Monday, September 22, 2014

dispatch from northern maine

Last week, in a fit of wanderlust and inspiration and a bit of anxiety from just thinking about winter (when New England gets very inhospitable in a way this Pacific Northwesterner is still not used to) I packed up my car and headed six hours north to Mount Desert Island, Maine for a few days of camping and exploring. Unfortunately Mike was in the middle of a few lab experiments at work and couldn't join but I felt strongly about getting one last outdoor adventure in before summer was over, even if I had to do it alone.

Mount Desert Island is mostly famous for the vacation town of Bar Harbor, but is also home to Acadia National Park and a few beautiful little fishing towns. I found a campground that overlooked Somes Sound and set up my tent on a little platform right near the water. The ground was so soft, covered in a bed of pine needles and moss warmed by the sun, and the breeze was an intoxicating blend of salt air and pine… it was heavenly and right away I was so happy that I decided to make the trip.

Because I got there on a Wednesday afternoon in the off season, the campground was only about 20%  full and there were a lot of empty sites and it was very quiet. When traveling alone I always try to "borrow a family" by setting up camp somewhat near a family or group… as a solo female it can be tempting to sort of hide yourself away in order fly under the radar of anyone who may want to pester you, but it's actually better to be very visible in everything you do. Nobody minds a quiet solo neighbor, plus parents are parents no matter where you go and there is almost always a mom happy to make sure you feel safe regardless of whether she actually knows you ;) I still had plenty of privacy and space.

When the camp office opened I bought some firewood, asked for a recommendation for dinner and was sent on my way with a map down to Bass Harbor, on the Southwest corner of the island, where I got a lobster roll as big as my face and a slice of raspberry pie on the side from Thurston's Lobster Pound. While I was waiting I roamed around the idyllic working harbor taking photos of lobster boats unloading their last catch, old boats in various state of faded beauty and lobster buoys! So many lobster buoys.

I wish I had gotten a photo of my lobster roll. It was intense.

Due to the spur of the moment nature of this trip I didn't do a ton of planning or researching, but I chatted with the kitchen staff at Thurston's while they were tossing lobsters and shellfish into the boilers outside and got some good tips on what to see (Side note: always, always ask locals or other travelers where they'd go if they were visiting. It can change your life.) I made my way to the other side of the harbor to see Bass Harbor Light, where there's a pathway that leads down to a clearing below the lighthouse, and jagged rocks to scramble over to get right down at wave level.

I got there just in time to perch on a rock a few feet above the waves and watch an intensely vibrant sunset behind the lighthouse, and then watch the waves crash and swirl through little canyons in the dimming twilight. While most of New England's coast is sandy shore, the coast of northern Maine has a lot of exposed bedrock which looks similar to the Washington coast, where I grew up.

Back at my campsite I sketched and wrote for a while. And then the best part of camping...

I've been trying to teach myself the ins and outs of star photography and am (clearly) still learning, but these do an okay job of showing just how amazing the night sky looked from the edge of Somes Sound. With no light pollution the Milky Way was a bright streak of stars across the entire sky and there almost seemed to be more stars than blackness. It was incredible! Sadly, I didn't have a remote shutter release with me so most of my photos are a bit blurry from manually holding down the shutter for 60-80 seconds in the very cold air, but it was still fun to get to practice on such a beautiful cloudless sky. Crashing waves and billions of stars have a lovely way of making one feel tiny and infinite at the same time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

sunset over newport harbor

"Sunset Over Newport Harbor" is a brand new 30"x40" painting I finished last week. 

I took this photograph of Newport Harbor Light on Goat Island last year on our ferry ride back from Block Island, after hurting my back and having to scrap our plans of sailing Mike's boat home. At the time I was so disappointed that we didn't sail back, but entering the harbor right at sunset on the ferry (versus after dark in the sailboat) allowed me to get this perfect photograph. Large paintings like this require an immense amount of paper material to create all their layers, so for about three months I've been setting aside material for this one - a 1970's nautical map of Narragansett Bay, fish encyclopedias, letters to and from Newport, marine newspapers and some perfectly patina'ed book pages - and it all came together pretty perfectly. It's available in my shop and is on display at the SoWa Market every Sunday if you'd like to come give it a look in person.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

30x30 project, a year later

Happy September! Around this time last year I was finishing up my 30x30 Project in my old South Boston studio… I challenged myself to create 30 small, intricately layered paintings in 30 days. Here are all 30 lined up to be titled and signed before getting matted. 

Day 11, above, was created towards the end of August when the days were still hot but the nights began getting cooler and longer and I wrote this poem about the wistfulness and wilds of a summer's end… it seems perfectly fitting to share today after a weekend that gave me both a slight sunburn and a campfire scented sweater.

This project was demanding and challenging in a good way and helped me work on budgeting time and deadlines (a sorely needed skill in my life and business) and ended up looking pretty cool all together. All but three of the original paintings have sold and I've made a select few available as paper prints. I'm getting the urge to start another big personal project but am not sure exactly what to do… a little book/published sketchbook? Maybe some sort of wearable art? Suggestions are welcome!

Monday, September 1, 2014

late august sail

Sometime last week I was writing the date on a customs form and it hit me… somehow it is already the end of August! Um, how did that happen? Determined to soak up the last few bits of summer Mike and I rode down to Jamestown, Rhode Island on Friday for a quick day and night on his sailboat. We sailed under the Pell Bridge and up Narraggansett Bay to Potter Cove, our favorite little spot to anchor overnight. 

Mike's boat is 26 feet and can fit about eight people sailing and sleep up to five (or six when we have an adventurous friend willing to rig a hammock up to the mast) but this time it was just us. After securing the boat to a mooring we stretched our legs, shared a few beers and cooked up dinner on the boat grill as the sun set. 

We were treated to a really incredible sunset… the sky was a vibrant purple, and a beautiful pink glow surrounded us while we made dinner, with a nice slice of moon rising over the water and even a few shooting stars thanks to the lack of light pollution. We sailed back the next morning, met up with Mike's family for some food and kayaking and then made our way back to Boston that night. This trip got me thinking about all the other things I want to do before the days get shorter and the nights get colder… collecting driftwood on Plum Island, wandering up the Maine coast for a few days, wandering around Boston, river kayaking... I just found out that there is camping on the tip of Cape Cod, so maybe we can even squeeze that in? So much left to do :)