Monthly Archives: August 2014

To Vermont From Maine; the end of a month on the coast

It is important to recognize one chapter as it closes and a new one begins, to carry forward that which is recent past. Wellbeing springs from the small things, duly experienced, identified and remembered.

Today I am uncharacteristically undisciplined. At least that is the word some would use; I prefer to use words like structure, organization, commitment, etc. when I speak of my work and practice, my habits and lifestyle. In any event, it’s what I am, or am not, today. P1000150 It is the day before I drive back to Vermont from my month’s relocation (another word I use instead of vacation which somehow signifies that I am still industrious, still doing something useful and not lounging around ineffectually – I guess).

Will I never learn? I counsel clients and write about the value of rest, recovery, regeneration. In my faith I strive to be silent, even if only for a few minutes. I read favorite writers who encourage me to do so – writers like Kathleen Norris and my newfound favorite Anna Quindlen. Yet I resist. At the hint of success, I become apologetic. But today I am giving myself over to mixed emotions that are wheeling around inside me like bumper cars in the boardwalk arcades of my childhood.

My to-do list is crowded: write my pieces for next week’s “Active Vermont” page, post a blog, do loads of laundry (but be careful of the whites that will turn orange with the rust in the water), pack a month’s worth of living on the rocky shores of an ocean Sound, clean and clean the cottage so there are no remaining footprints (or rather white hairs) from my two little old Jack Russells who have already indicated that they are as loathe to leave as I am, P1000102pick up trinkets for the kids and Christmas presents for friends, fill the gas tank, say goodbye to new friends, write thank you notes to old ones, take one last walk along the water and one final search for shells and seaglass.

I was meant to do a tempo training ride today. Not happenin’. It’s cool, overcast, windy and, most of all, I lack the motivation to do so. So my final ride for this summer as well as my final paddle are over. Missed already. I love to ride here. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to share these roads and surprisingly challenging hills with Teague and Tara or with my summer riding companions of Merrymeeting Wheelers out of Brunswick. Sometimes I ride alone but those rides, too, are satisfying and joyous. The roads here in mid-coast Maine are constantly being repaired and, though there is often no shoulder, it does not matter as the surface is good and drivers SLOW DOWN and observe the Maine 3’ safe passing LAW. The coincidence of good paving and considerate drivers is a blessing for which I am daily thankful.

Paddling is pure pleasure. We try to start in the morning before the wind picks up and often find ourselves heading out with the tide. Put-ins are plentiful if you look for them, and any starting point marks the beginning exploration of shoreline, cove, islands, rocky coasts, and a few beaches. Working dories and lobster boats, pricey pleasure and more pricey sailboats, a daily cruise boat from Portland and P1000159an authentic schooner (chartered) create my neighborhood as I remind myself with each stroke to engage my core, sit up and try to look like I know what I’m doing. I can’t resist pausing when I see a suspicious head in front of me that turns out to be a seal or to whip out my ever-present, waterproof camera to take a shot of a quaint cottage, a lobster buoy that catches the light,P1000158 an osprey or once, and eagle. Today, however, I can only think about these things.

After saying goodbye to my husband who drove away this morning, I took the girls for a ride, or so I told myself. My car ended up parked in front of a store in downtown Brunswick and later at the tip of Bailey’s Island. Back at the cottage I unloaded my bags of goodies and realized that I wanted yet another cup of coffee and eat bagels loaded with peanut butter. (OK, I did stop at one organic, multigrain bagel topped with freshly ground almond butter from a wonderful natural foods market charmingly named Morning Glory.) I sat down to write and somehow ended up talking with my daughter and arranging shells and bits of sea glass that I have carefully collected over the past four weeks (paltry; how DO people find this stuff by the bag full?) and filling an antique replica glass jar to bring a bit of the coast home to my studio.

