Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

Comfort. It's all around us.

Photo by my mother, Glenda Quiring

It's coming home. It's the smell of freshly baked bread, or cookies baking in the oven, or soup simmering on the stove. It's easing into your favourite armchair at the end of a long, hard day's work. It's the feel of sliding into crisp, clean sheets the first night after they were changed. It's curling up under a warm, thick quilt to fall asleep.

It's slipping into well-worn jeans. It's wearing comfy clothes on the weekend. It's putting on soft, fuzzy pajamas and cozy slippers before bed. It's splashing and jumping into puddles in your gumboots on a rainy afternoon. It's walking on new grass with bare feet, and digging toes into warm, brown earth.

It's making mud pies and play-eating them with your siblings. It's planting bright flowers in colourful pots. It's pressing small seeds into the ground and waiting to watch them grow. It's playing tag, hide-and-seek, or sardines in your backyard in the evening twilight.

It's the relief of entering a building with air conditioning on a humid August day. The warmth of coming inside after enjoying the cold, wet snow in winter. The special family meals on holidays. The snow finally melting, and green spring grass sprouting again. The leaves morphing into glorious oranges, browns, and golds in autumn. It's watching the day fade into night, the dazzling colours of the sunset, the promise of a new sunrise tomorrow.

It's the crash of ocean waves hitting the shore. The gulls' familiar cawing overhead. It's the quiet of mid-afternoon in a sleepy little town. The gentle buzzing of a busy bumblebee moving between blossoms in the community garden. It's the ripples on a mountain lake. The call of a loon in the evening. It's the stillness of night. The twinkling of heavenly stars shining down.

It's the sip of hot chocolate sliding down your throat, instantly warming you from inside out. The first bite of your favourite dish. The juicy crunch of fresh fruit just picked off the tree. The cool glass of water on a hot summer day.

It's cuddling a kitten or being chased by a puppy. It's petting a cat or taking a dog for a walk. It's watching a powerful horse gallop across a pasture. It's hearing the honks of Canada Geese as they fly overhead.

It's the lilt of a fiddle piece. The strum of a guitar. It's the sweet clear soprano voice or the deep rumblings of a bass. It's the lyrical piano solo. The strains of a familiar old hymn being played on the organ.

It's entering your place of worship, feeling reverent and awed. It's kneeling beside your bed, knowing the God of the universe is listening to what you say. It's an answer to earnest prayer. It's witnessing a miracle and knowing others can happen, too.

It's laughing with your friends while eating out, or playing board games, or watching a movie. It's working together to accomplish a common goal. It's having deep talks with a person you trust, a person who knows you almost as well as you know yourself.

It's a baby falling asleep in his mother's arms after nursing. A child drifting off knowing her parents are in the next room. It's riding on Daddy's strong shoulders or jumping into his arms from the side of the pool. It's a Band-Aid on a cut finger. A tight embrace after a heartbreak or the loss of someone you love.

It's having a child wrap their arms around you. It's a healing talk after a fight with your teenager. It's watching your offspring leave the nest and knowing they'll make it on their own because you've trained them well. It's holding grandchildren for the first time. It's grown-children bringing their own children to visit you in the nursing home.

It's snuggling with the person you love. It's visiting with an old friend. It's seeing someone you've been missing for a long time. It's the sight of a beloved place. It's returning from a long trip away and coming―


My musings on the prompt 'comfort' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Brave

The oldest is supposed to be the brave one. But I never was. It was my little sister, Bryna, three years younger than me, who was the brave one in our family.

Holding newborn baby Bryna in the hospital

As soon as she could sit up, then crawl, then toddle, Bryn was always getting into something. I first realized Bryn was brave when she was probably around 10-months-old. Bryn was taking her afternoon nap while Mum and I snuggled on her bed as she read to me. A thump interrupted us. I hopped up to check on my little sister. Easing her bedroom door open and peeking in, I was stunned to find a happy Bryn sitting on the floor beside her crib, back to the door, playing with some of the toys she'd thrown from the crib. No bumps or bruises, no crying, just a happy baby playing quietly on her own. These capers continued. Bryn went from climbing out of her crib in the day to sneaking out at night. My parents once found her standing beside their waterbed with a fistful of kitchen knives in her hand. The next day new child-locks went on every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen and around the rest of the house. New because my parents had never had to use child-locks with me. "Ali, no. Don't touch!" was all they ever had to say. The one time I didn't listen, after dousing my hand in water as they wallpapered my bedroom, I flung my hand toward the electrical outlet in the wall and received a nice shock for my efforts. It was a quick and efficient cure to disobeying my parents.

