Monday, May 27, 2013

The Stranger of Gray, Maine

In Gray, Maine, a large town just north of Portland, there is a town cemetery. Amid all the graves marking the founders and farmers and sundry Yankees, lay a Confederate soldier. He died during the second fight at Bull Run, most likely. Along with him in the long-ago battle, historians think, also died a Union soldier from Gray named Lt. Charles H. Colley. Gray sent more men and boys to the Civil War, proportionately, than any other Maine town. Over 200 went to fight, and as happened with Lt. Colley, many did not return alive.

When the Colley family heard the news that their son had fallen, they awaited the coffin containing his body to be sent back home. When it arrived, longing for one last look, they opened it and sadly discovered that it was not their son, but the man who lay inside was dressed in a Confederate uniform. There had been a mix-up.

Even more sorrowful now, the family decided that with the cost the families must bear in transporting the body, and the length of time it takes to travel, they would not send the body back, but instead inter it in the Yankee village's cemetery.

They marked the grave thus: "Stranger. A soldier died in the late war, 1862. Erected by the Ladies of Gray."

The Colley family decided that their son was lying somewhere they knew not, and hoped that a southern mother wold take care of him just as they would do for the southern stranger now a permanent part of the northern town.

Each Memorial Day, the Ladies lay flowers by his grave, along with an American flag. Beginning in 1956, a confederate flag was erected at his grave. "They were sent here by A. MacGregor Ayer of Fairfax, Va., and Mabur Jones of Columbia, S.C. who read about the soldier stranger in a news dispatch last year." Each Memorial Day, the Stranger's grave receives as much careful attention as do the graves of the northern veterans.

The 15th Alabama Regiment Company G re-enactors are stationed in central Maine, and annually they arrive at Gray to perform honors for the fallen soldier at the Gray Memorial Day ceremony.

Jeanne Adams photo
Jeanne Adams photo

Elizabeth Prata photo
Source, screen grab from Summer Paradis video of Stranger
Bangor Daily News, May 3, 1977

I respect those who served. Thank you!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Photos of beautiful maine

This is a snippet of what the place where I am from looks like. One thing I miss about Maine is the ocean, and lighthouses.

Portland Head Lighthouse, at the entrance to Portland Harbor in Maine, has an important history. It was the first lighthouse completed by the United States government, (ordered by George Washington) and is the most visited, painted, and photographed lighthouse in New England. It was commissioned in 1787 and finished in 1789, and first shone by whale oil lamps (16 of them) in 1781.

All up and down the Maine coast you will see many different lighthouses. The rockbound, foggy coast of Maine, with high tides, sudden squalls, and treacherous shoals, makes for ahem- interesting sailing.

When my husband and I lived on our sailboat, we relied on every lighthouse along the eastern seaboard, and the ones in the Bahamas. Each lighthouse has its own stripes or decoration, and in that way each one has its own personality. It was like the lighthouses were personal friends of ours. They are a tremendous aid to navigation!!

The easternmost lighthouse is also in Maine, the West Quoddy Head in Lubec. (There is a story as to why the EASTern most lighthouse is called WEST Quoddy Head, but I can never keep is straight.) Anyway, Portland is 238 miles from Acadia National Park. West Quoddy Light in Lubec Maine is another 104 miles from Acadia. Maine is big.

I lived in Gray Maine from 1990 to 2006. It is 17 miles north of Portland, in the Lakes region. I lived in a lake. My husband and I lived in a 900 foot bungalow originally built in the 1950s for summer campers. That is what they called these rudimentary houses, “camps”. They weren’t winterized, were small, and lined the lakes. Fathers would ‘commute’ to Portland while the rest of the family lived in the camps and the kids played all summer in the water. They were built on 50 foot lots and it was one big summer party back in their heyday of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. As housing prices started to rise, and property taxes increased, many families in the 90s found that they could no longer maintain two homes, and they either sold the camp or winterized it and sold the house in the city. My husband's dad had bought this camp, which he named “Peaceful Waters” and with foresight, also bought three lots, for 150 feet of frontage so we had some elbow room. Not that we could get to the water many months per year, as this photo from winter of 1996 shows

Now you know why I enjoy Georgia winters so much!

This next picture is from the Lubec Maine cemetery. Lubec is the furthest town in Maine along the Atlantic. I used to vacation there every July. It borders New Brunswick Canada. Winters in Maine are fierce. Frost heaves are an annual battle. Frost heaves are defined as “the upthrust and cracking of a ground surface through the freezing and expansion of water underneath. A section of ruptured pavement caused by the expansion of freezing water immediately under the road. When a heave occurs on a grassy section, it heaves up, not caring that there is a historic grave marker on top!

