“Christmas in July”
‘Merry Christmas!’ is the cheer that could be heard if you were near the JPH dorm Friday night. Apparently Glacier NP wasn’t the only place this tradition is carried on by those working for the concessionaires. The EDR (Employee Dining Room) was decorated as only 20-somethings can create- wine bottles covered with white socks and decorated variously like snowmen, chandeliers, Christmas lights, and the like. A smaller all-white ‘fake’ tree was set on the ping pong table and decorated with small ornaments, ready for presents and sundry items to be placed under its boughs. There was to be a gift exchange -and I can guess a good time was had by all…. except those who had to awaken to be to work by 7:00 next morning!
This past week I was finally able to visit the Bar Harbor Historical Society’s locale on Ledgelawn Avenue. I had but an hour to spend given their daily hours and my schedule. Fortunately, Debbie, the proprietor had remembered vaguely our conversation from March and she had set out a booklet sent her by a man from Washington state that recounts the life of a Jordan family of Ellsworth and their lineage. It appears to be written by a relative of a cousin of my person of interest. The recollections were helpful in its description of the era, the city of Ellsworth’s origination and what significance the lumber and ship building industries had on the region of Mt. Desert Island in the early to mid 1800’s. So, using this information along with some other data, I should be able to piece together enough conceptual insights to describe the setting of George and John’s pursuits in the lumber business on the islands in that time period.
Wednesday was also the first time I was able to drive the ‘Park Loop Road’ enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean’s edge. Late in the afternoon, traffic was light and the stops for pictures unencumbered by parked vehicles, except in the usual places of Thunder Hole and Otter Cove’s bridge. I toyed with the Canon PowerShot SX10 camera to see what kind of contrasts I could capture. Focusing on close-range objects with emphasis on the background of rocks, cliffs, surf and ocean horizon, I was able to discover some procedures that would set out some satisfying angles and focal points. I think, of the 50 or so shots taken, three actually revealed some accuracy and success with the concept. I will post those below this account.
It helps the spirit as well as the agenda when the days are framed with sun and cooler, dry weather. So far several days have been exactly that. Often, fog will be the order of the day, either on the mainland and northern sections of the island, or the southern coastal vistas will be shrouded with the clouds resting on right against the sea. Cool droplets cover everything, including oneself while driving through along the seashore’s roadway. It seems as if these clouds even have their own micro-climates as wind swirls here and there, whipping birch leaves into a frenzy in one spot, drenching everything in sight with wetness; but just meters away the balsam fir stands unaffected. Some of the landscapes are artist-worthy as the fog envelopes portions of harbor or hillside. I actually stopped to admire those types of views on several occasions, including one on the way to the church service atop Cadillac mountain, Sunday evening.
I was late in heading out as the service was to start at 7:30, and it was already close to 6:45pm as I left Goose Cove road; with another 25 minutes at least before arriving at the site. But, rounding the turn onto rte. 230, I looked southeast to behold a spectacular sight. It was the range of island hills stretched out on the horizon before me; And there, wrapping itself like a ribbon around, between and through those mounds was a thin, dense band of low-lying clouds stretched across the mid-section of Cadillac and its complementary companions. So striking was the sight that I immediately stopped and pondered its beauty, taking it in with a good degree of delight and gratefulness to the Creator. I then considered my trip, which was headed directly into that ribbon, which looked as if it was expanding at a rapid rate. I decided I probably would be arriving behind schedule. Thankfully, I have no responsibilities for this service!
