Upwards: The life of an author 3 months out

Three months out from what, you ask? Actually, many of you are deliberately NOT going to ask, as you’ve heard about little else from me for many months!

Just in case, though – three months out from holding Upwards in my hands. That shiny new cover, those color photos, my words in print. Actually, the cover won’t be shiny. One decision firmly made is to have a “Matte/Satin” cover. And color photos? That’s my hope and dream, but I’m waiting anxiously for cost estimates for a center section of photos.

No matter how thrilled I am about publishing, the whirlwind of life goes on. The end of the school year is upon us, bringing field trips and frenzy. This week, we visited the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine. Run by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, the park cares for and exhibits only animals that are unable to live in the wild.

The more natural habitat areas were fascinating, while I struggled to watch two black bears panhandling for treats beneath a machine being fed by an endless stream of quarters, the huge glass window above obscured by a wall of captivated children.

After taking the above photo, I decided that I would learn about the Canada lynx. (That’s Canada lynx, not Canadian lynx, just like the goose). The bobcat, also found in Maine, is a different critter. Similar in size and appearance, there are differences between the two species: Bobcat = shorter legs, smaller ear tufts, smaller paws, more likely to look spotted or striped and Lynx = the opposite. The tip of a lynx’s tail is solid black, the bobcat’s black on top and white below. Plus, in the deep snows of the north woods, a sighting will probably be a lynx, well-adapted for life there.

Somewhat of a picky eater, the lynx dines on snowshoe hares at least 75% of the time, eating 1 to 2 per day. Historically, lynx populations have cycled up and down in rhythm with hare populations. In Maine, however, both have been booming for years, as young spruce-fir forests grow back following devastating waves of spruce budworm mortality. The young-growth timber provides ideal cover for the lynx’s favored prey.

I can’t recall having seen a water snake in Maine, until my visit to the wildlife park. Research seems to indicate they live only in the southern half of the state, so my best chance will be during my excursions close to home.

Out on the pond this week, it was cool and my sightings were all avian. It’s too early in the season to take the leaves for granted and the maples were particularly striking. Vivid red clumps of maple keys jumped out among the shoreline greens and pinks, and I tried to draw in calm as I paddled and let go of some of the excitement that is keeping ME keyed up!

One afternoon, swallows had overtaken the water and swooped in acrobatic dance, surely happy to find many squadrons of mosquitoes on patrol. They can also drink mid-flight, quickly scooping up water from the surface. On shore, a solitary spotted sandpiper winged from stone to log ahead of me, the first time I’d observed this species on McCurdy Pond. Now, today, a quiet Saturday, I rose with the dawn again and hope to squeeze in another paddle among the expense-filing, permission-requesting, photo-choosing tasks of a busy soon-to-be-published author.

IMG_5909

Advertisements

May you find fireplace birds

Fireplace birds

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
Dr. Suess

We christened them the “fireplace birds,” but of course they had another name.  In those shortening days toward the end of August 2009, the Allagash was a quiet place.  As Dad and I canoed from Umsaskis Bridge to Michaud Farm, the cool mornings and chilly swimming were more than compensated for by moose heavy with antlers and the beautiful solitude of the river. 

Our cheeky friends first visited us at Lock Dam.  Hopping contentedly among the ashes of the fire pit, focused on pecking who knows what, they were surprisingly tame. The colorful male and his drab partner were a species new to us.  Dad and I love our birds, especially new ones, and felt their presence yet another gift of the late summer wilderness.  Imagine our surprise, the next evening, when we discovered two more in the Outlet campsite on Round Pond.  

Dad and I will never forget those birds, or the midnight stampede of a moose through our campsite and down into the river with a mighty splash, or our first otter family in the Musquacook Deadwater.   A journey is so much more than the destination.  One of my hopes for this summer is to absorb the experience, treasure the moments.  And which parts will live on in my stories, in the memories of my heart?  I don’t know, of course.  But if you ask me why I will live on tuna and granola, portaging in the pouring rain and paddling into the wind, with sweat and bugs my closest friends, I go because of the fireplace birds, whatever they will be. 

