation and the reaction to it here. Basically, those in the lobster trade are relieved at the delay in the regulations–which they no doubt view as a kind of stay of execution of their industry–but, as the article’s apt headline states: “And now the work begins.” There are a lot of details to work out, as those involved in the lobster fishing industry need to create a process for making and responding to right whale sightings and figure out how to spend millions, including money to be allocated in future years, to create the ropeless fishing technology. That last task is a crucial one, because the concern underlying the delayed regulations is that the the endangered right whales become ensnared in the ropes that link the lobster traps on the ocean floor to the buoys on the surface. If workable ropeless technology can’t be developed, the reprieve won’t provide long-term relief.
It’s frustrating that our government can’t seem to function at a deliberate, thoughtful pace and address issues through single-focus legislation, and instead can only act through colossal, last-minute spending bills that become Christmas trees for all kinds of unrelated provisions. In this case, however, that process helped out–temporarily, at least–a beleaguered industry and local communities that are dependent on it.
On this morning’s walk Betty and I stopped by the waterside parking lot below one of the shops in Stonington. I love the hand-lettered “Do Not Throw Rocks” sign there, perched as it is at the end of a field of rocks the size of a baby’s fist, with a beautiful stretch of water just ahead and lots of targets to measure the strength of your throwing arm. In short, it’s just about perfect stone-tossing territory.
I wonder how many kids, and adults, walk up to admire the scenery, see the sign, think “you know, that’s not a bad idea,” and glance around furtively to see if the coast is clear for one granite throw? Even though no one was around, I managed to resist temptation.
Stonington, Maine, has its share of quirkiness. One of my favorite examples of that quality is found at this place on Church Street, where a solitary window freed from the structure of a house has been put on a rock outcropping overlooking the harbor. It’s as if the window escaped from its confines and decided to come to rest where it could enjoy a pretty scene. A window like this is so alluring, enticing you to scramble up onto those rocks and take a look through the other side, just to see that specific, chosen view. So far, at least, I’ve resisted the temptation to trespass and check out the lone window’s perspective.
But in a different sense, I feel like our time in Stonington has given me a chance to look through different windows and gain different perspectives. I never would have considered the plight of lobstermen, ensnared in regulatory and economic issues far beyond their personal control, if we had not come up here to live among them. And I’ve gotten some insight into how powerfully small towns can react when a locally supported facility, like the Island Nursing Home, announces that it is closing. For that matter, I’ve come to learn a bit about what it is like to live in a small town, having never really done so before.
I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to see things from a different point of view and to better understand the concerns and motives of people living in a faraway place. I feel like it has broadened my horizons and made me a bit less judgmental, generally, because I’ve learned that there are typically two sides to every story. It also makes me wish that there was a way to ensure that more people could share in different perspectives and understandings before writing snarling Twitter posts or demonizing people they disagree with. and utterly dismissing their viewpoints. I think it would be helpful if more people tried to look through different windows before lashing out.
These days I’m back at 44 North–literally and figuratively. Literally, because Stonington is located on the 44 North latitude, and figuratively, because being back in Stonington means I’m once again drinking the excellent coffee roasted by 44 North Coffee. And drinking 44 North coffee is a feast both for the taste buds and for the imagination.
Consider the Peru roast that we are drinking today. The tasting notes on the bag–which I faithfully read and try to experience with every slug–say this roast has a “big body with notes of roasted pralines and a heavy finish.” Having never tasted a roasted praline, I can’t assess whether the referenced “notes” exist. As for the “big body” and the “heavy finish,” it seems to this unschooled coffee drinker that the body and the heaviness will depend mightily on how how much coffee you put into the filter and how strong the corresponding pot of brewed coffee is. In any event, I definitely like the taste of the Peru blend, even if I can’t fully appreciate its nuances and subtleties.