Led by students who worked in the park, volunteering for the agency known as “A Christian Ministry in the National Parks,” (which I also served under in 1980 at Glacier National Park), the service was well underway as I hiked over from the parking lot to the rock ledge known as Blue Hill Overlook. The initial singing was coming to a close, and the message was on tap. Glad to hear the young lady share thoughts and insights from Psalm 73 – one of my personal favorites – I took note of her emphasis on ‘Asaph’s 5-point turn’ from being discouraged to taking heart in God’s care: stop, think, relate, realize, proclaim: Asaph stopped envying the ‘wicked’ for their seeming advantage. He thought about the disservice he would do to God and his loved ones in continuing to build resentment. He entered the sanctuary of God’s presence, where, among God’s people and before the Almighty, he understood a more complete perspective on life and his seeming predicament. Asaph realized God is, was, and always will be his sole provider of hope, strength and life. Thus, he proclaims that trusting the Lord God is not only worth it, but essential for life’s fullness and satisfaction -yes, joy- to be complete in this life; for it provides perspective now which establishes peace in the soul, and points to the ultimate fulfillment in the life to come, which excites hope and anticipation as well as contentment about the future. This is a valuable truth and one that strengthened and encouraged me as I sat there among the few who braved the fog to be there. The clouds were giving way to darkness as the service drew to a close, a single mercury vapor streetlight peered through from miles away on the edge of Eagle lake, prompting curiosities about its whereabouts in comparison to the thickness of ‘urban-glow’ from far off Ellsworth to the north. As I left, fog had settled to the lower elevations, covering the entire trip back to Trenton. Glad for my leather jacket, I sat back on the Goldwing and enjoyed in relative warmth and dryness the ride home.
Another theme dominant this week has a lesser degree of enthusiasm in it. Actually, sadness characterizes this series of events which I will summarize by retelling the story of my interactions with one of the individuals. Over my first weeks of service as a shuttle driver, my shift settled into the morning runs as well as a mid-day run back and forth from apartments in the north to the Pond House in the south. Second run soon became one I looked forward to because I met Josh, with whom it didn’t take long to engender a friendship, us both enjoying the gift of gab. As the EDR cook, he came in midmorning to set up lunch and dinner for the employees. He was chipper at first and we became quick conversationalists since the run held maybe two other younger people, who didn’t climb in as quickly as Josh -who took shot-gun – and immediately began to chat. I discovered he was from Minnesota – a welcomed connection. He was living in Whitefish, Montana and had served in Glacier Park a decade ago -another connection. He enjoyed country music, loved to canoe -having stories of the Minnesota Boundary waters, and when not canoeing, couldn’t get enough of the outdoors and wilderness through hiking and camping. He indicated he was a believer; actually had a degree in Biblical studies and had served in churches in Minnesota in his early 20’s. So, we had a lot in common which made our rides each morning rich and entertaining. Until early last week. Something happened, I’m not sure what. He was coming to work sullen, erratic, and not his usual ‘self.’ Earlier he had explained his physical ailments and a condition involving seizures, thus his inability to drive anywhere. Medication typically stabilized things, he said, but it was nevertheless unpredictable. So as he persisted daily to arrive a bit later, a bit more incoherent, I worried that Josh hadn’t got his meds right. In talking, he brushed it off as being overtired, saying his meds kept him up at night and he was getting very little sleep. I thought nothing of it, but took note he had increased his smoking, his eyes were dark and his conversation limited to answering when spoken to.
Then Friday last week, he was needing an early ride home from the EDR. I was surprised but accommodated him since I had to return for the mid-day run anyway. Turns out he was sent home. He had alcohol on his breath, and reluctantly he revealed his demise: he was a recovering alcoholic, who had been ‘dry’ for 5 months before coming to Acadia. But being here among so many who drank, he found himself slipping back into old habits, and was heading to the hospital to spend a weekend in detox. Many times before he had gone through this sequence. Discouraged with himself, he recounted to me self loathing, disappointing his family and friends and the Lord, his inability to control his drinking and his worry that it would affect his job here and ultimately his marriage (- yes he was married to a girl working now in Phoenix, Arizona, where Josh intended to join her after his contract ended here, having made enough money to finance a move.) I dropped him at his apartment where he assured me he would catch the “Island Explorer” shuttle in to Bar Harbor and make the 5 minute hike to the hospital. I was wrapped in concern and emotionally laden with the sense to pray for this man.
Praying over the weekend, I hoped to see Josh Monday. Since I had to run the shuttle Sunday morning, I overheard the employees mentioning Josh sleeping in and having Sundays off they weren’t worried for him. Surprised that he would be home already from his stay — I took note of their words and again prayed. Monday, I did not see Josh on the mid-morning run. Tuesday came and Josh again was not on the mid-morning run. I was worried his comment about going to the hospital was fabricated; his alcoholism was taking over his life again. The whole trip I was in concerned silence, not knowing what to pray about, but knowing Josh needed prayer, and possibly more. He did show up for the late run. He stated his stay in the hospital was ‘good,’ and they provided him with additional medication, but that it was making him extremely sleepy.
