A thing of beauty is a joy forever. . .

Thank you for that poem, John Keats, who died young and left us beauty. I sat last night for an hour or more in front of the camp fire I built. By the magic of internet connections on cell phones, I listened to a song entitled Starry, Starry Night, about Vincent Van Gogh whose death was equally tragic as Keats, but unlike Keats, resulted from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the heart. It took Van Gogh two days to die from his wounds. His brother died 6 months after. When I told my mom the fact of Van Gogh’s death she asked me why he shot himself. I said he was too sad. The thing that struck me was that he shot himself in the heart. Not the head, the heart – like he wanted to blow the pain out of his chest.

I’m sitting in a motel in Bangor. My mom is typing away on her laptop, and I do the same on mine. Today was a long and tiring day of repairs; and unfortunately the repair epic continues tomorrow. The pooper is repaired, to be tested using clean water tomorrow. The tire however, is another story and a relatively new one, with its inception in Massachusetts (I think). This morning, we drove from Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park lies in all its splendor, to Holden, Maine to the RV repair place. On our way we picked up a rental car, and also dropped Jackson off at a doggy day care and boarding facility. While driving to the RV repair place, a man passed us in a pick up truck and indicated that we had a flat. We pulled over and saw no flat; but when we arrived at the RV repair place and took a closer look we saw, much to our dismay, that a 2 inch strip of the rear passenger side tire was worn down to the metal. I had a feeling that the tire was damaged, because on a dark night on our way to Maine, we pulled into a lovely state park in Massachusetts, and on the road in I knocked the side of the tire into a boulder. I hoped that it would be ok, but knew in my heart of hearts I had probably caused damage. So, we then drove around to a few tire places to ask if they could replace the tires and figure out the source of the problem. I thought I had one, but when they saw my 1977 GMC, they balked and told me honestly that I should take it to another place. By way of a lovely man named Craig I found Bangor Auto & Truck Center, which deals with all kinds of big rigs and heavy vehicles. Tonight my GMC, named “Fiona,” is resting her tired tires in the large bays in a Bangor truck repair place; and I pray to Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, that she will be duly (and inexpensively) repaired tomorrow so we can continue our travels not too much lighter in the purse.

Let me tell you about Maine….or, more to the point, about Acadia National Park. If you go to Acadia, and please, you must go to Acadia, take a loop road tour. There is a road that loops its way around much of Acadia, though not all of Acadia; and you can see the sweeping ocean vistas, from the pink, grey, white and brown granite shores, the thick and fragile looking pine forests that rest on moss and pine needle softened woodland floors, and climb by road to the tallest peak on the Eastern seaboard, called Cadillac Mountain, after the man whose name gained so much recognition that a car manufacturer named a car after him – but the mountain was named for the man before the car was. You can take the tour in your car, by stopping in the visitor center and picking up a CD, or a tape as we did. You can also pay to take a tour either on a bus or a trolley. The trolley looked fun, and the windows much better to take in the view. My mom and I spent our last day at Jordan Pond, where there is a restaurant that makes rather famous popovers which deserve all the fame they have. The lobster bisque is quite deliciously decadent as well. The walk around the pond is about 3 – 4 miles and beautiful. We didn’t walk the whole way, but some parts of it. You can also take a horse drawn carriage ride along the gravel carriage roads that Rockefeller, in all his altruistic foresight created to preserve some car-free areas. While in Acadia I went kayaking and saw seals and bald eagles. I also took some hikes, and spent time in Bar Harbor, the town where you can get all kinds of touristy gifts. We stayed at a wonderful campground called Bar Harbor Campground, which had plenty of trees, nice amenities, and wild blueberry bushes where you can pick blueberries to your heart’s content.

I took in beauty all along the way. I soaked it in through my skin and hair and eyes and bones. The delicate flowers that attach themselves to granite, and kiss the air with their soft pink petals; the indifferent gaze of a hungry, full-breasted seagull; the mystery of pine and ash and other trees I now wish I knew how to identify, one all pallid pulpy skin marked by harsh jutting brown, another whose branches vein out into ever smaller reaches and look covered by a layer of pale green moss; the call of birds who move too fast to see, so I learn to look for their shadows, and they call to me and remind me of how it feels to be in the early uncertain stages of love, all anxious excitement for the next glimpse of your lover, always breathless and crazed.

