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Tuesday, August 26, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Across the little town park, one doorway in from the street, there's a barbershop. A tall thin man has been sitting on one of the benches near the barbershop door, drinking a cup of coffee. Now he nods to the other man, coming across the park from the back by the fire station, and stands up. The other man, the barber, waves to him and says something, unlocks the door, and goes in. The lights come on inside, and I see the two of them moving around, the barber setting up his tools for the day, the customer putting down his coffee and sitting down in the chair.

I realized the other day that I've never in my life lived, for more than a day or two, within easy walking distance of a town. This year the people who own the coastline house near Boothbay where we usually stay wanted it for themselves this week, so instead we've taken a house on Main Street in Southwest Harbor, on Mount Desert Island (on the Quiet Side of the island). Downtown is a two or three minute walk away, and the coffee shop opens at seven.

"You'll feel better when once we get over the seas to Canada over there," he said to her as they sat among the rocks on the cliff.

She looked away to the sea's horizon, as if it were not real. Then she looked round at him, with the strained, strange look of a child that is struggling against sleep.

"Shall I?" she said.

Sitting in the little park, with the barber cutting hair in the window across the way, the computer idle on the bench next to me, and cars going by on Main Street, I finished reading D. H. Lawrence's "The Fox". It's a good book, short and dark and intense, both sharp and smothering. I bought it yesterday at the Rue Cottage Bookstore, next door (one more doorway away from the street) to the barbershop. Rue Cottage is a good small bookstore, neither sharp nor smothering, used books and some new books, a green and anti-technology bent, a sign on the counter saying "We prefer checks, cash, and even fresh eggs, to credit cards".

"What's the going rate for fresh eggs?" I asked, buying my books with cash.

"Two dollars a dozen," she said, not batting an eye. She must get that question all the time.

Despite the shelf of anti-tech books (all too many Rifkins, a book about avoiding technology from (I think it was) the "Lead Pencil Club", u.s.w.), the woman behind the counter had a laptop open and was doing email, or perhaps the store's accounts.

Being anti-technology is silly, I think. A pencil is technology. Better to be more specific in one's antis. On the other hand there may not be a single word that captures all the particular technologies and habits that these people want to warn us against, that they want to mark out an in-group by speaking badly of.

"The Fox" feels like a story that grew from a single image. I wonder what it was in Lawrence's mind, what the first glimmer was that eventually became "The Fox". The fox crouched, looking up with its eyes at March, who stands enthralled, the gun forgotten by her side. The two women sitting in the farmhouse in the evening, unknowing, and the boy reaching for the knob, about to open the door.

Now I'm back in the house, people starting to stir around (I don't know why I woke up so early; maybe even my subconscious wanted to wander into town, get a cafe mocha from the coffee shop just as it opened, sit in the park watching the barber unlock his door). The kids are bouncing around pretending to be Pokémon, thinking about breakfast.

Given the choice I think I would have taken the other house over this one; I miss the waves and the lobster-boats, the dock to sit on and the sunsets to adore, the big sparse rooms and the light wood. This house is a little cluttered, the cars going by on Main Steet are a little noisy, and Southwest Harbor in general seems to turn its back with determination on the water.

But I like the town anyway, and being able to walk in for coffee or lunch or cash or an extension cord from the hardware store. And I like Acadia (yesterday we climbed around on the rocks at Thunder Hole, the day before we hiked down Cadillac Mountain toward Dorr, and got all the way down into the gorge between them before we decided we really ought to go back up, figuring 500 vertical feet each way was enough for the little ones).

So you'll be reading this some considerable time after I write it; no network connection here (or rather, the house's tiny wireless network running through the Linksys access point that I brought doesn't connect to the Internet). It's nearly the fourth anniversary of the site / the log. How shall we celebrate?

That Evening. Sitting in the house again, dark outside, the air coming cool in the windows.

After everyone was awake and dressed this morning, we drove over to the eastern side of the island and parked at the Tarn (a long somewhat weedy lake at the foot of Dorr Mountain on the other side from Cadillac, about a hundred feet above sea level). The moms and the three smaller kids went to walk around the lake and along the base of the mountain, and us dads and the little daughter took off to the top of Dorr up Ladder Trail, named for the three spots where iron ladders have been pounded into the rock to make it possible to cross six or a dozen feet of otherwise implausible face.

At the top (1270 feet above sea level) we had our sandwiches (peanut butter and genuine wild Maine blueberry jam) and shared some of our meager water supply (not incredibly well prepared, us).

We talked to a small sharp efficient local woman ("We live over there," she said, gesturing to the green hills between the mountain and the sea, where I suspect the typical toolshed is worth more than my house) who walks these mountains regularly, and has similarly walked similar mountains in New Zealand and the Himalayas. She told us about Jackson Labs, the big complex of buildings and parkings lots that we'd driven past on the way up and that were an obvious scar in the green carpet below, and how they're a big employer, but also a burden on the town (being tax-exempt and a big user of water and sewer and land), and how they're looking to expand, and how they own lots of the seafront and lots of the green carpet that they haven't (yet) developed.

Mount Desert, she said, and Cadillac in particular, are major sources of earth energy and positive vibrations, if you believe in those things. And she does.

Then we climbed down the other side of Dorr, to the spot in the gorge (around 1000 feet) that we reached day before yesterday, in a remarkably small space of time, and called the moms on the cellphone. They and the small ones were in Bar Harbor having lunch, and we agreed that we'd meet at the top of Cadillac around two. And we did, up at 1530 feet, sitting on the porch at the gift shop and chugging water and Gatorade (tm), until they came up in the cars along the windy road from town. (We'd walked about a mile and a half map-wise, and nearly 2000 feet up and down; it was good to be tired.)

Then we drove back to the house here, by way of various coast points and byways that we were curious about, and the Bass Point Light, and had dinner. After dinner (the iPod playing Keith Jarrett into the confusing sound system and the kids with their various Gameboys wired together, battling on the cushions in the living room), I transferred a few score pictures from the camera to the laptop, and then went out for a walk, this time away from downtown, because we'd driven back that way and it'd looked interesting from the car.

Not only, it turns out, are we within walking distance of the town with its coffee shop and barbershop and bookstore, but we're also within walking distance of a martini restaurant, a lobster place, and a marina, and at the marina there's a big flat building, and in half of that big flat building is a brightly-lit white room with ovens and racks and carts and people sliding things in and out of the ovens, and some of the carts and racks have dough, and some of the carts and racks have impossibly fresh loaves of bread, and if you ask the young woman (the inevitably lovely young woman in jeans and a loose shirt and sandals, flour whitely coating some of the fine hairs of her arms) whether they sell retail, she'll tell you that they do, and you can (I can) come home with two loaves of hot cinnammon-raisin bread and a loaf of warm Anadama bread in a brown paper bag, and what could be better than that?

Tomorrow I think maybe we'll sleep in.


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