I'm not very good with remembering time, but I think it has been about two years since you've been gone. I know we weren't really friends, more like acquaintances, but I wanted to let you know how much I miss you and your amazing photos. We had a lot in common, you and I. To this day, I am still touched that you used my pattern for Scottish Hose to knit for one of your family member's soon-to-be husband. Thank you for sending me the picture of him wearing the hose with his kilt on his wedding day.
We friended each other on Facebook from the few times you would stop in at The Stitching Mantis when you were down this way. Your posts were something I looked forward to every day. I have always been a firm believer that Islesford is one of the most beautiful places in my world. I have to admit, when I saw pictures of your island, Beal Island and Ketchup's Find, it was the first time I started to doubt my belief. I fell in love with the beautiful spot of heaven you had found. I have SO MANY of your photos saved to my phone, in folders on my laptop or printed off and around my studio to paint in the future. The sunsets over the islands across from your house rivaled the ones I see over the mountains of Acadia from Islesford. The families of deer in your front lawn, the seagulls flying at dusk, and that sweet little building in a field all by itself. I have a love for that kind of stuff. I loved your garden with those really cool granite posts sticking out of the ground and the way the fog would come in and make the whole world seen to glow a soft orange.
I loved the pictures of your big black Newfie sitting on your deck or in your yard, covered in snow. The lobster boats motoring by or your cats napping in flowers, I saved them all. Many of my paintings have been inspired by your photographs and I thank you for allowing me to save so many. I miss you and am so sorry I never found the time to visit. I have a Bucket List, though, which is to visit every square of Maine as pictured on the back of the Maine Gazetteer. Some day I will get there and some day I will see the beauty of Kethcup's Find for myself.
My oldest daughter, Annika, is responsible for every animal we have except for our newest puppy Apollo. It was about two years after our first dog passed away when Annika started saying we needed another dog. I was totally against it. We had had Ella for about 11 years and I was enjoying not taking a dog out during the frigid winter months, or tracking a dog down whenever the kids decided she needed to be free and let her out of the house. I didn't have to clean up dog poop or pee from the floors and our cats were happier. But there was also something missing I couldn't put my finger on.
Annika started looking on Craig's List for dogs. We couldn't afford a new dog from the shelters and a pure breed was totally out of the question. One day, after weeks of searching, she came across a listing for a free dog. With my permission she emailed the contact person and we found out his name. Then we agreed we would meet at Kittery State Park and "just look" which we all know is the kiss of death.
The kids and I went. It seemed sketchy meeting a strange family in the woods to see their dog. We found a young family with 3 small kids and the fattest black lab I have ever seen in my life. He came wobbling up to us, huge sloppy smile on his face and literally fell at our feet and rolled over so the kids could scrub his tummy. He had a huge choke collar on him and was not fixed because the husband "couldn't bear to do that to him." Of course, we took him. There were no toys from his family, no blanket and barely any food. They didn't even say goodbye to him. As soon as they gave us his leash, they were gone. It took all 4 of us to get him into the back of my Sequoia. He managed to sit in the way back with Ajax and Shippen whereupon he immediately rolled off the seat and got stuck. He was too fat to get himself unstuck so we had to fold down the second seat before he could free himself. He was five years old.
The first year we had him was intense. He weighed 124 pounds and was completely untrained. He barked at everyone who came near him. When I took him for walks and people would come toward us, I would warn them that he would bark at them. He had a bark that came from somewhere deep inside of him. It was deep and loud. When we first brought him home, he could barely walk to the end of the driveway without lying down. I took him every week to training class. He loved going to class. He loved learning new things. His favorite exercise was playing with a plastic dumbbell. He liked to play hide and seek. I changed his diet from eating 9 cups of dog food a day to eating 3-4 cups twice a day. He lost 20 pounds in about 6 months and became a completely different dog. He was the love of my life.
The second summer we had him, we were up on Islesford. He loved sitting in the sun by the pumphouse. He would take himself out of the house and sit. This day, the hose was out from my parents watering their garden. He was in heaven just lying there with the yellow hose next to him. He kept looking at it as if it were going to sneak up on him.
The third summer he was there, he met my brothers' dogs, Mondoo and Leopold, for the first time. Leopold was a Norwich Terrier puppy visiting from North Carolina who instantly fell in love with Cooper. They played together every day. I'd never seen Cooper have so much fun, this huge 105 pound black lab and this little terrier who couldn't have weighed anymore than 15 pounds, racing all over the front yard. Cooper had been losing more weight this summer and he was a little wobbly, but he never ever let us know something was wrong.
