At long last, it’s almost here. This Thursday, February 13, 2014, I’ll be hurling two and half years of hard work out into the world in the form of my first book. GET BACK STAY BACK looks at the back-to-the-land movement as it unfolds over the course of two generation here in Maine. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but rolling my sleeves up and diving deep into this topic led me to a place where a lot of what’s important to me in life comes together at a critical juncture. Food, farming, wilderness, art, handcraft, and the pursuit of simplicity — specifically how hard it can be to pursue — it’s all in there.
If you’re interested and so moved, we’d love to have you at the launch party on from 7:30-9:00 at the ICA at MECA in downtown Portland. Support independent publishing and all the elbow grease that goes into it, and maybe share this post or shout about it from a mountain top if you enjoy WW&W from time to time. There’s more to come, which you can keep up with here: www.getbackstayback.com.
If you can’t make it down, copies will soon be available for purchase online. Link to come!
There’s such disparity between the seasons here in Maine, it’s like each is entirely divorced from the others. One day you’re walking between man-sized snowbanks on the sidewalk outside your house and then four months later you’re still sweating in shorts and a t-shirt at 11 o’clock at night.
Right now we’re enjoying a long slow fade of a fall. It’s been glorious, the blaze of color across the landscape lasted longer than I ever remember. The weather stayed warm, prolonging that precarious moment at the tipping point between winter and fall. The leaves clung to the trees, steadfast, almost seeming committed to prolonging our enjoyment of my favorite part of the year.
It’s all over now, though, for the most part. The oaks have gone the color of dry, yellow parchment, or crisp chicken skin on a plate of Sunday dinner, and they’re all we have left. The bareness ahead can be beautiful in its own way, the bare bones of trees matching the dark tones of the earth below their limbs, which blend out to the horizon beyond. The blaze orange comes next, as hunters set out to fill freezers, and into storage go shorts and sneakers. Soon we’ll be out on the sidewalk again, hustling along, backs bent and chests hunched against the penetrating cold.
On those days I’ll have to remember this picture; shot by my friend Nathan Gilliss, of my dog Reyes. It was a day so hot — the Fourth of July — that we could all actually enjoy the bone aching water of the bay. We stayed in all day, this guy maintaining a vigilante watch over an ever-increasing cache of sticks for fetching. As soon as he left the water, his not insubstantial tongue was out, and salt formed into white spiked crystals at the tip ends of his black coat.
It’ll be good to remember being that hot, if it’s possible in the dead of winter. That the two experiences, freezing and perspiring, play out in the same environment is a piece of cognitive dissonance that might just be irreconcilable.
I am ecstatic to announce the arrival of one hell of an art book. “You Are (On) an Island” documents the journey of a sculpture created by my friends Alicia Eggert and Mike Fleming. Last fall they flew to England and constructed the piece on the back of a rented truck and drove around doing random, temporary “installations.” Exceptional photos by Mike, copy editing by me!
If you remember a while back I posted a little photographic journey through a residency program I did last summer. I called it a “Mid-Winterlude,” but the program, now in its second year, is actually called Hewn Oaks.
The big news is that TONIGHT is the application deadline for this summer, so get on it it you haven’t! Writers, visual and performing artists, musicians, filmmakers, craftspeople! If you live in Maine at least 50% of the year, are not in school and are 21+, you too could bask in the glory that is a sweet cabin of your own on Kezar Lake for a week.
Website and additional info here: hewnoaks.org/
You should. He’s the best longboarder in the state of Maine, and every time someone mistakes us for brothers I take it as a compliment. Pete Miller, folks! PETE MILLER.
Way too busy lately and WW&W is feeling it. Sorry for the lack of posts, getting back on it soon! Now, for your viewing pleasure, if you’ve ever read any of my stuff about mussel farming, this little ditty will show you what it actually all looks like. Go get some today and support this super sustainable family business and Portland’s working waterfront.
