Category Archives: Volume 7

Thanks for a very good run

Volume 1, Issue 1

by Julie A. Wortman, Editor

We here at The Dragon have reached a bittersweet moment. This edition marks the last of what has been a successful seven-year run of issues aimed at promoting “the good things about St. George: its natural beauty, its heritage, its hardworking and creative people, its cultural and recreational life, its community organizations, its attractive and often unique enterprises.” We’ve enjoyed pursuing that mission and have been grateful for the advertisers who have made it possible for us to do so. But the time has come to move on to other pursuits.

The founding idea behind The Dragon was a simple one: to create a “Free Press for St. George” that would provide local business owners (such as myself, for one) with a publication in which to advertise that people living in or visiting St. George would find interesting to read.

At first, graphic designer and advertising/business manager Betsy Welch and I characterized The Dragon as providing “FREE Business and Recreation News for the St. George Peninsula.” At the time we were probably influenced by the fact that the St. George Business Alliance was getting established and thought focusing on St. George’s businesses and recreational offerings made sense for a publication dependent on local advertising. But by the spring of 2017, a chance remark by then harbormaster Dave Schmanska made us realize that the content we had been developing was something broader and more interesting than that. “A journal of community life,” seemed a more fitting description of what a reader would find in The Dragon’s pages.

The good things about this town’s community life is something we will miss celebrating. But we hope that in our seven years of publication we have managed to give visibility to the surprisingly diverse and rich range of people and enterprises to be found in this rambling collection of villages and crossroads. We have sought not only the color but also the texture of this town, not only its idiosyncratic qualities but also its dependable constants.

We highlighted an example of the latter in the cover story of our initial issue on May 9, 2013, “Newly renovated Laura B soon back at work,” which gave tribute not only to the Laura B’s historical importance but also to the skills of local boat builders Jim Parker, Jeff Delaney, Jeff Sparks, Nick Thompson and Andy Barstow and to the persistent commitment of the Barstow family to making Monhegan Boat Line one of the hallmarks of the town’s marine landscape and economy. In terms of that economy, the shift to aquaculture that traditional fishermen have been exploring seemed an especially important sign of resilience on which to report. In this regard, longtime lobsterman and tuna fisherman John Cotton spoke with us in 2017 of his and wife Toni Small’s hope that raising oysters near Deep Cove could prove to be a new and sustainable marine venture—two years later Cotton celebrated the first signs that that hope was turning into a reality (“Ready to go full-time—with Ice House Oysters”). Likewise, in our April 12, 2018 issue, an interview with Merritt Carey and Peter Miller laid out the positive potential of “farming” scallops as a way to diversify local fisheries while keeping profits ‘at the shore.’”

Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply

Another dependable constant that The Dragon touched into frequently was our town’s diligent efforts to be prepared for emergencies—both immediate and long-term. What comes to mind first, of course, is the work of our first responders. Headlines speak for themselves: “Ambulance Association receives Service of the Year award” (Nov. 21, 2013), “Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply” (Oct. 23, 2014), “‘Burn building’ to be valuable asset for St. George firefighters” (June 4, 2015), “Planning for taking shelter in a storm” (December 21, 2017), “Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George” (Nov. 7, 2019).

But another aspect of emergency preparedness has been the work of the town’s Conservation Commission to protect this peninsula’s celebrated and cherished environmental quality from the threats of overdevelopment, loss of native habitat and changing climate. A story about the late Les Hyde’s conservation work in our June 20, 2013 issue (“Hiking Frye Mountain to Port Clyde: Working to fulfill a dream”) articulated Hyde’s philosophy that creating a trail system for public use is the best way to ensure that safeguarding the town’s environmental quality remains a high priority. Since then a number of Dragon stories have continued to highlight this aspect of the Commission’s good work.

Kathy Barker, Herring Gut Executive Director

Finally, St. George’s consistent commitment to its youth was another theme lifted up over and over in these pages—“Mike Felton: Bringing focus and creativity to St. George’s new community school,” “Launching a new school fund aimed at ‘Gee, we wish we could do that!’”,Blueberry Cove Camp: a vital philosophy in action,” “Herring Gut: Where business stimulates learning,” “An award-winning—and lifelong—focus on kids’ well-being [at Ponderosa Playland].”

