Behave the Bravest

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne

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We had a lot of gear, food and other supplies which we needed to fit into the boats. Miraculously, it all fit!

I am newly returned from the last of the Big  Trips that were slated for what has been an amazing summer.  My Hub, along with a few kayaking friends and myself went off grid and out of country last week to paddle a bit in Georgian Bay and to do some exploring and camping in the wilds of Franklin Island. This was to be my own very first ‘Expedition’ in the kayaking world where everything had to be planned and plotted, measured and made-to-fit.  It was a big endeavor for me personally and I felt as if I was ‘hangin’ with the big kids’ as I am somewhat of a reluctant paddler.

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We crossed into Canada where I opted to go offline to avoid the fees that come with staying connected in a foreign country.  And with that unplugging came lots of time to wander around the dusty halls of my own mind, a pleasure I don’t often have the time for in  my busy life.

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After a long but safe and uneventful drive north, we arrived just in time to gulp down some fish and chips and a well deserved beer at Payne’s Marina where the staff took our late arrival not only in stride, but with quintessential Canadian kindness and welcoming.

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We camped at a local provincial park and spent the next day or so readying for our adventure and monitoring the changeable water and skies of this place.

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camp before camp
The day we were to embark for Franklin Island, we had to lay out all of our food to distribute it amongst five boats.
The day before launching displayed terrifying 20-25 mph winds (with reported gusts up to 40mph!!)
The day before launching displayed terrifying 20-25 mph winds (with reported gusts up to 40mph!!)
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Drew this little silhouette of our bear cub siting a couple of days later in my journal. Memory is loose, and so is the drawing.

Soon it was time to load the boats and make the 2.3 mile trek across the water to our first campsite on Franklin Island.IMG_20160829_141537

We arrived safely to Henrietta Point where I learned how to pitch a tent on and with stones, something I had never done before being more of an Appalachian forest creature in my upbringing.

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Even in wind, this system with the stones holding the tent down, seems to work just fine!
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Our little protected harbor at Henrietta Point. A lovely place to land!
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A dry bag Christmas tree!

This place was perfect from many perspectives.  We had ample room for all of us to set up camp and there was an area somewhat out of the wind which allowed us to enjoy cooking together in our stony kitchen.

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And there were the marvelous ‘Thunder Boxes’ (i.e. outdoor loos) which were not only not smelly for an outdoor loo, they put many indoor situations I’ve visited over the years to shame!  I was pleasantly surprised.

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During the day I followed the shady places as much as possible to sketch and explore.

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And in the evenings, we would take our dinner plates to the windy shore and enjoy the sunset views which were stunning.  The company was pretty great as well!

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There was much hiking to do along the shore where we could sit and watch the water, or sketch new friends along the way….

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sketching mr. frog

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10 min pen drawing of a plucky little frog who did not seem afraid of me at all. I placed color on the drawing later, from memory

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so much moss, and so many varieties!!
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I am not certain whether it is algae which causes these red ‘wound’ like spots along the shore, but I found them fascinating and beautiful when I came upon them.

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quick 5 min watercolor sketch of the lads doing a chart study before heading out to paddle. I penned in the lines later. Amazing what you can do in just a few minutes!

While at Henrietta Point, I didn’t get back into my boat, and I might have been happy not to do so until it was time to leave for the mainland again at week’s end.  Much of the time, I watched the others go about their watery business on the waves, secure in my desire to remain on shore.  I am prone to sea sickness and don’t care for the waves they make in these inland seas, all confused and bouncing every which way.

This all being so, we’d heard the winds were slated to change, and that would mean our campsite would become a more exposed and less desirable place to be.  We discussed as a group and opted to pack up camp and see what else Franklin Island might have to offer.

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That day I joined our group and paddled the waves.  All went well.  I don’t mind the odd wavey day, provided said waves behave themselves, which they did.  It was a long day in our boats exploring and scouting camp sites and we gratefully arrived at our new place at Cunningham Bay.  No Thunder Box, but otherwise it was lovely.