I also like when the coffee shop identifies the origin of the coffee beans, so you can think about that while you are trying to detect the notes, the body, and the finish. When I think of Peru, I think of crisp air on the slopes of the Andes, rain forests, the Pacific Ocean in the distance, and of course Macchu Picchu, the city in the clouds. It’s not a bad mental image to accompany your morning cup of joe.
This scene greeted me this morning when I turned the corner from our street and headed down the hill for my walk at about 6:15 a.m. It’s amazing how a few clouds can make the sky more interesting, and produce just the right amount of shimmer on the surface of the water in the harbor. The temperature was around 60 degrees, and the salty air was fresh and invigorating.
It’s scenes like this that make a morning walk so enjoyable.
Stonington, Maine is a great growing climate. Plants seem to thrive here, but unfortunately that includes weeds—lots and lots of weeds. So when I returned after a two-and-a-half month absence, I found on the positive side that my lupines had grown to colossal sizes, but weeds had invaded all the beds and were on the verge of overwhelming our plantings. The photo above is an example of just how overgrown things had become.
So this past weekend featured a lot of weeding, to try to get the growth under control. I dug out countless broadleaf weeds, yanked out creeping vines, chopped back encroaching chokecherry trees, and pulled out unwanted grass. My favorite weed to remove, whose name is unknown to me, has a weird hollow stem, grows rapidly, and has a purple flower on top and very shallow roots. You can extract it with a gentle tug, and it is satisfying to then fling it onto the weed pile.
By the end of the weekend, as the photo below shows, I had got things back to about where they were when I last left in May. In the never-ending War of the Weeds, that’s about all you can hope for.
This morning was my first really foggy morning since I came up to Stonington a few days ago. As always, I’d forgotten just how blanketing a fog bank can be, and how the ghostly mist and absolute quiet can turn familiar views into interesting, otherworldly landscapes.
I like the fog because it makes for an interesting walk. I also like it because it means that our east-facing bedroom isn’t invaded by blazing sunshine at 5:15 a.m., and it’s actually possible to sleep in until 6 o’clock.
I got a lot accomplished during my two-day Stonington gardening frenzy this past weekend. Mother Nature was a great help in the effort. It had rained for a few days before I arrived, so the ground was soft and perfect for weed extraction. During my visit, however, it was sunny and cool—ideal conditions for some heavy duty planting and general yard work.
Yard work and gardening have a sequence. The winter storms had knocked down a lot of branches, so the first step in the process was to pick up the debris and deposit it in our compost heap. That gathering effort also allowed me to survey the plants to see how they fared. I’m pleased to report that our major perennial plants all survived. I’m also pleased to report that the lupines and ferns I’ve been cultivating in the weedy, between the rocks areas of the down yard came through the winter in thriving fashion. You can see some of the lupines in the photo above and the photo below. The lupines and the ferns should minimize our weeding obligations and give us some pretty lupine blooms besides.
The next step was weeding. Last fall I had dug out and edged some new beds in the down yard, and the Borgish weeds had invaded in force. After removing them, I planted some orange and yellow marigolds and a nice flower I discovered last year called a verbena. The marigolds grew well here last summer, produce a lot of flowers, and also, according to local lore at least, have a smell that helps to repel deer. The red verbena are hardy, have a bold color, and should spread. I added a white geranium, shown in the photo at the top of this post, and a red geranium, shown in the photo below, for a bit of contrast.
The goal this year is to make the down yard for interesting, visually, and to use flower color to accent more of the rocks. It’s a risk, because the rocky soil is not great for planting. I used lots of potting soil while planting in a bid to compensate. I also repositioned many of the abundant rocks in the yard to better delineate planting areas. I’m pleased with the results so far, but we’ll get a better sense of how the experiment is working when I return later this summer for more weeding, watering, and mulching.
This morning I awoke as the first glimmers of the coming dawn penetrated the heavy curtains of our bedroom (4:56 a.m. to be precise) and enjoyed my first Stonington sunrise of 2022. As always, I was struck by the absolute, unearthly, ears searching for any hint of a sound quiet you find up here. The lack of any—and I mean any—background noise makes for quite a contrast with life in Columbus. The beautiful colors and the silence are a wonderful way to start the day.
