Category Archives: January 15

Offering a celebration of place

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeoff Bladon still recalls the impact of a black-and-white film about the famous Canadian painter A.Y. Jackson that he watched in sixth grade. “I was bowled over,” the Montreal native says. “Although I had been making drawings from early childhood and had been taking art classes on Saturdays at the local recreation center, it had never occurred to me that a person could make a life as a painter. I can still see the scenes of Jackson canoeing and hiking in the wilderness and then setting up an easel and painting the natural world around him. I thought it would be a great life.”

As it turned out, Bladon’s father had other ideas for his son. “Father discouraged any serious pursuit of art as an occupation, which was understandable,” Bladon says with a wry smile. “So I went to college in Manitoba and then I went to law school, which I’m glad I did, but all the time I continued drawing, sometimes for student newspapers.”

Over the course of 15 years practicing law in London, Ontario, then five years serving as a criminal court judge in the Yukon and finally joining the Faculty of Law at the University of New Bunswick in Fredericton, Bladon continued drawing and, eventually, painting in oils. A.Y. Jackson’s impressionistic, plein air work also continued to be a source of inspiration.

“Being outside and painting is a real rush,” he says. Another rush, he adds, comes from reveling in the environs of St. George, where he and his wife Daila bought a home in 1995. Bladon’s connection with Maine is longstanding. “As an anglophone adult living in Montreal, my grandmother ‘summered’ in Kennebunk Beach staying at the Narragansett Inn. My father would accompany her as a boy,” he says, adding, “Francophone Montrealers went to Old Orchard Beach.” Bladon’s father started bringing Geoff to Maine when Geoff was about 7 years old.

“Maine has always been a draw for me,” Bladon says. “Part of our decision to take the job in Fredericton in 1987 was so that we could be close to Maine.” The couple travelled  to the midcoast area in particular, once staying in a B&B in Camden and then, in 1993 renting a house in Port Clyde from Cindy Lang for the month of May. “That was the beginning of the end,” Bladon laughs. They returned to Port Clyde the following year, all the time taking note of properties that were for sale. In 1995 they bought a small house on Main Street in Tenants Harbor next to the marsh. The couple now divides their time between St. George and Fredericton, where Bladon continues to work part-time doing labor adjudication work.

“Like a lot of us who have picked St. George to live, we really enjoy what we have here—I love this place. It is a wonderfully different and unique area. It is nothing like Camden or Rockland or Belfast or Boothbay or even Friendship. The indigenous architecture and the landscape itself is what makes it different. In my paintings I try to offer a celebration of this area.”

The Apple House

The Apple House

The range of images in Bladon’s current show at the Jackson Memorial Library testifies to this commitment. From the farm buildings at Harjula’s (as seen from the little cemetery on Westbrook), to the Apple House in Wiley’s Corner, the Tenants Harbor Boatyard and Drift Inn Beach, Bladon makes clear that the beauty he finds on the peninsula and in the surrounding area is very specific in terms of season, time and place. While he has not painted every scene outdoors—larger paintings are difficult to complete in the two or so hours before the light changes—for the mood and sense of place and light, Bladon always relies on first-hand sketches. Photos provide factual information when needed. “Sometimes I need to double check things like the number of windows on a facade,” he explains.

Bladon admits that it is “a source of validation” when someone likes one of his paintings well enough to buy it. And getting juried into a show provides a similar satisfaction. But Bladon says getting that kind of support is not why he paints. “The actual doing of the painting is what makes the blood flow,” he emphasizes. “And what keeps you at it is that you never get it right, not fully. The painting that is in your head is not what comes out. There are keepers and then paintings that are not.”

The important thing, too, he clearly believes, is that while he has not, like his hero A.Y. Jackson, earned a living as a painter, he has, like Jackson, made painting a life.

Bladon is represented by Tidemark Gallery in Waldoboro and Gallery 78 in New Brunswick. Bladon’s show at the Jackson Memorial Library runs through February. Also part of the exhibit is the work of Charlene Vanderslice, paintings that are inspired by the marine realm and dedicated to saving the oceans. —JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Coming together as a school

At St. George School, we have a community meeting every month. Each month, a different class runs the community meeting. Different classes show what they’re learning, and the older kids, such as ourselves, talk about what’s going on in our school. We all sit in a big circle around the gym floor to show that together, we’re a whole. The purpose of community meetings is that we come together as a school and celebrate the achievements of others.

One important tradition we have at St. George is that we sing our school song at every community meeting. Sometimes, the middle level band plays while the rest of the students and teachers sing the song. Our school song was written by Robert Jean, a teacher at our school. He wrote the song with his second grade class, (which is now the present eighth grade class at Oceanside West.)

