Tag Archives: thoughts

How To Be A Good House Guest

My poor, neglected blog! 

I’ve been missing in action due to a swarm of house guests.  Some were invited, others weren’t.  Some stayed a short time while others lingered on until I began daydreaming about ways to bodily remove them from my island paradise.

I think there’s something about owning a four bedroom home on an island seven miles off the coast of Maine that attracts those looking for a “cheap” vacation.  Cheap for them perhaps, not cheap for the hostess.

I think most of my visitors, family and friends alike, are considerate and helpful while others (namely those who chose to stay for weeks on end) were less than considerate and way less than helpful.

At long last, the house is close to empty, the steam has ceased pouring out my ears, and I can think clearly once again! 

In the name of all that’s holy or otherwise, I’ve compiled a list of considerations… just in case you’re someone’s house guest in the future.

1.  Wait for an invite.  While this may seem obvious to most, it never ceases to amaze and irritate me when people arrive uninvited and unexpected.  Yes, I have four bedrooms but perhaps those bedrooms are filled with invited guests.

2.  Get off your butt.  Okay, so you’ve been invited or perhaps you descended like a swarm of locusts.  It’s not your hostess’s job to cook, clean up after you, pick up your soggy towels, or replace numerous spent rolls of toilet paper.  Help your hostess; she needs it!

3.  Restrict your visit to a few days, a week at most.  Hey, even I can tolerate the uninvited when the house is already full.  For a few days.  House guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days.   And for heaven’s sake, let your hostess know how long you will be staying. 

 I tried to sound light hearted when I asked an uninvited relative, “So, how long do you think you’ll be in Eastport?”

The answer? 

“Oh, I haven’t decided yet. Three or four days.” 

She stayed for two weeks.  Just how many times does your hostess need to ask before getting a definitive answer?  Once and only once, please.

4.  Be considerate.   Considerate of water, food, electricity, your hostess’s patience….at times I’ve had as many as 11 visitors staying in my home.  Contribute some food, offer to cook, whatever! 

Remember your hostess will be paying the bill for your vacation for months after you’ve gone home.  Water is extremely expensive here on the island and filling an extra capacity washing machine with three extra rinses for your shirt and a pair of socks is not only crazy, it’s downright rude and wasteful.

Keep in mind your hostess may have to attend an unexpected event. True story:  I had to attend a funeral the other day and was made to feel guilty (yes, guilty!) for attending.  Guilt aside, I attended. 

5.  Thank your hostess.  Especially if your arrival was unexpected.  ‘Nuf said.

As an afterthought to this list:  consider presenting your hostess with a bottle of wine; after the guests have departed and the dust has settled, she just may need it.

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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!

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.

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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.

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 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.

Maine Small Island Post Offices On The Edge?

The other day I received the September issue of The Working Waterfront, a monthly publication about Maine islands and waterfront areas of Maine.  In their words, the free monthly newspaper covers “just about anything connected with this coast and the lives of the people who live and work here.”

While reading an article on an artist’s collective in Machias, I happened to notice a small article of sorts reminding us of the plight of small island post offices and how buying stamps directly from these small post offices helps to keep them in business.

Consider Cliff Island:  fewer than 60 year round residents according to a Cliff Island website.  Or Monhegan Island, sitting twelve nautical miles off the mainland with somewhere around 75 residents. 

 You can just imagine the moaning and groaning at USPS Headquarters about keeping those post offices open.

Sutton Island recently lost their mail delivery system.  Mail was brought by ferry and left in a trash can marked “US Mail”.  Apparently the Postal Service was concerned over lack of security so now residents of Sutton Island make a two mile ocean journey to collect their mail. 

 Just imagine spending upwards of three hours to pick up a pile of store flyers and unsolicited credit card offers. 

So aside from a jaunt to Cliff Island or Monhegan (which sounds great to me by the way), how can you help keep these vital post offices alive?

Buy your stamps by mail, of course.  I borrowed heavily from the coupon in The Working Waterfront (I hope they don’t mind) and have included their list of island post offices complete with zip codes.

Take a minute to cut out the coupon (link below) and order a book or two of stamps from a small post office on one of Maine’s multitudinous small islands:

Cliff Island     04019              Swan’s Island     04685

Long Island    04050              Cranberry Isles   04625

Chebeague     04017              Isle au Haut        04645

North Haven   04853              Islesford            04646

Islesboro        04848             Monhegan           04852

Peaks Island    04108             Frenchboro         04635

Click here for the ORDER FORM(buy stamps by mail order forms can also be found at your local post office). 

One more thing:   if anyone on these wonderful islands cares to have a weekend guest, be sure to let me know;  I’ll pack my bags and buy my stamps in person.