Bryn soon learned that the opposite of climbing down is climbing up. One afternoon I went into the bedroom we both now shared, in preparation for a new little baby to join the household, and found Bryn contentedly sitting in the top drawer of our five-drawer-high dresser. My drawer. As I watched in horror, she calmly reached deep into the drawer, pulled out a pair of my underwear, and sent it floating to the floor below, which was already littered with undershirts, socks, and other pairs of underwear. "Mum," I turned and yelled, "Bryna's ruining my drawer! If she wants to play in a drawer she could just climb in her own messy bottom one."

But sometimes Bryn's fearless ways made me laugh. She was half-clown. One evening my parents had just plucked Bryn from her bath. As my dad got her ready for bed, my mum helped me into the still-warm bathwater. She left me playing with the bath toys. Suddenly a shadow fell across the door. Before I had time to figure out who was entering the bathroom, my little sister, dressed in a clean, fresh, fuzzy sleeper, dove over the side of the tub. "Mummy, Bryn's in my bath!" I cried as she splashed, happy as a dolphin, from one side of the tub to the other. When Mum arrived, she couldn't hide the smile on her face. I soon gave in and laughed with her as a dripping, wriggling Bryn was fished out of the bathtub for a second try at bedtime.

As she grew up, she was more than happy to drive around our Fisher Price scooter or car while I hitched a free ride in the wagon I'd tied on behind. Her eagerness to learn to ride a bike spurred me on to learn so that my little sister wouldn't beat me to it. When we took our birthday money to the store to buy a toy, I'd convince Bryn to go to the counter to pay for me. She wasn't scared to talk to people she didn't know, and I was terrified to, so this arrangement seemed to work pretty well.

But little by little, Bryn taught me that I didn't need to be scared of every little thing. I could try new things without getting hurt. I could talk to people I didn't know because people weren't necessarily out to get me. I'm still mostly a fraidy-cat inside, but by watching Bryn for the past 25 years, I'm slowly, slowly learning to creep out of my protective shell, to try new things, and not to spend my whole life being scared. Bryna is definitely the brave one, but there's room for more than one brave one in any family. Who knows, someday I might make it there, too.

My musings on the prompt 'brave' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Electrical pole fire in our back woods

On Monday of last week (April 22, 2013) Jonathan and I heard a helicopter flying near our house in the mid-afternoon. We occasionally hear small airplanes flying overhead after taking off from the tiny airstrip in Old Town, but this helicopter sounded a lot closer than those airplanes do. Suddenly it was right above our house, sounding like it might want to land right on top of us. I raced to our bedroom window and watched as a white and green helicopter circled our back field several times before landing near the woods. Then red shapes and bright lights over to the right of the small bit of woods that separate our landlady's land from the neighbours drew my attention. Fire trucks with their lights on. A streak of flame flared up in the woods and I yelled out, "Jonathan, there's a fire!" My excitement was not over the fact that the fire could potentially burn its way over to our hours, but rather that this was a prime picture-taking opportunity and we had a large helicopter in our back field. "Grab your camera! Let's go outside," I shouted, as I scooped up my small camera and ran for the door.

Outside I found a bush fire truck in our driveway and firefighters in yellow jackets methodically gathering supplies. Jonathan and I hurried around to the back of the house, and found our landlady's daughter, Patty, talking to a man. She introduced us to him and we found out he was our neighbour living to the left of the field. Then she filled us in on the fire. "I was washing dishes when I looked out the window and saw flames shooting up toward the sky. I called 911, but they weren't very helpful. They asked me all kinds of questions that didn't seem very pertinent to my reporting a fire. Can you believe they asked for my address, and when I gave them my mother's address here, they said they wanted my personal address, in New Hampshire?" Patty went on to tell us that after her call to 911, she called the neighbour and told him about the fire. His nephew is a volunteer firefighter in the town and he alerted the fire department to the fire. Patty and the neighbour then told us the flames were from an electrical pole that was burning.

Jonathan walked out in the field, but out of the way of the firefighters who had headed that direction, to see if he could take some pictures of the pole. Then another neighbour, Ken, the man who does odd jobs for our landlady, and another man drove up on some quads and asked Jonathan if he wanted to see the pole from a better angle, over by the house it was nearest, where three or four more fire trucks were congregated. Jonathan hopped on the back of Ken's quad and they raced away to the action. I found a place to sit down where I could see both the flames and the helicopter. The firefighters that had headed across the field had brought a water bucket out to the helicopter, and soon it rose back into the air again. I have a love of all things that fly, and I was thrilled to get a personal viewing of aerial firefighting. The helicopter headed off for the river, and returned a few minutes later with a bucket-full of water, which it dropped in the woods around the electrical pole (obviously not actually on the pole, though). Back and forth it went between the river and the woods, bringing buckets of water with it to ensure the fire didn't spread to the woods surrounding the pole. I sat in the dry grass of the field staring at the sky in awe as the helicopter appeared each trips and circled overhead. Far too soon the action was over, the flames on the pole went out (Jonathan later told me that the wind eventually blew the flames out), and the helicopter landed in the field again to return the bucket. I watched as the helicopter soared back into the air, circled around the woods several more times, making sure there were no errant flames, then left the scene. The excitement (especially watching the helicopter) was the highlight of the day, and actually of the entire week!

