The mystery of the missing boats

There is no shortage of painting subject matter in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

Levitating Lobster Boats of Alma, NB, by Carol L. Douglas
Where other rural places have spare cars, here in coastal Maine you’re likely to find spare boats on jackstands. Boats are so ubiquitous that they blend into the landscape. Last winter Howard Gallagher found one wrecked along the roadside. I think he bought it.
Nova Scotia has a storied boat-building history. Parrsboro was once a port and shipbuilding region; old photos show a waterfront littered with boats. The famous ghost ship Mary Celeste was built near here, at Spencer’s Island. Bluenose was built on the Atlantic side, in the boatbuilding yards at Lunenberg.
Parrsboro harbour seems to be silted in.
I’m painting at the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival next month. It was almost on our way home from Digby, if by “almost” you mean doubling your mileage.
In any new town, I usually start reconnoitering at the harbor. Parrsboro’s is silted in, with a sinuous rose-colored channel and mud flats, but no wharves or fishing fleet. This area is famous for its beaches, and I suppose Mother Nature gets wild when it starts flinging sand.
There are also dramatic headlands, lighthouses, and blueberry barrens. You could throw paint in any direction and create a masterpiece.
There’s no shortage of painting subjects.
The plein air painter’s second favorite task is searching out new places to paint. After stopping to meet Parrsboro Creative’s Executive Director, Robert More, we started the serious business of shunpiking. Maine painter Mary Sheehan Winn summers in Parrsboro. She texted us directions.
There were no boats until we reached Advocate Harbour. This tiny hamlet is so isolated that in the clear summer light it looks and feels like Newfoundland or the Scottish Hebrides. Its small fishing fleet is cross-tied to a seawall so that the boats are grounded on their keels in the mud as the water drops. They can only come or leave at the mercy of the tide. That must make for long work days.
Since Canada’s national parks are free for their national sesquicentennial, I suggested to Bobbi that we head home through Fundy National Park. She was interested in seeing Hopewell Rocks.
The last time I was here was at high tide. Mary and I had gotten lost looking for the Cape Enrage lighthouse during our Trans-Canada Painting Adventure. Here I was, once again, trying to find my way while the tide inexorably covered the things for which I was searching. Coming across a causeway, Bobbi and I both stopped short.
“Boats!” cried Bobbi.
“I’ve painted here before!” I shouted.
The beautiful fleet at Alma, NB.
We were in Alma, NB, where I painted my last painting in Canada last fall: a terrific, tired fail of levitating lobster boats. Alma is a wonderful working harbor, the home port of North America’s first female sea-captain, Molly Kool.

We even managed to make Hopewell Rocks before they were swamped.  Alas, it was evening, time to head south to the border and home. I leave again this evening, heading west to New York. It’s summer, and that’s how we roll.

Postscript: this morning we realized that Baby Wipes take dead bugs off windshields. I wish I’d realized that last night when I was rolling sightless through moose country.

Seafood, saltwater and a Fata Morgana mirage

We round the Bay of Fundy to Parrsboro, and paint at fantastic Point Prim.

