Archive for July, 2016

Almost Busted

Even though I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t be catching fish today – – it was the hottest part of the day when I set out, and fish bite mostly during the coolness of early morning or at dusk  – – I took my kayak along with my dog Truman for a paddle around Kewaydin Lake.  I did bring my fishing pole because my kayak has a holder, so it’s not too difficult to fish while paddling.  Basically, one puts the worm on the hook, releases some fishing line from the pole, sticks the pole in the holder and then proceeds to slowly paddle around the lake (this is called “trolling”).

Truman, our Standard Poodle puppy, is now 9 months old, and he has really grown!  I should have gotten the dog before the boat and not the other way around, because it’s a very small kayak with barely room for one, much less a giant of a dog.  It leaves me completely squished and slowly but surely my legs lose all feeling as he blocks my circulation while he fights for space. He loves the ride but it takes him a while to find a comfortable position, and as he shifts from side to side I can barely keep from capsizing.

We did manage to paddle the circumferance of the entire lake, and I was on my way back to our point of origin, when 100 feet from shore a motorboat sidled up next to me, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.

“Is your fishing line in , or out?”

It was a Game Warden, the equivalent of Law Enforcement rangers, and he wanted to make sure I had a valid Maine fishing license.  His question was rhetorical, because he could see that my line was in the water.  But he asked this for two reasons: to see if I’m truthful, and to establish guilt or innocence.  The definition of fishing in Maine is not catching  a fish, it’s putting a fishing line in the water. If I didn’t have a license but had my fishing pole in its holder but the line was not in the water, I would not be considered fishing and I could not be cited for fishing without a license.

“In,” I said.

“May I see your fishing license, please?”

I’ve been fishing many times a week in many different lakes in Maine for the past five years, but this was the first time I’d been asked to show my license. Uh-oh.

“Umm, I do have a license, but it’s in my car, and I’m actually heading that way now.  Would you mind waiting until I get back to shore, so I can show it to you?”

Theoretically I am supposed to keep the license on my person while fishing, but I didn’t have a waterproof bag, so I hadn’t brought it with me.  Fortunately he was a nice guy, and since by now I was only 50 feet from shore, he followed me to the launch area. Leaving my kayak, I ran to the car, and ran back to the warden.  He looked the fishing license over very carefully and pronounced me good as my word.

Fishing licenses cost $64 for non-residents and $22 for Maine residents.  They are good for a year starting January 1, although there is a period of some weeks in the Fall and early winter where fishing is illegal, primarily so that the fish can establish and stabilize their population before the lakes freeze.  The license includes the ability to go ice fishing, something I have not yet tried (I lack an auger to cut through the ice on the lake, nor do I have the special traps).

While the chance of being stopped by a Game Warden in Maine’s quieter backwoods lakes and ponds are slim, the penalties for not having a license are severe and not worth the risk.  The base fine for fishing without a license is  $75. An amount equal to two times the cost of the required license and permit is added to the base fine. A violator also may be sentenced to pay an additional fine of $20 per fish taken illegally. And they have the right to revoke your fishing license for one full year for certain fishing-related offenses.

“I’m really sorry you had to follow me back to shore,” I said apologetically to the Game Warden.  He said he didn’t mind.  We then spent the next 15 minutes swapping fish stories and sharing favorite secret fishing holes before he returned his boat to the water, in search of other little old ladies who might flaunt the law.


A Haven of Mentschlichkeit*

Yesterday I had an experience that perfectly sums up why I love living in the White Mountains, and it has nothing to do with hiking, camping, or kayaking.

I traveled the 45 minutes to my “local” supermarket for my weekly shopping trip.  As I stood in line, there were four people ahead of me.  The first, an elderly person, had just received her receipt, which came with a separate tape that printed out a coupon: “Spend $75 on your order and get $5 off.”

The lady turned to the person next to her in line.  “Oh, why don’t you take this coupon and use it on your order?  I’m just a single person living alone, and there is no way I can spend $75 on my shopping.”

The man was delighted.  “Thanks!” he said.  But when the cashier totaled his order, he was many dollars short of the $75 to benefit from the coupon.  He certainly could have pocketed the coupon for use the following week.  But instead, he turned to the person next to him, and said, “Here, maybe you can use this coupon.”

