#feelingbadinmaine

A heavy early morning breeze rustles through the thick row of maple trees at the edge of the inn’s back lawn.  Dense and stifling heat and humidity are predicted for today.  It’s pleasant here on the balcony outside the Kensington Room, watching as the morning light cuts through the leaves and the light fog over West Penobscot Bay burns off.

The Norumbega Inn, a stone castle about a mile outside of Camden proper, was built in 1886 by Joseph Stearns.  Stearns, born in the Western Maine town of Weld, invented the duplex telegraph.  He sold this invention to Western Union.  After traveling through Europe, he bought a parcel of land in Camden (a place he allegedly considered to be the most beautiful place he ever visited).  On his Camden parcel, he built a castle that consequently remained a private residence for 100 years.  The National Historic Registry nomination form says Norumbega, “with its fine architecture and outstanding location remains one of Maine’s” outstanding examples “of the great cottage villas which dotted the Maine coast in the heyday of the Victorian leisure class.”

I have always wanted to stay in this castle; feeling bad in Maine and a need to escape the Moxie hangover brought me here.

Norumbega

I’ve been home in Maine for almost six years now.  In that time, I’ve reflected on E.B. White’s quote “I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.”  I’m curious as to White’s context when he wrote this, but a quick internet browse reveals little.  White was a bit of a hypochondriac; maybe that was the genesis of the quote.  I’ll find it someday, should I choose to study White’s writings in my spare time.

But I can understand the sentiment and as I left the epicenter of the Moxie universe on Friday afternoon and quickly slipped over the Sagadahoc Bridge into Woolwich, I marveled at how lucky I was to be only a few miles from the heavenly realms of the Maine coast.

How lucky am I, really?  Feeling like shit about a knife in my heart and yet here I am sitting on the balcony of a stone castle.  Breakfast is at 8:00 a.m. and I can smell some early preparations wafting up from the kitchen.

I have been richly blessed, beyond my wildest imaginings.  And so I sing in chorus with E.B. White:

“I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.”

Posted in Lady Alone Traveler | Tagged , ,

Heart Wide Open

The last day of June came rumbling through the epicenter of the Moxie Universe like a runaway locomotive.  The thunderstorms and lightning began before midnight and continued with stunning illumination and intensity until dawn, or so it seemed.  I was caught in the midst of this natural train wreck just before midnight.  Then I went home, got under the covers, and listened to my heart race like it hadn’t for many months.

Around Memorial Day, I added a new layer to my schedule.  What can I say?  I am an overachiever.  I think I can handle more than the average human.  This layer was beautiful and my heart stopped racing so much because I felt alive.

I did not feel alive today.

I asked a friend for help and she showed up, just like a flower.  She calmly listened and reassured me.  She asked me what I could do to soothe my racing heart and mind.  I said I didn’t know.  She told me to think about it.  After our visit, I tried a number of things.

I inventoried Moxie gear with another committee member.

I took a nap.

I found my high school discus, went up to the track, and took a couple throws.  In 1980, I came in second to Leavitt’s Gloria Batchelder at the May 20 Mountain Valley Conference track and field meet.  On that day, I threw my discus 95 feet and qualified for regionals.  I think I threw the discus less than 60 feet today.

DIscus

I took a walk along the Androscoggin River and soaked my feet in the water.

While I walked I listened to the soundtrack on my 2012 Sony Walkman.  I found it in a drawer the other day.  This device is loaded with songs capturing my mood during the lonely years before I moved home to Lisbon Falls.  I listened carefully to the lyrics I could understand.

I was searching for answers.  I have been searching for answers my whole life.

Is this how Eisenhower felt in the hours before the Invasion?  Probably not.  I think he played cards and smoked a cigar.  Men and women soldier differently.

A country song struck me as I walked.  “When I Get Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton is a real tear-jerker for the grieving heart.

The song’s lyrics say, in part:

Yeah, when I get where I’m going,
there’ll be only happy tears.
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years.
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear.

The lyrics also note:

So much pain and so much darkness,
in this world we stumble through.
All these questions I can’t answer
So much work to do.

Fortunately, not one other person was on the walking path, so it was safe for me to stop from time to time and weep.  I wept because there are three people I miss in my life right now, in no particular order.

I don’t write about many unhappy things here on the blog.  I have never written about the death of my beloved nephew, Mark Baumer, on January 21, 2017.  I think about him every day.  Every fucking day.  Yeah.  I hope it’s ok that I have appropriated his use of the word “yeah” into my own life as a way to keep his memory alive.

I miss Gina Mason.  There have been a few days during the fog of the Moxie battle when I have cried out to her in Heaven and asked her to intervene with God on my behalf, although I’m not sure it works that way.

