Corona Chronicles: April 29, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVII

The Alewife Are Running
Dave Greeley

Come and see an environmental success story in action
The Alewife are running!
Where?
Go to the Maine Rivers Website and copy the Maine Alewife Trail Map.
When?
Right Now!

Take a drive to one of about 15 listed locations where you will see thousands of 10″ to 12″ Alewife making their way into freshwater lakes. Damariscotta and Benton and Blackman Steam have special events….it’s a party! The run on the Sebasticook River has gone from virtually zero to several million fish making it one of the largest Alewife migrations in the world! It shows that we can restore the environment. Bring your camera, there will be eagles and osprey and others looking for a free lunch.


Spring Through a Window
Jim Owen

Our gaunt apple tree
arms wide to embrace sunlight
no leaves, brown grass.

Green grass near garden
raised beds just potential,
birds sing for partners.

Despite red plumage
cardinals shout in tree tops,
desperate for love.


The Tale Of Galen The Robin
Rebecca Jessup

Once a young robin named Galen returned to his parents’ nest at dusk, looking downcast.

“Mom” he said, “I am not sure I’m ever going to get through this dating and mating season. I stand out there on a branch singing the same 5 or 6 notes over and over and over, just hoping to get some kind of answer. It’s boring! And what’s more it’s demeaning! Chirp, chirp, chirrop, chirrop — again and again and again! I want to break out, improvise, figure out some different melodies!”

“Oh, no, dear! You’ll never find a proper wife that way! Just please, Galen, stick to the tried and true. It worked out wonderfully well for your father and me! We’ve raised, oh, it must be at least twelve fledglings! And every other bird we’ve ever heard of has mated this same way. Just stay with it a little longer.”

Galen hung his head. He couldn’t think of anything more to say, so he flew up to the branch overhead for the night, shaking his beak. This is really getting me down, he thought to himself.

The next morning before sunrise, he flew around in search of a promising perch. Once he landed, he began the same song he’d sung over and over — but after a few bars, he sang a harmony line. That made him laugh. He hopped around a bit, pleased with himself, and then let loose with variations — above and below the melody line, speeding up a few bars, and then slowing the tempo way down. He added some tremolo here, and a little doo-wop there. He was having a wonderful time!

The other male robins around him were confused. A few were angry. Hey, cut that out! squawked one. What in the world kind of bird are you, anyway? shouted another. Galen broke from his singing long enough to say I’m an original! and he went back to improvising joyfully.

Soon he noticed a young female robin watching him steadily from the next tree. Was she smiling? It’s hard to tell, even for other robins. But Galen was having such a good time, he wasn’t going to stop his little concert. The female robin hopped a little closer, still watching him. He continued singing his small heart out.

Presently he realized that a mockingbird was imitating him — or trying. He slowed down and hesitated, to give the other bird a chance to answer. The mockingbird trilled back its imitation. Galen answered a slightly different phrase, and the mockingbird copied him, adding a little chorus at the end. Soon the two birds were singing back and forth, and then together, and the birds around them were either leaving or listening. A thrush and a warbler did their best to join in, but the only tunes they could carry were their own mating calls. Still, they did their best, and added to the sense of fun.

Before the day was over, the female robin was openly flirting with Galen and he was flirting back, and the happy band of singers had agreed to meet every week, to practice and work up their own repertoire of music.


Travels with Maureen O’Keefe

In my travels, figurative and literal, I have enjoyed the hobby of collecting little ironies. One finds them all the time when one starts looking…

A few years ago, I revisited a country where I had lived with my family for five years—Sri Lanka. As I say many times, Sri Lanka is a cross between Hawaii and India. It’s a marvelous place, boasting a civilization that dates back to 500BC, four major religions, fabulous food and crafts, and gorgeous tropical beaches. It’s popular with Europeans, but Americans haven’t really discovered its charms. And the bloody and violent civil war which lasted over 25 years didn’t help.

While we lived there, from 1989 to 1994, the prime Minister was blown up at a nearby intersection, and there were bomb attacks in the capital, Colombo. The civil war was incredibly ruthless and barbaric. Violent stabbings and regular bombings dominated daily life for a quarter of a century.

On this trip, the war was at a climatic pitch, as both sides were ramping up for an end. Even though there was no anti-American fervor, one had to be careful. We headed south from Colombo for a beach weekend near Galle in the south. After settling in at the hotel we walked out towards the road and witnessed something remarkable: A bus, which had been barreling down the road at breakneck speed–leaning due to its overcrowding, suddenly braked to a stop. As we edged closer to get a look we saw the reason. The bus had stopped because a small lizard was crossing the road. Sri Lanka is, after all, a Buddhist country, and all life is sacred.
In 1981 I was the national tennis coach for the country of Jordan. In fact I was their first national tennis coach because the Jordan Tennis Federation had just been formed. I had developed a young team of boys ages 13 to 16, and I worked very hard to develop their tennis game. The Tennis Federation was anxious for the team to travel to Arab matches, so I found myself taking the boys to Iraq for the Arab championships. It happened to be during the Iran/Iraq war and as we were entering Iraqi air space we were asked to close our windows. It was rumored in the plane that we did this so we wouldn’t be shot down. I had a few bad moments wondering why I was there.

But all was well, and we were shown to our dorm rooms at a sports facility outside of Bagdad. They had to scramble to get me a single because they had not realized I was female. But it was taken care of quickly and efficiently. The tournament week went well. My players did well, but of course fell to the experienced players from Morocco and Egypt. However, there was one interesting non-tennis event.

It turns out that Moroccan Arabic is different from Jordanian, Levantine Arabic. In fact, the players couldn’t understand each other. I didn’t speak Arabic, and usually could get along easily with my English. However, my team went out on an outing with the Moroccan team, and I found that the Moroccan coach didn’t speak English. He spoke Arabic, French and Spanish. My decent high school Spanish was actually better than my elementary college French, so we conversed in Spanish on our walk around town. He was a very personable young man of energy and charm. We chatted along amiably and I was pleased that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish.

When we got back to the dorms, he pointed to an empty room and said, “Quiero hacer amor contigo.” I blanched. “Imposible!” He looked surprised. “Eres Muslim?” he asked. “No” I said. “Entonces, Si eres Christian, por que no quiere hacerlo??”

My head was spinning. He thought that since I was a Christian woman I would sleep with him. It was a whole new upside down meaning of the word Christian!
For our second Christmas in Jordan we went with another family to Istanbul. What a fabulous city. I’ve been there three times now and I have to say it has the most splendid, magical skyline of any city I’ve ever seen. Coming from the Middle East it looks nearly European. Yet coming from Europe it looks seductively Middle Eastern. The food is delicious, and inexpensive. There is so much to do and see: Topkapi palace, the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Galata Bridge, the Grand Bazaar—the list goes on and on.

On that first trip in 1981 we tried to fit everything in a few days. We found the Turkish language very difficult, and my husband, a language buff, was trying hard to learn words and phrases in the short time we were there. But “thank you” in Turkish is six syllables long!

