We spent one very fast week in Shanghai, and despite extensive use of the subway and walking eight to ten miles a day, were only able to experience a tiny fraction of the city. Shanghai is an intense mixture of ancient culture and tradition, modern city-ness, western-esque consumerism and 12 million people – of whom all that we interacted with – were really really nice!
There are times when, for reasons I can’t explain, the normal continuity of space and time appears to break down and the events of, say a month ago, feel like a year or a lifetime ago. It was just one month ago Amber and I were headed out of Maine. It was still just barely spring there and our lives were, for the most part, all about familiar things like car travel, and visiting friends and family. Today, however, I am writing from our hostel in Shanghai, China! The contrasts in weather, people, food, sounds, and smells are so extreme that even the last day in Wenatchee sitting on my dad’s back porch with family only a week ago feels like it could have been years in the past.
It has been a busy couple of weeks. Amber and I have been visiting friends and family, doing some odd jobs for travel cash and taking care of last-minute details before heading out of country. It is amazing how fast the time is going as we near the departure date for China! We did get the chance to take a day trip with friends to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim WA. We headed out early one morning, crossed two mountain passes and got in the que for the Bainbridge Island Ferry at the Seattle Ferry terminal. (It feels like only yesterday we were boarding a ferry in Maine to head East into the Atlantic!)
One of my favorite things about traveling is seeing how people in various areas live and overcome the challenges of their environment. For example, in Maine we attended that great ice harvesting event to learn how people in earlier times overcame the challenge of keeping food cold all year. And in Canada we saw gigantic fire wood processing businesses that supply the necessary resources to allow people to overcome the long cold winters there. During this stop in Wisconsin we were able to observe a local, using ancient methods to overcome the age-old challenges of igniting wood fuels, engendering premium cooking coals and positioning meat and vegetables in precise relationship to the heat to ensure perfect cooking. It is as much an art as it is a science and when done well is a thing to see and marvel at. I cannot think of anything that ties us more to our ancestors and family traditions.
The Easternmost city of the continental U.S. is the little coastal town of Lubec Maine. The town is home to fishermen, marinas, a couple of restaurants and (in the summer) tourists. Amber and I visited there after visiting Acadia as the completion of one journey and the beginning of another. It was the completion of the cross county trek we began in January as we could go no farther East and remain in the U.S. (The road East out-of-town crossed the narrows and onto Campobello Island, Canada.) It was the beginning of another journey – as we headed West out-of-town – as we will be traveling West clear to China! The last building on the East end of town was the combination customs office and post office located next to the bridge to Canada. We stopped there to mail a post card to my dad. A postal worker just happened to be picking up the mail at that moment and I was able to deliver it to her personally. Yep, we got to send a post card from the Easternmost post office in the Easternmost building, of the Easternmost city in the U.S.! Woohoo!
Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean at Acadia National Park! We crawled out of our tent about 4:30 in the morning to make sure we captured the moment. It was absolutely serene watching the sun come up over Otter Point and paint the sky and water, first in pastels and then in vivid blues and pinks. It was one of those moments when it was if all the elements of nature had converged to gift us with a picture perfect glimpse of this point in the universe. The tide, winds, clouds, sun, air, sea, salt, and even the passing gulls and geese, each played their part in turn, as if performing a dance to welcome the new day. It was a spectacular performance and it is even more amazing when you consider the fact that these same characters have been gathering every day for thousands of years to put on this same show morning after morning – not caring if any human is watching or not. It was an honor to be part of this day’s pageant, even if only as an observer.
We have learned from watching the X-Files that the truth is out there. I would have to catalog this specimen we photographed here in Maine as proof of the alien abduction of bovines for the purpose of hybridization.Alien abduction aside, we have seen little glimpses of spring – it has not decided, yet, to fully settle in. In between the rainy and windy and even snowy days we have seen lawns being mowed, brush piles burning and docks mysteriously migrating from their winter, beached, hibernation out into the lake.We took advantage of one sunny day. It was not as warm as it looked though and I only stayed out a little while. Amber went more prepared and was able to enjoy the lake longer.
The mid-coast region of Maine is a near labyrinth of inlets, coves, peninsulas, bays, harbors and islands. We have explored a number of areas attached to the mainland but had not yet ventured out to sea to see what we could see of the islands of Maine. We had been showing some mid-westerners around and thought, to make their visit complete, we should bid farewell, at least temporarily, to the mainland and head like real explorers into the East, into the sea, into the islands. So on a sunny Atlantic morning we booked walk-on passage on a ferry bound for Vinalhaven!
Well Amber and I have less than two weeks left of our house sitting gig here in mid-coast Maine. We have had a great time here during our wintertime stay and we did almost every activity available to us during the off-season. The last few weeks have been especially busy as we have been trying to visit all the places we had identified during the winter as things we would want to see in the ever elusive spring. One of our spring weather outings took us to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Fort Preble in Southern Portland. As you know, I never get tired of exploring old coastal forts or a good lighthouse. In addition, since we have become somewhat versed in the local attractions, we have had several opportunities to show visitors some of the area’s best.
In Maine, the fourth Sunday of March is “Maple Sunday”. Sugar houses all over the state open their doors to let anyone who wants to come in and smell the syrup! Since Maple Sunday happened to fall on Easter this year, Rice Farms in Walpole offered an event on Saturday as well. We were able to double our experience by attending events there on Saturday and at Goranson Farm in Dresden on Sunday.