In October 2018, two months later, on a Tuesday, the day went from great to horrible. He was fine when I left for work but by 5p Ajax called me to say something was very wrong with Cooper. He wouldn't get out of his crate to go outside. When I came home, there was no Cooper greeting me at the door. He looked at me from his crate and barely wagged his tail. I sat on the floor and coaxed him out. He pulled himself up with great effort and collapsed by my side. When Shippen came home ten minutes later, Cooper stood up to greet him and immediately fell over. My heart fell. With Shippen's help, he carried Cooper to the car and sat in the back with him while I drove to the emergency vet clinic. They immediately took him to the back where they took an x-ray and found a huge cancerous tumor under his rib cage. We never knew it was there. The tumor had ruptured and my big black boy was trying to tell me he was done.
George and I told Shippen it was up to him if he wanted to come in with us to say goodbye to Cooper or not. We would completely understand if he didn't want to but he did. This was his first time saying goodbye to one of our animals. The vet people rolled Cooper in on a gurney. He had his nose in the air, lying on his side when he came in. He looked right at me, those big brown eyes never leaving mine. He put his nose against my arm and sighed. I put my head to his, scratched him behind his ears and told him he was The Best Boy Ever and thanked him for becoming our dog. There was no struggle, he was ready. He was 8 when he died, three years after we got him. I miss you, Bud. Every day.
I was in my Mom and Dad's house the other day. My Mom was showing me the new king sized bed they just bought. I was looking around the room and I noticed a really simple painting of a forest with a few birch trees in the foreground. It wasn't anything fancy but it was nice. I kept looking at it because it seemed very familiar to me but I couldn't remember why. Then, of course, it dawned on me. It was mine.
I am the kind of person who has nearly killed myself by driving off the road or into oncoming traffic because of a really cool tree or animal or cloud I see while I am driving. I love driving down windy roads to see barns falling down with vegetation growing through the roofs. I will pull over to the side of the road to take a photo of a gnarly tree standing alone in a field or a herd of cows grazing. Cloud watching is particularly dangerous as is watching Great Blue Herons fly lazily across the sky.
When I paint, I don't go in for details much with something like a bunch of trees. I figure people will see trees if the coloring resembles trees. I completely admire artists who can create with such amazing details everything about a tree. A birch tree has such amazing character in its otherwise plain and unremarkable bark, a simple light vs dark composition I like to play with. I often find an exercise in painting birch trees to be very calming and relaxing. On the other hand, there have been times when I have gotten very frustrated with my inability of painting one well. I suppose that can happen with almost anything.
This painting was a little 4x6 wooden block of the trees surrounding the Scarborough Marsh in the fall. I had taken a bunch of photos for a commission piece and this one caught my attention. The marsh gets wonderful colors in the fall. The grasses turn all sorts of rusty browns and golds and the leaves of the surrounding trees fascinate me. There was this one lone birch tree that stood out among all the rest...
I have a feeling when a lot of people think of Maine, they tend to conjure up pictures of red lobsters, maybe some blueberries, moose, L.L. Bean and the ocean. A lot of my paintings reflect coastal images because I live in Portland, right by the water. I also spend a great deal of my time on a small Maine island off Acadia National Park. These things do make up a great deal of Maine as there is approximately just about 3,478 miles of coastline (one mile more than California, or so says Google) but there is also so much more. I don't go inland very often, but there is just as much beauty there as here.
My husband, George, is a hunter. My family does not hunt but I don't keep him from going. There are things I do he doesn't like but he lets me do them anyway, like go to Islesford for long periods of time. George has friends who have hunting camps in western parts of the state and when he goes, he takes pictures for me. This was from a photograph he took while on his way to Coburn Gore, Maine. Do you know where that is? I sure didn't. I had to look it up. If you take route 27 past Eustis and head toward Canada, it's there. It takes about 3 hours to get there from here, about the same distance it takes me to drive to Northeast Harbor to catch the boat to Islesford. It was in the fall when he went and the colors of the trees were astounding. In the distance, there were mountains, although I must confess, I don't know which ones they are.
One of my goals is to travel this vast state and see all kinds of places and meet as many of the 1.338 million people who reside here as I can. We have our Maine Gazetteer to help us find our way as GPS usually sends us to the middle of some lake. I have my camera to help me remember the beautiful lakes and streams, trees, houses, sunsets, animals or anything else that piques my interest. Our last two kids are off to college soon, retirement is around the next corner and I want to explore this state with George. We want to see all the great things this place has and to find the little gems I know are out there.
I was starting to have trouble finding yarns with colors I was excited about. Most yarns that are variegated or self-striping are the thinner yarns like sport weight or fingering. A lot of sock yarns that are superwash have the bright colors and the speckles. The heavier yarns, like worsted and bulky weights, are more often plain colors, drab and not exciting. I am not saying they are all like that, but the ones I was finding locally had no pizzazz or were the wrong color. I like color. I like my mittens to be different and fun. For the most part, I use the heavier yarns and I was getting discouraged.
