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Bye-Bye

For all the loyal subscribers and readers of my blog, Midlife in Maine, I’m sorry to announce its demise.  I will be leaving its pages up and running for those who might enjoy learning more about living in rural Maine, but I will no longer be adding new posts.

As of March 8 2017, we have moved overseas to Israel and now live in the Galilee.  Our wonderful Maine house remains for sale, and it is currently available for rent for vacationers.  If you might be interested in renting out our Maine house in the woods, please feel free to contact me via this blog.  For pictures, please look at http://www.MaineWoodsHomeForSale.com.

If you would like to continue enjoying my (true) tales of adventure as we settle into this newest journey, I will be creating a new blog, Midlife in Israel, which will begin in April 2017.

Until then, may all your adventures, whether virtual or real-time,  be happy and fulfilling.

— Midlife in Maine

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The Food Challenge

Two weeks to go and we will be permanently gone from Maine.  Since we are moving overseas (and no, it’s not because of the US elections), getting rid of our 3-month non-perishable emergency food supply has been quite the challenge.  I separated it into several piles:  food that was expired (I didn’t cycle through it as often as I should have); unopened food that there was no way I’d be able to finish in time (this went to a local food pantry);  food that I could not donate to the food pantry because it was already opened (this went to neighbors or my kids); and food that I thought I might be able to finish by the time we leave.  These days the only thing I buy at the supermarket are produce and milk.

Our meals are haphazard creations from oddball remaining ingredients (I’m out of ideas for the myriad cans of tomato sauce), and we’re eating a lot more meat and chicken than usual since I’m methodically emptying our freezer as well.  I should probably not be so hard on myself and just go out and buy the honey, mayonnaise, rye flour and soy sauce that are currently missing from my usual repertoire, but it just doesn’t seem worth it to use a bit and then have to deal with finding someone to take it at the last minute.  I can’t bear to throw away perfectly good food, either.  So if something runs out, that’s it; it doesn’t get replenished.

Truthfully this is not such a bad thing.  It forces me to come up with some pretty creative meals, and it’s a great lesson because it teaches us that we don’t have to have everything, and serves as a reminder that there are a whole lot of people in the world who don’t have any food choices and for whom not feeling hungry and having clean water would be the greatest gift of all – – never mind the ingredients.

Oy Gevalt! And Merry Xmas

How do I even begin to explain the escapade that happened tonight?

I put a lot of time and thought into Chanuka presents for my grandchildren.  Yes, there is Amazon.  But I try to shop at local merchants because they depend so greatly on the extra income this time of year; because they’re genuinely nice and pleasant people who I enjoy doing business with; because unlike online shopping, I like to look over the selection hands-on; and because sometimes I find something more unusual than the run-of-the-mill toys.

Keep in mind, I live 35 minutes from the nearest town (Bridgton) which has an old-fashioned department store similar to the Woolworths of my youth; my other option is 45 minutes away in North Conway, where I can always rely on Wal Mart when all else fails.  But as any harried shopper knows, finding just the right gift for a particular person doesn’t usually happen in just one shopping expedition.  Add snow, ice, and poor driving conditions to the mix and you’ll understand that when you finally do get those gifts, it is with great relief and satisfaction.

Eventually I did find what I wanted, and with great happiness I divided up the gifts in gift bags by family and put them by the door.  These will go with us next week when we visit our former hometown, where two of my married sons live with their spouses and children.  I also bought lots of boxes of fancy chocolates wrapped in gold bows for the people in my town who have given me great service throughout the year: my mailperson, the postal clerk, my car repairman, the workers at the town dump, our UPS man who never fails to climb our steep driveway in any weather, either by truck (or when weather is bad, by foot), and our plow guy. I mentioned the chocolates to my husband, because he is a chocolate addict and I knew they wouldn’t be safe unless I told him they were earmarked for others.

After today’s storm of 6″ – 8″ of snow, we knew our Plow Guy would be coming by sometime this evening.  When I heard the scraping of the plow blade, I called out to my husband, “Quick! The Plow Guy is here! Grab a bag, go outside and give him his Xmas present!”

After he threw on a coat and boots, my husband exchanged pleasantries with Plow Guy, handed him the bag, and came back inside to get warm by the fire.  We had made a “date” to spend the evening cleaning out our garage, when he brought down one of the bags of presents for the grandchildren to put in the car.