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Notice that our tent was there along the water, and that all was calm and glassy.  We were in a protected bay away from the larger water to the west.  But over night the wind turned on us once more and suddenly there were waves lapping at our door and the wind whipped the tent fabric into a frenzy.  All in the middle of the night!

This all made for a very difficult night full of fear and anxiety on my part, the details of which I won’t go into.  Suffice it to say, the following morning we picked up our little home and moved it into the woods on shore a bit further which felt safer in many ways.

When the more paddle-y folks opted for an epic day on the water the following morning, I stayed home on shore to enjoy some alone time and to try to come to an even keel of the soul in my own little ways….

Off they go to paddle 15 or more miles!!
Off they go to paddle 15 or more miles!!
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a pretty great image of how one feels after an anxiety attack
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The stone formations were lovely at every turn. I spent a lot of that day merely drinking tea, enjoying the quiet (thankfully! especially compared to the wind the prior night!) and taking pictures.
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sweet sketching site. Complete with tea and no wind and art supplies.

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I even drew an impression of the stones I saw.
I even drew an impression of the stones I saw.
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Playing in the watercolors, looking to capture some of the myriad of colors my eyes were feasting upon.

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Eventually, I spotted my friends on the horizon and they came home exhausted.

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I whipped up some dinner which we all worked to fry up together.  Everything tastes better by the water, don’t you think?

eating well

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The very next day was already Friday, the day we were due back on the mainland.  We had camped and paddled and cooked and swam in our birthday suits on a daily basis.  We had prepared food together over camp stoves and enjoyed shooting stars and crackling fires in the evenings.

I for one spent a fair amount of time in a state of anxious agitation about whether I would have to paddle in sickening conditions, or whether the wind would blow so hard as to blow our tent down or whether our next camp site would have a thunder box or not.  Truth be told, I spend a fair amount of time in my ‘regular day-to-day’ life in a state of anxious agitation and going on this trip was a way to try and temper that.  (Perhaps every trip is a way to try and temper that!) Maybe if I behave the bravest, and test myself a bit along the way, I can get a little break from that day to day state.  In some ways, I think it works.  I think we must always be challenging ourselves.

Toward the end of the trip, my Hub Tony asked if I might take this sort of trip again.  I was not ready to answer.  Perhaps I am still not.  We were so fortunate to have great weather and that our little group got along so well. ( I have heard horror stories from other trips.)  I wanted to hold my own and I think I did, making wise choices as to when to be on the water and when not to be.  And I am better for the going on this particular trek.  For me, a homey, gentle soul, a lot about the idea of this adventure was daunting.  And in many ways, I was very brave to attempt it.  But I was also with friends whom I trusted not to put me in danger.  The only real danger was in my head and maybe in my so easily queasy stomach.

And so, what of this ‘Behave the Bravest’ business, you ask?  Well, while wandering the dusty hallways of my ever active mind while off the grid, I realized that I did not do a proper blog based announcement of my art work being featured on Nuala Kennedy’s gorgeous new album called, of course, Behave the Bravest.   The themes in the album are epic and watery in the most folky ways and I am proud to be the visual part of it, my art work being made to look even more fantastic by the design team at 16K Design Works who did a fantastic job with the raw work.  This album has been a soundtrack to my summer of sorts this year and many of the tunes were in my head as I navigated this recent expedition.

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Difficult adventures cause us to look inward and confront our most shadowy sides of self….

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And by plumbing those depths we can learn more about ourselves, enabling our best selves to come back to civilization and that version of reality to readily serve the world.

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I am not quite back to my best self.  I am still tired and sore, not feeling quite caught up.  But I am better for my time and experiences amidst these inland seas.  As always with a challenging time, I have learned something of myself and I am glad of it.

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Hireath

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‘Hiraeth’ – (Welsh)

Connotes a yearning for place that is lost or may not exist, a feeling of longing to be ‘at home’ in the sense of achieving a sense of belonging, of finding your paradise.

