Archive for November, 2008

A feast for the eyes.

Saturday, November 29th, 2008


NOVEMBER 27, 2008

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and after all the cold, windy, rainy weather we’ve had recently, it’s a mild, partly sunny day. Later today I’m planning to cook a turkey breast with an apple/leek stuffing, roasted asparagus, and a mango/cranberry relish (recipes courtesy of the Food Network website). In the meantime, I want to take my new Lensbaby out for a spin. It’s a selective focus lens — great for artistic effects — and it just arrived yesterday. Purchasing it was my guilty pleasure when I attended the PhotoExpo in New York last month.

My plan was to find a diner or coffee shop where someone might be eating a meal alone — I was hoping for something moody and melancholy. Unlike my former home in New Jersey, though, where lots of little places stay open on the holiday — not just the fancy restaurants — I couldn’t find anything in the area that fit the bill. Not even Dunkin Donuts was open.  What caught my eye as I drove along was a house in Ocean Park whose yard was filled with Christmas decorations — not in the least melancholy. Assembling one of the figurines was Vangie Wells, who told me she has put up this huge display for three years now. She has been setting up the pieces for a few hours each day for the past month — “one month and two days, to be exact,” she says. It has gotten a little bigger each year, and she’s learned the hard way how to keep the figures secure in place. “The first year our six-foot Santa went rolling down the road at two in the morning when a big wind storm came through,” she chuckles.

What I got a kick out of, besides the gaudy display, was seeing Vangie’s son Vernon, 6. What was he playing with as he kept her company? Every kid’s favorite toy, of course — the box the decorations were stored in. Watching him took me back to my own childhood. The best days on our block were when some family had a new washing machine, or better yet a refrigerator, delivered. There on the curb would be a big, discarded, cardboard box. It was always a challenge to see who would snatch it up first: my friends Janey and Anne and me, or my brother and his friends Jimmy and Gerry. Oh, the hours we’d spend playing in a box like that — one of us on the inside being rolled around Anne’s lawn by the other two, or turning it into a little house where we’d sit and talk or listen to a transistor radio and eat snacks.

I wound up using my regular wide angle lens to shoot the picture in the difficult, backlit scene. I’ll play with the Lensbaby another day. 

Roadside attraction.

Saturday, November 29th, 2008


OCTOBER 8, 2008

I have no assignments this week, and I’ve had my fill of sitting in front of the computer screen, trying to catch up on routine tasks. So I’m taking advantage of this picture-perfect autumn day to go out and take some photos for the fun of it. I’ve decided to scope out Biddeford Pool. Even though I’ve lived in Maine for two years now, I’ve never been there, and it’s just a couple of towns away.

When I used to come here on vacation, I would see signs pointing toward Biddeford Pool as I would drive up Route 9 out of Kennebunkport. I thought they referred to a municipal swimming pool in the town of Biddeford. It wasn’t until I moved here that I got clued in. Biddeford Pool is a large tidal pool, as well as the name of the community around it, located on the coast, near the mouth of the Saco River.

I found out from a search on Wikipedia that Biddeford Pool is the site of Maine’s first recorded permanent settlement, which was called Winter Harbor. In the winter of 1616-1617 (wow! that predates the Pilgrims in Plymouth), Richard Vines, a physician, resided there as part of the colonization efforts of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Lord Proprietor of Maine. An early village developed on the north side. In 1708, Fort Mary was built near the pool’s entrance. I wish I had someone along with me who could point out where that was.  I don’t see any historical marker for it as I enter the village. The views of the coastline are spectacular, but what I find myself taking pictures of is an old Coca Cola sign on the side of a shed. The textures and muted colors from its age are irresistible.

Birds do it; Bees do it.

Saturday, November 29th, 2008


JULY 24, 2008

I had to call my friend Eric Hynes, the staff naturalist at Maine Audubon, to find out what kind of insects I found doing “the wild thing” on my wild rose bushes. I learned they are Japanese beetles, an invasive species in the U.S. While they’re not very destructive in Japan, here they can be a serious pest to rose bushes, grapes, crape myrtles, and other shrubs. These beetles damage plants by eating the surface material, leaving the veins in place, producing a transparent leaf effect. I should, I suppose, try to eliminate them from my yard, but I’m transfixed by their iridescent beauty, and I feel a kinship with them, for I, too, am “from away” — that’s a Mainer’s designation for anyone who wasn’t born in the state. So for now, I’ll leave them to pursue their mating ritual and to feast on the greenery.