Towards the end of our week, we encountered an old man peddling shish kebab skewers at an intersection. He took a hard look at us and said in lovely English, “Buy these wonderful shish kebab skewers, to cook famous Turkish recipes.” My husband, wanting a bit of fun, answered him in French, “je n’pas parler inglais.” Immediately the man answered in beautiful French, describing the skewers as “lifelong souvenirs of Istanbul.” My husband switched to Spanish. The street seller changed to perfect Spanish, his eyes twinkling as he clearly was enjoying himself. Up to a challenge, my husband changed to Arabic. Not to be outdone; the street seller knew Arabic well. So my husband started talking in German, which was no problem for the street seller who answered in fluent and conversational German. Coming to his linguistic limit my husband struggled in halting Russian, and predictably, the kebab seller rattled on in Russian and then some. He stood there and smiled, clearly waiting for the next language. But hubby was done. We had a feeling the Turkish street seller was just getting warmed up.

Of course we bought the skewers!


Thoughts for the Day

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.
~ WENDELL BERRY

In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.
~ LUCILLE CLIFTON

Compassion springs from the heart, as pure, refreshing water, healing the wounds of life.
~ THICH NHAT HANH

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: April 12, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVI

Not All That Bad?
Arlin Larson

I don’t know about you, but having been vaccinated, I am claiming victory and releasing myself from bondage. No superpowers have emerged from the vaccination – doesn’t it seem like you should feel something palpable after the long build-up of expectations? And, really, staying home most of the time hasn’t been so bad. But Sharon and I will now forge ahead with visiting our son and family in Georgia, and I will go to Hannaford heedless as to who is or isn’t wearing a mask or how close our encounters are.

Similar optimism seems common, perhaps all too common, now that vaccinations are underway, spring has arrived, and people are just tired of being cooped up. Objectively, we are still in the midst of a public health crisis of frightening proportions, but the mood has definitely changed.

Just about a year ago, our lives were put on hold by the outbreak of a new and deadly disease that quickly spread around the world. We were advised that until no one quite knew what (a cure, vaccine, natural attrition?), it would be unwise to engage in most social relations. Safety lay only in isolation. Schools closed, work places closed, people stopped traveling, eating in restaurants, visiting friends. It was going to be a long wait.

A sign of the new, brighter mood is a change in the kinds of Covid-related comments people are making about seniors on online forums. Think back a year. It was quickly apparent that Covid 19 was hitting seniors especially hard, nursing home deaths being the poster child. (This distinguishes Covid 19 from most plagues of the past, which affected younger people more severely.) Some people, actually many, said at the time that the most obvious solution, given younger people’s relative immunity, would be simply to achieve “herd immunity” by allowing the infection to run its course, accepting high senior mortality as unavoidable collateral damage. This would be least disruptive to the economy and to the majority of people’s lives. (In ethics this is the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.)

Fortunately for us seniors, this course was not followed. Efforts were made instead to contain the disease through social distancing, masking, enhanced cleaning, and the restriction of human interaction. When vaccines finally arrived, there was some debate about who was to be given priority, but that too was basically decided in seniors’ favor by making advanced age the primary criteria for vaccination along with unavoidable occupational exposure. (In ethics this is the principle that one’s first obligation is to the good of the individual.)

Now, with that debate behind us and the tide apparently turning in overcoming the disease, a new debate has arisen. For whom was the pandemic most stressful? Young, working people who were more likely to lose jobs, have children suddenly at home, give up active social lives, be restricted in their opportunities for matchmaking, and have their own education disrupted. Has the pandemic been harder on them or on the seniors who, though more susceptible to Covid, were generally more financially secure, accustomed to social isolation, without children to care for, and didn’t have to work?

The conclusion of the article eliciting these thoughts doesn’t really matter – that seniors continued to report generally better moods than working age people. It was the comments, which piled on exclamations about how much easier the retired generation has it in general. There was also an assumption that seniors are more or less across the board affluent and carefree. I am guessing that most Senior College members have gotten through the pandemic relatively unscathed. However, aren’t there millions of seniors who struggle financially, live in multi-generational family situations, are burdened with any number of infirmities of old age, or are residents of senior facilities where Covid was rampant?

Comparing one person’s happiness or suffering with another’s is not often a profitable thing to do. Each person’s experience is their own, with multi-faceted contexts that are in large part unknowable. It is better to honor each person’s joy or suffering for what it is to them. I do want, however, to raise the question, and it is really a question, of how serious a threat we felt we faced and, if it was dire, whether people should be so quick to say that seniors have really had it pretty easy.

At the beginning, it was widely recognized that seniors faced a far greater threat of serious illness and death. We were told by some to just accept it, buckle up, and sacrifice ourselves so the younger generation could move on. But wouldn’t living in the face of such a threat be a significant cause of distress? Shouldn’t we seniors be given some credit for facing a life-threatening situation with the equanimity we apparently have?

Approximately 425,000 Americans over fifty-five have perished due to Covid. According to recent statistics, people of all ages are infected with Covid 19 at roughly the same rate. However, someone age seventy is about forty times more likely to be hospitalized and well over a thousand times more likely to die. For those over eighty, the figures become dramatically worse.

The feeling never left me that being even momentarily careless or simply unlucky, catching Covid 19 would likely have very serious consequences. Fortunately, my luck held out even when I was careless. How living with that ever-present fear, even if in the background, compares with the greater practical complications faced by working age people, I can’t say. Enough, perhaps, that what we seniors face was not insignificant, even if not everyone can recognize it.


Open Winter
Tycelia Santoro

Few snow days this year
The open ground has invited
frost to dive deep

I walk to the tiny garden
of spring bulbs
Their green fingers reach out

The snow drops want to bloom

When they do
they will bloom my heart


On This Day in History
Audrey Deveney

General Ulysses S. Grant chose Major General Joshua Chamberlain, hero of Gettysburg, to accept the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
Joshua Chamberlain was there as a witness and played a huge part in the victory with many soldiers from Maine. He was also to become a Governor of Maine.

Appomattox Courthouse

A Cup of Tea
Brenda Smith

Myriads of thoughts come to me
When I’m brewing fresh hot tea
Using bags or from loose leaves
With sweet honey from the bees.
I think of things that make me happy
Or of the times when I was naughty
I wonder how the world will be
When I, myself, reach age eighty.

I often think of our history
Whenever I see cans of Twining’s tea
How we fought for our liberty
Leaves dumped into the sea
With spite and great frivolity
Our ancestors proudly decreed
“No more taxes! We want to be free!”
Brave rebels causing the British to flee.

While just a girl at my grandmother’s knee
I learned all the facts from A to Z
How to properly partake of tea
As she patiently instructed me
Seriously, I heeded her plea,
“Be polite and mannerly.
Hold your cup delicately.
Point straight up the pinky.”

A civilized afternoon pleasantry
Asked “Some tea? We say, “Mais oui!”
For me, pure brewed is the key
I like a tea that is citrusy,
No cream or sugar, please for me.
Served with biscuits and soft brie,
Sweet scones with jam, some savory.
What a perfect tea party we all agree!
There are many reasons why I drink tea
Sometimes it’s to calm my anxiety
When I’m chilled, it makes me feel toasty
It settles the burning, when food was spicy
The iced version cools when it’s ninety degrees
More so, when enjoyed in the shade of a tree.
Just one cup won’t do, I’ll drink two or three.
But in just a short while, I’ll rush off to pee.