The scene repeated itself.  The woman in line was delighted, but equally dismayed when her order also did not total $75 (I guess New Englanders are frugal food shoppers!).  That’s when she left the coupon for me.

Amazingly, and what was probably the first time in my life in the history of my shopping at any supermarket, my total was much less than the required $75 purchase.

I wish I could say I am a saint . . .  but frankly, under normal conditions, passing on the $5 coupon to someone else, especially a stranger, would simply not have crossed my mind.  Normally I would have stowed it in my wallet for future use.  But seeing this remarkable generosity and how good it made everyone feel about others and themselves was contagious.  One good deed truly does lead to another, or as we say in Jewish thought, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” That’s worth more than $5.

I passed it on.

*Mentschlichkeit: a good, honorable and noble person who exudes integrity, decency and kindness




Maine: The Way Life Should Be

Recently I hosted a friend from my hometown who was in need of a break from the stresses of daily urban life.  I invited her to join us up in Maine.  Thankfully, she had a great time!  The restorative powers of the White Mountains never cease to amaze me.  Here is an excerpt from her note to me:

Since I have gotten back, everyone I meet says I look so relaxed.  I am trying to hold on to the feeling.  You don’t know what you did for me in inviting me back.  I wish I could figure out how to include such experiences in my life.  Maybe we can fit in one more visit before you leave.  I wouldn’t even mind coming in stick season now that I love it so much!!!

This fills my soul.




Several months ago my husband hung a batik banner next to the mailbox at the bottom of the driveway with the words “bruchim haba’im” – welcome – written in an artsy, flowing Hebrew script.

We live on a rural country road that doesn’t get much traffic, and let’s face it, not too many people in Maine can read Hebrew.  But what the heck.

About an hour before the end of Shabbat, we heard cars coming up our driveway, which is unusual by itself.  Out clambered 6 young people from Boston, who were vacationing in the area for the Fourth of July weekend.  They’d seen the sign, were able to read it, and their curiosity got the best of them.  So they decided to check us out.

We invited them inside and they were floored to see my husband and I, along with a friend from our hometown, gathered around the Shabbat table.  They joined us for a l’chaim and asked us all sorts of questions about the hows, wheres and whys of what we’re doing in a remote corner of Maine.  One was a female rabbinical student; one was a software engineer; one was in social media marketing; one was a grad student majoring in economics; and two were involved in non-profit organizations for social justice for the underprivileged.

Our guest from our hometown couldn’t believe the unfolding scene.  Oh, we had regaled her with entertaining stories of all the bizarre situations we’ve found ourselves in, and the many unusual people we’ve met over the years living here in Maine, despite our isolated location, but now she was getting a taste of that delightful Maine mojo first-hand.  (Many of these tales can be found in the archives of this blog.)

Really my friend’s visit was somewhat serendipitous to begin with.  When I was in my hometown last week to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild, I happened to see her in the street and mentioned that I’d be returning to Maine in a few days, and that if she’d like a ride up with us she’d be welcome to join us.

She had visited us once before during that time of year known as “stick season” in November, when the gorgeous fall colors are long gone but the snow hasn’t yet fallen, so the landscape is quite bare and grey.  I happen to like stick season, but my friend wasn’t particularly impressed, especially after hearing my accolades about the beauty of Maine.  The bleakness of the landscape appeared foreboding and desolate to her then.  Now that we’re at the peak of summer and everywhere it’s a lush green, she feels differently.  It’s been fun to expose her to her first-time-ever kayaking and swimming in a lake, and hiking to hidden cascades and moutaintops.  But nothing prepared her for the one-in-a-million chance of meeting up with total strangers and inviting them in for a taste of Shabbat.

Shabbat came to an end and we all made havdala (the special blessings chanted over wine, braided candle, and spices to say goodbye to Shabbat and welcome the new week). Contacts were exchanged along with warm wishes and my suggestions and directions for exploring some of the hidden gems in the area.


I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again, but you never know to what or where something as simple as a “welcome” sign might lead.  And now my hometown friend has her own Maine stories to tell.


Hiking Guidelines

This hiking checklist was compiled after Mark and Ellen Newman lost their only child to Exertional Heat Stroke during a hike in the desert.  The precautions are valuable for anyone hiking in hot weather, not only in the desert.  I urge everyone who enjoys hiking in the summer to click on the link below.  Stay safe, everyone!

Click to access Ariels-Checklist.pdf