Tag Archives: life

A Simple Kindness Overpaid

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me:

I enter a grocery store (or any kind of store) to purchase one item and inevitably a fellow shopper careens into the only open check out line just ahead of me.  

Also inevitably, the shopper’s cart is loaded to the gills, heaped up high.

Just as predictably the fellow shopper pretends not to see me holding my one box of cereal.  Stares right past me and begins to unload their 487 purchases onto the little conveyer belt while I attempt to remain patient and not say something rude.

I’m the type who always lets people go ahead of me in line.  We all have things to do and places to be.  Why make someone wait when they’re just trying to get out of the store with a 4-pack of toilet paper?

I was at the grocery store the other day when I noticed a man enter the check out line right behind me.

 I asked, like I always do, “Would you like to go ahead of me?”

The man hesitated.  He was holding a single bottle of wine.  He looked down at the bottle in his hand, as if to remind himself  what he was standing in line for, and looked back up at me.  He accepted my offer of a speedier exit and I thought no more of it, after all, I was busy unloading my 487  purchases (okay, maybe not exactly 487, but you know what I mean).

When my cart was unloaded I looked up to say hello to the cashier.  There were four women standing there, staring at me.

“What?” I asked, feeling slightly paranoid.

The cashier asked me if I knew the man who had just paid for his bottle of wine.  I shook my head, smiled, and waited for the punchline.

The cashier looked at her three coworkers, confusion evident on her face.

She waved some good old American greenbacks in the air.

“He left this money to put on your bill.”

Okay, now I was confused.  I looked back and forth between the four employees who all seemed stunned by a perfect stranger who paid almost half my grocery bill.

Heck, if they looked stunned I can only imagine the shock on my face.

A simple common courtesy, something I never think twice about doing, was rewarded in a very big way.

I left the store and scanned the parking lot for a man carrying a single bottle of wine but he was long gone, as I knew he would be.

I’m assuming he was performing one of those random acts of kindness people talk about.  Maybe he was “paying it forward”…who knows why he did it, but did it he did.

Heck, a simple “thank you” would have sufficed.

I’m not much of a believer in coincidence.  Is there anyway this man could have known that my employer had laid me off not two hours before?

I didn’t think so either.  This perfect stranger performed an act over and beyond what common courtesy deserved.

 I bet he’s forgotten all about it, just another day to him.  For me, it’s something I’m not likely to forget for a very long time, if ever.

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Sunday Morning Surprise

It was a balmy Sunday morning (well, balmy Downeast-style) and I decided to hit the beach with my intrepid little terrier, Molly. 

Molly loves to race up and down the beach, flinging up sand and chasing sea gulls  who never seem too concerned with her antics but this morning my furry little ball of energy was up to something completely different.

Molly sniffed the air as we walked past a wooded area and was off like a shot.  Too much barking to ignore, I assumed she was up to more of her bad business with a resident fox.  You see, Molly thinks of herself as part Rottweiler.  She was raised with them, so she’s got what I call “little big dog complex” and even a fox isn’t off limits in her imagination.

I called and called but there was no way Molly could hear me over the sound of her own yapping so down the embankment  I went, slipping and sliding on the ice.

It took me a few minutes to see what Molly was seeing but when I did, you could say I was more than a little surprised.  Take a look and see what Miss Molly found in the middle of the woods:

Female Harbor Seal

Female Harp Seal

Molly was beside herself with joy and I was beside myself wondering how I was going to convince Molly to get away from the seal.  I called and for once, Molly obeyed. 

The seal showed no fear but had a mild curiosity about Molly and me.  The seal rolled  onto her side as if asking for a belly scratch. 

Long story short, a man who lives near the beach has contacts with the University of Maine at Machias who referred him to another marine mammal organization. 

For now the assumption is the adult female harp seal is healthy except for a small cut that I’m guessing she received while dragging herself up the embankment from the clam flats into the woods. 

The seal showed no fear

The seal showed no fear

Whether she was caught unaware of the tide going out (tides move at astonishing speeds in Downeast Maine) or if she is sick, we don’t know.  The tide was dead low when Molly found her and there was no way she could get back to the water for another six hours.

It’s amazing to see marine mammals close up and personal but here’s hoping the bright eyed girl has gone back to where she belongs.

Update:   Our misplaced harp seal swam away with the high tide.  Once again, all is right with our corner of the world!

How To Make Honey Butter

Relatively expensive to buy, ridiculously easy to make!