But during these past seven years we have also believed that these “big” topics—the texture, if you will, of St. George—needed to be balanced by the color provided by the town’s so-called ordinary citizens through stories about their passions, creativity, and down-to-earth practicality. Contrasting with the Laura B story in that May 9, 2013 inaugural issue, for example, was a piece about the seldom-seen “bagel lady,” Jan McCoy, quietly working at providing her loyal customers with artisan bagels from her little certified Bagel Shack kitchen on the River Road. Since then we’ve written about people making

John Shea and his Nantucket baskets

things from high-quality cabinetry, to forged iron work, Nantucket baskets and intricately knitted mittens; about people with a passion for helping others, for researching Maine’s medical history, or for collecting stamps. And we’ve written about what’s involved in doing the work that people go about doing without fanfare, such as snowplowing, cleaning, delivering the mail, construction and caretaking.

Lastly, for me, personally, one of the most satisfying aspects of producing The Dragon in recent years has been the incremental addition of a wider range of writers contributing to this publication, each in their own way expanding our ability to probe the depths of St. George’s community life. In the early years, Anne Cox delighted many readers with her short pieces on the gardening life. Then, after he retired as town manager, John Falla wrote columns that gave deeper insight into our town’s history. Likewise, Katherine Cartwright gave increased visibility to the work and motivations of some of the artists living among us. Sonja Schmanska funneled into our pages the voices of the youth attending the St. George School and Kirk Gentalen provided a naturalist’s perspective on the abundance and curious aspects of the life to be found in our woods and marshes, along our roadsides and flying overhead. More recently, at our pleading, Jan Getgood shared her extensive knowledge of native plants in a feature she called “Native plant corner.” And we can’t fail to mention the fun that ensued when we took up Sarah Holbrook’s suggestion that we try a photographic feature called “Where in St. George?” and Susan Bate’s idea of highlighting local vanity plates.

We can’t thank these contributors enough for making The Dragon a better read than we could have managed alone. And we are very, very grateful to the people of St. George for their support of this publication. We give our sincerest thanks for the very good run we’ve had.

A note from Betsy Welch, Advertising and Business Manager

The St. George Dragon would like to thank the over 100 different businesses and individuals who have advertised in our pages over the past seven years of publication. Without advertisements to cover the costs of printing and production we wouldn’t have been able to stay in print and remain online. We encourage our readers to continue to patronize these businesses and organizations.

We would particularly like to thank those loyal sponsors who have been with us for all seven years:

Blue Tulip
Camden Printing
Craignair Inn
East Wind Inn
Green Bean Catering
Hedgerow
HomeShare
J.D. Miller Construction
Mill Pond House
Monhegan Boat Line
Ocean View Grange
Port Clyde Art Gallery
Ron Hall Enterprises
Sea Star Shop
St. George Business Alliance
Stonefish
Tenants Harbor Boat Yard

Several of these folks have even appeared in every single one of our 143 issues!

We would also like to acknowledge artist Geoff Bladon who has contributed many drawings; photographers Don Moore, Chris Stump, Steve Cartwright, Rick Betancourt and Anne Cox for iconic images of St. George. And lastly, many thanks to St. George residents Katy and George Tripp of Camden Printing for getting The Dragon on press on time, despite occasional missed deadlines on our end. Thank you one and all!

Please note that the online version of The Dragon will remain online indefinitely. Use the “Search the Archives” tool near the top of the page to search for topics.

Happy 200th birthday State of Maine!

Andrew Robinson Homestead

During the year 2020 you’ll be seeing numerous festivities around the state celebrating the 200th anniversary of Maine becoming a state. Visit www.maine200.org to learn more about all the events that are planned. Here in St. George there will be a public supper on Saturday, March 14, 2020, at the Fire Station Meeting Room, followed by a program put on by the St. George Historical Society on what the town of St. George was like 200 years ago. The planning for the event is currently in the works and more information will be available sometime in January. Save the date—March 14th!

In addition to the special celebration in March, the St. George Historical Society will be having its monthly programs from April through October. The Society holds its annual planning meeting in January, so if you have any ideas on what would be a fun program or walking tour, send an email to stgeorgemainehistory@gmail.com or stop by the Society’s new headquarters at the Old Library Museum at 38 Main Street in Tenants Harbor and share your thoughts.

The Old Library Museum will be opening on a regular basis starting on January 1st. At the beginning we will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm, and also by appointment. For the summer season the plan is to be open more hours. You can inquire about our hours or schedule an appointment by calling 207-372-2231 or send a request via the email noted earlier. Our soft opening on November 30th was well attended and there was a lot of interest. Our reference library on local, regional and Maine history and genealogy, plus Maine and New England maritime history, is currently in excess of 300 titles, with more being donated every day. We also have a small—but growing—section on Maine Indians.