Up the Country
Nancy Perkins

From the time I was nine years old I was packed off every summer to stay with my grandparents. As the eldest of three children and the only girl my mother looked forward to my annual visit knowing that my absence would simplify her life with her younger sons. I, of course, loved the attention and adoration from both sets of grandparents. I would arrive in Richmond via train with a large suitcase to be met by my grandparents, Bebe and Pippy. As their first grandchild, the child of their only child, I was accorded every advantage they could offer plus their unconditional love.

Later in the summer we would visit my great-grandmother and great aunts and uncles, all living together in a white frame house on the hill overlooking the James River. It was to this spot that my great-grandfather brought his bride Ella in 1887 and where she gave birth to and raised five children, Lillian, Roy, Nellie, Asbury, and Eloise, always called Sweetie. My maternal grandmother was the only one of the five who married and left the family place for the city 125 miles down the river.

As a child I loved going “up the country” as my grandmother, Bebe, described the summer pilgrimage to her homeplace. Heading west from the fall line the trees grew taller, greener, and denser. The road wound through fields of high July corn like a part through a heavy head of coarse, thick hair. The earth grew a deeper and darker brick red with each mile through the Piedmont. Soon the roadway began the slow ascent up into the mountains. We had to swallow frequently as our ears began popping from the increasingly higher altitude.

In mid-afternoon we arrived at our destination. The languor of the July day had settled upon the tiny hamlet on the banks of the historic river. No soul was stirring, or a breeze wafting, the only sound was the gentle squeaking of a glider spring on a nearby porch. The air was hot, and the humidity hung heavily in the afternoon sun. Even the poplar trees were exhausted from the sweltering heat letting their branches droop.

My aunts and uncles greeted us with welcoming hugs and glasses of cool water from the spring located down the hill from the house. The grownups sat on the roomy front porch and I asked if I could go down to the spring. As long as I took an empty bucket to fill was the reply.

Keeping a supply of spring water was essential for the spigot water was nonpotable and was only used after boiling. The spring had provided all the necessary day-to-day water for years and would continue to do for the next 50 years.

I kicked off my sandals, and ran across the sunny side yard, through the big leaf hydrangea bushes bursting with buds, to the path that led to the spring. Descending into the green glade it was suddenly dark and cool with a heady, wet smell. I loved this chore and even today I can recall my bare feet on the cool, dark earth, tamped down by the hundreds of other feet that had fetched water from the spring. The path was steep and the further I went the cooler and damper it became. I arrived at the large stone springbox and set my bucket on the top of the structure. I straddled the spigot where the refreshing, clear water spurted from the box. I carefully placed the enameled bucket in position and watched as the rushing water spilled into the container and as soon as it was at the top I grabbed the handle and turned to go back up the hill. But first I let the water run over my bare toes experiencing the delight of the cool water. The ascent was difficult with my damp feet slipping on the earthen path. As I emerged from the spring path, through the hydrangea bushes, the unblinking sun was bearing down on me and I ran hurriedly to make my delivery to the kitchen.

“Well, you didn’t spill much, Miss Ella”, my Aunt Eloise aka Sweetie said as I put the heavy pail on the table. I was told to go lie down for a while to cool off but I would be needed shortly to set the table for supper. Of course I fell sound asleep and was startled when my grandmother called to me to come set the table.

I loved setting the large round table in the dining room.The heavy damask cloth on the table was first covered with placemats then salt and pepper shakers, the large cut glass sugar bowl and creamer, and a cruet filled with vinegar were placed in the middle. Silverware was the flower encrusted Stieff rose pattern quite popular with Victorian era brides.

As the family gathered around the table my Aunt brought in serving dishes filled with fried chicken, creamed yellow squash, string beans cooked with potatoes, sliced tomatoes, onions, and always homemade biscuits or yeast rolls. This was a standard main meal for summertime eating with the vegetables all grown by Uncle Asbury in his large garden. The highlight of the summer was the arrival of fresh corn, long slender ears of pale white kernels that still makes my mouth water nearly 70 years later.

After helping to clear the dishes and being shooed out of the kitchen by Bebe and my aunts I retreated to the front porch. There in the dark sat great-uncles Asbury, Roy and my grandfather, Pippy, gently rocking while enjoying after dinner smokes.

It was velvety dark in the mountains. The light of the stars and the flash of fireflies punctuated the air. The night was heavy with the lush smell of the mountains mixed with the sulphurous, acrid, odor of the paper mill. The mill, located below the house on the river, was lit with yellow lights. In my imagination the mill looked like a large river boat lit from bow to stern anchored on the river.

“Sit down, Sis,” said my grandfather “It’s nice and cool out here. We are going to take the dogs for a walk in a while. Your grandmother will be out here in a few minutes and I expect she, Nell and Sweetie will need to set a spell and cool off some.”

As my uncles and grandfather took the final drag of their smokes they rose up and called the dogs that had been sitting in the side yard. “C’mon boys let’s go for a little round before bed,” said my grandfather. The three men and two dogs walked slowly down the front walk and down the steps to the gravel driveway. I waved good-by for I knew they would be a while, stopping to chat with others out for a cool stroll or the men up at Burke’s garage hanging out on a summer’s night.

The mountain mist was rolling in and I was getting tired. It had been a long day and I was ready for bed. Adventures awaited me and I had to be up early.

I slept in my great-grandmother’s large bedroom in an old metal bed under a window. I could lie in bed and look right out the window to the river below and of course the paper mill. I fell asleep imagining the paper mill was a giant ship on the ocean that was carrying me away to numerous adventures. I remember awakening later in the night as my grandmother slipped into bed. “Go back to sleep, it is late and we have a busy day tomorrow,” she said. I snuggled down in the bed and quickly fell back into a much needed sleep in preparation for any new adventures awaiting.


Where in Belfast?
Photos by Audrey M. Deveney

In February we had this quiz to test your powers of observation. Here are the answers.

Up over Chase’s Daily
The Chapel at Grove Cemetery
The White House B & B
Coal shed removed from Front St

Thoughts for the Day

Each day is an invitation to see the world in a new way, to watch it bloom before our eyes like a flower in time-lapse photography, to feel the curvature of the earth in our bodies, and to become aware that we live on the edge of a spinning ball where anything can happen.
~MARV AND NANCY HILES

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
~JEAN HOUSTON

I have decided to stick to love… Hate is too great a burden to bear.
~REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: March 28, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXV

March Memories
Lee Graham

Early March sun is deceptive. If you stand in the southwest corner and turn your face upward, the warmth permeates your skin, warming to the core. Take a few steps into the dooryard and the wind gusting across the snow-covered field shatters your warmth and your hopes. But spring will come and the maple trees will be among the early greeters.

Sap, as attracted to the sun as you are, flows up the maples to feed the eventual emergence of leaves. Thirsty chickadees and red squirrels sip a drop or two from a broken branch and delight in its sweetness. Small boys and grown women do the same. Perhaps ancients gathered sap as an alterative to the water winter had frozen solid and discovered how heat made it sweeter. For my children, it was the ritual announcing spring.