 

Honey Butter

1 stick butter (margarine works too)

1/4 Cup honey

 

Soften the butter at room temperature.  Resist the urge to soften in the  microwave because it doesn’t turn out very well.

Put softened butter into a medium sized bowl and add the honey.  Using a hand mixer, beat on high speed.  The butter will, after about 1 minute, clump into a ball.

Spread on toast, biscuits, pancakes or use it to carmelize onions.  Delish!

 

Nor’easter!

I don’t usually get excited about snow but this storm was something else.   Mother Nature thought enough of Downeast Maine to drop a foot or more of snow just in time for Christmas. 

But it wasn’t the amount of snow that has me sitting at my computer this morning, it was the wind.  Granted, Eastport sits seven miles off the mainland and bitter winds are the hardest part of winter here.  

But never in my life have I felt the force of the wind so strongly inside my house.

  This kind of wind doesn’t howl; it shrieks down streets and through alley ways.  The windows were shaking and rattling and I was in fear for my roof.  The bed was literally shaking (and at times I was shaking too!)

The waves, according to the weather reports, were 21 feet and I couldn’t doubt it as I stood in awe and watched the water in my toilet suck in and out of the bowl and thought, “this can’t be normal”. 

I’m not sure how many people would actually admit to staring into their toilet bowl, but if you live in Eastport and did take a gander, you know I speak the truth.

When you’re talking that kind of wind, snow drifts are inevitable.  The front of my car was buried under a four foot, ice encrusted drift.

storm-001 

 

 

                                                                         

My fearless terrier supervised while I dug what felt like a tunnel out my front door  then we headed downtown to see how the rest of Eastport was faring after Mother Nature took her frustrations out on us.

storm-002                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 These sea walls range from 3 - 4 feet tall 

These sea walls range from 3 – 4 feet tall

      I receive a fair number of emails asking what winter is like in Eastport.  While this isn’t the norm, this is what you can expect from time to time, just like any other New England town.     

So for those of you who have written to ask, has this answered your questions?

Festival of Lights (Eastport, Maine)

Santa Claus chose one of the coldest nights in December to pay a visit to the children of Eastport.  He came with Mrs. Claus, elves, Frosty, students from Shead High School, and the Husson University Boat School.

Santa visits Eastport

Santa visits Eastport

Shead Class of 2011

Shead Class of 2011

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Santa's Little Helper

Santa's Little Helper

 

People gathered around barrels to warm their hands by the fire and lend an ear to the  musicians who braved the frigid temperatures to sing Christmas carols.

festival-of-lights-033

Eventually even Santa had enough of the December chill and he dashed away to Peavey Library to sit fireside with more than 150 children and adults from Eastport, Pleasant Point, Pembroke, Perry, and other surrounding towns. 

festival-of-lights-042

 Patrons of the library brought snacks and cocoa for everyone ( I was spotted at the buffet on more than one occasion) and as I sat eating one feta truffle too many, I stared at the organized chaos.

I watched the rapt faces of the children and their proud parents and saw  the smiles of those  whose children have long since grown.

 I laughed at Santa who was having his lap worn out ( I just know there will be a lump of coal for me on Christmas morning). 

I thought about the Shead High School students who weren’t too “cool” to participate in a Christmas parade.

I considered the unique character of Eastport and the generous, open hearts of the people who breathe life into this little city and I wondered:  do they really know how special they are?

 

Happy Holidays from Downeast Maine!

From Bad To Worse To Grateful

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write about the doings in Downeast Maine, but this time of year is busy.  We’re buttoning up for winter and the mad dash is on to finish up outdoor projects.

Not too long ago I discovered a leak in my shed roof.  As an aside, a “shed” in Downeast Maine is considered to be an unheated room attached to one’s house.  My house has a shed and I use it to store pellets for my pellet stove, tools, recycling bins etc.

The carpenter who originally planned to replace the roof called and announced he was too busy to tackle the job, so the hunt was on for a new carpenter to replace the crumbling mess before the autumn rains began.

So I hired a carpenter who was new in town and looking for work.  The idea was simple:  he needed work and I needed a new shed roof.

After 41 years I should know that absolutely nothing is that simple.

The project began in earnest but after nearly a week, the roof (which covers a 10 x 12 room), was nowhere near completion.  As a bonus, the weatherman was cheerily predicting three days of rain and 60 mph winds.

I stared up at the half finished roof and thought, “Oh joy,” (Okay, maybe my thoughts were a little more colorful than that, but you get the idea).