Helicopter landing to add on the water bucket (right after this shot I rushed from our bedroom to outside the house)
Firefighters heading out to the helicopter and to check the woods for traveling flames
Jonathan following to take pictures
Bush fire truck in our driveway
Jonathan talking to some of our neighbours
Hitching a ride to the real action
Another fire truck arrives
Helicopter making its first pass over the woods with the water bucket
Another trip with a full bucket
Dousing the woods
I caught a video of the helicopter on one of its trips back with water

I stole a few pictures from Jonathan, so I could share his perspective from the other side of the woods, too.
Fire trucks at the neighbours' house (Photo by Jonathan)
Pole aflame (Photo by Jonathan)
The effects of the fire after the wind finally blew it out (Photo by Jonathan)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Exploring coastal Maine I

We plan to explore a lot of coastal Maine while we're in the area, so this is just the first of many expeditions, we hope!

Bucksport, Fort Knox & Fort Point State Park ~ April 20, 2013

The Saturday before last, Jonathan and I decided we wanted to see a little bit more of the area where we now live. And I was getting a hankering to see the ocean again. So Jonathan looked up how to get to the nearest ocean, and after our Sabbath lunch, we loaded up the car with water bottles, camera gear, snacks (for the drive home) and towels*, and set off for unknown destinations. The scenic drive to the ocean took us about an hour, through country neighbourhoods with picturesque glimpses of the Penobscot River popping into view every so often. Then we drove into Bucksport and I was instantly charmed! The small town boasted a Main Street right on the river filled with quaint houses and restaurants. I tried to take pictures as we drove down the street, but luckily we saw an eagle's nest as we headed out of town, and decided to pull over and walk back to take some pictures of the eagles. That turned into a walk back across a small bridge to get a better view of the fort across the river, and eventually - after seeing a sign announcing the best spot to take pictures of the fort and the large new bridge that was being built - we walked back to the car and drove to the designated spot to get a few more pictures.

Bucksport welcome sign
Informative sign at the other end of town (we went back to view the bridge from a good vantage point)
Photographer Jonathan
An island across the river from Bucksport
Bucksport riverfront walkway
The 125-year-old Bucksport library
Fort Knox across the river
The new bridge linking Verona Island to another part of the mainland
Good resting place
Baby bald eagle snug in his nest
(One of the parents was in the nest until just before Jonathan raised his camera to take a picture - it chose right then to fly away)

Once back in the car, we crossed over the impressive new bridge and took a short detour from our intended destination to check out Fort Knox. The fort was interesting, but we didn't stay long since it wasn't open for the season yet. We want to go back when it's open to better experience the historic site and explore inside the fort.

The new bridge
Bucksport from Fort Knox - so picturesque!
I love capturing pictures of Jonathan capturing pictures :)
Covered ambulance near the information center

After that short stop, we continued driving on a cliff-top road overlooking the river that led out to an ocean bay. We parked at the entrance to Fort Point State Park, which also wasn't open yet for the season. A sign on the gate told us it would be a mile walk in to the park, so we grabbed our backpack and headed off. We had a pleasant walk to the state park and enjoyed looking around at the area. We examined the foundation of an old hotel that had burned down years ago, saw the site of the old fort, and admired the still-working lighthouse, the only structure still standing in the park. Then we wandered down to a pebbly beach, and clambered over a lot of large algae-covered rocks to a pier, before starting the walk back to our car. We finished the trip off with a meandering drive around the area, looking at the interesting old houses near the ocean, before we headed back to the bridge and Bucksport for our return drive home.

Rocky beach at Fort Point State Park (you can see the bridge far off in the distance, a bit right of center)
Fort Point Lighthouse
One more picture of the impressive bridge from the other direction
A little history
Beautiful house in Bucksport - I'm in love! (I asked Jonathan to turn around and go back so I could take this picture)

*The towels were to sop up the water that was sitting in the sunroof of my little old Honda Accord after the rain from the night before. We had both gotten a surprising little shower of water falling in our laps that morning when we started off for church - we quickly decided to use Jonathan's van to get to church instead of sitting against wet seats for the half-hour drive...