Save Yourself (But maybe not)

Today is Day 04 following the Great Windstorm of 2017. Have they officially dubbed it a hurricane? To be honest, I have not been consuming much news this week, so if there’s a name for the storm that landed Sunday night, wreaking havoc across Northern New England, please clue me in.

We’re fortunate. I say “fortunate” because we didn’t have any trees land on our house or garage. We had a partial window shatter (the outer pane in a two-paned weather-resistant window facing the water), but no water invaded our domestic confines. Poor Lucy, our cat, slept about as well as I did Sunday night and early Monday morning, which means hardly at all. She’s been in recovery mode all week, sleeping during the day, rather than watching birds and squirrels from her usual perch in a window. Oh to be a cat like Lucy!

We have several trees lying on the ground. We had some water coming in around a vent above the garage and it’s leaking through the ceiling. This isn’t related to this storm, as we’ve had issues with this during prior heavy rains. Given that the summer and early fall have been bone dry, this hasn’t presented itself until re-surfacing a week ago. The property manager is dispensing his handyman to the house on Friday. Based on past practice, he’ll figure out what needs to be done while making an assessment about our window situation. I think the tree crew will be out next week, but that’s conjecture at this point.

We got electricity back Tuesday night. We were fortunate. Many CMP customers are still in the dark. Others are freaking out about their website. Perhaps technology can’t save us? It sure as hell can’t restore downed power lines. Continue reading

Cycle of Life

Last November we sold our house in Durham where we’d lived for 26 years. This felt like the start of a new chapter. It was, but the narrative soon turned dark.

Landing in Brunswick on a beautiful tidal cove was exciting at the time. Being new to town, I envisioned capturing elements of our new home with a series of post based on weekend forays about the place. Then tragedy intervened. Life along the cove became framed by abundant morning light that simply permitted holding on.

A mile and a half from our house there is an older cemetery. I knew nothing about it until passing while running one morning in December. My new route took me westward from our new place, out Coombs Road. I immediately knew the road to be an ideal alternative providing a side loop away from busy Route 24, where I could enjoy my surroundings and not worry about dodging cars and trucks roaring along at highway speeds.

Purington Road, which abuts the cemetery, also dead ends at a gate on the east side of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The road, like much of this area, is bordered by chain link fence and warning signs left behind when the town answered the military’s every beck and call.

From RootsWeb, I found this description of the cemetery, known as New Meadows Cemetery:

New Meadows Cemetery is located on Purinton Road and borders the Naval Air Station. This part of Brunswick was farming country known as New Meadows before the Naval Air Station occupied the area. Old records describe it as located on the North side of the road to Great Island, about three miles from Brunswick village. This road is now part of the Naval Air Station.

Doing a minimal amount of digging revealed that the area around Purington and Coombs Roads was once a thousand-acre town commons that was once the New Meadows neighborhood. There are historical records that show there were four homesteads dating back to 1739. What locals know about the area if they know anything is that it’s framed by the recent past following the Navy’s encroachment (and significant contamination) of 90 percent of this section of the community that formerly consisted of farms, grist mills, and brick and carriage makers.

Father and son, forever.

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Learning About Tides

I doubt most people pay any attention to tides, both low and high. Until about three weeks ago, I rarely consulted a daily tide calendar. Perhaps if you dig clams, or work along the waterfront, tides are old hat to you.

A mere three years ago, Mary schooled me about the Maine Tide & Everyday Calendar (probably available at one of Maine’s finer local bookstores). She started keeping one in her RAV4, in order to know when some of the various local tidal bodies of water would be experiencing high tide, so we could do some open water swims to prepare for that summer’s OOB triathlon.

Spending your life lived away from the coast save for an occasional beach outing renders you unprepared for that day when you wake up a mere stone’s throw from a picturesque cove, a tidal one at that.

Love my cove at high tide.

Love my cove at high tide.

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Not Quite As Dark

It’s been awhile since I felt excitement coming home after work. No, I’m not sick of my wife of 34 years, and I have no intention of parting ways.

Actually, for the past several years, I’m usually the one who has been working at home, or coming home long before Mary arrives from her job, or evening workout with SheJAMS.

I adore the cat we added to our home slightly more than a year ago. Lucy is always happy to see me, whenever I return.

This time of year, when I’ve put away my umpiring gear (and volleyball referee’s whistle), as well as hung up the road bike for the season, the approach of darkness has elicited something akin to that claustrophobic feeling that makes breathing difficult.

We are now in week two in our new house. As we unpack the assorted boxes and crates and begin rearranging things into something that feels like home again, returning home after work elicits anticipation and a thrill as I head towards our place by the cove.

Yes, December is the darkest month, but this year, it doesn’t seem as bleak as years past. A new town and a new place to call “home” has a lot to do with that.

New Rhythms

After 26 years, living somewhere else means learning new routines and local mores.

Our first weekend was a successful one. The house is starting to feel like our own. Miss Mary has the kitchen set-up and we’re working on the rest of the living (and storage) space.

It obviously doesn’t take much to make me happy. A visit to public works and picking up my brand new recycling bin was Monday’s highlight. Trash and recycling pick-up are still Thursdays for us, too, just like in Durham.

Nothing says "welcome to town" like a brand new recycling container.

