Corporal Acts of Mercy

Another snowy day in the Duchy.
Being very laid back, we in the Duchy don’t enforce all that border-crossing nonsense, but if you visit, you know immediately that you’re in a different space.
For one thing, our hierarchy is upside down. The nobility—and by that I mean me—seem to spend an inordinate amount of time clearing drains and uncovering fire hydrants. This isn’t because I’m particularly nice; in fact, I’m a curmudgeon, always grumbling about the neighbor who lets his dog defecate on my property. That blasted spaniel is indiscriminate about where he goes. Last month he went right in the middle of our front walk. My assistant managed to pick it up on her shoe and track it through my house, forcing us to stop working and wash all the hardwood floors. But I digress.
The Duchy has a resident saint and she frequently drags me along on her acts of mercy. Mary has lived in the Duchy for her entire life, so she knows everyone. She has a tender heart. I do not, but I go along with her schemes because they’re always more interesting than whatever I was supposed to be doing.
Winter snowsquall in the Duchy. 6X8, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
“Number 178 is being cased by a burglar in an old silver sedan,” Penny the Ducal Mailperson announced yesterday. “Two feet of snow in the driveway and a package in the door for days; it’s obvious that nobody’s home.” Because Mary fixes things, Penny handed her a slip of paper with the license plate number on it.
A portrait of the artist as a maintenance guy.
The easiest solution was to shovel out Number 178 to make it look less abandoned.  The average house in the Duchy has 30 feet of front walk, 50 feet of sidewalk, and 120 feet of tarmac that starts about 10 feet across and widens to a parking area in the back. Only a zealot (me) ever shovels this by hand. Nobody who is not dead lets it build up, especially when Mother Nature is furiously showering down snow. It packs in like concrete.
An hour into our Herculean labors, we saw a commercial plow come down the street. “Let’s pay him to finish this,” we instantly agreed. Ripping off her hat and shaking out her gleaming blonde hair, Mary flashed a bit of very shapely leg at him to get his attention. He trundled on.
Mother Nature is just in one of those moods.
“Boy, was thatever a kick in the ego,” she grumbled.
“I think you’re supposed to remove some of the twelve layers you’re wearing,” I pointed out.
Today Number 178 was snowed in again. There were footprints around the house and garage, as if someone was peering in the windows. Again we shoveled, and then we called the police.
Bad parking job.
The irony? That’s the neighbor whose dog messes on my property.  And that’s why Mary is a saint: nobody else could have gotten me to do that.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.


Whose woods these are I think I know.  
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here  
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 
I knew weather was coming, but I had no choice but to stay; yesterday I had appointments all day in mid-coast Maine. When I finished at dusk, there was little choice but to hunker down and ride it out.
I think of blizzards as time-out-of-time: they’re an extra Sunday in the week, unannounced holidays. Trouble is, I don’t want a holiday; I want to get home and continue on the groove I’ve made for myself.
I’m an old hand at blizzards, but this is my first experience with one off-the-grid. Like many Maine houses, this one has knee walls on the second floor. My little bed is tucked up under the rafters. We’re heating with wood, which makes my bed the warmest place in the house. My window is single-pane, and it’s allowing gouts of cold air to blow in. But it’s not on the west wall, and the wind is from the west. As I write this, it is increasing in ferocity. There are wind chimes somewhere outside , and their frantic atonal melodies rise in counterpoint to the clunk of the tie-downs on the wood pile and the whistle of the wind.
Thank you to my daughter for the texting gloves. They’re making this bearable. Later I’ll see if they work as watercoloring gloves.
Mainers are accustomed to bad weather and they seem inclined to keep deep pantries. There was none of that rush for bread, milk and eggs at the local Hannaford when I stopped. However, there was a line of trucks waiting for gas; seems like everyone has a generator here.
Since I took this photo, the far tree line has vanished in the snow.
My family has blown all over the map in this storm—some in Rochester, one in Washington, DC, some in Albany. The governor of New York has suggested that everyone stay home; one wag responded, “He’s probably not self-employed, then.” (Mr. Cuomo is left-footed on the subject of snow, which is no surprise seeing as he hails from Queens. But his advice is usually greeted with derision up in the Snow Belt.)
Blowing, drifting snow…
Six inches of snow in Rochester overnight so it’s business as usual. Doesn’t matter, though; the Mass Pike is closed, and the New York State Thruway is kinda-sorta closed. I’m stuck here for the duration.
The wood pile.
We have water, we have firewood, we have food. There’s no chance of the power being knocked out, because there isn’t power anyway. So my Prius slumbers by the side of a dirt road that won’t be plowed for hours if at all. I think I will curl up and spend the day reading.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,  
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep,  
And miles to go before I sleep.
(from Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening)

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.