Also planned during the State’s celebration in 2020 are events at our other locations in St. George—the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum in Port Clyde (www.marshallpoint.org), the Schoolhouse Museum in Tenants Harbor next to the Town Office, and the Andrew Robinson Homestead in Wiley’s Corner. The Schoolhouse Museum will be open from May to October with regular hours (or by appointment) and there will be an open house at the Andrew Robinson Homestead sometime in August around the birthday of Andrew Robinson—August 15th.

Keep your eyes open for more news of the monthly events and other items planned for 2020. The St. George Historical Society has a website (www.stgeorgehistory.com) where you can sign up for email announcements and notices of upcoming events. The Historical Society is also planning to change its newsletter from quarterly to monthly starting in January 2020. Remember to go to our website to sign up for this monthly news. If you have problems signing up, then email us or call or drop by the Old Library Museum to learn what’s new about the history of St. George.

—John Falla (Falla is president of the St. George Historical Society.)

PHOTO: John Falla

Timing

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Tenants Harbor marsh sunset

Life feels a little better with a pinch of “good timing.” Be it in relationships, careers, or maybe with the tire that kindly waited until we got to the gas station before it went completely flat. Timing can make a difference just about everywhere. If you are ever looking for a silver lining, a dose of “good timing” might provide just enough shine to make a situation less painful and sometimes maybe even better. Good timing is always accepted.

Timing can be very important in nature observation. There can be a preciseness of timing as is the case with tide-pooling. Timing here can be the difference between seeing nudibranchs or periwinkles. Timing in nature observation can also have a certain apparent randomness, as in the numerous times a bird or mammal has appeared minutes after a person leaves. We all have undoubtedly come within hours of making great sightings but simply weren’t there when it happened. Timing.

Animal “sign” can give us a taste (not literally) of what’s happening in woods without actually crossing paths with a critter, and that is nice. Sign tells us that life was not only going on before we got here, but that it will most likely continue after we leave. Makes the phrase “you just missed it” seem funny. I mean, when are we not missing something? It’s a constant and a given. And if we are always missing things then we should, in theory and potentially, always be able to see things. This is also nice. If this is the case then an increase in the amount of time we spend looking should increase the chances of “good timing.”

Tracking animals in snow reminds me of how important timing is. In a perfect world, a tracker gets on the trails before the sun hits a track. In a matter of hours or less, the sun—with its harmful, warming ways—can melt away most details from the track or trail you were hoping to inspect. The sky would be overcast in a perfect, tracking world. Less heat and better for winter photos anyway (no shadows!).

Otter icebreaker

Tracking after the December 3rd snow storm was an example of such timing. I was able to get out and around the marsh early-ish the next day and the tracks and trails were crisp. A pair of river otter, I am assuming the two we call “Moe and Curly,” had belly-slid down the beaver dam, the same spot where they have slid the previous two winters. Then, as I made my way around the marsh I came to a second spot where the otters had come from the ice. Here the otters had dug through the snow and marked a couple of small leaf piles. They had left the water separately, but returned using the same slide, likely one not too far behind the other. Instead of going under the ice, the two created an “icebreaker” path along a 10-foot stretch of shoreline. Were they trying to get on the ice and it wasn’t able to support them? Or is breaking ice as fun for them as it is for humans? Either way, it was great to see sign of the two. The timing couldn’t have been better to track them.

I had to get back for responsibilities (work) and as I cut through the woods I came upon a fisher trail. The tracks were beautiful, the trail was fresh and since it was kind of going in the same direction as I was headed I decided to follow it for a bit. The trail curled around a couple of yards in the neighborhood, inspecting downed trees and squirrel scenes and before long I really had to get back.

A couple of days later I had time to revisit the fisher trail again. There was still plenty of snow, but the two days of sun had turned the tracks into ovals of varying sizes, and trail patterns were indecipherable for the most part. Picking out the fisher tracks was a bit of work, and following its trail took a bunch more. It was a good time, but the timing was not as good as before. Seems obvious, but sometimes those are the best epiphanies.