“Where’s the other bag?”  I asked.

“What do you mean?” my husband replied.  “I gave it to the Plow Guy, like you said!”

I literally screamed.  “OH. MY. GAWWWWD!” I wailed.

Now a bag full of kids’ presents should be a clue to our Plow Guy that perhaps he got the wrong bag. But, he has a young child, so I’m assuming he’s thinking that we are the world’s most generous people to think of his little boy with SO. MANY. PRESENTS!

It’s possible we can get the bag back, but only if he hasn’t given them to his boy yet.  And the thing is, sometimes our Plow Guy rides with his son in the truck, as one of those father-son bonding moments.  So if the son was in the truck (my husband did hear another person in the truck, but he didn’t look inside as it was dark, so he has no idea if it was the Plow Guy’s partner or if it was his son) then that little boy is already in present heaven and has probably opened them all up out of sheer excitement.

“What do you want me to do?” my husband asked. (How about jumping off a cliff and me claiming the life insurance, I thought).

Well, we were due to be in our former hometown this coming week, presents in hand, and there was no way I’d be able to replace these presents in time (in many cases, I had bought the only or last one of a particular toy).

Grinch that I am, I said, “I’ll call and see if we can get the bag back, and give him his chocolates.”  But I didn’t have Plow Guy’s cellphone number and no one was answering his home phone.

“Do you want me to go to his house?” my husband offered.  It was 11 degrees outside, the roads were icy, and if Plow Guy’s family wasn’t home, it meant waiting in the heated car on a very wintry night outside his home until he’d get back, which could be hours.  Over the next thirty minutes I kept trying Plow Guy’s home phone, but there was no answer.

“Well, do you want to resume cleaning up the garage?” my husband asked innocently.

“I’m not in the mood right now,” I grumbled.  (He knew what that meant.)

Heck, our driveway was just plowed.

“Yep,” I said ten minutes later, with winter ice in my veins, “. . . I guess you’d better go.  Take a book and a flashlight in case you have to wait around.  And don’t forget the chocolates!”

When my husband got to their house, Plow Guy wasn’t back yet.  But his wife – – and son!! – – were home.  Sheepishly handing over the chocolates, he told them about the mistaken present hand-off.  His wife was stifling a smile, although she broke into a full grin when my husband said, “my wife will divorce me if I don’t get those presents back.” My husband  arranged to come by again tomorrow to pick up the bag.

The thing is, Stoneham is a small town:  population 234 at last count.  Not a whole lot happens here that is news.  And Mainers love a good story, and our Plow Guy now has a wicked funny story to tell.  You can be sure that every time I go to the local store, diner, post office, or talk to our UPS guy, we’re going to get LOTS of ribbing and be the town’s laughingstocks.

Like, until the day we die.

I know that someday, this is a story that will keep us laughing.

Like, maybe fifty years from now.

Wicked Ugly

I don’t know where the concept of Ugly Xmas Sweater Contests got started, but it appears that Maine has its share of contenders.  This one was spotted yesterday in Renys in Bridgton.  It can be yours for only $12.99.

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Post-Election: A Teaching Moment

Here is what I told my children, in hopes that they’d tell my grandchildren:

I hope that they view this as a teaching moment for their children. Because it is very very hard to be on the losing end. But even when you are on the losing end, you must promptly show gratitude to those around you, especially those who worked so hard on your behalf; have the courage to be gracious towards the winner even if it’s painful for you; acceptance of din (judgement/results), and do so with grace – – because that is what makes a great person great, not winning or losing.

If you believe in something, fight for it. There are no unanswered prayers, but the answer might be “not now.”

And if you’re on the winning end, realize it’s not only about you. Graciously acknowledge your opponent’s struggle in the midst of your own victory, and those who were part of your team.  And yes, the janitor who emptied the wastebasket full of tossed coffee cups is part of your team.

Also: words are powerful, and difficult to take back.  When the election is long behind us, we will still remember the friend or neighbor who called us horrible names (or perhaps we were guilty ourselves of doing that) because we didn’t share the same opinion on whom should be elected President.  Was losing control of ourselves really worth a previously amicable relationship that may forever be soured?  At the end of the day, it’s not our President who we will see in the store, in the post office, or across the fence.  It was your neighbor who came when your house had a fire, brought you supper when your spouse died, or helped you shovel your driveway.  Will they come now, or will they forever associate you with angry words?

