On Peace and Beauty

Schoodic Point

“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and [despite] all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was a little girl, I lived right smack-dab in the middle of Texas. There’s not a lot of water there. My aunt and uncle lived on the Atlantic coast in southern Florida, and I so vividly remember my visit to their home when I was nine years old. The first time I saw the ocean, I cried. I felt the excitement in my chest and all over my little body. When I first stood on that sandy beach and gazed into the blue horizon, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of the ocean.

Fast forward to my adult life, and I have found a way to live close to that ocean that moved me so much when I was nine years old. The coast at Acadia is where we visit the ocean every summer. The first time my youngest son ever saw the ocean was at Acadia. We celebrated his 5th birthday at Sand Beach, and when family members come to visit us here in Maine, we always head to Acadia.

Happy Birthday on the Beach
We celebrated our son’s birthday at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.

When I learned that this year marks the 100th anniversary of our beautiful Acadia National Park, I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on its beauty and how much I love having access to the ocean.

Every summer, we make our trips to the Maine coast, but Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park is our favorite, so much so that it has become our summer ritual to visit, enjoy the breath-taking views, and spend time together as a family. These visits also re-energize my soul.

The first thing we do is head to Winter Harbor, and every time, we stop for lunch at Chase’s Restaurant for some delicious fish n’ chips. In fact, Chase’s has the best fish n’ chips I’ve ever tasted, but, most importantly, our youngest son, our picky eater, just loves the fish n’ chips as well.

Chase’s is a small, family restaurant located on Main Street in Winter Harbor, and it’s right on the way to Schoodic Point. After we enjoy the delicious fresh fish, fries, and slaw, we head to Schoodic Point for the breathtaking views.

Schoodic Point
This is one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park.

Just hearing the waves crash on the rocks is relaxing to me, but when I see how much my youngest son enjoys exploring the rocks and water, I’m in heaven. Even our oldest, our grumpy teenager, seems to enjoy Schoodic Point, and fortunately, it turns out there are Pokemon and a cell phone signal there—and a cell phone signal is not always guaranteed in middle-of-the-trees Maine. This is certainly important information for anyone with teenagers. Our son captured a water Pokemon at Schoodic Point, so there you go. That’s reason right there to check it out.

Of course, for me, it’s about the Nature, not the Pokemon. Our family enjoys these summer trips so much, and, each year, when the weather starts to warm up, I start missing the ocean and Acadia. I’m from “away,” but I’m thankful that my adopted state has such easy and beautiful access to the ocean, a place where it feels good to feel insignificant. When I look at that water, the water that’s been there for millions and billions of years, I remember that the tiny worries of my life just do not matter.

They do not matter.

It feels good to remember that.

I’m a nature girl (well woman), but I wasn’t always. When I first read Emerson in college as an undergraduate, I had no idea, really, what he was talking about. But, now, Nature feels like scripture to me. I need to feel the earth, connect with the water and animals. Sometimes, it’s in my own backyard. Sometimes, it’s on the coast.

My youngest son once told me once that he thought Nature was so beautiful because God wanted us to notice it. I think there’s so much wisdom in this, and I know that places like Acadia remind me to stop and notice that God is all around us—in Nature.

What are your places that connect you to Nature, that energize your soul? I’d love to hear about them!

On Random Acts of Kindness

bouquet of flowers

This week was a tough week for me. I learned that my main part-time job, the one that was going to come with some health insurance, is not likely to be funded. This is especially problematic for us, as it seems I have an ulcer, which is just no fun at all. Also, my mom, who had been visiting for 10 days, went home to Texas, and my heart was sad.

So my heart has been heavy, and my mind has been worried. But I don’t mean this as a sob story. In fact, I am forever an optimist, so I just always have this feeling that things will be okay. I mean, my husband and I have to work hard to make it so, but we do, so it is.

But this week I also had some beautiful and thoughtful random acts of kindness that helped me stay even more focused on the positive, and these acts seem to have replenished my soul. Because of this, because of how wonderful it feels to have random acts of kindness bestowed upon you, I wanted to devote my post this week to writing about how important these are and maybe offer some ideas about how we can provide some random acts of kindness in the coming week.

Yesterday, I received the most beautiful act of kindness in the form of a call from a friend inviting us to “camp.” If you’re not from Maine, you may not understand what “camp” is. Let me tell you: “Camps” are fantastic! Essentially, “camps” are little cabins on the water, and the water is everywhere here in Maine. So, if you don’t have a “camp,” it seems you are really missing out on the magic of Maine in the summer—unless you can find someone to share “camp” with you. We don’t have a “camp,” so yesterday’s “camp” share was lovely and just what my soul needed.

I had been working at the computer for most of the day, and it was a hot one here in Maine. It was about 90 degrees, and when you don’t have air conditioning, 90 degrees feels really hot. My husband was outside working on our yard and my youngest son was helping him when the phone rang. Our dear friend wanted to know if we wanted to go for a swim and a boat ride.