I think of my Maine friends: Sue, my favorite realtor anywhere; the owner of my cottage with whom I connect on important levels; the neighbor across from me who has the mind-bending job of working with the memory impaired and elders facing an already forgotten end; Jenn who tirelessly organizes and befriends each of us as cyclists and Pam. I just met Pam and she amazes me. There is no doubt that our paths were meant to cross. Pam exudes energy, generosity, kindness; a woman whose beliefs and trust have seen her through some tough times; a woman who does not shy away from very hard work or the needs of those around her, and, those around her happen to be her family. What a privilege it is for me to live briefly on the edges of an entire community that is comprised of various members residing somewhere on the proverbial family tree; a community that lives and works together and supports each other. (You might want to check her website: )

So I’ve given it up for today. The washer is going and my things are finding their way into piles to stuff into duffels and load up for an early departure tomorrow morning – but NOT until after I watch the dawn break over the Sound and have my morning coffee on the deck as the sun rises, watching the ducks dive for foodDSCN0008 and hearing the occasional slap of a fish who enters the water leaving expanding ripples on the surface. In a few hours I will walk the dogs along the shore of Potts Point as it juts into the ocean. I will go at low tide so they can walk on sand and not shoals. I’ll time it so that I can see the sunset and hope it will be a last glimpse of sun 8-11-13 blazing orb quickly descending below the tree line on the opposite shore. I was here when the moon was spectacularly full. Now the last phase of it will appear late.

These are moments I will remember. I still rock slightly with the rhythm of my boat in the water. I hear the whirligig spin and watch the sailor in his yellow slicker row like mad to keep up. A distant buoy clangs, a hummingbird hurries past, a noisy squirrel sits in a tree next to the deck and taunts Lucy and Lola, the incoming tide splashes against the rocks and a snake that I do my best to avoid camps out on the steps to the dock when the sun is warming them. I did not read as much as I had planned, did not complete online courses that I hoped to finish, did not write or train more than absolutely necessary and did not really sleep late as I never wanted to miss fishermen in lobster boats DSCN0003motoring out to set traps. I did spend every possible minute outdoors, riding, paddling, walking, hiking and giving myself over to my family and the uncomplicated experience of being here. And why cannot I do that in Vermont? Vermont is the perfect bookend to Maine. Mountains of strength and spectacular beauty join an ocean of possibilities accompanied by reassurance that there is balance in the natural rhythms and continuous movement. Life between these two is sustained by heightened awareness, dreams to be dreamed and the promise of “thus far and no farther.” I CAN take it all home with me; take it home to be savored and shared; home to be lived and practiced; home to be loved; the essence of well-being.

Maine Moments

Sometimes regeneration comes when slowing down, not stopping, and seeing things through different eyes.  The following appeared as:  THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD, Rutland Herald & Times Argus, ACTIVE VERMONT, August 10, 2014

Surely I’m not alone. My heart resides in the mountains of Vermont, but a bit of my spirit needs the ocean. This is my fourth year spending some of my summer on the coast of Maine. .P1000011

At the time it seemed a stroke of luck, but now I believe it was meant to be. One winter I randomly opened a Down East magazine and my eye fell on a simple one-liner of a cottage rental on one of many fingers of land that jut out into the ocean. I characterize the place by saying that if I fell off the deck, I’d spill down the rocky bank and get wet. (OK, there is no crashing surf but the water is legitimately salty and rises and falls with the 6-hour tidal changes.)

What has become “my” cottage is perfect. Quiet, simple, off the beaten path, it is the place I go to recharge and play.sunrise from


Last week I saw Maine through the eyes of a soon-to-be 10 year old new to it all. For one week we were unplugged: no computer, tv, radio, iPod or even heart rate monitor, only an iPhone to assure her parents that we were always accessible.


It all began when we packed my little Subaru with a month’s worth of work, play and living for me, a week’s worth for her, and two Jack Russells who needed as much gear and grub as we did. With kayak and bike on the roof, and Anne of Green Gables (unabridged) in the cd player, we embarked on an adventure that turned out to be as meaningful and fresh with discovery for me as it was for her.

When I unlocked the door, I was touched to see in her face the wonder and awe that I feel each time I cross the threshold. In an instant, I knew that we would share equally. If I could slow down, speed up or pause at just the right times, I would see anew. There’s only one first: one first time away from home, one first time to see a blazing sunset reflected on the water, taste the salt on one’s face after a day at the beach, measure the hours by the tides or glimpse a seal. To revisit that first time with a child is a treasured gift.

“Recovery is a Valid and Necessary Part of Fitness.”

How many times have I said this, sternly urging clients to balance their active training days with appropriate recovery, time for the body to regenerate and, in doing so, retain strength and performance gains instead of breaking down and diminishing. Do I listen to my own coaching?