Mostly, I miss my brother, Jim Baumer.  He’s still alive but I think I am dead to him.  Tragedy often does that kind of killing work.  We’ve had feuds before.  I wrote about one on this blog.

For the record, the primary reason I have experienced this small measure of success here in my hometown in this late season of my life is because my brother created and documented a plan that I could study and implement.  It was called “Jobs for JAB.”

“Jobs for JAB” has almost come full circle.  I do my day job out of the house I own in the center of the Moxie Universe and I’m the curator of this year’s Moxie Festival.  That was the plan my brother devised for me in 2012.  I’d like to talk to him about how the plan is going.  I wish he were here to listen to me “boo hoo” for about two minutes then give me a stern pep talk.  Then he’d make me laugh about something that happened in 1979 and I’d know everything was going to be ok.

Baumers

I know some people don’t understand blogs and writers.  Not many people read this blog; no regrets today for airing out my personal laundry.

We are now 11 days away from The Moxie Festival.  There has been so much pain and darkness in this little world I’ve been stumbling through since January 21, 2017.  There is still so much work to do.  I am sustained by the love of everyone here in my hometown, including but not limited to my parents, my neighbors, Uncle Bob, and my high school classmates.  I can’t even begin to tell you about the beautiful and loving things that happen every day.

If any of my blog readers are so inspired, I welcome your prayers for the success of the festival.  Pray for good weather (remember: heat trumps rain for Moxie), pray for happy people, and pray for the volunteers who will do the heavy lifting as we approach the finish line.

For me, over the next 11 days, I’m going to leave my heart wide open.  I will love and have no fear.  And then when Moxie is over, I might try to keep living that way.

Baumer_Moxie_Headshot

Thank you for loving me, Moxie, and my hometown.  Insert orange heart here.

Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , , , , ,

Symbolic Gestures

On Saturday, I had the honor of judging the “Miss Moxie Pageant” held at Lisbon Falls Baptist Church’s gymnasium.  I had never judged a beauty pageant before.  I wore a favorite Lily Pulitzer skirt, some Jack Rogers sandals, and carried my old high school Bermuda bag with a new cover.

Symbolic Gestures

I even had an opportunity to practice my “Duchess Slant

I know nothing about pageantry, but former USA National Miss Maine Shelby Cash did an excellent job of pulling the event together.  She prepared binders for the judges that included resumes of all the contestants.  Since my interviewing has been limited to corporate hiring, I was struck to read the resume of a pre-kindergarten contestant for the title of Junior Miss Moxie.  She’s already got 2 years of ballet under her belt and she “can’t wait to go to kindergarten.”

This was her third pageant.

Another Junior Miss Contestant’s resume said she knew her ABC’s, could count to 30, and knew the Greek alphabet.  She recited the latter for us during her interview.

The event was fabulous and I’m pleased I can now add “Pageant Judge” to my own resume.

Earlier in the day, at 2:00 a.m. to be exact, I woke up in a panic and jumped out of bed.  The Moxie Festival is 40 days away and in spite of my composure at the pageant, I’m freaking out a little bit inside.  There’s a lot to do and it’s time to move away from creating new ideas to implementing everything that’s ready to go.  With that in mind, I performed a “symbolic gesture” this morning.

I walked up to the Lisbon Industrial Park.  When I was in high school, we called it “The Oval.”  It was the sometimes route of track practice, a great place to learn how to drive a standard, and an occasional place for a clandestine beer with friends.  It’s also the staging location for the Moxie Festival Parade.

Using this as my starting point, I walked the parade route.  With ear buds pumping favorite songs into my auditory canal, I visualized what it will be like in 41 days when we get the Moxie show on the road.  Singing along with the Dropkick Murphys, I changed the lyrics of their classic song.  “We’re shipping up to Moxie…”

Listen, friends, I may not be able to write much here on the blog until Moxie is over.  You want me to live to tell about it, right?  I’ve got one too many plates spinning in the air right now.  So I will share some old posts from past festivals and we will meet here again in 40 days or so.

Please like The Moxie Festival page on Facebook and if you’re around town on July 12, 13, and 14th, I hope you’ll find me in the crowds and say “Hello.”

Posted in You've Got Moxie!

Battles in the Wilderness

On Friday, I drove up to the Citizen’s Gazebo on Route 196 in Lisbon Falls.  I still put the buntings on, even though the town now maintains the majority of the town’s showcase gardens.  According to the instructions on the bunting box Faye Brown gave me long ago, they go on at Memorial Day and stay up until “AFTER MOXIE.”

Parks & Recreation Department employee Wesley Walton was putting some final touches on the freshly mulched gardens and we chatted for a few minutes before he zipped off to finish beautifying our town.  I asked him what he was doing over the long weekend.  He’s young, maybe 25?  I was surprised when he told me he would be taking care of a family gravestone in a neighboring town.  Walton said “he died in the Civil War, the Battle of the Wilderness.”

