June 4, 2010
At 6:15, I woke to the sound of chirping birds and the warmth of the morning’s sun on my down sleeping bag. With much resistance, I unzipped my bag and crawled into the cold Maine air.
My dad had already checked the weather and prepared breakfast. “Great day for a hike,” he said with a boyish smile. Forty five minutes later, we were on the trail, heading up Mt. Katahdin.
Prepared by a youth spent tromping around the woods and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I felt unfazed by numerous war stories from trustifarians at Colby and Bill Brison’s comical account of his tribulations in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
The “trail,” consisting of a foot and half gap in the Maine woods along a compass bearing connecting our campground with a distant peak of Mt. Katahdin corrected my fantasy of briskly walking up mellow switchbacks whilst eating granola bars and casually snapping pictures with my camera. Scrambling up Igloo-cooler sized blocks of granite, we emerged from the pine and hemlock trees onto a sparse alpine environment found on only a few of New England’s highest peaks.
Stopping frequently, we snacked on Cabot cheddar and Wheat Thins all while taking in northern Maine’s beauty from a 5,000 foot vantage.
Above the trees, we moved quickly across the barren mountain top. Looking down at my foot and hand holds, I forgot where I was, traveling thousand of miles away to the Rockies or the Cascades.
Confused by the thin air and sparse environment, my mind bounced from place to place transcending time like a daydream. The wind whistled through rocks, rattling the small and tilting the tall signs in the same direction.
Cinching up the leather straps of my Bergans pack.
This is a trail, look for the blue blazes spray painted on sporadic rocks.
Maine or the Rockies? For more pictures from Katahdin, check out this albumI took with my iPhone.
After ten hours and forty five minutes we made it back to a small bridge within shouting distance of the car. Sore from twelve miles and 3,500 feet of vertical change, I rested my feet in a cool stream. As the sun dropped below the rugged outline of Mt. Katahdin, I wiggled my toes in the runoff from winter’s snow. Taking my time, I jumped from rock to rock, happy to have finished the day.
June 1, 2010
Mainers make boats. They have since sailors first arrived from across the pond in the 17th century and they will as long there is an ocean and trees to cut. Today, the laborious craft continues at fine boat builders along the coast. Steeped in the tradition of the region and the resources afforded by the nearby woods, apprentices at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine learn the art from veterans.
Serving as the two year home to some 20 apprentices from around the US, the Apprenticeshop trains the art of boat building from drafting the initial design to sailing the finished project.
On a bright May morning free of scholastic obligations or other frivolities, Tucker and I drove out along Route 1 to visit a friend and apprentice learning the craft of boat building. Enticed by the Maine coast and the importance of knowing a timeless craft, Matt left his job doing windows for a New York fashion designer and moved to Rockland in January.
Five days a week, Matt and the other apprentices who range from their mid twenties to late forties, learn woodworking, drafting, painting and sailing from their workspace on Main Street in downtown Rockland.
Starting with a blank piece of plywood, the apprentices start each boat with full sized drafting. Using the board like a set of Lego instructions, the boat builders refer back for the angles, lengths and widths of the hundreds of components of each boat. It all seemed like alchemy to me.
Tucker observing Men at Work and a nearly complete rowboat.
A Maine Boat Builder.
This band-saw chops up more wood than a cheap masseuse.
Does this magazine still exist?
The fruits of their labor: a 13-foot row boat and its oars.
Dinghies on the dock.
In addition to building boats from scratch, the Apprenticeshop also resurrects past flames.
Preparing for a late June launch.
You can’t telecommute to Rockland or learn about it on Wikipedia. Boat building appeals to an older desire to create tools of exploration and adventure. It’s an existence, a way of life. The results reflect the hundreds of hours spent toiling over wood, paint and sand paper. Price aside, I would rather have one of these works of art than any Patek Phillipe or Mercedes AMG. Groups of people on the Maine coast still answer the call to build boats from scratch. That inspires me.
Here are some more links,
Building Boats (Picasa),
May 13, 2010
Fishing at Sunset
“So let me get this right, we are fishing with Canadian worms, grown in Michigan and trucked to Maine?” I said as if pondering the ins and outs of space travel. “Why the fuck wouldn’t they just grow them in Maine or at the very least, call them Michigan worms?”
“Not sure, perhaps Canadian is some mongoloid earthworm bred for fishing” Tucker chirped, distracted by the writhing worm lanced by his size-4 hook.
“Regardless of its etymology, it’s not like worms give a shit about where they are grown. I mean, mangoes only grow in the tropics, but worms can grow any where there is fucking dirt, right?” I swore out of the corner of my mouth as I untangled the bird’s nest surrounding the end of my fishing reel.
“Yah, not sure,” Tucker quickly dismissed. “Leave it to Walmart, they were the only place open,” he said, pulling back the bail arm and clutching the line with his forefinger.
With a cast and a plunk, the question of origin of the name and need to import fishing worms was laid to rest as our attention transferred intently to the orange bobber swaying to and fro on the evening’s waves.
Casting and then reeling in as our patience flowed in a wave-like motion, Tucker and I watched the sun slip towards the trees and vacation houses on the other side of Messalonskee Pond.
Contemplating the cloud formations, what we will be doing in five years and the origins of various bird songs, our conversations meandered with no agenda. Focusing on our bobbers, time slid by as we watched for a much anticipated movement of signaling a curious fish.
The Canadian worms; grown in Michigan and skewered in Maine.
After an hour and a half, an overzealous cast snagged a sixty-foot pine tree hanging over the bank. Tugging and swearing, the line snapped, ending our evening of fishing. Other than the tree, we caught nothing. Not even a bite. We will be back tomorrow.
Here are some more links,
Fishing at Sunset (Picasa).
April 29, 2010
Telling Stories Through Barn Windows
New England’s barns inspire me. Despite having similar basic designs, each one tells a story about what happens inside of it, the animals and people it houses and the seasons it endures. Some are the pride of yuppie families from big cities, others are functional parts of a farm passed down through generations of rugged farmers. Regardless of their condition or creed, old barns capture the story of their surroundings.
Like a young boy unable to take the entire beach with him, settling only on a lone sand dollar, I collect barn windows. Better than a picture, these windows act as a tangible homage to the buildings they once belonged to. Rummaging at flea markets, hunting at dusty antique malls and asking retired farmers if I could pick apart their collapsed barns, I am on the lookout for unique windows that remind me of New England.
A barn tells a story about the land it rests on. A photo depicts a similar narrative about a unique setting.
Feeling like Samuel W. Francis, the genius that combined the spoon and the fork into the spork, I sat on my bed taping pictures to an old window. Organizing the photos as I would a blog post, the window framed a story, more coherent and insightful than a standard print.
Scrapers and sandpaper remove flakes and loose paint from the windows.
Coats of water-based lacquer protect the old paint and keep it in place, ensuring that the window will keep its story intact.
Tucker working on a window.
The glass is scraped to remove years of paint, lacquer and dirt.
Epoxy anchors the glass panes to the frame.
No two windows are alike and each narrative of photos is printed once. The windows add context to the collection of photos, conveying a coherent story. I envision a window filled with images of food overlooking the kitchen and another window hung in the den acting as a portal to the Maine coast. I will share these windows on my blog and they will be available for purchase.