The Summer of Lasts

So we’re moving away.  In the near future, I hope to  discuss where we are going and why.  Our wonderful  homestead in Maine is up for sale.

Consequently, this has been a summer of lasts.  The last time my children and grandchildren will experience Maine’s magic with their grandparents.  Believe me, we made the most of it, and everyone had a wonderful time hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, cliff jumping, camping, and toasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire.  I will always treasure the special bond we developed over the years thanks to Maine.  Even if the youngest ones don’t remember precise details, they will always remember that they shared good times with us, and even if they can’t quite remember why, they will always know that they carry a special place in their heart for Maine summers.

Since the weather has been so warm, we’ve tried to make the most of hiking to our favorite spots, as well as trying new ones.  Because of the warmth, Fall is late getting started with almost no leaves turning color.  Our hummingbirds finally migrated away this past Sunday and I cleaned out the feeder and put it away.  This weekend it is supposed to rain – – a welcome relief to the most serious drought we’ve experienced in the seven years we’ve been here.  Forty-degree nights will accompany the rain.

That’s when I realized today was my last chance, perhaps forever, to swim in Kewaydin Lake, my favorite of the many lakes surrounding my house, and I was determined to make the most of it.  At the edge of Kewaydin Lake is a small dam, and the water spills out into a rushing stream below, eventually flowing to the Atlantic Ocean.  With my dog, Truman, we swam and swam in the lake for 45 minutes, basking in the sun-warmed top layer and me enjoying the sharp coolness of the deeper areas on my lower extremities.  It’s unlikely that we’ll enjoy another week of daytime temperatures in the 80s with nights in the 50s anytime soon, so I really cherished every moment.

To swim in Kewaydin is an almost holy experience, similar to immersing in a mikva, a Jewish ritual pool.  The purity of the clear cleansing waters, the beautiful surroundings of mountains rimming the lake, the blue sky, the quiet, and the solitude (for rarely are other swimmers there) make it truly special.

Just as I left the water, a woman approached the edge of the dam.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she asked.

I confessed I didn’t.

“We met last year at the transfer station.  We started talking, and exchanged phone numbers.  We were going to go walking together to get some exercise.”

From the moment she reminded me where we had met, I remembered the circumstances very well.  She was a lifelong resident of our town.  Her husband had recently died, leaving her feeling completely helpless, lonely and bereft.  I had suggested that we make time to walk on a weekly basis, knowing that she needed to unburden herself and that I could be a sympathetic ear, and we could both benefit from the exercise.  She was a genuinely nice and gentle person.  But after multiple attempts and conflicting schedules, we could never seem to make walking together happen; and we simply fell out of touch.  And now, here she was.

“I come here often,” she said.  “I’ve been walking regularly, but I always end up here.  It gives me comfort to visit Dennis,” she said.  “You see, this is where I put him a few months ago:  over the dam,” she said.  She excused herself “to go be with Dennis” and walked about 20 feet ahead, sat at the edge, and immersed herself in deep thought.

It took a moment for the meaning of her words to sink in.

Her husband’s cremated remains were in Lake Kewaydin, spread exactly where I loved most to swim!

This was my last swim at Kewaydin, and like so many things about Maine, it was certainly momentous.  Talk about Final Closure!

If you are interested in finding out more about our Maine home for sale, please go to www.MaineWoodsHomeForSale.com.

 

 

 

Shmoozing Strangers

My 2006 Honda CRV’s passenger-side front airbag was recalled, so I drove through Evans Notch to the border of the towns of Gorham/Berlin NH to the dealership to have it replaced.  It’s the closest dealership to my home one hour away, although when they close the mountain pass to vehicular traffic in the winter, the roundabout detour ride is at least 30 minutes longer.  Therefore I always avoid scheduling service from Winter through the end of Spring whenever possible.