Storms had been heavy that year – forty or forty-five years ago: eighteen, twenty-six, thirty inches at a time. The neighbor’s barn collapsed under the weight. The kids took their sleds to the top of the toolshed roof and slid down a track almost to the pond. Walking anywhere in the woods required snowshoes and even then, it was a struggle. Without them, you’d sink to your thighs. March sun though melts the surface during the day. The cold night air transforms it to a heavy crust. In the morning, you can walk anywhere! Early settlers wrote of waiting until March to move to their newly acquired land up in Maine. They hauled their belonging on wooden sleds, traveling on the colder days. We, too, used the March crust to find and tap the maples up above the house.

The kids are excited. We pack the spiles, buckets, a drill, a hammer, my snowshoes and the two-year-old on a sled. I strap the baby in her Snugglie, and with the older ones hike up the old woods’ road. The crust, solid enough this early March morning, easily supports our weight; the sun’s rays are warm on our faces. I figure if the crust gives, I can put on my snowshoes and haul the kids the rest of the way.

Tapping a tree takes a bit of work: Drill a hole on the south side that gets the most sun, pound in the spile, hang a bucket or an old milk jug on the spile’s hook, and go on to the next maple. The sap of the sugar maples is sweetest, but red maples produce sap. If a tree is large enough, it can take two or three taps. The first tap is the most exciting. I drill the hole and the kids take turns pounding in the spile. We hang a bucket and immediately hear the plink-plink of the sap hitting the pail. Mittens fly off and hands reach in for the first taste of the sweet drops.

We move along, tapping a dozen or so trees before the baby wakes up and everyone is suddenly exhausted and starving. I hand out the mushed up peanut butter sandwiches, share the jug of tepid water I’ve carried in my pack, and let the baby nurse for a few minutes.

The sled, now empty of buckets, suggests a speedy ride home for the older ones. The sun has softened the snow a bit, so they cannot go too fast. I strap on my snowshoes, put the drill and hammer in my pack, and trudge along, knowing most of us will be ready for a nap by the time we get home. I muse about maybe sitting in the sunny, south-facing window and reading for a few minutes.

Next morning we hike back up with two sleds: one for the kids and one with five-gallon pails for gathering sap. This seems less like fun to the kids and today they grumble and bicker. Many days are still too cold or too cloudy for the sap to run. Much as I want it to be spring, I am not unhappy to take a day or two off. By week’s end though, we have stockpiled enough sap to make a few pints of syrup.

We’ve made a crude outdoor stove from half of an old oil barrel and found a large flat pan to fit on top. Once the fire is roaring, I fill the pan with the watery sap. It takes hours – feeding the fire, pouring in more sap – forty gallons to make one gallon of syrup. Clouds of steam fill the air with sweetness. The older kids, mesmerized at first by the fire and the steam, lose interest and go off to build a snow-crust fort. I alternate between tending the equally demanding fire and the baby napping in the house. By suppertime, the sap is still not boiled down enough, but this is the tricky part. Let it go too long and it will burn up in seconds.

By seven, it’s reduced enough to fit into my largest canning kettle and I set it on the kitchen stove to finish. With the promise of pancakes and syrup for breakfast, everyone else goes to bed without a fuss. The canning jars and lids are clean and ready. I’m alone in the strangely quiet kitchen, watching, waiting.

Most of the time, I cherish any minute I have alone. The first hour or so, I read, check the thermometer regularly, and breathe in the sweet steam. By 10:00, I yawn, pace around, notice the tiny rivulets of sticky moisture on the walls. Knowing I’ll have to wash everything down in the morning heightens my exhaustion. I check the thermometer again – still not done! Now I am fighting sleep, but letting it burn would disappoint everyone, especially me. By 1:00 a.m. the wallpaper is peeling back in the upper corners, and I’m so tired I’m crying (softly-not to wake anyone) as I pour the finished syrup into two, pint jars and crawl into bed.

At 5:30 a.m. they are all up, excited, and starving. Bleary-eyed, I drop circles of batter on the griddle – one starter pancake per child. “Me first,” “Me second.” “I want to pour my own syrup.” Soon the thick, sweet syrup floods the plates and dribbles down chins.

Next March the warm sun will tempt us. They remember only the taste of the sweet syrup and the fun of sliding down the hill!

Lee Graham is a member of Senior College and the Belfast Garden Club who grows asparagus on her farm in Maine.


Photos by Audrey Deveney


Ask Me How I Am
Heather Heath Reed

If you ask me how I am,
you won’t get a straight answer.

I’m fine, I’m not so fine.
I keep busy. I’m bored.

I have projects up the wahzoo,
but no motivation to start them.

I write a line or two,
then lose my train of thought.

If I could wake up to a sun-filled room,
there’s a good chance it’d be a good day.

Lately, though, it’s been snowing and grey,
and I just want to lie in bed and sleep.

But today I wake to blinding sunlight,
and all I want is to be outdoors.

I want to feel the sun almost sting my face.
I want to swing my arms and stomp my feet,

Feel my body come alive again,
like it means to enjoy this day to the fullest.

So, ask me again how I am,
and I’ll tell you straight.

I’m fine. I feel grateful,
I feel my spirit rising.

I hear sparrows and finches
warbling in the trees.

I see frozen puddles
melting into slippery pools of ice water.

The sky is the bluest I’ve seen in ages,
and I think about bluebells and iris

And the promise of spring hovering nearby
like a sunset all lit up along the river.

Heather is retired and lives in Westport, MA. She is an avid reader, gardener, and walker. She enjoys writing poetry and is a longtime member of the Westport Poetry Group. In normal times Heather is a devoted volunteer at her library, which has been closed during the pandemic. Recently, she has been volunteering at the Council on Aging calling seniors to assist with vaccinations. She is a member of Belfast Senior College and has enjoyed several online courses this year.


Masks Have Changed Our Lives in Many Ways

Liz Vezina

Masks save lives. I wouldn’t dream of entering a grocery store, the post office, or anywhere else I might go – if indeed I did go anywhere else – without donning one. Early on in the pandemic, I was a warrior against the unmasked, silently berating those who passed by as I grabbed a block of cheese or a bag of rice, calling store managers to complain, researching local protocol for reporting errant businesses, should it come to that. Masks had rapidly come to symbolize an “us vs. them” political divide and fueled by Covid anxiety, I was guilty of demonizing many of my fellow Mainers while attempting to interact as always with those I perceived as being on my own team.

Masks have changed my life in other ways, as well. As a senior with hearing loss living in Maine, going out into the world this winter involved a cat’s cradle level of entanglement: Earloops over or under eyeglass arms? Best way to keep behind-the-ear hearing aids in place? Tuck everything in under the knitted hat? Don’t lose those earrings!

Beyond minor annoyances, masks have affected my life in a more profound way, making those chance encounters that often brighten my day nearly impossible. Raised in a secular Jewish tradition, I try to incorporate Judaism’s concept of “tikkun olam” into my daily life. Usually defined as “repair the world” and applied to such weighty concepts as social justice, my interpretation encompasses even those small acts of kindness that may elicit a smile and add a tiny bit of joy to the world. Moreover, one friendly gesture often leads to another directed back at us, lightening our own burdens for a few moments.