Cobequid Bay Farm, by Carol L. Douglas
Alas, there were no Digby Chicks to be had at the fish market. We consoled ourselves with an omelet of Digby scallops and locally-sourced bacon, with Poppy Balser’s own fresh-baked bread.
Poppy—who’s also a licensed pharmacist—went in to the shop, and Bobbi and I walked down to the docks. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. They mean the dock ramp has steps, for it’s just too steep to climb at low tide. It’s treaded like a cheese grater and is four flights of stairs in height. Likewise, the marine railway seems to slope down forever.
You wouldn’t forget your keys very often if faced with that climb to go back to the car.
We met back up with Poppy at Point Prim lighthouse. Our intention was to paint with genuine Bay of Fundy salt water, but at low tide that meant a perilous scramble down the rocks. Poppy found a tidal pool halfway down the slope, and we settled in to watch our paints precipitate in the salt water.
The long, long marine railway at Digby.
When I was growing up, we would occasionally see a ghost image of Toronto dancing over the open water of Lake Ontario, seemingly just a few miles off shore. Fata Morgana miragesappear over open water just as in the desert. One rose above St. John’s as we painted. It only lasted a few minutes before it vanished in the haze of the horizon.
Mirage over the Bay of Fundy.
Bobbi is studying French. Our comfort stop in the woods, she told us, is called le Pipi Rustique. It’s a necessity of life and it’s frankly more difficult for women than men. “There’s an app for that,” Poppy said, and then dissolved in laughter. To me, the solution seems worse than the problem, since you then have to clean and carry it.
Point Prim, by Carol L. Douglas
We said au revoir to Poppy and headed north along the Evangeline Trail. This traverses some peculiar geology. The Annapolis Basin itself is separated from the Bay of Fundy by a volcanic ridge that trails off into the ocean as Digby Neck. The predominant rocks are basalt. Inland, there are bright red siltstones and soils, and gypsum outcroppings.
Point Prim, by Carol L. Douglas. I do everything I’m told, including value studies.
There’s even gold. Famous Canadian prospector Edmund Horne learned his trade here, in the now-ghost town of Renfrew, Nova Scotia.
When I painted here in mid-October, I’d noticed the peculiar pink of the water, but figured it was a seasonal disturbance. It is the same color now; a lovely rose pink from sediment.
Pink waters off Parrsboro, NS.
In my hometown of Buffalo, NY, Tim Hortons coffee shops are as thick on the ground as they are in Ontario. Bobbi hadn’t had the experience, so we stopped for dinner—a chocolate-glazed doughnut for her, an apple fritter for me.
Meanwhile, Bobbi was perusing her phone. “Our hotel is 100 miles behind us, in Grand-Pré,” she said. Evidently, our booking website couldn’t distinguish between 17 miles over land and the same distance over water. But we landed in clover. The Gillespie House Inn in Parrsboro had an unexpected vacancy. It’s far more genteel than my usual road haunts, and I enjoyed every tiny luxury, including the en suite clawfoot tub.

Repeating yourself

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess.

A billion tries later, I finally had something that wasn’t totally embarrassing.
This is the first workshop I’ve taken in many years, and I’m glad I came to Nova Scotia to do it. Poppy Balser knows her materials. She’s interested in process, not in having us produce something pretty to take home.
If nothing else, I’ve learned that by holding my watercolor brushes like they’re oil brushes, I’m impeding the flow of fluid from their tips. I’ve been using watercolor for six decades and Poppy is the first person who’s pointed that out to me, at least in a way that I could hear.
Yesterday she turned the traditional order of watercolor painting on its head, painting a moody mass of dark spruces and then adding a light, foggy background at the end. I wanted to compare this to painting the same subject in the traditional watercolor way (lights to darks).  I taped two pages to my board, intending to do the two value studies simultaneously.
Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail…
The problem is holding more than two concepts in my brain at the same time. I immediately jumped to color. Whoops.
There were aspects of each technique that I liked, so I drew and painted the subject again. It came out worse.  In fact, each iteration seemed inferior to the one before. Value is everything in watercolor, and mine was heading south quickly.
When you add a new idea to your repertoire, you often forget everything else you know. Mercifully, this amnesia is generally temporary. “Why are you putting water there?” Poppy asked me. Of course, the location of my pool was ridiculous; I’d just wanted an excuse to draw my luscious fat mop brush across my paper and make sparkly water. 
Bobbi repeating herself.
I did about five terrifically bad paintings before I finally took the advice I give all the time as a teacher: when everything is going wrong, go back to first principles. I did the value study I’d intended to start with and then painted the subject again. Of course it came out much better.
Meanwhile, Bobbi Heathwas doing exactly the same thing with graduated washes. I looked up and she was surrounded by paper, all bearing images of the same salt marsh.
This is an important principle of workshops and classes: what you’re painting isn’t nearly as important as how you’re painting.
One of Poppy’s other students mentioned not wanting to take the time to do a value study first. Most serious painters do them routinely, either as thumbnail sketches or notans. Drawing first saves time in the end. All your serious thinking is done in the planning stages. It’s less onerous to sketch in monochrome than to wrestle with color while you make value decisions.
Poppy’s color choices for her spruces.
By the end of the day, I’d used half of my watercolor block. I had one painting which I am not reluctant to show you. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I was driving home from the workshop and had trouble focusing on the road. Being a student is exhausting.  I need to remember that when I’m teaching.

