Thursday, September 2, 2010
Maine, Pt. One: Full Moon Over Penobscott Bay
I just returned from vacation with my wife and in-laws on an island off the coast of Maine. As a surfer, I'm loathe to talk about great places that few people know about, so I'll skip names here. The coast of Maine is a labyrinth of inlets and islands and the island in question was bought by a family back in the 1800's and became the summer home and wellspring of not one but two, now famous, 20th Century artists.
To this day, the place is essentially unchanged; water is pumped into the house via a well 30 yards away, no heat except for the fireplace in the great room, electricity is scarce thanks to a single solar panel and fickle Maine weather, and hot water is generated in the same manner as all cooking: on an old wood stove in the changeless kitchen. Bedrooms are located at either end of the "Big House" and the center of the building is a vast, open great room, it's ceiling adorned with dragons, painted by the talented father of the talented artists some 100 years ago. A “momma” dragon stares down from one wall, three baby dragons upon her back, and the papa dragon keeps an eye out on the opposite wall. Off the front and back of the house are two long porches. The back porch is more of a work porch and the painters and sculptors in our group congregate there to work after coffee and wood-oven baked breads. Everyone in this group can cook, it turns out.
How I ended up there is a matter of pure luck. I have the good fortune of being married to the lovely and talented Sian Heder, whose godfather, the wonderful painter Joel Janowitz was invited to stay on the island some 15 years ago, and he now extends his fine fortune to his coterie of old friends and artists, including my intimidatingly talented parents-in-law and sister-in-law.
During the day, the collective divides its time between creating art, making meals and exploring the coast and inland trails around the island. Great meals are improvised, tiny coves plundered by kayaks, moss covered paths are ascended to granite summits, and bodies steel themselves for freezing dips in icy waters.
Evening meals, largely planned but always collaborative, take place at the huge fir table on the front porch overlooking Penobscott Bay. Usually raucous affairs conducted by 12 or more highly opinionated people, interrupted by the soulful calls of loons and the last of the evening light firing up over the water, dinner takes the day into night. Dish teams boil water and tackle the ancient china, fires bloom in the great room, books crack open, teams are divided up for games of "Celebrity" and people launch themselves into vibrant displays of jack-assery all in pursuit of victory.
At night, the world come largely to a standstill. The loons keep up for a while but then go quiet, buoys clang, and the small family of island deer crunch and snort in the dark before settling down in the tall grass. On our last night, after everyone went to bed, I wrestled with my own inability to shoot all week by taking a stroll with my Nikon under the nearly full-moon. I circled the house, stalked it, and sat on the huge screened-in porch, squinting in the dark. As my eyes adjusted, the pale blue light of the moonlight revealed itself, intersecting with the amber light of the lamps on the dining room table. These images- shot at ISO 800, F.11 in 3-minute exposures, were what I came away with.