When I dropped him at the EDR he was late in prep – not only because of his drop-off time, but the kitchen was left in shambles from the weekend crew’s negligence. It was as though this time he was in over his head concerning his work’s requirement. Wednesday morning came and went without Josh -until the late morning run – when he came out -looking completely haggard and asked if I could help him mail some packages – both with a ride to a post office and some cash to pay for the boxes. When I returned to pick him up later that morning, he was nowhere to be found. Again, concern was turning to despair as I contemplated all this meant. The afternoon cooks said he had been fired that morning. He came out and got in the van for this mid-day trip to the Pond House, with the boxes. He looked like death warmed over. I delivered the afternoon cooks to their work, and asked why he wasn’t working today. He said he had been let go due to his seizures and sickness (no mention of alcohol or addiction). So we then headed to the Seal Harbor post office. I paid for his 2 priority mail medium shipments. We got in the van and headed back. I commented on his appearance, and asked if he needed anything. He asked for a ride into town and $15 to buy a few groceries and fill a prescription on his insurance plan that wouldn’t be much. I hesitated, but in the end, I took him to the grocery store in Bar Harbor. He said he’d ride the Island Explorer back, so I didn’t wait for him to return with his groceries and prescription. It was already an hour past my quitting time, and I needed to get back to do my chores at home. “I should have stayed,” is what I said to myself the next day, and again on Friday, when I did not see Josh again. His promise to pay me back on payday didn’t happen. I am in anguish over a budding friendship that I possibly had let him down through enabling without presence. Could my staying to bring him back from town been a key to accountability and an act of friendship that would turn into a healing process? I won’t know, but am left to wonder. Note to self: when the opportunity arises to risk for friendship – take the risk. It’s the godly thing to do, not just the friendly thing to do. Wow. A learning curve with consequences felt by others. THAT is a heavy thought; a bitter pill to swallow -especially at such an age as I am. It I was 20-something taking in this ‘lesson,’ I might have more life to experience opportunities. No matter, though. I expect I will have more even now – the question remains whether I will act in accordance with my discovery. Hopefully further posts will provide insight into this journey.
Rolled my Goldwing Friday morning.
Stopped on the roadside to get my jacket out of the saddle bag: it was colder than I had anticipated. . Was parked on a slope not well situated. As I closed the side saddle bag, Newton’s law about ‘for every action’ displayed its validity. In reaction to the push to close the compartment, the bike began to roll forward (I forgot it was in neutral). As it did the bike ever so slowly leaned toward me responding to the slope, and proceeded to lay over on its side. And since the shoulder had a downward pitch to it, I couldn’t stop the 850lb vehicle from its motion. So the bike kept tilting till it came to rest almost completely upside down. I stood there flabbergasted. Not knowing how to figure this, I at least put my jacket on. An older man stopped and asked if I was okay, which I was…but wasn’t sure if the bike was. He went on his way. I thought to myself I was glad I had left quite early for work and possibly I would still get there on time despite the delay… Baffled and not sure how to defy gravity and right this beast, I set my hands in several locations to imagine what the results of effort would be from each. As I was mulling over the options, that fella returned to offer help. I thought I might could use some. With a prayer on my lips and a grip on the bike’s back end and passenger handle, the older guy took hold of the handlebar and on 3 we hoisted that machine right back up on its kickstand! He was saying the whole time, I’ve not got much weight here, and you’re doing the bulk of the lifting. All the while I was thinking this isn’t as heavy as the last time I did this myself. I’m attributing our success on the venture to angelic assistance. It was incredibly easy given the circumstances. The old guy held the bike in place while I got on. Setting my feet firmly on the ground, I lifted the kickstand and turned the key. But it didn’t fire up. No starter response to the key. Hmmm. Checked the bike over..minor scratches and a bit of gas and antifreeze drippings was all I could note. After 4 attempts, the bike roared to life ( ok maybe not roared…maybe whined). The engine chugged a little and responded to the auto choke. Slowly I pulled away and carefully headed down the road. I took great care and with heightened senses to the cycle’s responses I proceeded on my way.