Every time I encounter some form of hardship, every time I spend money on something I didn’t anticipate, I ask myself, “why am I doing this.” I imagine the answer to that question will remain a moving target, just as the sun gleaming off of the ocean as it met Sand Beach glimmered and jumped and seemed everywhere at once and impossible to hold onto. For now, I will say the reason is beauty. My soul has been hurt by work. Yes, I may sound dramatic. Yes, I am probably dramatic. But I tell you that working every day, day in day out, at things that I do not love has hurt my soul. It has hurt my body. I have been tired for so long, exhausted and dragging myself through the day, to get to work, to get home, to get to bed….like an aging bone-sack on its way to the grave one day at a time over a lifetime of days. Beauty is my medicine. Keats knew that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Van Gogh knew that too much sadness makes a body die, either all at once or over a lifetime. Tonight, sitting in my subpar motel room, I know that no broken tire can take away me, scrambling over granite, to get just that much closer to the water’s edge. No schedule can keep me from removing my shoes so I can sink my toes, and the soles of my feet into the sand, and then soak them in the cold dark blue abyss of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine. Beauty is why I am on the road. Beauty is the medicine I need to feel strong and whole again. Beauty and more beauty. I want to drink deep of the wild natural beauty in the call of a woodland thrush, in the shadow of a dark pine, along the shores of granite and in the salty winds that blow across the Atlantic; and when I am sated, then maybe I’ll know more about why and what next and how. Until then, beauty is why, and what and how and when.

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Wild blueberries

Jackson and I were picking wild blueberries this morning. In case you don’t know this, my dog’s name is Jackson. It takes a long time to pick wild blueberries, if you want a pint. If you want enough for a pie, well, you could be at it a good long while. Jackson and I gathered enough for a pint or a little less. I’m sitting in the “T.V. Room” at the campground on Mount Desert Island as I write this. The t.v. Room isn’t much – a T.V., as promised, a bench that once sat outside in a park, a table and two chairs. The T.V. Room is also where you sit to get an internet connection, if it’s a sunny day. If it’s overcast, as it is now, you might get a connection and you might not. Cell coverage is as spotty as the clouds are changeable here on the water. This is partly my excuse for taking so long to update this page. The real excuse is that I haven’t wanted to write, because I wanted to have happier things to say. When I say “happier” I mean the kind of happy you see in a movie, I mean the kind of happy you imagine diffuses a person in love. I didn’t want to write about the big fight my mom and I had; or the fact that I made a big mistake pulling out of a gravel driveway and cracked the “black water tank.” The black water tank holds the poop and pee, so you can imagine how much fun that moment was. I was so excited too, just before I cracked the shitter. We were getting in the RV and ready to move. We were going to Jonesport, which is a city north of Bar Harbor, and near the farm we stayed on. I unplugged the RV, walked around and did my outside check, so proud that I remembered to do an outside check, jumped in, started her up and then slowly inched my way out of the drive. It was hard, she didn’t want to go, so I gave her some more juice, thinking that was the solution, and we slogged our way out of the drive. I looked behind me, and saw the gravel I had dragged onto the road, and the tell tale damp trail that looked like water but on closer inspection was definitely not water. It stank just as you can imagine; and comprehension dawned. “Oh god,” I thought, “what am I going to do?” Immediately after that thought was a flash of frustration and shame, because I had just done exactly the thing that I had lectured my mom NOT to do.

And I was supposed to update my blog?! Are you kidding? What am I supposed to write? That I want to turn around and go back home? That I thought about what an enormously expensive mistake I had made? That I wanted to blame my mom for my own mistake, or throw myself on the ground (away from the poo) and cry and scream? That I wanted someone else to take care of this mess I made?

So, back to picking blueberries this morning. I kept picking and picking them, and wondering when I would have enough. Why it was taking so long, and where was my dog (when he wandered off a bit)? And it occurred to me that life is full of this kind of moment. Life is not like a movie. Life is full of mundane moments, one after the other, that occasionally break out into surprising bliss, and recede back into mundane. It occurred to me that I, who have not had a T.V. in about three years, have been brainwashed by images from T.V. and movies. In anticipation of this trip I built in both my conscious mind and not so conscious mind what this trip would be like. And it did not involve cracked black water tanks or big fights with my mom. The vision instead revolved around butterfly-light moments of happiness, wild joy and freedom, visions of me standing on the edge of some precipice and glowing with exultation. In other words, movie-like montages that have nothing to do with reality. How much of my life is glowing anticipation followed by stabbing disappointment and then my mind making the disappointment into a defeat that proves how wrong I was to hope? I write that and think, how awful! I can’t post that. But, I think I will. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. I just think it’s time to rework this pattern. I don’t want to deny myself the joy of anticipation. But, I also want to give myself the enjoyment of the moment, no matter what the moment. And, when enjoyment isn’t really appropriate (like the moment of cracking the black water tank), then at least to temper the disappointment so I don’t follow my mind down the rabbit hole of defeat. That’s what I got out of picking blueberries this morning. Next post will be more about the island itself. Maine is beautiful. You should see it sometime.