I was impressed with this young man’s concern for old things.

The Battle of the Wilderness was a three day battle fought near Spotsylvania, Virginia from May 5 to May 7, 1864.  According to Wikipedia the skirmish was considered tactically inconclusive.  The battle area was in “dense wooded undergrowth” according to the American Battlefield Trust’s website.  Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant refused to retreat following the battle and told Secretary of War Edwin Stanton “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.

My yard maintenance is minimal in comparison to the privation and suffering of Civil War soldiers.  But I thought of their struggle as I did work in the undergrowth behind my tool barn last night.  It’s a constant battle keeping the ugly weeds and vine growth down.  I can mow some of it, but there are still small stumps that would dull the mower blade and I hack at them with my father’s axe.

My Wilderness

I could just let the undergrowth take over, but I love the lilac bushes that grow in the same space.  So I’ve resolved to fight it out with my mower and my axe.  I’ll do that all summer if that’s what it takes, God willing.

As I worked into the darkness, I thought about stories I wanted to write.  I thought about my gardens, and I thought through stories about gardens.  The two things are similar in that they are complex and multi-layered.  Gardens are full of roots and weeds.  You can’t just throw a small seedling or seed in the ground and expect it to suddenly sprout whole and complete from the ground.  It’s not Amazon, you know?

There is a current tendency to think there is a “lifestyle hack” for everything.  What?  You’re not acquainted with “lifestyle hacks?”  Wikipedia defines them as “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.”

In the garden, a “hack” might be to dump Monsanto’s Roundup on undesirable weeds.  If you put “Roundup” in a search engine, the first page will include information about cancer caused by the herbicide.  I’m sure Roundup seemed like a good idea at the time.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe the mower and the axe are better.

You can apply the “hack” metaphor to just about anything.  Feel free to do your own application.  Just remember the Roundup and some hacks are worse than others.

Here are some tulips from my “surprise garden” on the corner of Summer and Maple Streets here in town.  I’m still a member in good standing of the Green Thumb Gang and that’s been my spot since 2001.  It’s doing well and I’m thankful Wesley Walton and the Parks & Recreation crew mulch it for me.

Not Hacks

Thumbs up for Lisbon!

Posted in Garden Chic, Home | Tagged , , ,

The Existential Light

It’s been two weeks since I last blogged.  I want my faithful blog readers to know that although I’m not posting regularly, I am always writing stories in my head.  For instance, I’ve considered a piece called “My Father’s Axe.”

“My Father’s Axe” came to me one evening after the blessed time change.  Determined to get a jump start on the chores that multiply exponentially in May, I was working in the backyard.  I was hacking away at brush with various gardening implements including (wait for it) my father’s axe.  It had “been a day” as they say in the common parlance.  I realized I didn’t know much about using an axe and it irritated me.

You know, of course, that you don’t split wood with an axe, right?  You use a wedge and a maul.

Nevertheless, the axe worked well on the thorny roots and I took out the day’s frustrations on the ground behind the barn.  I was a bit like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, still breathing out threats against the day’s dilemmas.

And because this is a beautiful digital space, I try not to verbalize such existential moments of desperation.  Or I tone them down in a soft, flowery and perfumed ladylike light.  I might text a friend with a delicate “I broke a few dishes in the basement today.  Everything’s ok, though.”

I camouflage such things as sadness and loneliness with the swirling cloud of busy dust I leave behind when I step on the gas in my beloved Jeep.  Yeah, it has a 5.7 liter V-8 Hemi.  That’s probably a different blog story, though.

This particular evening, I hacked away at the ground while ruminating on all these things.  And I did cry out to God.

I hate doing that.  Not because I don’t believe in God’s bigness, but because crying out suggests that I’ve not been consistent in regular conversations, thus precipitating a need to shout to my heavenly father.

Nevertheless, I did cry out.  “SHOW ME A SIGN THAT I’M GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.  SOMETHING.  ANYTHING.”

Nothing happened.  At least not immediately.  I kept striking at the thorny roots in a very ugly fashion.

Then from my peripheral vision, I sensed a light in the dark gully behind my house.

The Existential Light

What the hell?

It was too dark to go down into the gully safely.  Was it a bomb?  Something left by a gang of teenagers to mark a stash of drugs?  My mind was working overtime to solve the mystery.  Then it came to me.

It was the solar light I had ditched last summer!  It had stopped working while in its upright position next to my flowers, but it had survived and was illuminating the darkness again.

I’ve thought about this “sign” many times in the last few weeks.  Sometimes when I’m out in the garden in the evening, I peek over the banking to see if the light is still there and I’m pleasantly surprised to see it shining.

