Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Solid Ground ~ Random Memory #29 ~ Maine

My earliest memories of Maine are of my grandparents' house in Falmouth. It was a lovingly restored colonial, white clapboard with black shutters and a newer three season addition we called the breezeway. An old barn served as the garage for their ancient black car. At various times there was a horse, chickens and ducks...and everywhere you looked, my grandmother's glorious gardens. I ran through the asparagus patch with its feathery fronds tickling my face and climbed over rocks taking care not to step on the fleshy green hens and chicks Nana so lovingly cultivated. Concord grapes grew riotously over stone walls, the fruit deepening into dusty purple in autumn. My grandparents also had a parcel of land across the road. My favorite place in that sweet meadow was the sagging chicken coop which was home to dozens of wasp nests. I still remember the insect's persistent hum while I sat on the pitched roof and there were many trips back to my grandmother's kitchen to apply a paste of baking soda for the inevitable stings. Like so many Maine meadows, a path had been mowed through the wildflowers. Beyond the path a cherry orchard yielded mid-day treats, even with stiff competition from hungry birds. A tangle of chokecherries lay behind the trees which I loved to eat just for the pithy puckered feeling they left in my mouth.

It was a place where I could run wild. I discovered Indian Pipes in the dim woods, varieties of ferns and moss covered rocks. My footsteps were silent on the thick carpet of pine needles. The magic lasted until I approached my teens when other interests took priority. By then my grandmother had been a widow for twelve years and eventually the house and land were sold. I never saw it again until Peter and I drove up to Maine shortly after we were married. At first I despaired of finding the house. The old landmarks were gone as was the meadow. A crowded development is now where the chicken coop and orchard used to be and the house is hidden behind a tall stockade style fence. Perhaps, by now, those changes have given way to even newer structures. It's not far, I could go back any time to look again, but I haven't. Sometimes it's better to leave memories undisturbed.

Here in the present, Flickr friend, Karen Mallonee and her family have established strong roots in a wooded wonderland in the western Maryland mountains. Karen's love for this unspoiled country began when she and her twin sister spent happy summers in the green woods that used to be Camp Minnetoska.

Minnetoska - star light, star bright

In time, the camp closed as so many often do, and the land was divided into parcels. Karen and her family quickly purchased six and a half acres. Karen writes:

No house, just woods (including 1/2 acre hemlock grove), ferns, rocks and streams. We have a nice area set up for camping. It's our little "State Park".

Minnetoska - our piece of paradise

our pretty little stream

Minnetoska ~ lay of the land


Karen has a busy rewarding career, but she and her family make time to return to Minnetoska whenever they can. The beauty and serenity of the land provide inspiration for her photography long after summer has ended and the laughter around the campfire is hushed; and the only sounds are the rustle of wildlife, wind through the trees and the melodic burble of water on stone.

All five photos above are the work and property of Karen Mallonee, Karma/(Karen)'s on Flickr, who has kindly given permission to use the images in this post.

Our ties to Mere Point are similar to the pull of Karen's Minnetoska. It was there that I visited my aunt and uncle, often making the trip from Falmouth with my grandmother in the aforementioned old black car. Much later, we bought a nearby cottage on the western side of the point. We had two small children whose world had been rocked by the revolution in Iran. Friendships with Mere Point cottagers and the changeable beauty of the bay and surroundings helped us all to stand on solid ground again.

Nancy Drew and a fairy wand

The Perfect Day


Maquoit Bay Light 06

Decades of summers have come and gone. My children are grown and a new generation has embraced the little cottage by the shore. it is firmly lodged in their hearts just as my grandparents' meadow is for me. Although I can't go back to that vanished meadow, it is still very real in my memories. There is no sadness, I know full well these places are only temporarily in our care. A line from Dolores Keane's haunting song, Solid Ground, comes to mind...

You cannot own the land, the land owns you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pine Tree State

We have an abundance of pine trees in Maine. They cover miles of our unorganized territories, line our highways and country roads and soften our gardens. The tall pines add color to the landscape throughout our long winter and pine cones decorate our Christmas mantels. Pine cones make excellent fire starters on a frigid winter's night and the fragrant boughs are made into wreaths that grace homes all over the country every Holiday season. They are so numerous that we often don't see the trees for the forest!