I like to believe that my eyes convey my smile to the little girl in the shopping cart, but do they? And what of my words? Were they spoken loudly enough to convey my appreciation to the helpful guy at the fish counter? I recall the day I ran into my manicurist near the potato bins. Realizing that I didn’t recognize her, she surreptitiously lowered her mask. “It’s me, Heather!” She quickly remasked and initiated a friendly chat. Heather happens to be what some call a “low talker,” challenging to hear even back in pre-Covid days as she worked on my toes. Unable to follow what she was saying, I simply nodded and wrapped things up with a “hope to see you soon!” Hugs were out of the question.

I tell myself it’s been a small price to pay, this loss of everyday affirmations. It pales when compared to the long year away from our grandkids as they enter and outgrow new stages, develop new obsessions, grow inches. But the other day, along my walk, as I strained to understand a new neighborhood acquaintance without benefit of lipreading and minus facial expressions, I spent the rest of my solo walk thinking how lovely it will be to get back to daily life unmasked and begin to repair the world, face-to-face once more.

A Bostonian by birth and lifelong Massachusetts resident, upon retirement in 2016 following a long career as a librarian, Liz Vezina moved with her husband to their lake house in St. Albans. She loves their leisurely lifestyle and treasures having time to read, write, participate in multiple book clubs, volunteer for their local library, and take Maine Senior College classes!


Thought for the Day

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.
~Pablo Neruda

You might as well answer the door, my child, the truth is furiously knocking.
~Lucille Clifton

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: February 3, 2021

Corona Chronicles

The New Normal , courtesy of Terry Black

The People?
Kristin M. Frangoulis

A frozen pond
Six empty chairs
Spaced apart
Fire in the snow
Did Christmas happen?
Did the wise men come?
Is there a new year?
A celebration?
Champagne flutes set on a tray
The bottle open
But where are the people
Smiles
Hugs
Kisses?
Hidden

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.


Today it is snowing and sleeting so I will be staying home, making soup, reading, and keeping warm. I had planned a drive around Belfast to see if I were able to identify the sites in the photographs recently received from frequent Chronicle contributor, artist Audrey Devany. On first seeing them I thought I knew precisely where each was located but my husband informed me I was altogether wrong!

See if you are able to identify the buildings pictured in Audrey’s photographs.

Nancy Perkins


Where in Belfast?
Photos by Audrey M. Deveney

May have been removed

No longer there


Maximum Change
by Leslie Woods

Maximalism only intruded into my work when I kept adding to fix an error, followed by saying, “You screwed up. Go back.” As a painter of semi-abstract figures performing sports, who was brought to a hard stop in 2020, maximalism became my stumbling first step back.

In 2020 we all moan over endless news of increasing illness and death, homelessness and food boxes. The only other topic is the election which generates more fright. Some listen to music we loved decades ago and attempt the old dances while breathing hard in masks. Back then we knew nothing.

My husband and I, like most of you, lived a normal, decent life, raised protest signs and marched. We supported schools, concerts and institutions that benefit society. I buried my long ago art until John said, “I’m taking a drawing class with Susan Tobey White in Belfast. Want to come?”

He learned to talk about composition and color, and welded farming gear into sculptures. In Russell Kahn’s adult ed pottery classes, John’s work was occasionally brilliant. Yet I became the serious artist and he hauled boxes of my paintings to shows, measured placements and ate hummus dip at openings. Then in February, 2020, after a massive stroke, he died.

A close cousin died of cancer in March. A good neighbor died of an aneurysm in April. A best friend spent the summer dying of cancer and finished the job by October. Maximalism.

My husband saved everything in our barns until dangerously crowded. I was an enabler, hoarding for sculptures we designed together. Then after his death I frequented the recycling center and Goodwill. Even after moving my studio from an upstairs bedroom to easy access downstairs, I created nothing; shuffled papers and sharpened pencils and drew nothing; tore rags and sorted brushes and painted nothing. The function of any animal is to reproduce itself, and humans have been massively successful. But then what? Isn’t making art just filling time?

Or is what we create also a connection to other people, that social thing we have lost so much in 2020? Seven months after John’s death, I took a painting to River Arts gallery in Damariscotta and mentioned that I hadn’t been able to do any new work. A photographer waited outside to tell me that his wife had died five years ago, but her support of his work led to his survival through his art. He was giving me hope.

Then UMVA offered maximalism, a concept completely removed from my work and requiring a concentration that morphed into meditation. In my usual way, I researched and sketched until an image burst into consciousness with me never suspecting that conscious thought would disappear under rhythm and pattern. I use acrylics which is a gift in maximalism because of acrylic’s #1 rule: paint over it. I don’t know how maximalism might affect my future work and I don’t care. I am beginning. In 2020 it simply may be enough to organize chaos into design or even to give somebody else a path to hope.

Leslie Woods is an artist who lives in Montville. Leslie Woods Art


An Argument Against Cremation
Jim Owen

Human skulls reside
in Harvard’s museum
of natural history,
witnesses to evolution,
the skulls are dark or yellow,
with plenty of room
for brains,
more than birds,
less than whales,
empty eye sockets
scan every visitor.

Here is Homo habilis,
known for making tools,
also Homo erectus,
a much older version of us,
the first Homo to cook.

Here is Homo sapiens,
our many greats grandmother,
more recent than habilis,
she probably knew
some Neanderthals,
all gone,
just a memory in our genes,
even now, one of their skulls is
right next to hers.

Maybe she was a mother,
laughing with her children,
running down game
as needed,
sharing food gathering,
enjoying music under the stars,
hugging her man, and
telling her children
bedtime stories.

I am sure
it never occurred
to her, that her head
would be displayed
in a museum,
carefully studied,
at rest so far from her children.

Jim Owen is inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, E.B. White, Japanese Haiku and many others. A member of The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry in Belfast, Jim’s poems have been published in the Foreign Service Journal, several online journals, the Maine Island Trail Association’s Tales of the Trail blog, and a booklet published by The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry. One of his pandemic poems is on the front door of the Belfast Free Library. A member of the Board of Directors of Senior College Belfast, Jim was regional manager and counselor for an Employee Assistance Program based in Maine.


Thought for the Day

While the news often features the worst of humanity, there are a billion acts of human kindness every hour of every day! Take another breath and sense this truth.

Jack Kornfield

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: January 24, 2021

Corona Chronicles

A Message from our President

Nearly a month into the new year and we are still dealing with this insidious pandemic, awaiting our vaccines, and wondering when this plague shall pass. I am anticipating great joy when I can once again see my family, have lunch with friends, and welcome visitors to my house. I have learned some very important lessons from almost a year of isolation. The main one being there is absolutely nothing that replaces the pleasure I derive from human contact of all kinds. I long to visit the grocery store, chat with fellow shoppers, run into a shop and pick up a needed item, and visit the library meandering through the stacks. I have missed going to the Colonial and the Strand to see movies with fellow cinephiles, worshipping with friends at St. Margaret’s on Sundays, driving a few hours to discover a new Maine attraction or eatery, and just the feeling of freedom which I feel I have lost. Finally, l really miss those Thursday classes at the Hutch with coffee and cookies, and so many friendly faces! But I know it all will return and hopefully before the end of 2021.