Today Bobbi and I leave to drive around the Bay of Fundy in slow stages, painting our way home. Meanwhile, Poppy is teaching twice more this season. If you’re interested, you can find information here.

Three Maud Lewis houses and 17 Guy’s Frenchys

After class, we went touring and saw several Maud Lewis homesteads and a slew of Frenchys.

Ben Loman Harbour, c. 1952, by Maud Lewis

Poppy Balser is doing exactly what she should be doing in this workshop, spending hours putting us through technical exercises with big fat brushes. They’re very informative but not particularly photogenic.
After class, she offered to show us the sights. This is a beautiful area of mists and moors and glowering headlands, so we jumped at the chance. We started our tour at the Point Prim lighthouse. There’s been a light at this location since 1804, but this is a spare, uncompromising iteration built in 1964. Still, it’s very beautiful. It’s located on a wild, rocky headland at the mouth of Digby Gut and is surrounded by weathered, stunted trees and massive basalt and granite shelves.
One of many exercises I painted in yesterday’s class.
Around Digby, the buzz is all about a movie depicting the life and marriage of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. It was just released in Canada and is to open in the US in a few days.
Lewis was born in Yarmouth, NS in 1903. She suffered a severe form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that caused her to be unusually small and almost chinless. Today, with her physical deformities, she would have been cared for by the state, but that wasn’t so in 1937. She moved to Digby to live with her aunt. In 1938, she married forty-year-old bachelor fish peddler Everett Lewis.
According to her husband, Maud answered an ad he had posted for a “live-in or keep house” housekeeper. They married a few weeks later and moved into his tiny one-room cabin a few miles west of Digby.
Provincial memorial at the site, more or less, of Maud Lewis’ home.
Lewis accompanied her husband on his daily rounds peddling fish, bringing Christmas cards that she had drawn. Emboldened by her success, she started to paint on beaverboard, old cookie sheets and Masonite. Her worsening arthritis meant she was unable to do housework, so Everett did the housework and Maud sold paintings for very small sums of money.
Her original house is now in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The province has thoughtfully erected a steel memorial model close to its original location. Driving toward Digby Neck on a parallel road, we came across a sign pointing us toward another replica of her house. We squelched down a dirt lane to find it. It was built in 1990 by retired fisherman Murray Ross, and is complete with Everett’s shop and their mailbox.
Murray Ross’ iteration of Maud Lewis’ home.
We’ve been baffled by signs for something called Frenchys. It turns out that a Frenchy is a used clothing store. These were pioneered by Edwin Therialult. In the 1970s, he started imported used clothing from the United States to make cleaning cloths he called “wipers.” Some of the clothes were too good to shred, so he opened an outlet to resell them. Fortunately, he didn’t trademark the name, so a “Frenchy” is now a used clothing store. They’re big business around here. Guy’s Frenchys has seventeen stores and is just one of the chains using that name.
Headlands in the gathering dusk.
According to the cognoscenti, if you buy someone a gift item at a Frenchy, you should tell them it “had tags.”

Flotsam and Jetsam

As soon as animals stop eating boats, I’ll stop eating animals
Sketch of scaffolding, by Carol L. Douglas

On Monday I wrote about painting despite lack of inspiration. Yesterday I was inspired. It was the first truly lovely day of spring. Bobbi Heath was visiting and we were heading to the North End Shipyard to paint boats. Even though the Willow Bake Shoppe isn’t properly open for the season, I did catch the delivery guy, who gave me two packages of doughnuts for the sailors.

Heritage is up for what you might call the long haul—a week out of the water. She is having her worm shoe replaced. This is a strip of wood that runs along the keel as a sacrificial dinner for shipworms. Shipworms aren’t actually worms, but mollusks. Teredo navalisstarted life in the North Atlantic but has since spread around the world, probably courtesy of sailors. No timber treatment for shipworm damage has been completely successful; the only solution is to periodically replace the submerged wood.
Who knew that a 145′ schooner would have a centerboard? Of course, it’s several times bigger than my car.
Sam Clark works on Heritageduring the fit-out. When I asked him how it was going, he rolled his eyes. He had just wrestled a piece of the keel out. The shipworms had finished off what was on their plate and more.
When a new painter joins me at the shipyard, I like to take him or her on a tour of my favorite vantage points. I asked Captain John Foss if I could paint off the floating dock. “Sure,” he said, “but your angle will change.” That I thought I could compensate for, but I wrenched my back climbing back up. Bobbi, more sensible, set up to paint off the landing, and I went to retrieve my things from the car. That’s when I realized I’d left my field palette at home.
As they say, I’d lost the light.
I’d just returned when Bobbi got a call from Margaret Burdine of Artists Corner & Gallery in West Acton, MA. She was in Camden and wanted to stop and say hello on her way home. We had a lovely chinwag and a lunch of boiled eggs and cake.
By that time, the sun had flipped over to the west side of the boat. I should have known enough to move along with it, but I’d invested time in that sketch, and I was infatuated with the manlift. I foolishly invested the bulk of the afternoon in it. It’s not inaccurate, it’s just not lovely.
Bobbi, meanwhile, had wisely cut her losses early and gone to paint Heritage’s bowsprit from the sun side. I decided to set up nearby and just swirl paint around on a small canvas until she finished. The result, top, was no more than a half-hour of work, but it’s a lot more interesting than my earlier painting was.
Sam Clark fixes what the shipworms hath wrought.
When I left, Sam was cheerfully scarphing a new piece into the keel, Bobbi had a lovely painting, a new crewmember had arrived, and I was happily sunburned. It was less productive than Friday, but far more enjoyable.
I want to introduce you to the real meaning of a phrase we use all the time: “flotsam and jetsam.” Flotsam is the wreckage of a ship or its cargo. Jetsam is cargo that has been jettisoned, or thrown from a ship to lighten its load. 
Sometimes I float like a jellyfish through the currents of life. Sometimes I’m a beachcomber. But in either case, it’s the flotsam and jetsam, not the main chance, which intrigues me.

Learning new ways to see

More Work than They Bargained For (Isaac H. Evans), Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday, my friend and erstwhile student took his wife and me out to breakfast. On the way home, I asked them to swing by the North End Shipyard so I could ground myself in my next boat painting. He and I walked around the Jacob Pikeconsidering the angles from which I could paint it. Since it’s in the cradle on a marine railway, those angles are limited to where there’s actual earth on which to stand.  
His wife kept saying, “Over here, guys.” We politely ignored her; after all, she’s not a painter.
He took a call.  I walked back over to where she was standing. “See?” she asked. And I did, and how. Artists are not the only people with eyes.
Packing Oakum (Isaac H. Evans), Carol L. Douglas
I am reading the Bible with a friend who is a newer Christian. We were talking about how the Bible ignores the race questions that seem to consume us today. I referred to that soaring passage that reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
The distinction between Jew and Greek wasn’t a race thing, it was a culture thing, I said.
“Yeah,” she answered. “One god versus many gods.”
Bam! It wasn’t what I’d meant; it was far more insightful than that. It was exactly how a first-century Jew would have seen the divide.
Ready to Launch (Mercantile), Carol L. Douglas
I get lots of offers for ways to promote myself. I usually just delete them without opening. I spent this past week with Bobbi Heath and listened as she sorted through the same detritus. She pokes her head into every rabbit hole and asks herself what she might be able to do with this new tool. Before Bobbi was an artist, she had a very successful career as a software project manager. There’s a lot to learn from her.
Each time we are challenged by a new idea, we face a choice. We can ignore it, get mad, or consider it. These moments are so common that we often miss them completely. We’re completely wrapped up in our own thoughts.
But each human being is the sum of his or her experiences, education, and character, which makes the potential for new thinking almost limitless. Creativity is about synthesizing existing ideas into new patterns. It’s hard for me to shut up sometimes, but when I choose to listen instead of talk, I learn a great deal.

