Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wicked Good Maine
A Fascination with Clouds
When it comes to clouds of every shape, color and consistency, Maine has them all. Except for the occasional day when the sky is pure azure, clouds frequent the air above us or in the case of socked-in fog days, surround us. Gavin Pretor-Pinney wrote in the Cloudspotter’s guide “Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
When I was a child, on a hot summer afternoon, I reveled in the opportunity to flatten myself on our sloped side lawn to watch the passing clouds. As the wisps, curls and puffs constantly rearranged themselves like the rotating prisms of nature’s kaleidoscope, I watched for the clouds to morph into recognizable shapes. With a little imagination, I could spy a sailboat, a turkey with feathers fanned or a triple scoop of ice cream, the latter being wishful thinking on a steamy afternoon. How I yearned to settle atop the cushiony clouds and ride on the wind like a magic carpet to faraway lands.
A few years later in school I was disappointed to learn that clouds are not made of the delicious spun cotton candy they so closely resemble but were in fact visible accumulations of minute droplets of water, ice crystals or both. There were names for different types of clouds: Cirrus, the high thin wispy ones, Stratus, the low heavy flat ones and my favorite Cumulus, the white fluffy puff ball ones. Somewhere in the fifty odd years between that science class and this past fall, I became complacent about clouds given their ever present place in our daily surroundings. Their commonness leads to indifference and a failure to appreciate or absorb their constantly changing beauty. In our hectic, non-stop lifestyles we just run out of time to cast our eyes upward and soak in the awesomeness of what is there just above our heads.
Last fall I enrolled in a water color class at our local Senior College. I’d always wanted to learn to paint and though I wasn’t overly thrilled about painting just clouds, it was the only painting class offered at that time. If anyone thinks that painting a cloud is easy, I will assure you it is not! My instructor’s critique of my first cloud painting was “It looks like a boulder falling out of the sky!” Her assessment was spot on. She counseled our class to get outside and spend time observing clouds. She urged us to notice the gradation of color from the bottom to the top of the cloud, to see how the bottom of clouds are almost always flat, and to get a feel for the shapes and layers of clouds. Since clouds are anything but static, she encouraged us to take pictures of the clouds that fascinated us.
I found myself becoming more aware of the different sky adornments that each new day offered. I watched the gray storm clouds sail across the bay, kept my eyes on the white billowy clouds while I was driving on backroads, and took pictures of the striated clouds overhead in the supermarket parking lot. I rediscovered the enchantment with clouds that I had felt as a child. I began to appreciate anew how the clouds “dress up” our environment, each day requiring a costume change or two as its meteorological drama unfolds. I felt how certain cloud formations provoked specific moods in the way that different music rhythms pair with specific dance steps.
Not only does the sight of a particular cloud formation trigger a mood for me, it reminds me of times when similar clouds played a role in my past. If I see the sky filled with beautiful pure white mounds of fluff, it elicits a feeling of peace and contentment in my body. I relive a lazy afternoon spent swaying in a hammock gazing at fishermen hauling loaded nets onto a deserted beach on the magical island of Zanzibar. The sky there teemed with billowing clouds floating above the ocean casting shadows that drifted across the surface of the turquoise waters. All was very right with the world in that moment.
High wispy clouds give me reason for hope and optimism and belief in nature’s magic. The wispy strands remind me of a charming walk I once took through Cathedral Woods on Monhegan Island. I was fifteen minutes down the trail through the forest before I noticed a tiny intricate house built of bark, small stones, moss and twigs at the base of a tree just to one side of the trail. It was the home of one of the fairies that dwell in those woods. As I looked around I discovered other tiny structures all camouflaged to blend in with the surroundings. My hike was interrupted for an hour as I explored the quaint village inhabiting both sides of the trail. This find was unexpected, fanciful and a warm hug for my soul.
Storm clouds make me feel anxious and uncertain of the future. They heighten all my senses. I am no fan of lightning which sometimes lurks ready to strike in these clouds. I still recall, with much uneasiness, a powerful gale complete with nature’s fireworks that I experienced on the Omo River in Ethiopia. Several days into a rafting adventure and hundreds of miles from “civilization” we set up camp on a flat sandy beach on one bank of the river. That night I awoke to huge raindrops pelting the tent. Then the sky illuminated with the brightness of mid-day, immediately followed by a heart stopping kaboom! Terrified? YES!!!! The force of the wind and rain crumpled my aluminum tent poles allowing the water logged sides of the tent to squeeze me tightly. Our equipment sustained a fair amount of damage but all the humans survived.
Many people are frustrated by fog. Not me. I love how it sneaks in across the bay and swallows up whatever is in its path until you can barely see your hand in front of your face. It is mysterious, still, and secretive. My sense of sound is always heightened in a good thick pea soup fog. I can hear what I can not see: the clanging of the harbor buoy, the lapping of the ocean against the rocky shore and the magical and haunting wail of a solo loon.
