Monday, March 15, 2010

Maine - March 15, 1820

Kezar Lake - Lovell, Maine

When I was growing up in Catonsville, Maryland Maine seemed like a very exotic place to me. It was pretty far away and nestled way up in the northeast there on its own. It was a place I knew my family would never go on vacation. I was well into my thirties before I finally got "down east". James and I drove up there the summer after we moved to Massachusetts and dropped in on one of James' former professors from UMBC, John Starr, who now runs The Bayview Gallery in Brunswick along with his wife Susan Robertson-Starr. I believe he is the professor I mentioned in my Ohio post who encouraged James to pursue graduate studies. Our next foray into The Pine Tree State was about two years later when a friend invited us to spend a weekend at his sister's cabin on the New Hampshire/Maine border. This was particularly exciting for us because we got to see Kezar lake, named for the late, great Ebenezar Kezar (really!), an ancestor of James (whose middle name is also Kezar). Maine is also where the first Bohanan landed when he arrived in America from Scotland in the 18th century. You can read a bit more about the family roots on James' county map page of Maine.

I don't remember when James and I first watched The Spitfire Grill, but much of the movie stayed with me, not just the story, but the beautiful images of New England as well, which is why I decided to watch it again for this project.

Percy Talbott (played by Alison Elliot) is a young, recently-released inmate from a Maine Correctional Facility. While in jail she worked for the Maine tourism bureau and decides that Gilead, Maine is the place  to make a fresh start. She takes a job at the Spitfire Grill, owned and operated by a rather gruff Hannah Ferguson (Ellen Burstyn) and soon discovers that newcomers, especially ex-cons are not welcome in this small town. Ferguson has been trying to sell the diner for 10 years and with the help of her niece, Shelby; and Percy decides to run an essay contest and give the diner to the best entrant. Watching the movie I assumed that Gilead was not a real town, given the not-especially-positive way most of the characters are portayed, so I was surprised to find out that it is. Ultimately, though, this is a movie about redemption. I do notice that the Gilead Historical Society does not mention this movie at all on its blog. For my Unitarian Universalist readers this is the perfect movie for discussion the First Principle - the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Although the story takes place in Gilead, Maine, the movie was actually filmed in Vermont.

Last year I wrote a blog called My Year of Reading Year of Books, in which I wrote about memoirs that took place over a one-year period. There were many that I did not get to include last year, and one I didn't even know about then was Bernd Heinrich's A Year in the Maine Woods. Heinrich is a zoologist, runner, and artist who appreciates each season as it comes. Heinrich's descriptions of snowstorms are as awe inspiring as his description of burying beetles covering a dead mouse. Scattered throughout the book are some of Heinrich's sketches of plants and animals.  A not-so-secret desire of mine is to someday become a hermit, Heinrich makes this idea ever more appealing to me through this narrative. He does mention on several occasions wishing to have someone to share his cabin with though, and missing his children (one of whom is away at college, and the other lives with his mother). I must admit that I would need to have a co-hermit if I were ever to undertake such a lifestyle. I have suggested to James and Paloma that we sell everything and go live in a cabin in upstate New York, but so far they have not taken me up on it.  I think my favorite part of this book came very near the last page when Heinrich describes a taste-test he performed on white perch, yellow perch and sunfish after hearing from the locals that the yellow fish and sunfish were "trash". He discovers that they all taste the same. I think a lot about peoples' desire to have "only the best" and wonder how often what is considered "the best" is simply a matter of lore. It is certainly easier to just go along with what everyone else says, than to actually research something yourself.

It seemed we had no choice but to have lobster this evening. I was not in a mood to prepare them myself though. We took the easy way out and had lobster bisque from Costco. I have no idea if the lobster even came from Maine, but the soup was quite rich and creamy. Beyond heating it up, my only contribution was a bit of sherry. It is the perfect day for hot soup, though. The rain is falling heavily here in Massachusetts and the wind is whipping. It felt cozy to be inside with a nice warm bisque.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! The most amazing thing about dropping in on Dr. Starr was that I had gone a dozen years without seeing him, and he greeted me by name as soon as I walked through the door -- completely out of context. He was always an impressive teacher -- I wish I could remember my students' names so well WHILE they are in my classes.

    When we next go to Maine, we need to visit the poet Audrey Bohanan ( She was e-troduced to me by a mutual friend, and we were able to determine that we are something like sixth cousins.

    I loved the lobster bisque - especially with the sherry - but I must confess that I wish I did not know the likely source. Any lobster meat on the market that is not a whole lobster is very likely tropical lobster, which is harvested by means that are not nearly as pleasant as the result is flavorful.

    Like Pam, I remembered the Spitfire movie for its overall impression, but I did not remember the story well at all. So it was like seeing it anew last week. I was so moved by it that I have finally added a movie page to my geography of coffee web pages. (Coffee shops count!)

    Thanks for an exemplary post!