Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

It was a mid-June late afternoon in Bass Harbor, Maine. The tide was close to dead low. Buck and I walked out to the farthest point on the rocks. Sharp rocks, slippery places and pools teeming with life, we had to take care in placing each step. Thousands of mussels glistened blackly, shimmering silver, green and purple. The sea gulls wheeled hungrily overhead.

The gulls’ ritual was mesmerizing: flying low to pick up a mussel, they would angle out over a large flat rocky expanse, drop the mussel to crack its shell, then dive to scoop up and eat the live creature inside.

We spied a huge coral-colored starfish in a crevice, the largest either of us had ever seen. The thought of removing him (killing him) and taking him home with me briefly fluttered across my primitive brain, and just as instantly was rejected. The rocky pools were home to many smaller starfish, as well. Some coral colored like the first; others brown, silvery or blue. The brown ones struck me as reptilian, snakelike and–with all deference to snakes — a little creepy. The blue ones were mysterious and elegant.

We became so involved our explorations that we failed to notice the tide had turned. It was time to get back to shore — quickly!

Once there, we changed into our soft clothes, fixed a drink, and began to make preparations for dinner. Sitting at a round wood table in front of an old-fashioned picture window, we watched, fascinated, as the tide inexorably rolled in, obliterating the individual pools and rocks. We threw on our jackets and went outside for a closer look.

One of the fattest cats I have ever seen came waddling up to be admired, his bright orange fur rocketing showers of hair and dander as he rubbed, uninvited, against our legs. We walked over to sit at a small picnic table, paint peeling from its legs. The cat leaped onto the center of the table, rolled over on his back, paws waving, and eyed us flirtatiously as if to say, “Okay. I’ve gone straight to my best trick. Now, how about sharing some of that delicious-smelling crab meat with me?” I flicked a few drops of scotch and water on his head instead, and like a shot he was off his back, onto his feet, and twelve feet away from the table, clearly indignant at being treated so disrespectfully.

In no time at all, however, the sounds of a family next door and the voices of young children at play wafted through the rose hedge. He smoothed his ruffled fur, put on his cat smile, and sashayed off to ply his charms with the neighbors. Judging by this fellow’s size, his act is usually a big hit.

It was growing dark, and the midges drove us indoors for our dinner. What a feast: locally grown tomatoes and butter and sugar corn from Sawyers Market in Southwest Harbor, along with pristine crabmeat from The C. H. Rich Crab Company in Bass Harbor, gently seasoned and warmed.

We took a bowl of rich chocolate ice cream upstairs to indulge in while reading. All was well for a few minutes. . . until my right eyelid and underneath the eye began to feel itchy. Without meaning to, I started rubbing it. Then a lump developed on both eyelids, and the resultant swelling was ugly and uncomfortable.

The rest of the night was a rocky routine of cold compresses and benedril. I thought a black fly or mosquito was responsible. But when we returned home, an allergy test revealed “CAT”.

Despite a swollen face, we went out exploring again the next day at the Acadia National Park. We went for our third visit in as many years to the Valley Cove section. At one spot there, the trail momentarily ends and rock to rock climbing around a high cliff area with no room for error begins. A major slip, and you face jagged rocks, and a sheer long drop to the water below. This day, the length of the most dangerous portion was not was long as either of us recalled, but the Acadia Mountain ascent seemed both longer and more difficult than we remembered.

Lunchtime found us at the peak of Acadia Mountain, and we spotted a flat rock to sit on, stretch out our legs and enjoy a sandwich. Re-energized, we headed down the mountains, crossed a carriage road, and made the easy climb up St. Sauveur Mountain. At the exquisite Valley Peak, we ventured off the trail onto an outcropping of rock overlooking Frenchman Bay and the ocean. It was an inspiring site, and a great place to share an apple. Several impudent chipmunks agreed, scurrying boldly about, trying to get into our backpacks! It was a dazzlingly bright day, dry and cool.

I am thinking back today about how surreal it felt to return to Pensacola, which was flying hurricane flags at the time: sultry and humid, with heavy rain, thunder and lightning in the high winds.


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