That’s what decades of Maine winters will do to any structure, whether it is a house or an ancient granite grave marker.

The tides up and down the Maine coast are very high. The more north you go the higher the tides. This photo was taken in Cutler Maine. Notice in the photo, at extreme lower left, the masts of a fishing trawler. And then notice the pilings it is tied to. Pretty high, eh? In Cutler, the tidal range is about 16 feet. In Lubec, it is about 20 feet. Note the wet and dry rocks at right. That’s the tide line

Here is a picture of Lubec at low tide. Notice the kids at extreme top right. And the water way out there. The water comes rushing in when the tide changes and the two white rocks in the extreme foreground will be covered by the time it’s done. It is almost like a tsunami when the tide changes. You can hear it and see it. It literally rushes in at you. Notice the bug lighthouse in the harbor.

Here is a representative photo of the scrub pine atop a rocky seaside cliff. This shot is at Lubec looking at New Brunswick Island, Canada. The red object in the middle of the river is a red buoy for ship navigation. The flowers are wild sea roses.

Granite, forbidding coastline! Looks like a dinosaur tooth! Not the fog along the treeline.

What to do with the driftwood that washes up? Why, make a mailbox post out of it, of course!

So that is a taste of Maine! They are forecasting snow for the mountains this Memorial Day Weekend. It is very late even for Maine for this kind of forecast. So I am glad I’m here in GA!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Summer is almost here

Our last day of school with the kids is tomorrow, it is only a half day at that. I can't wait for summer. We have this Memorial Day weekend holiday Monday, and then three days of post-planning. That just means boxing up the classrooms, cleaning, storing stuff, and the like. Then we're out!!

I have a stack of books I bought at a yard sale last weekend. Some legal beagle thrillers, and the Fireside Book of Best Dog Stories, a great book. There are a couple of literature books, too. (Laura Lippmann and Jodi Picoult). I also have some religious books to finish up that I bought last January.

My lecture series on Pneumatology awaits my happy ears, as does trying some new fig recipes (when the figs get ripe- now they are only a microscopic speck in the leaf's eye).

All in all, I am looking forward to a quiet time. Mornings I'll write, and study. Afternoons I'll read and nap. Evenings I'll watch Netflix. I don't plan on going anywhere or doing anything. The only excursions I plan to make are church twice a week, and the Farmer's Market once per week. And the grocery store when I get hungry. That's about it! If you have figured out by now that I enjoy peace and quiet, you basically have figured out my life. And it all begins tomorrow at noon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


One of my kids drew this, we had studied about insects. I think it is a terrific picture. If it is possible for an ant to look tired, this one is it!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The worst ever

From Wikipedia-

"It was a dark and stormy night" is an often-mocked and parodied phrase written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The phrase is considered to represent "the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing," also known as purple prose. The phrase comes from the original opening sentence of Paul Clifford:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

HAR! That's awful!

The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was formed in 1982. The contest, sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst examples of "dark and stormy night"
writing. It challenges entrants to compose "the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels."

Bulwer-Lytton wasn't a total flop. He was quite successful actually, his novel Paul Clifford notwithstanding. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", as well as well-received novels like The Last Days of Pompeii. (source)

Speaking of bad, if a dark and stormy night stands for the worst opening line tot he worst novel, then Plan 9 From Oter Space by Ed Wood stands as the worst movie ever. It is the benchmark for the worst of the worst all other movies are compared against.

Debuting in 1959 and sinking into obscurity almost as quickly, Wikipedia says "For years the film played on television in relative obscurity, until 1980, when authors Michael Medved and Harry Medved dubbed Plan 9 from Outer Space the "worst movie ever made". Wood was posthumously awarded the Medveds' Golden Turkey Award as the worst director ever."

The movie The Great Gatsby based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic book was released this weekend. And like the four other Great Gatsby movies before it, it seems to have flopped. Movie Critic Rex Reed says,

"Is it any wonder, in all the slobber and confusion, that the acting is so bad? With the phoniest set of performances this side of an Ed Wood flick, you might as well be watching Plan 9 From Outer Space."

Ouch! Burn!

Hopefully nothing you do will be deemed the worst ever!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Birds make me laugh"

The cafeteria at school is crowded with first and second graders. It is full, and it is loud. VERY loud. It has to be, with nearly 200 children talking even at a normal level, trays banging, feet shuffling, and forks tinkling.