Insert an entire book of Psalm-like thanks to God here.

68 days until the Moxie Festival…God help us all!

Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged

I Have Considered That

The other day, I found a beautiful decorative “tablet” someone had given me many years ago.  What is a beautiful decorative tablet?  I don’t know.  I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it.

Easter 2019

It’s approximately 7 by 10 inches and quite lovely.

When I received it, I didn’t know what to do with it.  I scribbled this on the inside cover:

“John Boy Walton was exceedingly grateful when his father gave him a package of writing tablets for Christmas.  Remember?  In the ‘Homecoming.’  Perhaps I am ungrateful.  I have considered that.”

Today is Easter Sunday, 2019.  I will go to church with my parents and then we’ll have dinner at J.R. Maxwell’s in Bath.  We’ll come back to my house and have some coffee and dessert.

I have my outfit planned out.  I wonder if it would be obnoxious to wear a hat?  I have a nice neutral number I could pull out, although I’ve been saving it for a Kentucky Derby party.  It will look obnoxious at that gathering as well.  After all, this is Maine, not Myopia.

It will be a last-minute decision, pending hair and weather.

Perhaps I am ungrateful for this abundance of riches I contemplate this overcast and drizzly Easter Sunday.

I have considered that.

Posted in Today We Rest | Tagged , ,

A Palm Sunday Rumination

I first thought of calling today’s post “Symbols of Strength” because I’ve been reading about the D-Day Invasion, or Operation Overlord.  I would like to better understand the logistical details of this giant military operation.  How did it go from an idea to the largest seaborne invasion in history?  How did all 320,000 Allied boots hit the ground?  It’s mind-boggling to me.  These are the things I think about as I drift off to sleep with my glasses on.

Spring here in Maine has been slow to start.  There were some promising early April days; everyone pulled out their rakes and started cleaning up the leaves covered by last November’s early snow.  But then it got cold again and …it snowed again.  Snow on April 8.  Can you believe it?  We had to cancel the Moxie Festival committee meeting scheduled for that evening.

My mother, who celebrated her 81st birthday last Sunday, texted me a few days after the storm to let me know she found “one yellow crocus” peeping through the leaves and snow at her house.

Snow or no, I’ve recommitted myself to my Green Thumb Garden.  I’ve blogged extensively about the garden spot I created in 2001, but I did not share anything about it last summer.  That’s because the town did some paving on my special corner of Lisbon Falls and my garden took a hit.  It was not a complete loss; in fact, it was not a loss at all.  It was a change.

But when I first saw it last summer, it grieved my heart.  I thought about the hours of work and unquantifiable amounts of heart love and hometown pride I had put into that spot.  The paving made me sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t drive by the corner and I couldn’t tend to my garden.  I e-mailed Cherie at the Parks & Recreation Department.  Maybe I was a little “butt hurt.”  (Butt hurt:  an excessive or unjustifiable feeling of personal offense or resentment.)  Cherie felt bad and she said she would look into it.

Mark Stevens, the Parks & Recreation Director, assigned one of his staff to fix it up.  But I didn’t know about this because in my offended state, I avoided my beloved corner.  Instead of resurrecting my garden spot, I spent last summer stomping around my home gardens; I didn’t tell anyone about the troubles at the “Surprise Garden.”  In my mind, it felt like there was darkness all around that corner.  Most people in town probably didn’t even notice any changes in “Julie Baumer’s Garden on the corner of Summer and Maple.”

You know, it’s really not easy to move back to your home town.  When you only come home on weekends to plant flowers, you can be butt hurt from a distance and no one knows.  But when you live in the place where you grew up, after a 25 year hiatus, it’s damn complicated.  Then add the complexity of coordinating the town’s showcase event and you might say it ain’t easy being the Duchess of Moxie.

And because of Moxie, I steeled my nerves and decided to take the corner back.  I went to the April 2 Green Thumb Garden meeting and said I’d take care of the spot.  I met some new gardening neighbors.

During the promising early April days I mentioned earlier, I cleaned up my corner.  It was hard to face it; it seemed so big and barren.

Julie Baumer Garden

I’m not sure what perennials will come back and what things got plowed over.  But I like all the mulch and when look at it from every angle, I think there is promise in that spot.  It needs me as much now as it ever did.  It’s time to recreate some of the beauty that is missing.

And it’s a great corner for promoting the Moxie Festival.  Speaking of which, I just got some quotes for the portable toilets we rent.  As one might say, “the shit’s starting to get real.”  No pun intended.

As I sit here this Palm Sunday morning, I look out and see the river through the trees.  It’s overcast and the weather guessers are predicting rain later today.  Maine moves incrementally into spring.  I’d better get out there and stomp around a bit before the weather changes.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , , ,