Looking For Rachel Day 4

Wednesday, September 5

Today, we took the ferry from Boothbay Harbor to Monhegan Island, over sixteen miles away.  A whale was sighted but I managed to miss it.

In her book, The Edge of the Sea, Carson writes of Monhegan Island, “…which in ancient times must have stood above the coastal plain as a bold monadnock.”  According to Britannica.com, a monadnock is, “an isolated hill of bedrock standing conspicuously above the general level of the surrounding area.”

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Our first stop was the Fish House noted for it’s lobster rolls.  I remember driving to Wood’s Hole decades ago and stopping at roadside stands.  Two dollars would get a hot dog bun filled with lobster salad; then, small pieces of lobster pieces fit the roll.  Now everything is super sized and doesn’t appeal.  I opted for fish tacos.

The restaurant, a short walk from the Ferry to Dead Man’s Cove, faces Manana Island where the Manana Island Sound Signal Station is located, sending out fog signals since 1855.

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From there, we walked to Lobster Cove.  The path reminded me of the difficulty getting to the beach at Rachel’s house.  Narrow trails towards challenging rocks.  I had hoped to see some birds of note but none appeared.  Like Rachel Carson, I’m fond of sighting birds.  Unlike her, I’m inconsistent in my attempts.  My friends ventured further.  I remained cautious.

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Next the Monhegan Museum of Art and History,  part of the keeper’s house on the Lighthouse grounds.  A real treasure like the museum on Ile Aux Marins across from Miqulon, the French outpost off the coast of Nova Scotia. We stepped back into the past with views that stopped my breath.

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We had to do a quick tour in order to reach the ferry on time.  Once back in Boothbay Harbor, we crossed the Boothbay Harbor Footbridge to the other side and did see a bird of note: a loon.

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We ended the day with a dinner of beans on toast.  Then a look at the stars while reading aloud James Harpur’s poem, “The Perseids.”  And we were moved.

And in the freckled darkness

the stars looked down on us

and on the gathering of silent animals,

as if they’d willed us there, the ones

they had been waiting for,

ensouling the universe

with our thoughts for sick and absent friends

and wishes for uncertain futures –

the stars saw the meaning of life –

if only for the time it took

to see and lose a prayer

in our evaporating trails of love.

From  The White Silhouette, Carcanet, 2018 

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Paris Day 24

Tuesday April 24

If she were staying in Paris, my daughter told me, she would have coffee every day at the Café de la Mairie in front of St. Suplice, the same café where I started this trip.  Perhaps the  determination to follow my three muses has kept me from enjoying the simple pleasures of Paris.

Tuesday began with another delicious walk to the Alliance Francaise through the Luxembourg Gardens. In today’s class, one discussion focused on my thumb whose size causes many mistakes when using my phone. Finding the word for thumb in French (le pouce) was another challenge although saying it was not. A great relief.

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After class, I made my way to the Café de la Marie for lunch: a tartine avec du fromage et du jambon (with cheese and ham), a salad, a glass of rose, followed by un café.  Two hours watching the comings and goings of people included spying on other customers – what they were eating, what they were reading.  Mervielleux.

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By then, it was almost three which meant my plan to do some writing was in jeopardy. By the time I polished the piece to post, the Médiathèque, the library at the Irish college, would be closed.  Since my iPad was defunct, I use the library’s computers to publish the blog entries.  I walked fast, finished the editing, and sent it off.  Good thing, as I noticed a poster announcing that two of the artists in residence, James Harpur and Una McKevitt, would be discussing their work that night.

Mr. Harpur spoke of two writers, Claude Le Petit (a free thinker to say the least) and Marguerite Porete, (a mystic) who at great cost to themselves- death-refused to give in to the powers that be.  These examples from the 17th and 13th century managed to console me given this dark hour in America.  For one, as Mr. Harpur pointed out, the consequences for opposing the authorities were more severe (death by guillotine or burning at the stake) than they are today.  For another, illustrations of such commitment support pushing away obstacles that impede freedom.

Ms. McKevitt , a playwrite and director, explained her new work, Madhouse, based on the actual experience of a young man growing up in his family home where several mentally ill patients had been placed, a program that still exists in Ireland.  This plan seemed similar to the system in Geel, Belgium, that is, placing the mentally ill in a stable family environment rather than an institution.  Since I had worked as a therapist in a clinic designed after Geel, living there with my four year old son, the idea of the residents’ perspective intrigued me.  We discussed that due to their relationship to reality, including their views might be distracting and confusing.

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Afterwards, another poet and I chose Café Delmas on Place de la Contrescarpe for dinner around the corner from where Hemingway lived.  Accompanying the burgers we ordered were French fries in a cup. We chose to eat by the window for people watching; however, the tables were quite small, too small for our order.  Maneuvering our plates, our drinks, our cups of French fries proved difficult: within a few minutes, we managed to send our Pommes Frites redolent with catsup flying over our shoulders, missing the adjoining tables, and splattering to the floor in a red heap. As they say, you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl. C’est la vie.