Oh, that’s right, you would like to know what those birds were, right?  White-winged Crossbills, Loxia leucoptera, a finch that feeds almost exclusively on spruce and tamarack seeds, eating up to 3,000 in a single day!

Wind and water

“Welcome home,” whispered the gentle waves
Spring still life

Well, I am debating whether I can manage without taking my iPad Mini this summer.  I already know I can’t live without my binoculars and GPS and SPOT and phone and probably my camera, at least for the latter part of the trip.  So here’s my first “phone-only” post!

We’ve been away for the first bit of April vacation, so yesterday morning was my first paddle on the open waters of the lake, totaling 6.6 miles.

Going out, I was headed into the wind, but got quite a push from the current on the usually placid river, about 1.5 mph.  On the way home, thank you wind!  Birds galore: swallows, flickers, buffleheads, an osprey, Canada geese, and a pair of very vocal loons. I thought I heard a kingfisher, but have yet to see one this year.  I may add a couple more photos from the camera after this experimental post works.  More soon on our explorations earlier this week…

042415 buffleheads
Pair of buffleheads on the sparkling lake
042415 Canada goose
“Are you looking at me?”

The world is alive with the sound of music

041215 remnants of ice
Remnants of shrinking ice have a beauty all their own
041215 turtle underwater
A painted turtle meanders slowly across the muddy river bottom, beside the wavering reflection of a birch

This brilliant Monday morning was yet another gem in a string of true spring days.  Lily (my black lab friend) literally bounced along on our early morning walk and I felt like bouncing too! Up she scrambled to the top of one of the few remaining snow mountains, then tore down to explore the mysterious muddy smells emerging from winter’s blanket.

The woodland symphony added some new members this morning.  Joining our old friends the chickadees and woodpeckers were the first thrushes trilling from both sides of the road, between the impossibly deep drumming of not one, but two, pileated woodpeckers.  The soft clucking of a distant turkey might have been lost, had we not stopped to enjoy the thrushes.

Yesterday on the river, the story was the same…life blossoming, spirits released from the rigid ice of winter. I am still paddling my kayak, with the new canoe scheduled to arrive early in May. I paddled the Pemaquid River from the visitor’s center to the bridge and back, about 4 miles.

Thought you would be interested in yesterday’s river wildlife list: wood duck, ruddy ducks, mallards, other yet-to-be-identified ducks, ospreys, great blue heron, swallows, and a painted turtle who was hanging out on the river bottom.  The ducks were again great in number, rising in flocks long before I approached, with sometimes a group of delicate, downy feathers floating to mark where they had been.

Late this afternoon, I paddled the river again, going as far as the lake, where I met an unrelenting barrier of ice, then back to pull the boat out (about 3 miles).  As my dog-sitting stay ends tomorrow, the kayak now waits at home for ice-out, when it will take up residence on a nearby lake.

A moose makes BIG TRACKS

030715 deer tracks
Deer tracks for comparison
030715 moose tracks
Are these moose tracks?
030715 moose track with snowshoe
Same size as my snowshoe!

The warmer weather (upper 20’s) and sunny skies made for sparkling snow and early morning shadows to highlight tracks in the woods out back.  I was out several times this weekend for 1 to 1 1/2 hours each, getting in some cardiac endurance training.  These photos from Saturday morning show what I think are moose tracks.  We do not often see moose here in Lincoln County.  In fact, in the twelve years we have lived here, our family members have only seen one or two or three “local” moose, depending on the individual.  In contrast, 20 is our record for a short Allagash paddling trip of less than a week!  This afternoon I said goodbye to the snowy beauty for a week, as I am off to Virginia to visit Megan.  And take advantage of her graphic design skills to spruce up this blog, I hope.