When we started the Chronicles we had no idea it would be enjoyed by so many and we are pleased that you are still contributing. We will continue sending it out as long as you send us your essays, reviews, drawings, paintings, photographs, and stories. It is a wonderful way to share with others and to stay in touch with Senior College friends and acquaintances. So write a review, snap a picture from your window, send us a great recipe you have enjoyed, or just a few sentences on how your time is spent. We all want to know about one another!

We recently received an excellent suggestion from a member that inviting former instructors to present updates on their course contents would make for interesting reading. We have written to a number of individuals who have taught in the past and we are looking forward to receiving their contributions to share with you.

In addition, consider joining us on Zoom. There are openings in a number of classes and soon we will be writing about upcoming opportunities in the Spring. In the meantime stay safe, healthy, and warm!

Nancy Perkins


Photographs by Jim Kosinski who teaches photography at Senior College


Salar de Uyuni

Icy Cold and Salty
by Brenda Smith

As I stepped onto the sparkling crystalline crust of this remarkable geologic formation, it was impossible to believe that the hard white surface was anything but frozen solid ice. But it wasn’t. It was salt. It covered an ancient brine pool, which in prehistoric times had been an immense lake. From the moment I learned the Salar de Uyuni existed, 340 miles south of my home in La Paz, Bolivia, I set my sights on seeing this natural wonder for myself. Four of my daring friends from the American embassy signed on to make the rugged trip with me.

Our pre-trip research revealed the Salar was the largest salt flat in the world, with a polygonal quilted surface covering 4,000 square miles. (The size of the big island of Hawaii) Ten billion tons of salt are stored in its crust and the submerged brine holds the world’s richest untapped source of lithium. Uyuni, by contrast, was a miniscule village, barely worthy of a dot on the map, in the southwest corner of Bolivia’s Altiplano.

The dry season, when the dirt roadways would be in their most passable condition, was the only practical time to attempt this journey. Unfortunately dry season coincided with the winter months. On the 12,000 foot high plains, daytime temperatures were pleasantly tolerable with warm clothing, but after sunset they quickly plummeted below freezing.

Though we followed the country’s major north to south “highway,” the only other vehicles we encountered were heavy duty transport trucks. For two days each way we bumped and bounced over a route that carried us across hard-packed dirt, ideal for kicking up billowing dust clouds, to narrow, deeply rutted channels requiring skillful navigation. Wherever the roadway became impassable, we followed the truckers’ ad hoc detours into the encroaching desert, avoiding 20 foot high giant cactus while weaving through quivering tussocks of puna grass.

For our two 4-wheel drive jeeps, the toughest challenge was crossing the eight streams that submerged the roadway under anywhere from a few inches to three feet of swift moving water. On the more dicey crossings we waited until a truck arrived to help us plot a safe route through the water. One veteran driver insisted the key to a successful crossing was to scout the route, then hit the gas and not let up until you reached dry ground on the far side. His wisdom served us well as we sloshed through the current from one bank to the other.

Uyuni’s few small buildings appeared on the horizon late in the afternoon of our second day. We decided to set up camp out on the salt flats, to put some distance between us and the settlement’s locals whose unwelcome scowls discouraged us from camping too close to their casitas. Mindful that the night wind tearing across the endless open space of the Salar would be wicked, we positioned our jeeps in a “V” formation, a windbreak of sorts, and set up our tents inside its shelter. Hot soup with bread, washed down with hot tea gave our bodies a head start on fending off the bitter coldness. Exhausted by two hard days of jouncing over washboard roadways, we slept snuggly in our down sleeping bags.

The next morning intensely bright sunshine shone through the nylon walls of our tents waking us to a spectacular day. The wind had calmed to a refreshing breeze and the cloudless sky was a brilliant sapphire blue. We were eager to explore the salt flats. Not far from our camp we noticed a cholita and her children. All around them were three foot tall white cone shaped piles of salt.

She explained that local workers “mined” the salt, by scraping surface layers into piles for exporting to buyers both in Bolivia and beyond. We also learned from her that just a short distance beyond where we camped was the track used by truckers hauling goods to villages further southwest and into Chile. The flat level surface of the Salar was a trucker’s dream as they could cover the 90 miles across the salt in a quarter of the time that circling the lake on dirt roads would take.

When she discovered we were planning to drive out into the middle of the Salar, she wagged a short leathery finger at us, vehemently insisting that we stay on the track. She warned the crust varied dramatically in thickness, and the brine beneath in some places was as much as 430 feet deep. When she pointed at our eyes, I donned the second pair of sunglasses we had been warned to bring as the sun’s reflection off the sparkling salt crystals had been known to cause blindness and permanent eye damage to those who ignored this precaution.

By mid-morning we were speeding along a barely discernible track leaving the shore line far behind in the distance. Soon the only thing ahead of us was a flat scene of nothing but two colors: blue above, white below. After an hour we stopped to take pictures. I wandered away from the group and stood transfixed. I felt like I had stepped into a two dimensional world.

There was nothing except infinite blue and white. There was no sense of depth. Nothing moved. I took two steps forward but the scene ahead of me was exactly the same. There was no sense of time passing. No right or wrong, no ugly or beautiful, no good or bad, just rich deep blue and pure white. There were no sounds, no words. I wanted to swallow the solitude and breathe in the peace of where I was. There was only the moment in which I existed. Alone.

Gradually my feeling of contentment faded. What if this was all that ever existed? What if nothing ever changed? Everything frozen forever with nothing but blue and white. Could this be what hell is? Suddenly I wanted to run from here, to escape the sensory deprivation that unsettled me to my core.

I turned and in doing so, with great relief, re-entered our world of four dimensions. As I dashed back to where my friends were gathered by our jeeps, I felt euphoric to hear their sweet voices and sense myself drawing closer to them. We drove back to a small island we had passed earlier on, where a few tall cactus plants somehow were thriving in the middle of this barren environment. We spread a blanket on the surface of salt, which we constantly had to remind ourselves not to call ice, and prepared our picnic sandwiches. As much as we were awed by the Salar’s unique physical characteristics, we had all sensed and were a bit unnerved by the mystical otherworldly aura that pervaded the surrounding landscape.

Though we had intended to camp another night at the edge of the Salar we came to a unanimous decision to start the journey back toward our own warm beds in La Paz that afternoon. Pleased with our resolve to leave the Salar in the rear view mirror, we turned the jeeps around and headed north.

Brenda lived in Bolivia for four years while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development. At that time there were only two paved roads in the country, so most of the exploring that she did was on dirt roads in her trusty little Suzuki Jeep.


Guilt free good-for-you Brownies
Janet Williams

After indulging on rich foods over the holidays, are you looking for a delicious little treat that is good for you and guilt free? Yes, such a thing does exist – and don’t be put off by the black beans, no one will guess they are in there.

15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ripe bananas
1/3 C agave nectar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup (or any combination thereof)
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C oats
Chocolate chips, chopped dry fruit, chopped crystalized ginger

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 8″x8″ pan and set aside.

Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed.

Stir in the oats, and as much as you like of chocolate chips, fruit or ginger. Pour batter into the pan.