The Decline of the Raj

Karl’s Garden, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas

 In towns like Camden, ME or Freeport, Grand Bahamas there are year-round residents, seasonal residents, and vacationers. Because painters sit or stand like great lumps of coral for long periods of time, people forget that we’re there. That means we often overhear conversation. Anywhere Americans gather on the road, I will hear a variation on the following:

“I love this place!” the passing tourist exclaims.
“You should have been here before the hurricane/market crash/election/everything got built up,” responds the seasonal resident.
Shortly, they move on to the crux of the discussion: “The problem with these people is…”
The American Coot is a seasonal visitor to the Bahamas. Some, of course, elect to stay year-round.
I assume this conversation has been happening for as long as people have traveled for fun, and that there are variations in Chinese, Japanese, and every other language. It makes me want a gin-and-tonic on the verandah, reminding me of the sun setting on the British Empire, of Henry James and Rudyard Kipling.
Wiped out. I didn’t like the composition.
Normally, I enjoy listening to it, but I was off my game on Friday. Of course, this had nothing to do with the conversation and everything to do with composition. There is nothing inherently interesting in the shape of inlets on low-elevation, sandy cays. Without some background architecture—jetties, buildings, boats, trees—they are simply a boring ellipse that barely changes color.
On the other hand, the water itself is gorgeous. I want the opportunity to solve this dilemma, but the beach here is too hot for us pasty northerners. We take quick photos and then retreat to the shade of the palms.
Palm and sand, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas
We’ve been warmly welcomed by Eva and Karl Dehmel, who have invited us to paint at their beachfront house twice. Here the conversation bounces along far less predictable pathways. I wrote about Eva’s artwork last week; Karl is also a retired doctor and an avid gardener. Were I not on a mission, I’d have been among the palms with him and his machetes.
Karl has a light hand with the jungle, allowing it to sprawl about in its tropical way. The sky holes and traps are very different from those created by northern deciduous trees. I have been painting much more intuitively than normal, eschewing any kind of compositional sketch or pencil drawings. The subject seems to bring out the Fauvist in me.
Boat, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas
“It looks kind of like a Paul Gauguin,” my husband mused, when I showed him Karl’s Garden.
“I think it looks more like a Tommy Bahama shirt,” I responded.
Alas, all good things come to an end, and we said our final goodbyes to Karl and Eva on Sunday evening. As we headed back toward Freeport, I noticed that I was coming out in hives. It was too late to get to the grocery store, which closes at six, and we’d just left the company of two doctors. Talk about bad timing.
The scope of our activities.
I’m an old hand at allergies, however. I figured I could make it through the night without an antihistamine. “You don’t want to go to a Bahamian hospital if you can help it,” Cali Veilleux had told us.
By 11 PM, I was covered with bumps and my lips were swollen. I slathered myself with aloe and debated waking up Bobbi Heath to take me to the Emergency Room. Whether it was a food, bug spray, sunscreen, the sun itself, or something environmental, I’m still swollen and itchy this morning. In a few minutes, however, we can pop over to the store and get some Benadryl. That should be the end of that.