Oh, we did!

It was the best Friday afternoon I’ve had in a long time. The water was refreshing. My son had a blast swimming in the lake. We were taken for a boat ride around the lake to see the loons and the lily pads. Sunfish nibbled on my toes, and my worries felt far away.

I was thankful beyond words, but this was just one of many beautiful, random acts of kindness for me of late: My neighbor picked me a beautiful bouquet of flowers from her garden; my husband researched and sent me a list of all the natural remedies for ulcers; my friend from afar sent me an awesome chicken lady t-shirt—for no reason, just because; one neighbor brought corn on the cob over for the chicky girls; and another neighbor brought over a Lego set for my youngest son, even though we decided not to have a birthday party for him this year.

bouquet of flowers
This is the bouquet my neighbor picked for me from her garden. I nearly cried at its beauty and the kindness. The flowers reminded me of a wedding bouquet, and since my husband and I got married at the JP, I never had a wedding bouquet–until now, that is!

These beautiful gestures add up and remind me of what a lovely world kindness makes.

So, this week, my goal is to bestow some random acts of kindness, and I have a few ideas to share. I don’t want to be a product promoter, but there are some lovely, small and inexpensive gifts that I would like to share, just to plant some ideas for others. And, other things on my list are free or pretty much free. They will just take a little of your time.

  1. Make someone something homemade.

While I still can’t knit, I can crochet, and I know someone who really wants some homemade potholders. It’s my goal to send her a couple. But, if you’re better “maker” than I am, sending someone a knit cap or a homemade scarf for the fall are random acts of kindness that will just make someone’s day, or week, or month. The one time I received a knit hat in the mail was over a year ago, and I still treasure it!

  1. Send some LL Bean Maine Isle Flip Flops.

While I could probably write a whole post on the awesomeness of LL Bean products (and, one day, maybe I will), I’m pretty sure everyone needs at least one pair of these. I feel like the lobster ones are the best, but I’m Mainer biased.

  1. Write a letter or send a postcard.

I think we just don’t write enough in the old-school kind of way. My mom started writing me letters every year on my birthday, and I treasure them. Every single one of them makes me cry in a good way. But I know some people who collect postcards, so sending a unique postcard with a kind message can definitely lift someone’s spirits.

  1. Bake something for someone. 

If you don’t have to send something in the mail, a baked good is a great gift, be it a loaf of bread or some muffins. Right now, it’s raspberry season here in Maine, so I am planning a raspberry-peach pie for someone tomorrow. I hope it’s yummy, and I hope it’s enjoyed. Every year, at Christmas, our whole neighborhood exchanges baked goods, and I treasure every baked-good item. But why wait until Christmas? Baking something for someone seems like an amazing random act of kindness.

  1. Send a copy of Jes Maharry’s Free Spirit coloring book and some colored pencils.

If you know someone who loves to color, I think this book would be an amazing gift. Jes Maharry is an artist who usually works in jewelry and does a lot of designs with animals. My wedding ring is a Jes Maharry ring. No diamonds. Just a simple, rustic band, and I love it. I’m guessing someone you know would be so pleased to get one of these in the mail. Plus, coloring is so therapeutic, right?

While it was a tough week for me, random acts of kindness really helped me keep my positive outlook on life. If you’ve been thinking about sending some random acts of kindness to someone, I highly recommend doing it now. One of my dear friends wrote a beautiful mini essay about how you never know what trauma someone is going through. It’s true. You just don’t. And we all have our worries, struggles, and traumas. Let’s help each other out with some random acts of kindness.

I’m evidence this week that they can make all the difference.

 

On My Favorite Things About Living in Maine

If you’ve never been to rural, wooded Maine during black fly season, you can’t understand just how bad it is. When I first moved to Maine and people told me about “black flies,” I was like, “All flies are black.” But these are flies of a different sort.

They are small. They are mean. And they are legion.

Right now, as we work in our yard, garden, or take care of the animals, we are followed by a cloud of biting black flies. They go up your nose, down your throat, in your eyes, and I have to comb my hair several times a day to rid my long hair of the pesky little carcasses.

It’s been a tough week in the insect department here in Maine.

But my husband says that this is just what keeps the cost of real estate down in what, otherwise, has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. So this week, to keep my Zen and remember why I love Maine so much, I am devoting my post to some of the things I love about living in Maine. Keep in mind, I am from “away,” which I will have to explain to some of my readers in another post at a later date.

1. Mainers dress for practical purposes.

I’ve never been one for wearing fancy clothing. In fact, there’s evidence of an epic battle my poor mother endured throughout my childhood in a picture of my first day of school when I was five years old. She put me in a pretty dress. It was itchy. I hated it. I let her know about it.

All of my life, I have preferred comfort over style, which was not the most popular approach to fashion when I lived in the Dallas area. And, since I’ve been working from home the last few years, my focus on comfort has become even more pronounced. I wear my pajamas and house slippers just as long as I can every day. In fact, I used to walk my oldest son to the bus stop on our road in my robe.

