Common sense isn’t that common

The Schoodic Peninsula has some wild and wooly scenery.
The Schoodic Peninsula has some wild and wooly scenery.

Jennifer Johnson has been my monitor for Sea & Sky at Acadia National Park for six years. In all matters other than painting, she knows more about the workshop than I do. I’m not impractical, but my focus is on the instruction. Plus, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never really learned how to keep a sensible calendar.

Every year, I send students a supply list and a copy of my own personal packing list. Every year, I get the same question back: “Do I really need dress clothes?”

Jennifer takes the photos while I get to paint, which is why I don't have any pictures of her.

In Maine, dress clothes can mean your best flannel shirt, not to be confused with the everyday flannel shirt in which you go fishing or change the oil. That’s not mere reverse-snobbery; a good flannel shirt can be an investment. Also, there’s no telling when it might suddenly be necessary—the most clement summer wedding can suddenly be swept by a cold wind from the north that will set your bunions aching. That, by the way, is one reason mass transit will never really catch on here—we need cars to stash our spare gear in the event of a sudden turn in the weather.

At any rate, this packing list has taken me around the world. I modify it for the places I’m heading and the situations I expect. No, I don’t wear jewelry in Yukon Territory. I’m unlikely to need my Grundens waterproofs in Delaware. Unlikely, but not impossible. I once painted an event in the dregs of a hurricane in Rye, NY with my buddy Brad Marshall, and I’ve never been wetter.

I spend a lot of time traversing rough terrain to get from painter to painter. It's a good thing I'm so dang young and fit!

Things have changed over time. For example, there’s no call now for reading material when we all carry the universe on our phones. When I first wrote this list, nobody wore watches that needed charging; you either replaced a battery or wound them up.

This is a universal list, from which the painter can pick or choose as appropriate. However, it would never have occurred to me to do something as simple as add a heading to explain that. This year, Jennifer, in exasperation, wrote her own, revised copy of the list. From now on, I’m sending both to my students.

Over the years, my monitors have had to deal with some odd problems, like broken easels, interpersonal conflict (it happens occasionally), and lost students. Jennifer is pretty unflappable, so I haven’t yet met the circumstances where she’ll lose her cool. A bear might do it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

But I like nothing more than sitting at Schoodic Point discussing watercolor with my old pal Becky, who has come back year after year for more of my malarkey.

This is an unusual workshop in that residents are supplied their meals. That’s sensible, because Schoodic is isolated; you can buy a sandwich at the local gas station, and there’s a small grocery store in Winter Harbor. However, the macadamia pancakes and freeze-dried fruit smoothie crowd is SOL, as they say. That’s the price we pay for a real wilderness experience.

But it does put food service in some ways into our hands. Left to my own devices, I’d eat Slim Jims for a week. It’s really helpful to have someone working with me who remembers to handle the lunches.

Yesterday, Jennifer pointed out to me that I have an impossible scheduling conflict at the beginning of the workshop. I’m supposed to be at the auction for Camden on Canvas on Sunday from 4-6, and welcoming students to Schoodic at the same time. They’re two hours apart.

Oops. Such is my faith in her that I can just plan to get there as soon as I can. I could never do that if I didn’t trust her absolutely. A good monitor is worth her weight in gold.

By the way, this week a humpback whale was visiting the Rockland breakwater and Camden harbor. Here’s a video off the deck of schooner American Eagle, and one from Curtis Island Light. Between that and a seal kill by a Great White Shark off Owls Head last week, it’s been an awfully exciting week for marine spotters.

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