I guess now’s the time to tell you that my shed shares a common wall with my bathroom. 

I had nightmares about a deluge of water pouring in between the walls, mold growing like spanish moss,  while tons of wood pellets exploded like sponges.

Then the unthinkable happened:  the roofer, who I may remind you was new in town, took off.  Yup, he split town.  Hit the high road for parts unknown.

I guess Eastport wasn’t to his taste.

Three days of rain and gale winds on the way, a half finished roof, and I was more than a bit irritated.  But there’s always a bright side…

I’ve mentioned several times the unbelievable generosity of the people in Downeast Maine.  People without two nickels to rub together will give you anything they have without question. 

Life can be hard in an economically depressed area like this and we look out for one another here.

In a state of anxiety and righteous anger, I called my good friends, Rose and Robert.  I ranted and raved about the audacity of the fleet of foot carpenter. 

They sympathized, they empathized, like good friends should.

Would you believe it?  Robert showed up the very next day, tools in hand,  and worked like a madman.  Shingles on, cedar shingles replaced, new corner boards on, just as the first drops of rain began to splatter against the new roof. 

The man is amazing.

 Like magic, my nightmares of spongey wood pellets disappeared.

I got out my wallet and tried to pay Robert but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He laughed and said, “Put your money away; that’s what friends are for.”

What do you do with a friend like that? 

You thank them profusely and thank your lucky stars, that’s what.

Not only am I fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, I am truly blessed with the friendships I have made.

So, Robert, as I sit here listening to the rain pound the roof, confident there won’t be an explosion of wood pellets, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Of Travel And Contentment

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to travel.  Never content to sit at home, I was always planning a trip to somewhere. 

The travel bug may have struck when I was 17 and a friend was headed to Milwaukee to visit relatives.  She got a ride to the airport with a friend of hers and asked me if I wanted to come along for something to do.

I looked at the flight board and in a half-whine said, “Wish I could go.” 

My friend whipped out her credit card and egged me on.

With $1.49 in my pocket and no change of clothes, I boarded a plane to Milwaukee.  I was kind enough to fill out a postcard with a picture of a Delta plane soaring through the friendly skies and mailed it to my parents.

“Hi Mom and Dad!  Gone to Milwaukee!” (or something to that effect).  No wonder my father’s hair went gray early.

I still remember the names of the people I stayed with all these years later.  College girls who were too happy to loan me clothes and take me to dinner at Uno’s in Chicago. 

The travel bug had bitten me square in the backside; I was hooked and wanted more.

I never wanted to stay home.  Spinning like Mary Tyler Moore, arms outstretched, at  Place de la Concorde in Paris. Sunning on the white sands of Bahamian beaches.  Taking my grandmother to England for her first trip to Europe.  Trying my best to sample as much chocolate as humanly possible in Belgium.  Checking my shoes for scorpions in Costa Rica and climbing a volcano in Nicaragua. 

I was always scanning travel sites looking for deals, and short notice travel was never much of a problem for my sister, who is my favorite traveling companion.

When I first started plotting my move Downeast, my sister sensibly asked, “How far to the nearest airport?”

Two hours and forty five minutes, one way, to Bangor International Airport, but that was okay as I pointed out, “It isn’t as if I will be driving it once a week, right?”

In two weeks I am headed to sunny Florida to visit my 85 year old grandmother (known to all as “Gram”).  I haven’t seen Gram in over a year and miss her terribly.

As the departure date approaches, I find myself dreading it.  Nothing to do with Gram, of course;  I can’t wait to see her.  She is an amazing lady and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

The problem is, I don’t want to leave home.  I don’t want to leave Eastport and fly all the way to Florida (there’s that half-whine again). 

 I know as soon as I leave the island I will wish I was back home, where I belong.

This attitude has startled me.  I was the type who could have my bags packed at a moment’s notice.  “Get me outta here” was my motto.

My home is my castle and I have no desire to leave it.  What was I running from for all those years when I would be planning my next journey just weeks after returning from a vacation? 

 What is this about?  I have a list of must-see destinations, for God’s sake:  Egypt, Botswana, Scotland, Italy, Lithuania….

I  realized that aside from some of the hardships that come with living in Downeast Maine that I have become content.  At long last I am happy with where I am, and contentment is a beautiful thing.

So I will be flying the friendly skies in October with mixed feelings.  Certainly happiness to see my beloved “Gram” but also warm in the knowledge that I will come home again, back to Eastport, back where I belong.