Bake approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing.

If you find these brownies are too soft or too fudgey, add another 1/4 C oats or some flour.

Bon appetit!


Thought for the Day

What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.

John W. Gardener
Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: December 19, 2020

Happy Holidays!

We’ll be home at home for Christmas
Covid 19 will keep us in
There won’t be family gatherings
Or the sounds of a merry din.

We will raise a little tree
Decorated with our favorite things.
We’ll deck the halls with greens
And our angels will spread their wings.

It really won’t seem like Christmas
Without all of our family here.
But we will still try and celebrate
And raise a glass of holiday cheer.

Christmas Eve we’ll light the candles
A taper for each family member!
Then the house will shine quite bright
In the midst of a cold December.

As we listen to the carols
And enjoy a small repast
We will pray the threat of Covid
Will be over soon, at last!

For this year of 2020
Will be one we won’t forget.
And we hope that 2021
Shall be the best year yet!

Nancy Perkins


Watercolors by Audrey Deveney


Retreat To Little River
Gerald George

Turn the news off! Nerves keep screaming “stop!”
I beg an hour away in a place that’s safe.

Little River, I take my quest to you:
speak to me of unprecedented peace.

You trickle to the agitated bay,
but the rest lies quietly behind a dam,

making a spacious pond of gentle water,
its surface broken only by skips of wind.

You lie so still as if the nodding trees
that green your shoreline wave the world away

and make me feel relieved. O would that you
could do that now, and for more lives than mine.

Gerald George is a former winner of a poetry prize from the Maine Senior College Network, has published two books of poetry, and authored a play produced in the 2008 Maine Short-Play Festival. He and his wife Carol are retired in Belfast, and, before the covid virus, regularly attended classes in the Belfast Senior College. May that day come again!


Watercolors by Audrey Deveney


The Two Wisemen and One Wise Woman!

Corona Chronicles: August 15, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.


Yankee Child in Virginia
Leslie Woods

I hold a particular prejudice and this past March I visited North Carolina and examined this feeling. You see, when I hear a white man’s voice with a southern accent, the hackles on the back of my neck prick and my body stiffens as I wait to learn what sort of person he will be. I don’t like this feeling but I do know it lies in these snippets of my past.

Family

My ancestors on both parents’ sides arrived in Maine in the 1630s and all of my family were born and raised in New England. Maybe my mother had always wanted change, but after my father died when I was two, she moved us to Richmond, Virginia. Aunt A, an old friend with four daughters had moved there and Mom had me and my six year old sister so, except for underwear, I never needed new clothes until I was 11.

Every summer my maternal grandmother drove to Virginia to carry my sister and me north. She stopped in New York City to take us to shows and one time Radio City Music Hall had a rerun of Showboat. I adored the dancers but immediately asked her who sang about the river. She said, “That’s Paul Robeson. I have an album of his at the farm.” Years later, after an eye operation, my husband rented movies for me including Showboat. I complained that the video was in black and white and he said it came that way. I said, “That’s not possible. When Paul Robeson sang, that movie was in color.”

Gram owned a small farm in New Hampshire for summers where I helped with the gardens and lambs. We heard family stories like Gram learning to play piano from a woman who traded lessons for medical services from my great grandfather. Opening their door in the morning, my grandmother said they never knew what they’d find—chickens, vegetables or a hod of clams—poor white people paying for the doctor.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: August 15, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: August 4, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.


Synchronicity
Brenda Smith

The orange subway train clattered down the tracks into the station. As the doors slid open, a handful of people quickly exited. I strode into the half empty car and plopped down in one of the unoccupied bench seats just beyond the doorway. I kept my head lowered so not to engage in sight or sound with any of the other commuters already onboard. I did not want to invade their space, nor have them invade mine. Keep the distance. That’s the rule.

The train lurched forward heading for the next stop a couple of minutes away. I settled in and checked my cellphone for new messages. At the far end of the car a falling backpack thudded on the floor disrupting the silence. I shot a quick glance in that direction. I didn’t see any out of place backpacks, but my eyes caught the bright blue eyes of a young man staring intensely, directly at me. Startled by this unexpected connection, in the same instant we looked away from each other.

Since it was early afternoon, I speculated he might be a graduate student. He was comfortably attired in tan khakis and a navy blue polo shirt. His hair was a wavy light brown, not too long and a bit tousled. I tried to recall other features of his face, but the brilliance of those blues eyes dominated my memory.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: August 4, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: July 25, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.


Remembrances
Nancy Perkins

Sitting at my desk I occasionally look up to see the beauty of the July garden. Peonies dominate the green backdrop of trees and nature looks elegantly decked out in summer splendor. But I am not thinking of my garden or the many chores waiting, rather I am remembering countless past summers spent in my home state of Virginia, the Old Dominion. For years I would spend summers in Richmond with my grandparents. Richmond in the 1950’s was a sleepy, Southern capital dominated by tobacco companies, state bank headquarters, and government. Gracious, tree-lined avenues lined with crepe Myrtle trees and grand oaks dominated the residential west end, home to the descendants of FFV’s (First Families of Virginia). Magnificent Monument Avenue stretched five miles from the downtown of the city to Henrico County. Five statues graced this avenue, dedicated during the Jim Crow era honoring the heroes of the Confederacy (Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury). A sixth statue, erected in 1996, is dedicated to native son, tennis great, Arthur Ashe. The Battle Abbey, the White House of the Confederacy, and the Valentine museum all paid homage to the mythical Lost Cause of the Confederate defeat. These monuments and museums loom large in my memory as part of my summer vacations.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: July 25, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: July 2, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.


Barbara Klie’s photograph from Jim Kosinski’s photography class

Wicked Good Maine
The Misunderstood Dandelion

For a narrow window of less than 2 weeks each spring the fields of rural Maine turn a bright cheerful yellow with millions of dandelion blossoms. Renowned American naturalist John Burroughs described the phenomena by writing, “The dandelion copies in gold upon the green expanse, the stars of the midnight sky.”

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: July 2, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: June 21, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.

Protests, plague, and presidential politics pretty much dominate the airwaves as the summer season begins. It has been a tumultuous spring and as a young Black friend wrote “sometimes I just start crying from nowhere.” I understand what she says for the events in this country have brought many of us to tears. Yet we have learned to seek solace from books, film, cooking, sailing, gardening, and other pursuits that transport our minds to better places. I have deeply appreciated the ideas, thoughts, poetry, and art that transport us in these uncertain times that so many of you have shared. I look forward to receiving more items for the Chronicle. Email your contribution to me at nanella133@gmail.com. Thank you and stay safe.

Nancy Perkins

It goes without saying that any statements made are those of the author and are not attributable to Senior College Belfast.


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: June 21, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: June 5, 2020

We began the Corona Chronicles to keep the membership of Senior College connected and it has been gratifying to discover that it has connected us during this period of physical and social distancing. The Chronicles is brought to you by SC member Janet Williams, who for years has published the monthly Senior College newsletter. Janet dubbed this addenda to the newsletter the Corona Chronicles and prepares and distributes it. Thank you Janet Williams!