One of the owners at my LYS (Local Yarn Store) said "You should try dyeing your own yarns." An interesting thought and yet another project for me to try. I love tie-dyeing shirts with my kids so why not try it with yarns? I ordered my first dyeing kit from KnitPicks, www.knitpicks.com. It was their Greener Shades Beginner Yarn Dyeing Kit. It was a splurge but we were going away for the summer and I needed a project. It came with an awesome book, 3 full sizes of Bare yarns, 9 colors of dye and citric acid. I honestly had the most fun. When the three hanks that came with the kit were done, I immediately went back to the website and ordered more bare skeins. KnitPicks is awesome because they have so many choices for yarns to dye. They have superwash, alpaca, wool, cashmere, cotton....you name it, they probably have it and the prices are pretty decent as well. The best thing is that if you buy $50 worth of stuff, shipping is free.
As you can see from the picture above, I love color. I also have a hard time planning and what I do plan, usually gets changed half way through whatever I am doing. I was happy because I was now getting the cool, awesome color choices in the yarns I normally use. I can buy the plain colored skeins and then pair it with one of my variegated skeins. I have been so happy with the outcome. I also have so many hand dyed skeins of yarn I am now able to sell them at local craft fairs. They are one skein wonders in that there are no dye lots. There have been a number of times where I look at the skein and think "Meh, this is not what I had in mind at all" but when I knit it up, the difference is amazing. Many of my customers seem to feel excited when they purchase one of my skeins.
If you are looking for something new to try I highly suggest trying to dye yarns. You have been warned though....it is extremely addicting and talk about the yarn stash....!
My biggest problem is perspective. I do alright with the landscape part of painting. I am not big on details. I don't paint individual tree branches or leaves because I figure people can get the general idea of a tree by its' shape and the area of where the artist or painting was. I rely on the viewer to use their imaginations to help them see what they want to see. There are some parts of the painting that should be done right. I am more of a traditional painter in that I like real things to look somewhat real. If I am painting an animal or a person, I want my painting to look like that animal or person. A boat should look like a boat, A leaning boat should look like a leaning boat.
I have always had a hard time painting perspective. The fog at the end of the road, the buildings lining the streets or flowers far away versus ones up close. I have trouble painting the shadows and the light. When the bow is turned just so on a lobster boat in relation to the angle of the stern. How to get the shadow beneath the boat to ripple on the waves. How to get the waves to look like water? I practice and fail and practice some more. Sometimes, when the music is just right, and I am lost in the moment, I can get it. And then I wonder how? And why can't I do it again?
I love boats. I prefer lobster boats over sailboats, but I love to watch the big sailboats with their colorful spinnakers zip by. I love the kayakers go by close to shore. I wave to them as they pass by the house and I smile when they wave back. The best time is at sunset, when the lobster boats come home, their boats in silhouette against the mountains. The guttural motors, each one different, as they head to the harbor. Some race in while others move slow, their gentle wake behind them and I know I'll get it some day.
I have two studios. This post today is about the studio that makes me cry if I think about it too much. This studio is the place my soul searches for. It's the only place where I feel whole and complete. My heart sings when I am there and I never, ever want to leave.
If Once You Have Slept on an Island
If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop;
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you'll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh, you won't know why, and you can't say how
Such change upon you came,
But-once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same!
By Rachel Field
I have been going to Islesford my entire life. Of my 52 years on this planet, I think there are two I did not go up during the summer. I stay in a house called The Studio. It was built by mother's grandfather for her great uncle who was an amateur artist. Back then, it was just a single square room with a view beyond belief. The house it is now went through some changes when my uncle Malcolm and his wife added to it back in the 1960's. It sits on the North Shore of Little Cranberry Island. I see the mountains all day long, a sight I never grow tired of seeing. I love to hear the slow steady rumbles of the lobster boats in the mornings as they head out. I used to be able to identify each boat by its' motor. But that was a long time ago.
I love to sit on the deck and wave to the tourist boats as they come by. Sometimes the tourists wave back. I love watching the sailboat races go by, glad I am not on them as how far over they sail makes me nervous. I love watching the sun sink low at night and I wait to see what will be given to me as my evening present appears. I love watching the lightening streak across the mountains when it is dark and I love to listen to the rain pound against the roof. I love the thunder shake the windows as it booms in the night. I love the smell of the ocean. I love listening to the waves against the beach below the house and the bell buoy clang as it rocks on the waves. When I was little, Bear Island Lighthouse used to light up my room.
I love the people who have known me my whole life. I love the restaurant where I had my first job at 16. I was unable to serve alcohol so the other waitresses had to do it for me. I love the one room school house named after Ashley Bryan, one of the sweetest, kindest most amazing person I have ever met. It wasn't until I was in high school when I knew just how amazing he really is. I love that I can go anywhere and not get lost. I love that I can sit in my living room and paint wildflowers and a sailboat at the same time. I love feeding our garbage to the seagulls in front of the house.
This is the place I go to recuperate from the winter. I only live three hours away but it sometimes feels so far. I talk so much about Islesford I often think my friends' eyes start to roll back in boredom. Not again, I think they are thinking. But I don't care. Of all the places I would ever want to be in this entire world, it is there. Always.