Seated alongside and across from me in the car repair waiting room were 9 other people.     At the end of the room was a huge flat-screen TV, and turned to very high volume was a show called The View.  I had never watched this before.  Actress Whoopi Goldberg was talking about all black people being victims of racism and targets by police.  The white co-hosts apologized on behalf of all white people.  But Whoopi went  on and on and on, and it turned into an anti-white hate fest.  It was ugly and her language was crude.

Finally one of the people waiting for their car spoke up. “Would anyone mind if we turned the volume down?”

That was all I needed.  “Would anyone mind if we shut off the TV altogether?” I piped in.

Immediately there was a tangible release of tension; everyone had been afraid that they were the only one who didn’t want to watch the show.  Everyone was happy for the silence – – only there wasn’t silence.  People began to chat with one another, and everyone participated.

What I loved was that no one mentioned current events.  No one said “Hillary” or “Trump.”  So what do people in rural NH talk about?  Where I live, in a district that has many lakes and ponds, people tend to swap fish stories.  But Berlin/Gorham is moose country… so people swapped moose tales.  We all concurred that no matter how long we’ve lived in the White Mountains, and no matter how many times we’ve seen moose, it doesn’t get old, and that each time we are thrilled anew.

There was a young man in his twenties, who was a policeman.  He told of some of his encounters with wildlife, which he said were his favorite part of his job.  He confessed that when things are quiet, and he sees a moose nearby, he often parks his patrol car off the road and turns his speed trap radar on, so he can convince himself that he is doing something productive, but in reality he’s just enjoying watching the moose, whom he called “goofy creatures”  much to the agreement of the crowd.

Once he came upon a moose who looked sickly and dazed, who was walking around and around in circles.  He realized immediately that the moose suffered from the end stages of a terrible tick-borne disease which eventually affects the moose’s brain.  After conferring with headquarters and Fish and Game, he took his rifle from the trunk and shot it, putting it out of its misery.

“It was delicious,” he added.  (He said that the Fish and Game told him the disease does not taint the meat for human consumption.)

When he was a brand-new rookie, during his first month on the job he was not allowed to go out on calls solo, and was accompanied by his sergeant.  One night, they got a call from a resident in town, complaining of a neighbor’s barking dog.  When they arrived at the house, the dog was indeed barking, and would not stop.  When they knocked on the owner’s door, he apologized profusely.

“I don’t know why he won’t stop barking,” the man said.  “I swear he’s never done this before.  I tried putting him in the house but he just kept barking.  This has been going on for hours.  I looked around outside but couldn’t find anything out there.  I’m at my wit’s end.”

The rookie and his sergeant decided to investigate.  They walked around the property with their flashlights, but couldn’t see or smell a thing.  All the while, the dog was barking incessantly.  As they stood in the driveway talking about what to do, they suddenly felt a whoosh and  heard a huge thud.  A sleeping bear had fallen out of the tree above them, and missed the sergeant by only a couple of inches!  The bear scampered away; the dog stopped barking; and everyone was happy.

Another time, he got a call about a skunk whose head was stuck in a peanut butter jar.  The rookie cop figured this might not end well and that he would be the laughingstock of the guys back at the station.  He decided to video the encounter from the dash-mounted camera of the police car.  If it didn’t go well, he would be subject to a lot of ribbing, but if he was able to free the skunk without getting sprayed, it would make him look good.

He slowly approached the skunk, whose head was indeed stuck.  The cop gingerly put his boot on the jar at an angle, holding it steady.  The skunk was able to free himself and scampered off without incident, and the rookie cop breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It was only later, when he reviewed the video, that he noticed that the skunk had lifted his tail!  To this day he doesn’t know why he wasn’t sprayed but he’s not complaining.

His last story involved seeing a white (albino) deer.  His only wish was that it would not fall victim to hunting season.  He passed around his cell phone so we could all see pictures of this beautiful creature.

Next, an older gentleman who was an avid hunter told us his moose stories.  Of the time a few years back when he saw 21 moose on his property in a single day, and how this year due to the tick scourge there are almost no moose.  He also told a story that happened a few years ago when he got into his Ford Ranger pickup truck one morning to go to work.  Before he could turn on the ignition, a bull moose in rut (mating season) approached his truck, apparently mistaking his vehicle for a moose cow (female).  The moose began rubbing against the car, and pushing it back and forth like a toy, trying to get this weird truck-moose to respond to its amorous endeavors.  At first the man was amused, but after 20 minutes of continued moose-humping against his truck he realized that not only was he going to be late for work, he was in danger of the entire truck tipping with him inside of it.  He quickly turned on the engine and sounded the horn, and the disgruntled moose lumbered away.