My sweet neighbor knitted me some mittens to match my robe for the chilly mornings at the bus stop. Yes, Maine is awesome like that.

But this is always how I know for sure I found my people. I sometimes have to travel for work and make presentations at conferences. It’s then that I become very much aware of my struggling fashion sense. I see suits, heels, manicured nails, and perfect lipstick at the conferences, in the restaurants, at the airports. I am out of sorts for sure.

But, when I am headed home and get on my last connecting flight to Bangor, I see LL Bean boots and bags, jeans and sweaters, and all kinds of reasonable-to-me clothing, I am thankful to be with my people again.

Bean Boots
These are my Bean Boots, and I love them. They are pretty hard to come by, as they are really popular. Apparently, Mainer style has spread to the rest of the country, but my son worked at the LL Bean call center last Christmas and helped me get on the list! These practical and comfortable boots are symbolic of Maine comfort to me.

2. Your neighbors will truly help you in times of need.

I’ve never seen anything like the neighborhood support I have seen in Maine. I think we might be particularly fortunate in the neighbor department, but I have heard others say the same things about how kind and helpful their neighbors here are.

I first realized this when, shortly after we moved here, I had to have surgery. On the second day after my surgery, our next-door neighbor arrived with enough stew for two dinners and a large batch of homemade rolls. It was touching and so kind and so needed.

But that was when we had first moved in and didn’t know many of our neighbors yet (we are a family of introverts). Last summer, my husband was injured in a chemical burn incident involving some super-caustic concrete. For real, it takes two of us to run this house and care for the boys and our animals. Having my husband injured so badly was both scary because I was worried about him and exhausting because it meant I had to run the house alone, but we would soon get help.

It wasn’t long before our dinners were arriving at the door, neighbors were pulling the weeds in our vegetable garden, and one neighbor helped my husband finish the critical chicken pen. It was like a little rally of support, and it touched my heart.

Still, these are just a couple of many stories of kindness and support we get from our neighbors. Even growing up in rural Texas in the 1980s, I didn’t see anything like this, and Texas is a really friendly place.

Writing about this kindness in Maine totally makes the black flies more tolerable.

I was recently having a conversation with a family member who was telling me that people just don’t care about each other enough anymore. I told him I had seen evidence to the contrary in Maine. I think he might want to move here.

3. The ocean.

There’s not too much I need to say about this one. We live about 40 minutes from the coast, and we can visit any time of year. The ocean speaks to me, as I know it must to so many others. We have a lot of ocean in Maine. The ocean is good for my soul and always a treat. I grew up in the middle of Texas and saw the ocean only a few times in my young life. Yeah, I’m thankful to live near the ocean.

Schoodic Point
This is Schoodic Point overlooking the Atlantic in Acadia National Park. It is breath taking!

4. Even though the winters are long and can be tough, they are beautiful.

My former department chair told me that you just have to find the beauty in the winter. It’s true, but it’s not hard for me. I do like the cold anyway. Every time I visit my home state of Texas in the summer, I am convinced I will die walking between the house and the car and the car and the house. So the cold is fine with me.

But the winters here are long, and, sometimes, especially in February, the negative temperatures feel brutal to this southern girl.

Yet the beauty of these long, brutal winters gets me through it. The snow on the pine trees. The ice on the rocks. The serenity of freshly-fallen snow. These experiences are amazing and wonderful to me. Maine is a beautiful place in the late summer and early fall, the most beautiful place on Earth, I am convinced. But the winters are spectacular to me as well, and even though they are long and tough, there’s something really empowering about coming through one.

Just don’t forget to take your Vitamin D.

yard in Maine in winter
This is a picture of winter in our front yard. Love!

5. Halloween.

Just wait until Halloween. I can’t wait to blog about Halloween in Maine. For now, I’ll just say this: Halloween is my favorite holiday, and Mainers “do it up” right!

When I first moved to Maine, I lived in Bangor, and I couldn’t believe the decorations, the costumes, and even the fortune teller at one person’s house. Now, even though we live in the country, I am impressed with the way Halloween is handled. The treats are big, meaningful, and full of love. Even though our oldest son is 19, some of our neighbors still make up treats to send home for him with our youngest, who is way into trick-or-treating.

I love Halloween in Maine. It’s like the Halloween I imagined from my childhood, and I am thankful to live here.

Just writing about all of these lovely things about living in Maine is helping me get my Maine Zen back. Of course, it helps that I am inside writing. My poor husband is outside working in the garden getting eaten alive I’m sure. But we’ll get through this, and, as soon as this is posted, I will go outside to help my husband. I will not be defeated by those flies!

Even though I’m from “away” and can never be a real Mainer, I’ve learned to be tougher from living in Maine. I’m still a little wimpy though, so I’ll probably be complaining about the black flies all the way to Father’s Day. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum though.