The Artist’s Way is to eat and drink

Partly finished palm tree by Carol L. Douglas

We rented our Bahamian cottage from a fellow artist from Spruce Head, Maine—Cali Veilleux. She’s a warm soul and has been very generous in sharing her time and knowledge. “I love seeing artists here,” she told us. (If you’re in the market for a Bahama rental, by the way, her place is comfortable and immaculate.)

When we first arrived, she gave us a tour. “That’s the best KFC in the world,” she announced. We all laughed because, of course, that’s setting the bar very low. We tried it last night. By gum, she was right. It was light, crunchy, and delicious; in short, not just your Colonel’s chicken.
The ice-cream colors of the cottages in our little neighborhood are lovely. We painted here in the morning while waiting for the weather to settle. I made it most of the way through my study of this palm tree and its shadow before it was time to head out to the beach.
Another one that got away. I hope to get back there today.
Alas, it was much too windy to paint on the shore, so we settled for a beachside lunch of grilled shrimp instead. When the wind refused to settle, we scouted inland. 
There aren’t natural harbors on Grand Bahama Island, so people moor their boats in a network of canals and lagoons. For boat people like Bobbi Heath and me, that’s unfortunate, since they don’t show to best advantage. Nevertheless, we were invited by the Sir Charles Hayward Yacht Club to return to watch their under-10s do their sailing class later in the afternoon.
Kitchen at Garden of the Groves, by Carol L. Douglas
In the meantime, we went to the Garden of the Groves to paint foliage. This is a large artificial environment stuffed to the gills with birds and trees. It’s a sort of tropical Garden at Giverny, with innumerable painting moments. I, naturally, gravitated to the bar. This leaned over a small lagoon. I was wrapping it up when I heard a voice drifting over the water.
“We don’t drink and drive. We drink and then drive!” Oh, boy. We’d been told that the Bahamas were relaxed about drunk-driving. That makes me nervous to drive in the evening here.  
There were turtles everywhere in the Garden of the Groves. One kept me company while painting.
The Optimist Pram class was everything you could hope for from a group of wee rascals. They were very good and managed to line up and race twice in the hour of their lesson. Nobody capsized, deliberately or otherwise. When they were done, several children came over to talk to us about our work.
Optimist Pram Class at Sir Charles Hayward Yacht Club, by Carol L. Douglas
“Do you know how old I am?” a boy demanded of Bobbi. “I’m six.” A moment later, he added, “I just peed my pants.”
We made it home with barely enough time to shower and dress for an opening for the Grand Bahamas Artists Association, which included work by Eva Dehmel and Cali. A mere two days on the island and we were invited to swill plonk with the natives.
Grand Bahamas Artists Association opening.
As the designated driver, I stuck to ice water. Even so, I was nearly killed walking across the street to the opening. The car in my lane stopped to let me through. The oncoming car never even slowed down, despite my wearing white and being in a lighted crosswalk. Bobbi and Joelle Feldman screamed a warning. I jumped back just in time. I wonder how drunk that fellow was.
“I would have hated to have to call Doug and tell him you were dead,” Bobbi told me after the shock had worn off. It’s nice to be loved.