We asked Mr. Jean how he came up with our school song. He said, “I was driving in my car and I remembered that Mr. Bernard, (our former guidance counselor) wanted to come up with a school song. I knew the tune from other school songs, and I just started putting words to it! My second grade class helped, but I came up with most of the lyrics. None of the words have changed since then. I also wrote a second verse, but we decided to only use the first one.”

We also asked him what his experience was like the first time they sang the song at a community meeting. “It was awesome! I didn’t know if the kids were going to sing loud enough, or if anyone would like the song. After, when we went back to our classroom, Mr. Schooley (our former principal,) came in and told us how much he liked it!”

St. George School Song:
There is a school in Tenants Harbor
In our hearts so dear.
Community, respect and honor,
Targets that are clear.
Students, parents, teachers, friends
Working side by side.
Give a cheer for dear old St. George
Show your dragon pride!

If you would like to attend a community meeting at our school, you can call the office to find out when the next one is or read the weekly newsletter to find out.
—Chloe Simmons and Sophia Campbell (Simmons and Campbell are 7th grade students at the St. George School.)


commtg1SM

Student council members presented a check for $170.72 made out to the American Heart Association at a St. George School community meeting day in February 2014. Under the leadership of school nurse Autumn Miller, the students made paper hearts, which they sold for $1 and students and staff then wrote ways to keep their heart healthy on them. The hearts were hung on both sides of the walls of the school’s long hallway. The students also sold Heart Association dress pins. At the community meeting, the members of the student council urged their fellow students “to love your hearts by being physically active, eating healthy foods and being educated about heart disease and its risk factors.” They noted that heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States.

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

Preparing for what spring may bring

no snow cover for perennial bedSMNovember’s freakishly early snow storms notwithstanding, this started as a relatively mild winter with no significant snow thus far. Quite a bit of rain, but too warm for snow, hence the soft, unfrozen ground right up until the first of the year. At the end of December I saw daylily shoots emerging from the ground and was aware of buds on some trees and shrubs starting to swell. Eeek! Stop! And, indeed, January’s frigid temperatures are stopping that false-spring nonsense. That’s the upside of arctic air covering the midcoast. The downside of this frigid winter blast is that we still have no snow on the ground to speak of.

The winter of 2014 had a lot of snow (an understatement) along with a good dose of polar temperatures. That made it a perfect winter for perennials in the garden. Once the ground freezes and there’s a blanket of snow on top, freezing is about as cold as it gets for the plants. So I did not lose a single plant in the garden due to cold weather last winter. As a matter of fact, spring and summer were delicious seasons full of vigorous growth from even newly planted gardens.

But now, in January 2015, with open ground showing in the gardens, I am a bit worried about how the plants will fare. With temperatures in the single digits and wind bringing wind chills way below zero, we will probably lose some perennials since when there is no insulating layer over tender roots, the soil can keep getting colder and colder and colder. And that can spell death for some of our plants, particularly those on the northern edge of their preferred habitat. It didn’t help that December was so warm, stimulating growth when normally plants should be hardened off and quite dormant by then.

I remember a number of years ago we had a bitterly cold winter and absolutely no snow. (That was the year the frost was more than four feet deep in the ground—that’s cold!) Spring was sad for gardeners looking forward to precious plants putting forth their floral display. Even hardy old shrubs like burning bush died that winter. And perennial gardens were spotty in the spring to say the least. We might be in for another winter like that one.

What’s a body to do? If one has not already covered the gardens with an insulating layer of mulch such as fir boughs, it’s not too late to do that as a hedge against even colder temperatures. That might help, and will certainly help keep plants from breaking dormancy too early should we get a warm snap again. Otherwise, the most we can do, given the vagaries of winter, is be prepared mentally for what spring may bring. As always, each spring just adds more information about what thrives here regardless of the weather in winter.

In the spring I will probably assess the gardens, divide those plants that have proven to be hardy, replacing those that died. I also know not to be too hasty in declaring death, as some winters the frost takes a very long time getting out of the ground, slowing the re-emergence of some perennials. I also know that I always like experimenting with new plants, so I expect I will find some nifty replacements for the plants that don’t make it. That’s part of the fun of gardening.
—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

PHOTO: Anne Cox

Drift Inn Beach

Drift Inn Beach historic photoSM

This photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

Where in St. George…?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you know where this is? Send your answer to betsy@stgeorgedragon.com. The first correct answer wins a free business card-sized ad in The Dragon. Del Welch identified the yield sign at the Glenmere and Turkey Cove Road intersection that appeared  in the December 18 issue
of The Dragon.

PHOTO: Julie Wortman