Not once in 6 days did I unpack my gear bag, inflate tires, lace running shoes, lift a dumbbell or even think TRX or Bosu. I also gave my disciplined psyche a rest. We stayed up late, slept in, forgot to eat, then messed about in the kitchen scrabbling together whacky meals after dark. We let the sun’s position in the sky and our curiosity provide loose structure to our days. Can this only be done in the company of a child? Do we need permission?


This is not to say we were inactive. We walked, swam, scuttled over rocks, squatted, reached, pushed, pulled, hopped, skipped and jumped our way through the hours. But, the key is that we paused when we wanted.

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And there were questions. Matthew Cuthbert’s halting “Well … Now … I don’t know” became a theme as well as a challenge to search for each answer.

At the conclusion of Anne of Green Gables, we segued to Cynthia Lord’s wonderful story “Touch Blue” (Scholastic, Inc. 2012). To our delight, Tess, a spunky 11-year-old, compares her family’s experience welcoming a foster child to their simple island home in Maine with that of Marilla, Matthew and Anne (“spelled with an e”) when the latter arrived at the little farm house on Prince Edward Island. Sweet serendipity.

Words we read became part of the fabric of each outing. One calm day we paddled (another first) from the mainland out to an island accessible only by boat. Residents parked their cars on the shore, walked to their dories docked nearby, loaded their groceries, supplies and usually a dog, and puttered off to the island to reverse the process. When her fatigue became obvious, I resisted the urge to paddle on and we simply floated in the gently moving water. Twenty minutes later we were good to go, but better. In that space of time we had shared dreams and closed our eyes to memorize the rhythms of the waves. I taught her how to paddle using more than arms and shoulders, how to employ the core by turning the upper body with each stroke and pushing as well as pulling the shaft. She got it. While abdominal muscles were at work on each paddle stroke, the ceaseless rock and glide of the boat became a part of our emotional core. (Mark Verstegen, who did ground-breaking work on functional training and the core, connects core strength with core values.)


Later we compared our sea journey with the Maine Atlas and Robert McCloskey’s classic “Time of Wonder” locating islands named Sheep, Pumpkin, Three Sisters and Birch. Words were more than read.

Power, Strength, Force, Balance

Though these words apply to physical conditioning, we found them on the beach too. To a child familiar with mountain trails, the ocean is compelling. Should it be feared or is respect enough? Does it represent work or play? I have a series of photos that mark the transition from first tentative steps to open-mouthed surprise when being tumbled. Cold, noisy, relentless, the rollers curl into breakers as the undertow buries feet in the sand and upsets the best balance.

We had driven to a beach some distance away in order to witness the ocean in all its glory. With only a few visitors, ocean’s edge became hers to enjoy with abandon. Unselfconsciously she jumped and fell, dunked and ran, sang and skipped and teased the waves as they did her.

“Touch blue and your wish will come true,” Lord writes. Despite daily trips to calmer beaches searching for shells and sea glass, we found only one smooth chunk of blue. Periwinkles we have by the dozens, scooped up by the handful and carefully washed and dried back at the cottage. We collected bright bits of shells, rocks that, of course, were more colorful wet than later dried but oh well, small pieces of driftwood and our sparse collection of glass. Just before packing for home, she filled several jars with scrupulously selected samples of each and tied a ribbon around the top to take home as gifts.


There was oh so much more. Perhaps what will most remain in memory for this sensitive child is a week’s worth of daily life on the coast and her sense of familiarity with the cottage and the dirt road loop we walked many times. Looking from her bedroom window she could watch the sunrise over water, hear the creaking of the floating dock, the coo of the doves and the shrill call of the seagulls. From the deck we watched cormorants stretch their wings to dry and the ducks dive for breakfast as we ate our own.

On the other side of the peninsula we watched sunsets so brilliant that, had an artist painted them, we would have scoffed at his exaggeration. The fragile new moon hung above the tops of the pine trees standing on a lump of land that was, at low tide, a short walk from the mainland, and at high tide, an island. DSCN0010

On the night we left to drive towards home, that same moon was bolder and turned a deep orange, leading us towards Vermont. Returning hours later, I unlocked the door to the empty cottage and stepped in to begin the next chapter of my Maine. There, on the table with a love note, was the piece of blue sea glass. I touched it and feel sure that our wishes will come true.