Nothing says “welcome to town” like a brand new recycling container.

Pedaling to work

The last time I biked to work, Bush 41 was in the White House. Hillary’s husband, who would come next, was still an obscure governor of a Southern backwater. It was the early 1990s and I was working for a large power company in Brunswick.

From my home in Durham, the ride took just over an hour. Luckily, my employer had a locker room with two showers. I developed a routine of bringing clothes to change into the day before and kept a few other supplies in a locker to dress for work.

Six weeks ago, I accepted a position with a local credit union. They have a branch in Topsham, 12 miles from my house. On my first day, during the tour, I noticed a downstairs locker room and shower. I said to the branch manager, “I’m going to have to bike into work some day.”

Today is finally “bike to work day.” I’m kind of excited. I’ve had to wait ‘til now for a number of reasons, including afternoon and early evening commitments that prevented me from being able to meander back home following work.

I had to do some thinking about it and some pre-planning. A week ago Saturday, I even pre-rode the route, which is a different one than the one I normally take in the car. It’s slightly longer (just over 16 miles). The bike route takes me through Brunswick, a bicycle-friendly community with a designated bike route. In essence, a bike-friendly designation provides a welcoming environment for people on bikes. This is accomplished through providing safe accommodations for bicycling and by encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. It allows cyclists an environment that’s safe, comfortable, and convenient for all ages and abilities. Bike-friendly, or not, biking in traffic during rush-to-work time requires vigilance and some experience riding in traffic.

Keeping to the bike route.

Keeping to the bike route.

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On the Base

The closure of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) was a long, drawn-out affair.  Like most impending events that you eventually find out were inevitable, this was another one that elicited hand-wringing, predictions of doom and gloom—not to mention—certain economic devastation. Brunswick was likely to dry up and blow away without Uncle Sam and the Pentagon sending shekels, keeping it afloat—at least that’s the version the media sold us.

The perspective is always different through the lens of hindsight. Looking back also provides perspective on how news stories get spun. I find it especially enlightening when political icons are judged by history. George Mitchell, everyone’s favorite Maine Democrat (if you’re a Maine Democrat) had this to say back in 1993, when he was Senate Majority Leader, in a news brief I located from the Boston Globe. [via ProQuest]

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell said yesterday that he is optimistic Maine’s Navy bases will be spared when the Defense Department’s list of recommended bases for closure s released. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and the Brunswick Naval Air Station could potentially be on the list Secretary of Defense Les Aspin will present to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. [The Boston Globe, March 6, 1993]

BNAS was on the list, and it wasn’t spared. So much for the wisdom of ole’ George, Mr. Maine Democrat.  Actually, there’s more political wrangling to this story, as Mitchell ended up leaving the Senate and as a result, Maine lost some clout in Washington. That might actually have had more to do with the closure than Mitchell being a lousy prognosticator.

When BNAS closed in 2011, it affected 2,687 active duty personnel and 583 full-time civilian personnel. That was a significant loss of jobs along with the economic ripple effect that accompanied the closure.

Fast forward four years and the former Naval Air Station is in the process of redevelopment under the care of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA). Since redevelopment began, there are more than 70 businesses occupying the former base, and according to various news sources, more than 700 new jobs have been created.

Being that the JBE wants to be your go-to source for local news, at least local in terms of drawing a 30-mile ring around the JBE compound, I was able to dig a bit deeper for my readers. According the MRRA’s very own Redevelopment News newsletter that number is actually 730 jobs—which they cite as being “60 percent more than projected four years into this project. The newsletter goes on to report that they “expect to have more than 800 employees here in high-paying, quality positions by the end of the year.”

Plenty of space for development, at Brunswick Landing.

Plenty of space for development, at Brunswick Landing.

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30 Minutes to Write

30 minutes in the library.

30 minutes in the library.

People are busy; I gather this because whenever I ask them how they are, they often say, “busy.” We live in busy times and there’s no way back from here.

Writing takes time, but what happens when you are so busy that you don’t have inordinate amounts of time to write, or even blog? Should you just throw up your hands and say, “I can’t do this?” Continue reading

Making it in Maine

Maine logo

Maine might be open for business, but too often, the business being discussed and the deals cut by our fearless leaders in Augusta bypass Main Street for the malls and retail models better suited for a “Happy Motoring” utopia running on borrowed time. That belief sadly still holds sway, along with the presumption that excess consumption can be maintained into perpetuity.

Don’t get me wrong—consumerism will continue to drive our economy for the next decade at least, but true sustainability and local and regional economies built for the long haul are going to have to be led by locally-owned storefronts and production rooted in Maine, not corporate big boxes. Continue reading

Make your milk MOO

Poster for “Betting the Farm” at Fort Andross

Dairy farming has deep roots in Maine. A few years ago, prior to landing on Moxie as my subject, I contemplated a book about the demise of farming in Maine. That book never got off the ground, but I was struck by some of the numbers and how farming has fallen out of favor in most parts of the state, as well as the rest of country.

Producing milk is one of the leading agricultural activities in the United States. Like other forms of agriculture, science has increased productivity and yields. The number of cows milked, as well as the number of actual farms has been steadily declining since 1970. Former pasture land has been turned into house lots. Continue reading