When Betty and I took our walk this morning we passed the Island Ad-Vantages building, which has a new paint job. It a pretty bold color scheme—which means it fits right in.
One of the things I like about Stonington is that people aren’t afraid to use bright paint on their houses. That is true in many seaside communities. To be sure, there are many houses that are white or coastal gray, but there also are vibrant yellows, blues, reds, and greens. It makes for a very pleasing palette. It also says “vacation.”
The new shades on the Island Ad-Vantages offices just add more hues to our multi-colored Stonington rainbow.
We’re up in Stonington this weekend to do so spring clean-up and planting. It is still very cool up here—the high today will be around 50—but it’s sunny and the weather app indicates that the below freezing temperatures are behind us.
This morning I took Betty for a walk and, as we ambled down the aptly named Sea Breeze Street I caught my first whiff of salt air. Its invigorating tang quickened my step, and when we reached the small harbor next to the mail boat dock, the sunlight was dazzling on the water. We completed the walk by trudging up Granite Street, looping back through town, then heading up the Pink Street walkway. When we crested the hill on Highland Avenue, we were rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the lobster boats in the harbor and the islands beyond.
It’s nice to be back on the coast, even if only for a short while.
We got a bird’s eye view of the countryside around Charleston, South Carolina as we flew in this morning. It’s easy to see why this area is called the “low country”—it’s as flat as a pancake.
And it’s hard to believe that the ocean that laps up against those sandy beaches is the same Atlantic Ocean that pounds the rocky shores of Maine. Down here the water is a pleasant and warm green; around Stonington it’s blue-grey and even looks icy cold.
Of the garden of late bloomers, the Montauk daisy is the most frustrating. Two years after we replanted a portion of the plant that was gifted by a generous neighbor, I still have not personally seen its blooms. As flowers go, it’s a tantalizing tease.
The plant seems to thrive in the Stonington climate. Last year it took firm root after our replanting, grew considerably, and produced lots of buds that were just getting ready to bloom when they were neatly clipped off and consumed by the local rampaging deer horde. This year the Montauk daisy grew like crazy—so much so that it has overwhelmed its bed, and I’ll have to split it up and replant parts of it elsewhere in the down yard next spring—and the deer have blessedly stayed away, but I had to head back to Columbus before the blossoming started. The buds were out and getting ready, but stubbornly refused to comply with my travel schedule.
The flowers have now begun to open, and Russell graciously sent along this photo, but of course it’s just not the same as checking out the flowers, in the sunshine, with your own two eyes. Seeing the Montauk daisies in full bloom will have to remain an aspirational goal until next year.
I’m back in Columbus, after a happily uneventful travel day. It was weird to wake up in our German Village bedroom and not see a scene like the photo above, taken one morning earlier this week, right outside our bedroom window. So I’m going to indulge myself by posting this last sunrise picture before transitioning fully back to Midwest sights and sounds.
They say that people who live around physical beauty eventually become indifferent to it. So far that hasn’t happened with me and the sights presented by living somewhere with a view of water and sun. Maybe it’s because the harbor views still seem so novel after decades living in the landlocked Midwest, or maybe it’s because my time in Stonington is broken up by returns to Columbus, or maybe I just like sunrises that have lobster boats in the picture. I hope I never reach the point where I can pass by a striking sunrise without stopping to goggle at it, and looking forward to seeing more.
It was a beautiful morning yesterday. The sky was blue, the sun painted the eastward facing houses on Greenhead peninsula with a brilliant, glowing luminosity, and the tide was out, which allowed me to walk far out onto the rocky outcroppings along the shoreline and get a good view at the long pier fronting the water.
I wanted to get a good, long look at this pretty little part of the world, which I have called home for the past few months, and lock it securely in my memory before heading back to the Midwest. I took this photograph because sometimes a photo app can help the memory, too.