Clouds can be at their most colorful magnificence as the day dawns or when the sun sets. When the conditions are right, spectacular transitions between light and darkness are created. Nature’s artistry uses a full pallet of colors from dainty pastels to bold primary shades. I recall an evening when I took a seat on the Wells Seawall for the free evening show. The first act presented a gradual shading of the clouds with a soft pink blush, and light sapphire blue. Those brush strokes slowly deepened to salmon, rose, and lilac. In the final act deep hues of coral, lapis and violet made their entrance before bowing to the earth as the final curtain darkened the sky. It was a lovely goodnight kiss from the clouds with the promise of a whole new performance in the morning.
Brenda Smith fulfilled a life-long dream when she moved to Belfast in 2019. An accounting graduate of Bentley University, she worked as a CPA and Vice President of Finance for several non-profit organizations. She earned her MS from Suffolk University in Philanthropy and Media. and has produced, directed and edited many award winning videos. She is most proud of the coveted “Telly” award on her desk. Now retired, she is busy with several writing projects: an early memoir recounting some of her hair-raising global adventures, a later memoir about living with the extremely rare Stiff Person’s syndrome, and writing short essays about things in life that make her smile. She is a board member and treasurer of Belfast Senior College.
Hollered as you entered
Placed on my breast slick and slippery,
I touched your red face,
At home we sat in the antique black chair with gold stencils,
Rocked and sang
Hour after hour.
My voice then bell clear,
We basked in the winter sun
Streaming through the upstairs hall window
Shadows of lace lit our space.
We swayed to all the songs that came bubbling out of me,
“The Mockingbird Song,” “Scarlet Ribbons,” “When at Night I Go to Sleep,”
“Me and My Shadow,” as well as, “The Cruel War Is Raging.”
Cradled in my arms you smiled and cooed in rhythm.
You snuggled into the hollow in my shoulder.
I smelled your skin’s sweet newness and Johnson’s Baby Lotion.
Thirty-three years later
Your baby yanked from your belly in the OR
Made us hold our breath waiting for his cry,
Which he has now perfected.
I rock him in the same black chair my mother painted.
He nestles into my neck and chin,
He smells of spring…
I sing to him the same songs
Hour after hour.
My voice now frogged.
He smiles at my notes
And kicks and coos in rhythm.
We an ancient mini symphony of two.
Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George, and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.
Two Friends in the Garden
Heather Heath Reed
In two lawn chairs
cushioned in paisley-greens,
a salmon-pink, wooden table between them,
two friends chatted,
face to face,
for the first time since March.
It was a cool day, breezy,
on the brink of fall,
the sky overcast from smoke
blown clear across the country,
a phenomenon as hard to comprehend
as the pandemic fallout itself.
Along the wooden, privacy fence,
worn and speckled with grey-green lichen
were summer flowers, towering
three and four feet high, brilliant colors
of rust-red, cream, blush rose, and golden rod-yellow,
zinnias and cosmos, dancing unabashedly.
Look how tall they’ve grown! my friend said.
Two, maybe three feet higher than normal!
My own hadn’t done as well in the drought
but still they gave me pleasure in
their colorful display against leaves
crinkled brown from persistent thirst.
Before I left, my friend said,
Come see my summer surprise.
Around the corner of her cottage,
sprawled across a wide pebbled path
was a volunteer cherry tomato plant
bursting with tiny green fruit.
When it’s too cold to meet outside,
when the blossoms and tomatoes
have succumbed to a string of frosts,
maybe we’ll be able to visit indoors,
or else we’ll bundle up in jackets and scarves
and remember warmer days spent in the garden.
Heather Reed is retired and living in Westport, MA, in the house she grew up in. She enjoys gardening, walking the farm lanes and local beaches, reading, writing poetry, and is a longtime member of the Westport Poetry Group. Heather is a new member of the Belfast Senior College.
A Scratch on the Record
Like the words of a song in the grooves of a record.
The downbeat of the song, like birth, is at the outer edge
While soft melodic strains, like death, fade as the track ends.
And so it should be.
Like a song’s crescendo, our best moments are celebrations
Offset at times by diminuendo, when tragedies befall us.
But always with glissando we move only toward the future
On a winding one way path our lives create a symphony.
And so it should be.
But something is amiss now in nature’s familiar rhythm
Unbeknownst to us the song’s lyrics have been changed.
The melody once harmonic, now jarring and discordant
A scratch has been gouged across the grooves of vinyl.
How strange and confusing.
A short stanza of our lives keeps repeating illogically.
Stopped in our tracks, we are afraid and isolated.
Craving desperately for things we used to do
Before we couldn’t, lest we pay the unspeakable price.
So very odd and upsetting.
Anxiously we search for ways to resume a familiar refrain
Where cozy safety waits in tight hugs with those we love.
Who will lift the stylus to finally set us free?
To put us back on track, so our life’s tempo carries on
As it was always meant to be.