Timing can also be important with nature writing. While there is no “good time” for The St. George Dragon to cease, I am grateful for having two years of good timing in posting the Nature Bummin’ columns here. The entire Nature Bummin’ staff wants to extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Julie and Betsy, for all their hard work in keeping The Dragon going. In other words, we are “bummed” in the more traditional sense of the word. And so…. HEARTFELT THANKS! & APPRECIATION!

And while The Dragon is stopping, “nature” itself will continue to chug along, hopefully and of course. And strolling right along it will be Nature Bummin’! Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) will continue its support for the column and has offered to post current (and past) posts on their website. It’s an offer too good to pass up—thanks MCHT!

With that, Nature Bummin’ is moving to a new home—mcht.org/story-tag/nature-bummin/. We’ll keep pumping out the column every two weeks (roughly) as with The Dragon. And who knows, if a new incarnation of The Dragon (or something similar) develops on the peninsula we’ll be ready to jump back on! The nature will be there, that is for sure!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Langlais art at the JML: a source of pride and inspiration for St. George

“Four Lions” by Bernard Langlais

by Katharine Cartwright

In 2013 the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) officially joined the Langlais Art Trail, established through a collaborative effort between the Colby College Museum of Art and the Kohler Foundation, Inc. The goal of the Trail was to link the various non-profit institutions across Maine that agreed to “hold, promote, preserve and exhibit” art objects created by Cushing artist Bernard (Blacky) Langlais (1921-1977). Susan Bates, who was president of the JML Board at the time, thought that “it sounded like a great opportunity for the library” to be part of the Trail. She felt that Langlais’ art would become a notable addition to our culturally rich community and also link the library to other non-profit institutions in Maine. Bates formed an ad hoc committee from the JML Board of Trustees who selected four Langlais works for the library—and also one piece for the St. George School.

The story of how the JML became a part of the Langlais Art Trail is almost as long as the Trail itself. Bernard Langlais was born in 1921 in Old Town, Maine where he grew up. He left Maine after high school to study art at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Over time, the young artist developed into a celebrated innovative modernist painter. But, it wasn’t long before he abandoned painting and turned his interest to making art from wood. In 1956, when he purchased and renovated a summer cottage in Cushing, discarded fragments of wood caught his imagination and he began fashioning them into wood mosaics. He earned critical success In New York where his works were displayed at notable venues including the Whitney Museum. By the mid-1960s, the artist and his wife, Helen Friend, fled the stressful culture of the Big Apple and made the Cushing cottage their permanent residence. Langlais spent the rest of his life on their 90-acre homestead constructing enormous wooden sculptures as well as smaller works depicting the animal kingdom.

“Elephant”, top, and “Jungle Scene” bottom by Bernard Langlais

Because Langlais’ remarkable and unique sculptures gained national recognition and prestigious awards during his lifetime, they became important and valuable. When he died in 1977 at the age of 56, his widow wanted to preserve his body of work for future generations to experience. Therefore, she bequeathed both the art and the homestead to the Colby College Art Museum, who acquired it in 2010 when she died. This was a monumental gift: 2,900 pieces of art and a 90-acre homestead. The college was unable to conserve all the work and manage the property so it forged an agreement with the Kohler Foundation, Inc., to both arrange for distribution of Langlais’ art to non-profit institutions throughout Maine (linking them through the Langlais Art Trail) and find a way to ensure stewardship of the property and its many Langlais sculptures. According to Jane Bianco, a resident of Tenants Harbor and former Fellow at Kohler, “the Foundation does wonderful things in helping to conserve art environments across the country.” Terri Yoho, formerly the Executive Director of the Foundation, Bianco says, was instrumental in not only lining up conservators to work on the sculptures at the Langlais property but also in involving the Georges River Land Trust (GRLT) in providing stewardship for the 90-acre tract itself. This she did by contacting Annette Naegel, Director of Conservation at the GRLT to see if the group would be interested in acquiring the property. Although the homestead was somewhat outside GRLT’s mission, Naegel felt it was significant because of its location within the St. George River watershed region. So the GRLT agreed to acquire the property and through its stewardship establish the Langlais Sculpture Preserve, which is the second largest preserve under the GRLT’s control. The GRLT opened the Preserve to the public in 2015. Many of the artist’s largest sculptures are now on view there as a gift from the Kohler Foundation.

It was in 2013 that Naegel contacted Bates at the JML about acquiring some Langlais pieces for the library, thus adding the JML to the Langlais Art Trail. Naegel also had a larger vision for the art: “I love the idea of the linkage between Langlais and the natural environment. The message of creativity and speaking from nature is important. Just as the St. George River flows through this area, so does Langlais’ artistic voice. His work speaks to people on many levels, including children. It becomes a venue for learning all kinds of things related to the natural environment.”