~from Rising Ground, A Search For The Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden

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It is summer and we are firmly ensconced in our paradise. Early last week we drove and drove and drove,  many hundreds of miles, to escape the city where we live and work.  To escape the stifling heat and humidity that quantifies summer in southwestern Ohio.  This is vacation time in Vacationland for our family. A yearly trek to this place we once called home and to reconnect with friends we consider family.

As our friend Tom over at Bat Cave Studios so aptly put it, every visit back to this place makes it that much harder to leave it again.

I’ll share just a few of the adventures of the trip thus far, in between which we have enjoyed much visiting and laughing, cooking, eating and drinking with great joy, game playing and swimming, hiking and paddling. We are thoroughly enjoying the company of our loved ones here. But beyond that, there is the sheer lure of this place so far from home and yet so much like home.

I for one spend a great deal of time pondering the deep sense of place I feel here.

Boathouse ponderings
Boathouse ponderings (thanks to my hub, Tony for this one.)

Having lived and worked here so very long ago, we know life isn’t perfect in Maine, or anywhere for that matter. But we love this place and are deeply grateful for what time we do get to spend here.

There are the great gifts of the sea to be had of course and our time in Maine began with these.

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Oysters!! From just up the road in Damariscotta, Maine

“I love oysters. Its like kissing the sea on the lips.” ~Leon-Paul Fargue

“It was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”  ~Jonathan Swift

Not only do we love a quiet lobster dinner on the back deck at our home away from home, but we also like to get out into town sometimes, at least when ‘town’ is by the sea. This year we sampled the beautiful food and drink at Eventide restaurant in Portland. It was divine!

But of course dinner in town is not why we came to Maine.   This year we were fortunate to score some tickets to a special farm-to-table dinner event out on an island…..

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We headed toward a distant bank of fog.
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Thicker and thicker the fog grew.
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There were ghost ships on the horizon.

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Eventually we made it through the mists into another world where all was clear and bright.
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And we were taken up the road to beautiful Turner Farm.
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All of our food this evening was to come from this special place …
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The cheeses were spectacular!!! Thank you girls!

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The stunning table was set with mismatched dishes and linens. Perfect for a barn supper
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We wandered and wondered at how amazing it all was
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Eventually the farm manager and chef gave us the low down on the meal
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Many cheerful and hard-working islanders made it all possible.
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We were happy and well fed. Nourished by amazing food and fascinating company.

The food at this dinner was beyond spectacular. Every course made with the complexity of island simplicity if that makes any sense. I am no foodie so I will leave that to another blogger, but I do know that these culinary gifts shared with great love and intention were well received and we couldn’t have had a lovelier time.

We were ferried home on the good ship Equinox amidst a breathtaking sunset and cleansing ocean air.

But all has not been food and drink and more of  same however. Our timing for this year’s visit afforded us the opportunity to see in person some original artwork by one of my all time favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney.  The show was at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and featured works for three of Cooney’s most prized books.

Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say "perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day...."
Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say “perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day….”
To see some of Cooney's original sketches make her books seem more real to me
To see some of Cooney’s original sketches make her books seem more real to me
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Sketches for Eleanor

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"You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves." ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves
“You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves.” ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves

“When I grow up,”I tell her, “I too will go to faraway places and come
home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing
you must do.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right, ” I say.  ~Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius

And now we find ourselves lake side. In recent days we’ve  had visitors from home and from our life back in our Maine time and from since then as well. It’s been a lovely mix and match of loved ones from near and far.   But for today it is just the few of us. The loons are calling and the boats buzz past on occasion.  I’m able to catch up here and perhaps a bit in my sketchbook as well. Up to now it’s really only been color studies.

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Photo by Tom Spatig
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Photo by Tom Spatig

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We swim these waters and treasure the sunsets.

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We walk the paths and explore the vistas.

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Meeting new friends along the way…

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All of this experience deepening the sense of place we have here in our treasured summer oasis.

Who knows where the future will take us. But regardless of the path ahead, a good chunk of my soul resides here in this beautiful place called Maine.