There is this first grade boy who is quiet. He doesn't speak much, and when he does it is in a soft-spoken voice. He is sensitive and artistic. He has a kind heart and loving eyes.

He raised his hand today and he had something to say. I came over, expecting him to ask me the usual, please open my ketchup packet, or I dropped my fork and I need another. Instead he said,

"I saw birds at my house."
"What kind of birds did you see?"
"I saw a blue jay!" he said happily. "I saw a robin, and a red bird, and crows." He looked very pleased about this.
I said, "The red bird is a cardinal."
"OH! I saw ducks too. We have a pond. And some other birds I forgot."
"Yes, ducks are birds. What do you like about birds?"

"Birds make me laugh."

To be a child and be touched by the simplicity and beauty of birds singing and flying about your yard. What makes you laugh? Is it as simple as birds?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Mushroom town

The sun finally came out. I took some better photos of mushrooms springing up on my lawn.

The rain finally stopped, but left a pool for the mushrooms to swim in

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Soaking rain is nice...for a while

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain,...

AccuWeather says,

"Soaking rain will continue its slow journey across the South through Monday, ruining outdoor plans and heightening concerns for flash flooding. The steadiest rain through tonight will remain centered on areas from Georgia to central Kentucky, neighboring Indiana and central Illinois."

All I know is, the lawn is now mushroom-town!

Large patches of mushrooms are springing up all over the lawn. Not only are they cute, but they look very tasty. I'll resist the urge to pop one in my mouth, of course. My homemade cream of mushroom soup with safe, store-bought mushrooms I'd cooked earlier will be more than enough to satisfy the fungal urge. But they are so cute, aren't they!

Even this chickadee stopped by to grouse about the rain

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Summer Staycation is almost here

Staycation has become a new buzz word since the economy crashed. It means
a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. They might make day trips to
local tourist sites, swimming venues, or engage in fun activities such as horseback riding, paintball, hiking or visiting museums. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual. Some people may include one or two overnight visits at relatives, friends or a longer trip. Staycations achieved popularity in the US during the financial crisis of 2007–2010.
My summers at home from school are my staycation. At this time of year, the annual stress reaches its maximum. All the kids are tired. All the staff are tired. We're tired of the kids. The staff is tired of each other.

As with any close-knit group working many hours alongside each other every day, when you get tired you bruise easier. Little irritants become magnified. Feelings become hurt at the drop of a hat. It doesn't mean we don't love each other, we do. It just means we're tired.

Many teachers I know go away on vacation right away after school ends. The last day for kids is right before Memorial Day and teachers have a couple of days of post-planning after that. Then they flee to the beach. Here in north Georgia, the beach is far away. Beach means Jekyll Island, Myrtle Beach SC or the panhandle of Florida. All these are 4-6 hours' drive.

But as anyone knows, once you drive into the hotel or cottage parking lot and you see the gulls wheeling, smell the tangy air and hear the surf, and see that azure blue beckoning you, it is a balm- and worth the hassle of packing and getting there.

As much as I love the beach, I like staycations better.

I have traveled and I LOVED it. I would not trade anything for the sight of Paris boulevards at night, of the haunting Colosseum, the snow-capped volcanoes of the Andes, the Amazon jungle, Mediterranean fishermen on the blue sea hauling nets, the cold Atlantic under glowing Northern Lights...

But I'm older now, I've been there and done that, and I trade the thrill of new sights for the warm slippers of the familiar.

The familiar and comfortable has its place too. I love napping with my kitties on my big bed by the window. I enjoy making a cool smoothie and sipping it topped with fresh blackberries while strolling the yard. I like reading a book in the sun on the patio under swooping birds. I like going to my home church, and not a different church on vacation.

If I was so inclined, there is plenty to do in this area, not the least of which is a beautiful State Park 3 miles down the road, with a flowing river, trails, a charming covered bridge, and more. The Farmer's Market with live music is one mile away from me every Saturday. There's lots to do in the nearby city of Athens.

Oftentimes we might overlook the nearby because it doesn't seem glamorous. You would be surprised at how many native New Yorkers I talk to who have never visited the Empire State building. Romans who never look at the Colosseum. French who drive by the Eiffel Tower without looking up and never entering the Louvre.

My staycation will arrive soon and I invite it to stay for a while. I'm at the point in life where traveling was good, but staying is better.