It’s April 12 and we still have patches of snow on the ground, but the heavy downpour taking place right now should finally eliminate it. The crocuses are up at last and the tulips are pushing their way through. The long New England winter has been hard on everyone, so it’s good to see some tangible signs of spring. Having just returned from a week in New York City, where daffodils were in full bloom and the stores were full of summer clothes, warm weather can’t come soon enough for me. After the cacophony of the city, it always takes me a few days to readjust to life on my quiet Maine island. It’s like going from a double espresso to chamomile tea.
It’s not quite time for beach reads yet, at least not here in chilly New England where there’s still snow on the ground. But if you want a great book to read now, or something to stash away for vacation, consider a book of essays called Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart available on amazon.com or from any bookstore. The book contains 28 essays (full disclosure: one of them is mine) that will warm your heart, make you laugh, make you cringe, and most of all, make you think. Although I spend my days immersed in words, I was still amazed at the depth and breadth of my colleagues’ writing. I think you’ll like the book, and it makes a great Mother’s (or Father’s) Day gift, hostess present, or selection for your book club. Happy reading!
It’s bitterly cold here today, but the day is clear and the sky and the ocean are the same crystalline blue. Downy white clouds mimic the breaking whitecaps below and from my office window I see an eagle soaring and white gulls swooping overhead. Descriptions are often one of the hardest concepts for writers to master, and those of us who teach writing are always urging students to “show, don’t tell.” I’m reminded of a favorite quote from Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Despite the ongoing frigid weather here in New England, it’s not too soon to make plans for summer vacation. My new book, Backroads & Byways of New England, is now available for pre-order from Amazon and will be in bookstores later this spring. You’ll find plenty of insider tips for traveling to the less-well-known corners of the six-state area. I’ll be writing about some of these places in future blogs, but meanwhile, continue to think spring–not just on the calendar, but outside as well!
It may be gray and cloudy, with more snow forecast for this evening, but the birds know that spring really is here. From my office window I’ve watched an industrious crow flying back and forth most of the day with small twigs in her beak, obviously making a nest in the old oak tree. And when I walk in the early morning, the bird chatter gets louder every day. On our little island we have an amazing number of birds, including pileated woodpeckers, warblers, and lots of cardinals and jays to add color to the birdfeeders. Bird lovers may want to take in some upcoming events in Maine:
May 20-22 Fifth Annual Wings, Waves & Woods Festival in Deer Isle — Info: deerisle.com/calendar-of-events
May 27-30 Eighth Annual DownEast Spring Birding Festival in Cobscook Bay–Info: downeastbirdfest.org
June 2-5 Thirteenth Annual Acadia Birding Festival on Mt. Desert — Info: acadiabirdingfestival.com
It’s the first full day of spring here in Maine and snowing hard as I write this. That’s not unusual here where the weather is known for being, shall we say, whimsical, especially when the seasons are changing. But there are signs of spring: robins are returning, crocuses and snowdrops are poking through the snow, and the first of the seasonal restaurants are opening. Before it changed hands a couple of years ago, our little community store used to boast a sign reading, “If you’re not here in the winter, you don’t deserve to be here in the summer.” That’s harsh! But for those of us who soldier on through Maine’s tough winters, there is a certain pride in having made it through another one. And there’s no doubt that a difficult winter makes spring that much sweeter.
Summer at last! If you’re making vacation plans, here are two places you may want to consider. Over the 4th of July, Bristol Rhode Island will hold a spectacular celebration complete with a 3-hour parade that marches down streets whose center lines are painted with red, white, and blue stripes. This is all in keeping with Bristol’s claim to being “the most patriotic town in America.” I was there in May and even then flags were flying, bunting hung from storefronts, and the town was clearly ramping up for a big celebration. And why not? This year marks the town’s 125th celebration and parade, making it the oldest continuous Indpendence Day celebration in the US. Try the Bristol Harbor Inn (bristolharborinn.com) as a place to stay, and one of my favorite restaurants, Le Central (lecentralbistro.com) for dinner. It’s a great little place that serves fabulous tapas several nights a week, as well as terrific French food. Get all the details on Bristol’s 4th of July wingding at july4thbristolri.com.
If your 4th of July travels will bring you to midcoast Maine, stop in Round Pond for their funky parade and chicken barbecue. This parade has been written up in many national publications for its cheeky floats (expect plenty of political satire) and its “Tacky Tourist” dance team that performs with folding chairs. It’s all in good fun and makes a great family outing.
However you spend your holiday, drive safely, and if you find your own special place to spent the 4th, I hope you’ll share it here on the blog.
I’ve just returned from traveling to research Backroads & Byways of New England and was once again struck by the individual personalities of the six states. There’s certainly something for everyone, from antiques in New Hampshire to historic houses in Rhode Island and the rocky coast and gourmet restaurants of Maine. If you have a favorite New England spot, please share it with us; or, if you’d like to know more about someplace in this area, let me know.
As for that famous New England weather….a few days ago I was gardening in a T-shirt and shorts. This morning I jogged in sweats and a parka, then came back and buried my tomato plants that had succumbed to last night’s cold temperatures. That’s springtime in New England!
Last year I was fortunate to travel from Maine to California by train and write about the experience for several major newspapers. Since then, I’ve had lots of emails from readers who have been inspired to take the same trip. If you’re looking for a great summer vacation, I can highly recommend traveling across the country this way. You can read about my journey here: http://www.ajc.com/news/content/travel/otherdestinations/us_stories/2008/06/19/cross_country_american_train_trip.html
If you do travel by train, please let other blog readers know how you enjoyed your trip.
Stay tuned. Soon we’ll talk about some great New England trips, Quebec City, and for those of you who have asked about the writing life, some tips for breaking into print or on-line publications.
If your summer plans include a visit to New England, here are a couple of places to consider–
Boston, home of the Red Sox, fabulous museums, the oldest public park in the country, and restaurants that have given it an international reputation.
Coastal Maine, with its seaside vistas and scenic fishing villages. Visit here and you’ll see why the state’s motto is “Maine: The Way Life Should Be.”
As we get closer to summer, I’ll write more about Boston, Maine, and interesting places to visit that I’ve been exploring while writing my new book.
Of course, I like to travel elsewhere, too. Next time, I’ll write about some other great vacation spots and I hope you’ll drop by with some favorites of your own.