Indeed, the children of St. George have heard Langlais’ artistic voice and responded to it through their own inspired creations. Over the past several years, 4th graders from the St. George School have participated in a program called “Leaps of Imagination” held at the JML. Like Langlais, they have created art from scraps of wood and other found objects. Many of these are on display at the JML along with the Langlais pieces. Sixth grader, Violet Ward was one of those students. “We were told to create an animal as realistic as we could with pieces of wood we had,” she recalls. Willow Miller, her classmate, adds, “His work is really cool! I wish he was still alive to talk to us [about his work].” Still, Langlais is always speaking to them through his art at the library. Library co-director Beckie Delaney, who works with the children, notes, “I love to tie the Langlais art in with the kids’ projects. From them they learn to work with discarded materials, which is an important lesson in creativity.”

Lynna Henderson, the acting chair of the library’s Board of Trustees, is hoping to raise community consciousness about the works. “We are so very proud of the four Langlais works,” she says. Sharon Moskowitz, co-director of the JML, agrees and feels that the art “is an important asset to the library. People are impressed that we have them.” Prominently displayed across from the library’s front desk, the four Langlais artworks await your visit to experience a safari into the imagination.

You may read more about the Langlais Art Trail at: http://langlaisarttrail.org

(For the past three years Katharine Cartwright, who is an accomplished watercolor artist, has served as The Dragon’s art columnist. We are grateful for her unflagging dedication to promoting awareness of St. George’s artistic life.)

PHOTOS: Betsy Welch

The yin and yang of squirrels

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Eastern Grey Squirrel

After school recently, my son Leif and I came across an Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) racing up the side of a horse chestnut tree. It was a classic, frantic squirrel run—full of jumps, stares, and bounces as the squirrel seemed to be “freaked” by our presence. Almost as if it had never seen a human on this sidewalk that has been next to that particular tree for several decades at least. Squirrels just love to freak.

We stopped in time to see a second squirrel sticking its head out of a cavity opening lower in the tree and realized this was a housing unit for squirrels. Leif expressed his adoration for the fluffy rodents at this point, as I was thinking, “I, for one, care less for them.” There may be no other animal group that manages to be as under-appreciated and completely overrated at the same time as the squirrels (Corvids may be a close second!). Squirrels—rodents that please as they annoy.

Leif is his own person, of course, and while it was tempting to whip out the old “No son of mine is going to be a squirrel-hugger!!!” attitude, he is free to appreciate whatever rodent he chooses to. We did chat about “what exactly” he liked about the critters, and beyond aesthetic and intrinsic appreciation—which is more than enough to “like” a squirrel on Instagram—we realized we didn’t really know too much about them. It was time to look some scat up!

When we got home Leif started the Grey Squirrel research and quickly found some interesting facts about the species. Members of the order Rodentia, and more specifically the family Sciuridae—Eastern Grey Squirrels are native to eastern North America—from Florida and Texas through southern Manitoba and New Brunswick. Grey Squirrel bodies can be up to a foot long, the bushy tail can add almost another foot in length, and in the wild—away from bird feeders—they average about a pound in weight. Typically grey in color, populations in urban areas where predation is low will often have dark individuals of a “melanistic form.” These black squirrels are loaded with “melanin” and show a higher tolerance for cold temps when compared to the common grey form. We had seen the melanistic form of the Western Grey Squirrel in California last summer, so the thought of seeing a black Eastern Grey Squirrel was pretty exciting.

Leif was surprised to find that people still hunt Grey Squirrels for food, even though “Eleven” cooked one up to eat, only to use it as a weapon, in season two of “Stranger Things.” The info on eating squirrels came with a warning—“Do not eat Grey Squirrel brains.” Apparently Grey Squirrels can transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal degenerative brain disorder for humans. And while we would never wish this disease onto anyone, we found the fact that a dead squirrel can seek revenge with its brain pretty cool. Another reason not to eat squirrel brains.

Leif continued to read about Grey Squirrels caching acorns each winter and how many of these stashed nuts are never retrieved. The whole “forests being planted by forgetful squirrels” was being alluded to, which is a fun perspective on the forests in general.