Then a different man spoke up.  He was on his father’s farm one day and he saw  three deer, two moose, and a bear, all side by side, munching away in the corn field.

This man was the black sheep of his family, since he was the only one in his family who hadn’t followed the farming path of his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents.

He told about growing up on his father’s farm.  His father harvested 60 acres of potatoes annually.  They had one measly tractor but most of the work was done with draft horses or by hand, with the entire family involved in sowing, reaping, and harvesting from sunup to sundown for many weeks.  In Aroostook County in northern Maine, children to this day have “Harvest Recess” for 3 weeks during the school year, in order to help their families bring in the potato harvest.  (You can read about it here.)  But things are changing.  With the industrialization and mechanization of farming, school boards are evaluating the need for such a break.  But traditions die hard in Maine.

The man continued, “my brother is 77 now, and he is still out there farming every day.  He wouldn’t do anything else.  But his farm is very very different from that of my father’s.”

His brother owns not only his father’s original 60 acres; he now owns an additional many thousands of acres, 600 of which are devoted strictly to potato farming.

“It took my father weeks to harvest his 60 acres,” he said, “but my brother harvests 60 acres in a single day.  That’s 20,000 lbs. of potatoes right there!  He has a shed that looks like an airplane hanger.  It’s the size of a football field, with the highest point in the center being 45′ tall.  And do you know what?  It’s absolutely chock-full of potatoes! One of his fields is 2 miles long!”

Our conversation was interrupted by the service manager.  “I’m so sorry,” she told me, “but we’re running very late today.  It looks like we won’t get to your car for another hour.  Would you like to come back another day?”

I explained that I lived an hour away, and that I’d be leaving town this weekend; so it was today or nothing.  I was enjoying the conversations so much, I honestly didn’t mind waiting.

“How about if we give you a loaner for the next few hours – – maybe you can do some shopping in WalMart?  Or we can drive you home, and then bring the car back to be fixed?  Or we can pick up the car from you tomorrow, so you don’t even have to come here, and bring it back to you tomorrow at the end of the day?”

I assured the service manager that I didn’t mind waiting, but I was amazed that they were so accommodating.  “This would never have happened at my Honda dealer back in my home town,” I thought to myself.

From another person waiting I learned that he was a survivor of a terrible car accident, along with his wife.  “We used to love hiking just like you,” he told me, “and we hiked to the top of Mt. Washington and all the other Presidentials numerous times.  Then, in an instant, our lives changed,” he said.  “I was driving with my wife at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a pleasant day, when we were hit head-on by a drunk driver who had just turned 18 years old.  At one o’clock in the afternoon, and he was drunk!  My wife was in a coma for 76 days.  And she was in the hospital for five months, and needed many surgeries.  Then came months of rehab.  We shouldn’t have survived, so I feel blessed.  But even though it’s a miracle she can walk, she can’t bend her knees very well, and she’ll always be in pain.  So our lives are very different than how they were just a year ago,” he sighed.

Due to their accident, with too much free time on their hands, they became amateur genealogists.

“I was able to trace our families back to the 1640s,” he said proudly.  They came to Maine from Nova Scotia at a time when Maine was a territory fought over by the French and the British, long before the United States entered the picture.  “The only other people around were Indians.”

Eventually the service manager returned with keys in hand.  “We washed your car for you, and it’s ready now.”

I said goodbye to these wonderful strangers, who were serendipitously brought together out of onerous necessity, for a delightful afternoon in a car dealership waiting room.  With all the strife affecting the United States, it made me realize that we have plenty of “average,” kind people in this country who don’t judge others based on how they vote even if their personal, religious, cultural  and political agendas might differ from one’s own.  (In fact, they believe it’s none of anyone’s business but your own as to who gets your vote.)  It was also an affirmation of the life I’ve chosen to lead in the White Mountains, where people value human interaction as well as spending time with Nature, instead of running marathons with their techie devices, seated immobile indoors; alone and anonymous.