Wool. Wood. Whiskey. I started this blog a little more than five years ago, mostly as an outlet for my writing and as an expression of my interests — on the internet and out in the world beyond. From there it’s taken on a shape of its own design, fanning out along vast, varied and sometimes random corollaries in directions that sometimes even I can’t predict.
Recently I realized that what it’s really about is the search for a different kind of life. One that’s simple and timeless, rich and true: The Good Life. Greater minds than mine have whiled away days in the pursuit of it, seeking the same kinds of things. It’s a tradition of sorts, the idea that it’s possible to cut away all that’s unnecessary and get back-to-basics while soaking up the best things in life.
Time. Fun. Meaning. Adventure. Dirt under your fingernails. Sea salt on your skin. Freedom. Rope swings, fire pits, good hard work, epic meals, winter surfing, road trips, music in the morning, the wind in the trees.
Call it what you want — I’m convinced it’s out there, and this is my search.
Sometimes there are things that you talk about doing forever. They never really get done, maybe because what you really need is a good excuse to get out there and see them through. That’s how we were with booking a yurt out in the mountains of western Maine — obviously a good idea, but it took some sharp spurs to get us out there.
The spikes in our sides ended up being my birthday, always right at the end of March when you really want it to be spring but it usually just isn’t. Mud season. 40 degree days. These things beg for a break from reality.
This trip out to Frost Mountain Yurts was just that: a 24-hour daydream in which we had the wood stove, fire pit, porch and room for the dogs to roam around that we always fantasize about.
That all those things ringed a perfect, beautifully circular home under the trees was almost too much. Just what is it about these tiny structures that’s so neat? They’re like the house version of a Chemex: kind of unnecessary, but just so amazing to behold that you instantly want one.
The whole thing was an amazing surprise. I left the house with no idea of where we were headed, I just knew that I was surrounded by my favorite people and we were in for some fun. That I dressed to match both the color of the yurt itself and the 12-pack we picked up along the way was pure coincidence.
Yes, it was snowy, but with so many relaxation apparati around we kept warm by moving from deck chairs to fire pit to hammock and back again. The place literally has everything you could ever want, minus a peeling point break in the front yard.
Inside, old faithful waited for us, issuing a open invitation to stoke’er up and kick back under the yurt’s skylight. That alone fulfilled my one request for a birthday destination: somewhere with a wood stove.
In situations like this, it’s important to keep your energy up for maximum relaxation. Keeping plenty of chicken liver mousse and fresh, homemade bread on hand is always a good idea, but in this instance it was particularly crucial.
Initially, I was led to believe there would be skateboarding involved in the weekend, hence the worst footwear selection of all time. Apparently I forgot where I was for a minute, lost in some hallucinatory springtime day dream, because I totally forgot to even bring boots. Rookie move.
As the sun went down it was still a little cool out, even with a fire pit at our disposal. It was hard to go in though. Sitting there, white rabbiting as the wind swirled around our gully kingdom (if only for a night) made the evening.
Or was it that this guy was waiting for us inside? Pork. Shoulder. Milk. Lemon. Sage. Braise. For. Real.
We pretty much had to pry these guys out of the woods, but when they finally did come inside they did what all good dogs do: pass out with every ounce of their being, right by the fire.
The sun set. We ate food and filled the stove. Smoke puffed out the chimney and away down the valley, back toward reality. For one night, one birthday, this place was ours — and here’s to many more.
There’s just something so right about a good shed roof. Simple, versatile, great for skiing off of into deep snow and nice to look at, too.
That singular angle, it’s perfect. Cabins, modest homes, whatever — the shed roof has you covered. Then again, as long as something looks even vaguely like a cabin, I’m pretty ok with it.
It’s kind of far from the weekend for this kind of talk, I know — sorry about that, but see, there’s this thing we surfers do when we’re looking at waves but we can’t surf them. It’s called “mind surfing,” and basically just involves putting yourself there, on the face of some amazing wave that’s just out of reach. Henceforth, I’d like to introduce the notion of “mental cabining.” Pretty much the same thing, you just retreat to a cabin of the mind for bit.
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