Yesterday I completed my first septic dump station activity of the season. Yeah, it was gross. Got a leak somewhere in the sink drain line. At least it’s not the toilet line! I put on latex gloves I bought at Rite Aid..which promptly tore as I got into the project. What fun! It went as good as something like that can go and I’m glad it will be a once a month project and not weekly or daily. Last season I had studied a YouTube lesson on ‘how to’ for this type of drainage system. I emptied it once before I left town – that went well. There wasn’t much in there. I emptied it at the end of the season before storing the camper at Uncle George’s. That went fine, too. Again, not too much use last year. This season has been fully underway and the system was full. Fortunately a local campground will allow non-campers to use their dump station for a fee. Despite the facility being well designed, this job was messy. Mostly due to inattention on my part. I didn’t think to inspect the hoses, connections or seals before this trip. Now that the ordeal is behind me, time is on my side to do that which wasn’t done — get the drainage system updated!
this was fun to write — in a flurry of inspiration, sitting in my living room with a pencil and my journal — scribbling furiously as the ideas were flowing. I wish times like this would visit me more often. The joy and satisfaction was supreme.
Center Lovell – An Ode to a Country Inn
I should like an Inn to own
and operate just like a home
away from home; a locale for guests
to step back in time with elegance.
Forget their troubles instantly
through MAINE-ly hospitality
their cares do swiftly fall away
by enticing meals so savory,
Décor & banter rich & light,
With quiet comfort through the night.
awakened by the light of dawn
and sweet aromas from the lawn
where on the porch invites the gaze
at God’s handiwork, amazed
by purple mountain’s majesty
while sipping morning fantasy.
Off they go now, pleasantly
to joyous day’s activity.
In earnest then our work begins
to prep our stately Country Inn.
A team like family to run
a smooth & tight-knit clockwork sprung.
Keeping guests their top concern
leaves no clean comforter unturned.
Hedges clipped, pillows pressed,
Flowers gathered, turkey dressed.
For, diligence will pay its due
When smiles return a bright ‘Thank You!’
When guests pack up and take their leave
a wisp of satisfaction grieves; for
There’s nothing quite like the grin
of welcomed guests at a Country Inn.
I have a co-worker at the elementary school who is really a visionary. She also is a very accomplished special education educator. She introduced me to an idea that sparked my imagination, but more importantly, it prompted me to engage in the writing process in earnest. What is written below is a first draft of a response to the challenge to write an essay to win a premier bed & breakfast. I didn’t win. I didn’t place. But I wrote and wrote and wrote. This is the first draft which was later paired to 200 words.
I have the passion, the will and the know-how to run a country inn. But this is not just any ‘bed and breakfast;’ this is the Center Lovell Country Inn; a signature establishment in Maine – Vacationland of the Eastern seaboard. I would like to own and operate this enterprise to give back in welcoming hospitality what Maine has given –and what this endeavor would give – to me: a past to honor, a present to stir the soul, and a future to pay it forward.
From my youth I have come to Maine. Mother’s homestead is but an hour east to Wales. The journey from our home to her childhood land filled me with wonder and exuberance. Here was real life! I can still waft the rich sweetness of the grain bin and milking parlor’s creamery, or shudder over the gutsy climb through the bull’s pen to fetch eggs from the hen house. Life fills to the brim reliving reflective hikes up Sabattus Mountain amidst craggy spruce and birch; recalling long jaunts to Seal Harbor to see Aunt Ina and hear stories of the rugged but romantic past: four generations breathing fresh cedar and salt-sprayed air, etching life from a mill aside the pond at the heart of Acadia, where a Pond House now sits, still bearing their name.
I have been a pastor and a school teacher in Florida and New York for most of my adult life. When recently my wife of thirty years said good-bye, something stopped beating deep within. Going through motions of long hours at work and bewildered times of silence at home, I not only lost a partner, I was losing my way….So today a colleague passes this link to me on email. I pause to peruse; then let the idea sink in – a country inn from an essay with a vision – and something stirred, something revived! My two boys! My love for serving others! Our work running church and planning lessons and summer camps, chauffeuring, catering, promoting; storytelling and laughing! Kevin’s degree in hospitality! Tom’s and my experience in landscape and roofing, home maintenance and event management! We could do this! Suddenly ideas begin to flow; could it be – dreams once shattered are transformed?!
