Every sunny day beginning mid-February I’ve been looking outside my kitchen window for a sure sign of spring: a chipmunk on the deck. Our three friends, Claude, Buster and Sunny had not been seen since a couple of days after our wedding in September. The neighborhood chipmunks went underground much earlier last fall than the year prior, when they were out and about until November and reemerged in February/early March. Even at the boatyard a few towns over Wayne reported the same: no more chipmunk sightings by late September and none to date. So instead of going into a burrow for three months, it’s been SIX!
The college admissions scandal has highlighted what some have referred to as “affirmative action for the wealthy.” As I mention on my “about” page, I grew up in subsidized housing but went to an Upper East Side prep school with the aid of a scholarship. My freshman year of college was spent at Bennington College, also via scholarship. It was too painful for me to continue to be the kid from the wrong side of the tracks in places where the vast majority of students came from very wealthy homes. It was then I decided to transfer to the University of Maine in Orono where I earned my B.A. in English.
I attended grad school at the University of Vermont where I lived in a tiny house in the woods complete with big spiders* (steel-toed Doc Martens are a form of organic pest control) and was fortunate to have been awarded an assistantship for two years which paid my tuition in full and gave me a small stipend. However, that also meant my days began at 5:00 a.m. and I didn’t get home sometimes until 10 at night. Even so, my most valuable life lesson learned wasn’t a part of my curriculum, but in a playground.
I love the winter wind like no other. I need to go to the beach at night when the cold air is cool mint with hints of salt. I need to be alone. I wondered if no one else showed up here because it was so real. People were drawn into their TVs and computers. I plugged into something real. I needed to, the way things were going. I felt like the ocean would not give up on me, and I wasn’t at all dissuaded by its indifference, drawing things in and spitting them out years later, bony and white. -Me when I lived across the street from the sea, pre-internet, 1993
One of the things I gave up for Lent is Facebook which has helped me revert back to enjoying “empty” places and moments in time. The void has left room for hearing the quieter thoughts within. One doesn’t have to spend much time on Facebook to obliterate those gems that don’t announce themselves in a feed. As an example, when I’m waiting in line at the grocery or early for an appointment I’m not opening the app on my phone. I’m tuning into more ethereal and earthly things, just like I used to back in the day. I’ve missed it!
Thanks to the Maine Rebekahs, whom I consider to be some of the greatest New England home cooks who have also provided almost 100 years of recipes, you can make a winning, traditional New England fish chowder. I’ve adapted this simple, frugal 1920s recipe to make it meat-free since New England fish chowders almost always contain pork in addition to seafood. Wayne said that he wouldn’t have noticed its absence based upon how flavorful this is. Truly it’s so easy to make yet it will produce a chowder that will make you feel like a seasoned New England cook.
“A fear of disagreeable facts, and conscious shrinking from clearness of light, which keep us from examining ourselves, increases gradually into a species of instinctive terror at all truth, and love of glosses, veils and decorative lies of every sort.”
John Ruskin, 1887
Happy Shrove Tuesday! I love pancakes and have many of my own recipes, but this morning I decided to try a new-to-me vintage recipe for blueberry pancakes. I made a large stack so that I was able to sample “some” now and then reheat the rest for our dinner tonight. (Did you know you can reheat pancakes in the oven?) They are delicious and of course made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
Last year I shared in a few different posts why I was breaking up with L.L.Bean despite decades of loyalty and satisfaction. In summary I outlined how the quality had declined so much that we were doing too many returns/exchanges which preceded Bean yanking their legendary return policy, customer service suffered and I witnessed them moving almost all of their manufacturing from the US to overseas. I wanted to move more towards buying US made and ethically sourced clothing. Here is an update, contrition included:
“What other men have thought is valuable, but its chief value is, not to save us from the labor of thinking, but to enable us to think the better for ourselves.”
From “The Golden Way to the Highest Attainments” by Rev J.H Potts D.D, 1889
Some Mainers (aka “snowbirds”) go to Florida to escape February (and the couple of months prior and after) during their down time. I keep it local and go to the couch! February is a time when I do more reading. The cozy simplicity of snuggling under a wool throw with a cup of tea and good book takes the edge off of one of my least favorite months. I’m actually starting to grow fond of this time of year. The more I accept February as it is instead of feeling righteous indignation in response to things like the short daylight, icy public walkways, the lonely glossy white landscape outside my window that’s devoid of friendly furry or feathered visitors, the more agreeable it is/I am! In fact I often think a good test of true inner joy is not needing summery days to have a sunny disposition.
The Episcopal church commemorates St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals, by offering a blessing to all creatures brought to a service by their caretakers, usually in October. Our summer church, St. Ann’s in Kennebunkport, offers the blessing in July. Luckily for us Rev. Sara D’Angio White, a visiting pastor at an Episcopal church just a mile away from where we live readily agreed to perform a blessing of the degus right in our home!
For the week leading up to this morning I let the Degu Sisters know that the “Holy Lady” would soon be coming to honor and bless them. (Someone suggested that we have the Rev. bless only one of the sisters to see if there is a difference in behavior afterward, ha!)
We had a lunch date with Sister Aline today at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center which also has a new French-trained chef for their dining hall. Wayne had the stuffed pork and a piece of blueberry cake and I enjoyed stir-fried veggies, rice, roasted acorn squash and steamed asparagus. Most importantly we got to visit with Sister Aline whom I hadn’t seen since our wedding. Despite the cold temps and blustery winds gusting over 40 mph I had to take a quick walk to the beach!