Princess of flying thoughts

Princess of flying thoughts II, 2008 Acrylic on palm shaft, Eva Dehmel
As I write this the last echoes of thunder are moving off to the east, ending a night of rain and clamor. “This cold front will move through fast,” a woman named Eva confidently told us in McLean’s Town. That was just after she had fried us some exquisite fresh snapper, followed with slivers of Key Lime Pie that would not have been out of place in any fine restaurant. As compensation for a no-painting day, it was sublime.
We’d optimistically packed our gear and then headed to the farthest western point we could reach by car. Although that was about 45 miles, it took us several hours, between the roads, the scenery, and our general potting around.
Where your dinner-time conch shell goes to die.
Eva and Karl Dehmel live in a mushroom house on the beach near Lucayan National Park. A retired dermatologist, Eva works in clay, acrylics, chalks, and found material. The painting above hangs in her kitchen. The figure represents a Cuban deity, a wood princess, surrounded by her birds. In Eva’s mind, those birds represent thoughts flying away, an idea I found quite charming. More of Eva’s work can be seen here.
Making a pole for a fishing boat.
We stopped at the former East End Missile Base and tromped around for a while at their abandoned quay. Tiny blue buttons drifted on the surf. Porpita porpita looks like a jellyfish but is in fact a colony of hydroids. Its intense blue-green color is a variation of the Caribbean waters.
Cold front moving in on West Grand Bahamas.
McLean’s Town is a popular place for sport bonefishing. The bonefish lives in inshore tropical waters and moves onto shallow mudflats with the incoming tide in search of its dinner. These mudflats are surrounded by mangrove swamps. “What a weird little structure this forest is,” I remarked to Bobbi Heath. Apparently, mangrove swamps are important in protecting low coastal areas from erosion and storm surges. Their massive root systems dissipate wave energy and trap sediment.
If those were 35 mph gusts, I’m glad I wasn’t here for a hurricane..
I announced that I was rested and ready to take the wheel. I haven’t driven on the British side since August, and I wondered whether I retained the muscle memory. No problem, and while Bahamian drivers are erratic and ebullient, they’re also very courteous. We were home and unpacked before the skies truly opened.

The anti-Sanibel Island

Fire in Freeport.
If you’ve ever been downwind of a forest fire, you know they smell more like burning trash than like a nice log fire. There’s one poking in a desultory way around Freeport, the Bahamas, right now. Nobody seems to be doing much about it. 
“I felt a little like Evil Knievel driving right through it,” artist Cali Veilleux told us, but she still went. Things to do, you know. She was worried that the smoke would linger in our cottage, but it was fine.
The fire is burning in a residential neighborhood.
Damage from Hurricane Matthew was less transient. All over Freeport, roofs are knocked apart and large palm trees slumber across fences or buildings. A steady rain today—and there’s one on the forecast—could make for a lot of damp stucco.
Yes, there’s a fire, but a girl’s got to get to school.
Life replays recurrent themes. The unfinished painting on my easel at home is of a wildfire burn near Banff, Alberta. I experienced Hurricane Matthew’s leavings during a memorable up the Great Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland during the same trip. Why this happens, I don’t know, but it does neatly connect my familiar, much-loved Canada with this new place.
I’ve absolutely no experience in the Caribbean. The last time I was in Florida was in 1968. My friends have either visited swank resorts or they have gone on mission trips to Haitian and Dominican orphanages. This neighborhood in Freeport is stubbornly normal, a place where people live, eat, work and shop.
Unfinished wildfire painting in my studio back in Maine. It all seems to work together somehow.
It’s all very modest, even by Maine standards. You disembark straight onto the tarmac when you arrive at the airport. Customs waved us through without questions. We sat on a bench and flexed our joints to release the New England cold from our bones.

A trip to a grocery store elsewhere is always a reminder of how spoiled we Americans are for price and choice. The differences are sometimes inexplicable. Here, Eggland’s Best Organic Eggs are the same price as at my local store, but a large jar of peanut butter is $11 and change. Most peculiarly for an island, there is no seafood department. “You get that at the beach,” Cali explained.
Trees lie around lazily in the sun, blaming Hurricane Matthew for their inactivity.
None of us had the energy to deal with a car last night. This morning we will immerse ourselves in the bracing business of driving in what the Duke of Windsor once referred to as “a third-class British colony.” (That man really was spoiled.) Being only sixty miles off the American coast, only half the cars have right-side steering wheels. That and the exuberant, erratic driving ought to shake off our flying lethargy in a hurry.