So here in New York I watch the snow slowly release its grip across our rural town. I saw the first robins on Sunday. Chipmunks arouse themselves along the walkway and hope emerges with the sun and snowdrops by the lamp post. I know what a respite in the country can do for the spirit. Folks from away or only an hour come, lay aside tools of power and productivity to become human again; to open blind eyes, bind up wounds to the smell of warmed maple sugar on blueberry pancakes. Life becomes real again. I cannot think of a more exhilarating metamorphosis for a broken man and his sons than to step in to large shoes and carry on a tradition of giving, caring and restoring. If I may borrow a portion of the Savior’s renown: ‘Greater love hath no one than this – than he lay down his life…’ to honor the past, revive a soul, and pay love forward time out of mind.
Before I had come up on the pond house area, I sidetracked into the woods along a carriage road at first. I hopped on to a trail, a footbridge crossing Jordan brook, then over to a path that looked at first like a side-trail. It dwindled to nothing, and I traced open meanderings through what I imagined it must have been like for my ancestors. As I looked around, I could see beneath the beauty that draws us here, through to the rugged hillside simply put: riddled with moss-laden boulders. pinning these to the ground were cedars, birch and a few broad-leaf maples. I thought to myself, no wonder my great-great grandfather and his brother started a mill; One certainly couldn’t farm this land! It made me think the purchase of the 2,600 acres was intentional, since they already ran a farm in Ellsworth. Did they intend to create a lumber business? After all, it was the late 1830’s; saw mills were popping up everywhere – especially the new-fangled steam-powered ones.
This land purchase was almost one hundred years before the familiar conflict between locals, loggers and newly arriving aristocrats from away. While the intentions of the wealthy newcomers have been debated among scholars and novices alike, we nevertheless have a National Park on part of an island whose rugged beauty was just that to the visitors, as it is today. Beneath the picturesque lies the struggle of residents to etch out a living among nature’s extremes. The similarities are striking: what visitors to the island see is what they come to see: vistas, ocean, wildlife. They come to get away. Meanwhile, those who live here- especially year round – experience the island’s gifts in a whole different way. Certainly the beauty inspires. But there’s so much more here. Families form, grow, struggle, revel, and pass on here. These are the ones who know ‘short cuts’ avoiding traffic in order to get to work on time. There are coffee stops and eateries where home-town friends share conviviality just around the corner from the hubbub of busy, disconnected nightlife. The question has arisen in my mind before – when helping students study volcanoes: Why would anyone want to live here? – I mean its a great place to visit. But live? make a living? go to school? take a vacation away from here? The answer lies in the heart of the people who have been here – some for generations. And just as it was for those who live near volcanoes, so it is with those who choose to live, work and grow on this and its surrounding islands. There is a richness that comes within the struggle. Risk produces reward, if not heartbreak. So live they do. And live they did.
Did George and John have any clue how the next century would unfold? Were they merely speculators riding the wave of the newest money-making industry? Was it for shear profit that they grabbed a swatch of land stretching from Seal Harbor to Salisbury cove? Were they risk-takers? Did they need a major change – was it the 1800’s form of mid-life crises?
Their intentions may not be apparent. But what transpired in both the nation and along the pond’s edge in the 1860’s would change everything for these families.
In just a little over a month from one visit to the next, new blueberry plants are finding their way to the sun.
May 25th 2015
explanation…. sounds reasonable…
June 29th, 2015
update: July 15th, 2015 — in just another week there should be blueberries in the region! I will be back to this patch to see if that is the case here.
After work the fog settled in on Jordan Pond and its surroundings. Enshrouded in dampness, the woods took on a quieting where only dripping, songbirds, and the brook could be heard. So still was the moment that as I sat along the edge of the pond, I hadn’t noticed the doe slowly approaching behind me. Feeding nonchalantly on the moss and grass she moseyed up to within only several feet. She must have been there a good couple of minutes before I understood what I was hearing to be that of … munching. When I looked around, there she was – and at the same moment I looked at her, she picked up her head and looked at me. Not wanting her to dash, I looked away and pretended to mind my own business. Sure enough, she went back to munching. And I enjoyed the reality of the moment.
The hills should be in the background there, somewhere, but not today…