We continue to receive interesting comments and stories from so many members. Pam Chase wrote: I met up with a friend to walk down by the boathouse recently, maintaining social distancing between ourselves and others. As we parted I said “Let’s do what I do when I talk with a grandchild on the phone. Put your right hand on your left shoulder. Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Now squeeze. That is a hug from me to you.” We were smiling at that. We have to do what we’re able to stay connected.

Suzie Williams has enjoyed a number of movies while physically and socially distancing, including Harriet, Ford vs Ferrari, A Dog’s Journey, Blinded by the Light, Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and many others.

Patricia Keogh writes: An author that I did not read in my lifetime was Anthony Trollope. One year ago I read my first novel by this author. I fell in love! So I decided to do a little project while being isolated and away from my friends and family. I learned about this guy and his life. I got a list of novels that he wrote and started to go down the list to read them. Right now I am on The Warden (1855), one of his earliest novels. I have The Duke’s Children waiting in my queue. I love this English period from the early 1800’s up to the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901. The inequities in society, the unjust and unfair life experience of the poor contrasted with the rich and the landed gentry plus those to the manor born creates a tension that makes his books so interesting. Anthony Trollope is my Covid 19 buddy and I am delighted to have made his acquaintance!

From poetry, paintings, essays, and just brief jottings we have managed to reach out and touch one another during this continued period of isolation. If you have something to share please email me at Nanella133@gmail.com

Nancy Perkins


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: June 5, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 30, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.

There is a part of me that has found the past few months to be a period of reflection and a time to organize not only closets, photographs, and books but my thoughts and perceptions about the life I have led. I have spent many hours remembering childhood playmates, high school and college friends, the great group of neighbors we had with growing children, and now the new friends I have made since relocating to Belfast. I am so very gratified that Senior College has provided me with a feeling of fellowship and community and nowhere is this more evident than in the articles, essays, poems, reviews, and ideas generated in this newsletter. Please keep sharing for we are all finding pleasure in one another’s thoughts and writings. We will send issues as we gather content. In the meantime, I hope in the words of the Canadian Prime Minister sent to me by member Tyrone Townsend, “Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Safe!”

Nancy Perkins
Nanella133@gmail.com


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 30, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 22, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.

Finally, Spring has arrived and the long days of sheltering in place are brightened by the return of the green world.

When we sent out the first Corona Chronicles we were pleased with the feedback from many of you saying that you enjoyed receiving it, and hoped we would continue compiling pieces from Senior College members. We are happy to forward the second edition with poems and articles about your life in this strange and unique period. We welcome your observations, suggestions and reviews of books, movies, special online sites, interesting recipes, and ways you have kept busy.

Now sit back and enjoy the contributions of fellow members!

Nancy Perkins


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 22, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting for . . . ?

Arlin Larson
Waiting, waiting, waiting – but for what? That is how I have been feeling recently. Senior College starting up was one of the things I was ready for. For the past year I had been re-educating myself about the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and English settlement of North America. It was going to be really fun to teach a class marking the 400th anniversary this year. Then came the pandemic. Maybe we could have a spring session anyway. No. It will have to wait – but until when?

Another expectation was getting back out on the golf course. OK for that to be delayed – the weather isn’t even all that good. Then there was a trip to see our son and family. Same for a trip overseas. When will it be safe? Life is in suspended animation. We might not mind waiting a while for any one thing, but it feels different now that it is everything.

Then beyond waiting, there is worrying. Waiting AND worrying, waiting AND worrying, waiting AND worrying . . . but worrying about what? That feels pretty global too. Getting sick – how sick? Vulnerable friends and family (one member living in a nursing home and another working in one). Where is it safe to go? What precautions? What chances to take? Are family visits OK? People you know well? Businesses and jobs? Financial security? Worries that the waiting only makes worse.

I’m not sure it is a good idea, but I am keeping a mental list of the strikes that are called against me – old, male, conditions similar enough to the ones they call “underlying.” That makes three, and I’m not yet out, but have just learned of a fourth – growing up in a highly polluted city – Los Angeles!

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2020”

Spring Semester Cancelled

March 12, 2020

Dear Belfast Senior College Member,

It is with great disappointment that we must write to inform you of the cancellation of our Spring Semester. The Covid-19 virus is an extremely serious situation and our membership and faculty consist of an at-risk population. Consequently, we are taking this preemptive step to minimize the potential impact of this virus.

The college will be issuing refunds to everyone who has signed up for a course this Spring. You will soon receive an email or letter explaining how the refunds are to be processed. We ask for your patience and understanding as it is our first time (and hopefully last time!!) issuing refunds on this scale.

This Spring Cancellation is a solution for a very unusual situation. Meanwhile we are in the planning stages of a very active series of summer programs and are already accepting course proposals for the fall. The Board of Directors will be monitoring the situation to find the earliest possible time to reopen classes. As students we are all disappointed, but a special recognition must go to all our instructors. Our instructors put in much time and effort in preparing their courses, and we are working on ways that will allow them to proceed in the near future.

On a related note, we will also have to postpone our UMO Planetarium trip. Stay tuned for when the trip is rescheduled.

We will be keeping you informed as the situation develops. Rest assured your Senior College is still here and will continue to present courses and programs.

Thank you and stay healthy,
Belfast Senior College Board of Directors

Covid-19 Update

Senior College has cancelled its spring and summer terms over Covid-19 concerns. We will keep you informed as the situation develops. Rest assured your Senior College is still here, working behind the scenes, and will present courses and programs as soon as safely possible.

18th Annual Festival Of Art Call For Artists

Glen Cove Tide by Featured Artist Anne Spencer

CALL TO ARTISTS for the annual Senior College Festival of Art (June 4 – 7). Open to Maine artists 50 years of age and up. Registration period is March 1 – 31.

For information sheet for artists (IMPORTANT!): Click here

For registration form (rich text or pdf): Download rich text or Download pdf

This is a non-juried multi-media exhibit for amateurs and professionals, and shows the work of 140-50 artists each year.

Planetarium Trip 2020 is Cancelled

The trip has been cancelled to to COVID-19, and all checks will be returned on Friday.

Bus trip to the Planetarium on the University of Maine campus in Orono Tuesday, April 28, including a show at the Planetarium entitled, “Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe”. The presentation is a visual tour, seemingly flying into space and seeing planets; other events are planned as well.

The bus leaves the Hutchinson Center at 8:30 am and returns about 2:30 pm. Bring a brown bag lunch. Cost: $20 per person, plus an optional $3 per person to tour a lunar habitat module. Registration deadline is April 6. If we do not have enough participants by that date, the trip will be cancelled. If you would like to attend, but can’t afford it, contact Martha Laitin, Special Events Chairperson, 323-2368  

For printable registration forms: click here

For further information: click here

Paper registration forms are available in the Senior College office.

Snow Cancellation Thursday, January 16

Senior College classes were cancelled January 16 on account of weather. The new schedule is as follows:

  • January 23 – Thursday
  • January 30 – Thursday
  • February 4 – Tuesday
  • February 6 – Thursday

Winterim 2020 Dates

Winterim 2020
Four Thursdays: Jan 16 – Feb 6, 2020
Watch for new course listings here, on this website, on or about December 1, 2019, and in the December E-news!