The pines are particularly beautiful in June with their contrasting bright green new growth. My challenge to myself was to capture the color and light in as many ways as possible. Below are some of the photos from my project.

Pine Tree State 04

Pine Tree State 03

Pine Tree State 02

Pine Tree State 01






Happy Thanksgiving from the Pine Tree State!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Boat shoes on a Maine rock

This is an old photo of boat shoes drying out on a rock at my dear Mary's cottage. It was taken with my first cell phone camera. The image, no more than 2 megapixels, still evokes the essence of cottage life in Maine and the many happy summer afternoons I shared with my friend. There will be one pair of shoes missing next year, Mary slipped away from us in October, she was 91.

My grief is deep and profound and I have had Mary in my thoughts as we enter this Thanksgiving week. Above all I am thankful our lives were linked...and will continue to be with her wonderful family.

Mary was my mentor and she showed me how to see and appreciate Mere Point's unique beauty, particularly small things. A collection of delicately colored shells, a fragile seedling revealed in spring's damp earth, September's crackling black lupine pods, wildflowers and the arrival of Monarch butterflies were all close to her heart. I always think of Mary whenever, or wherever I picked up my camera. There is no manual or piece of equipment as valuable as seeing my world through her eyes.

The following photos are the seasons of Mary's Mere Point.

Autumn Walk

October Birch

The frozen shore

Afternoon light


The Borrower's Gold Coins

Mary's Dock

Daisies by the Shore ~ Mary's Cottage

Storm on the Way 02


View of Sister's & Williams Islands

Just Resting


Farewell Lupine! 02

September Night

For Mary, with gratitude and love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Finding Peter Boland

There was only a one page letter with sketchy details when my husband began his research into his family history. He's tenacious! From that letter he has written a large volume covering multiple lines and weaving history and local color into the narrative of his family tree. My dearest wish is that he will start his own blog about his personal journey into the past and share the process with other genealogists.

A little over a week ago Peter and I flew to Washington, D.C. for a warm boisterous family reunion. While we were in the area we took the opportunity to drive out to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Winchester, Virginia; two sites that played a role in the story of the brothers, Patrick and Peter Boland, during the Civil War.

Autumn Series 01

Harpers Ferry Autumn

Patrick was my husband's great grandfather, an Irish stone cutter from County Galway and resident of New York. When the Civil War broke out, it was on Bolivar Heights, in Harpers Ferry where he and his N.Y. regiment were taken prisoner by the Confederate Army. That event probably saved his life. Eventually he went home to father nine children and the line continued.

Bolivar Heights 02


Bolivar Heights 05

Irish records are a challenge, so finding Patrick's brother, Peter, was an exciting discovery...until his story slowly unfolded. The spare details were stark and unemotional in military records and a widow's correspondence.

I imagine a warm spring afternoon in Harpers Ferry with time off from the monotonous duties and drills of camp life. They were so young...and Peter and his mates were carousing on the shore when someone playfully pushed him into the Shenandoah river. Peter couldn't swim and the current swept him away in spite of attempts to rescue him. He left a grieving widow in dire straights at home in New York. Peter's wife, Maryann, was denied a widow's compensation because his death was not combat related. The term used in the pension file by Peter's commanding officer was engaging in horseplay. Maryann died several years later.

Peter is buried in Winchester National National Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia. The cemetery is relatively small, immaculately maintained and most of the graves are Civil War dead.

Finding Peter Boland 05

Finding Peter Boland 03

The cemetery website provided my husband with a map of the grave location and so together, with his sisters and brother-in-law, we at last found Peter Boland. It is unlikely that Maryann ever saw her husband's final resting place, in fact I think we may have been the first of his family and descendents to visit. As we left on that overcast October afternoon, I turned back to look, one more time, at the yellow roses we left by his stone.

Finding Peter Boland 01

Finding Peter Boland 02

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