And while Eastern Grey Squirrels can be beneficial for woods in these parts, this species has been introduced around the globe—from South Africa to Italy to the Hawaiian islands—and is considered an “invasive” pest at several of these landing spots. Eastern Greys were brought to Britain in the 1870s as fashionable additions to estates. That’s right, in 1870s Britain increasing rodent numbers on your property was seen as an upgrade and something to be proud of. The squirrels spread rapidly from these estates and across England and into Wales and Scotland, almost entirely displacing native Red Squirrel populations.

Leif points out a squirrel housing unit

In my experience, it’s New Englanders with bird-feeding systems who are more likely to hold a grudge against Grey Squirrels than anyone else (squirrels stealing bird food, how rude!). I developed my dislike of squirrels through interactions with the American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Many a serene moment has been dislodged and re-directionalized by a Red Squirrel screaming alarm at my presence. I never find their bones in pellets or their remains below a nest of a predator, so I can’t even write off their annoying traits with a “they-are-an-important-part-of-the-food-chain” talk. The best I can come up with, and I have tried, is that they tidy up the woods a little. Each fall local Red Squirrels have made piles of spruce cones in the woods. The cones will soon be cached in between tree roots and under logs for future meals. When the best thing you can say about an animal is that once a year it “cleans” the forest, you know they take up little space in your heart. Sorry Red Squirrels, but not sorry.

I try hard to let Leif make up his own mind about what he likes be it movies, music, nature or whatever. Although they are correct, I keep my negative judgments to myself when he shows interest in something I am not a particular a fan of. Our talk about squirrels was one of the hardest tests of this “perspective control,” but in the end he is, of course, free to like them if he wants. Maybe our views aren’t complimentary enough to be yin and yang, but it’s always great to see how his mind works. I think that means I may be appreciating squirrels in a way. Darn.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A memorable visit with author Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord and Lily Thissell

by Anya Felton

Cynthia Lord is an award-winning Newberry Medal author who lives in Maine. She has written five novels for pre-teens which include Rules, Touchblue, Because of the Rabbit, a Handful of Stars, and Half a Chance. She has also written many more books for young children. Rules has gotten more awards than any of them and is her bestselling novel.

This fall this amazing author came to our school again. She had come here for the first time in 2011, five years after Rules came out. We were all so excited to get to meet her and learn some of her techniques. She talked about how many of her books had events that had actually happened in her life. For example, in Rules there is a boy with autism and her own son has autism. She talked about how she used real places and turned them into fictional places where her characters can go. She talked about how she sometimes didn’t give the characters what they wanted at the end. She gave them what they needed.

After she talked with us, two 6th graders showed her their Little Free Library that they had made last year in 5th grade with their teacher Mrs. Christine Miller.

Then, two 7th graders took her down the path to the town Library where they showed her around JML. After she got back, she had a pizza lunch with some of the 8th graders. These 8th graders had read her books and made projects about them. The 8th graders showed her their work. Some had made a Monopoly game from the events and places in Touchblue; and Leilani Myers, Isla Michell and Chase Jansen even gave her their project—a 3-D cutout of a scene from A Handful of Stars. Cynthia was very happy and touched by these thoughtful hand-made projects about her work.

When she got back home she posted about us publicly on Facebook: “Yesterday I went back to St. George School in Tenants Harbor, Maine. I was very touched that the school had put time in my schedule for the kids to show me the Little Free Library down at the Town Landing that they had built and to give me a tour of their public library (new since my last visit). I love how strongly the kids are connected to their community.”

After Cynthia left we wrote little notes to send to her. They included comments like “amazed and inspired” and lessons learned—things like [I learned] “that you need to be passionate and patient to be a writer” and that it takes a long time and lots of revisions to write a book.

All of us really feel that this was a memorable learning experience and we had an amazing time asking questions about Cynthia’s work and learning about her life before she was an author.

(Felton is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

Learning to see

St. George School students practice drawing skills with Port Clyde artist Sandra Dickson as part of “The Young Artists Program.”

by Julie Ryan and Natalie Gill

Over the past several years at the St. George School we have developed an after-school activity called “The Young Artists Program.” This extra-curricular program consists of serious, creative students who are interested in working with professional, local artists who teach the students skills in drawing, painting or clay work. This program is not just another art class, as it is designed to give students the opportunity to delve deep into a focused medium and explore it while working with a professional artist.

This school year, the Georges River Education Foundation (GREF) has donated money to our school so that we could hire a professional portrait artist—Sandra Dickson—to work with middle-level students who are serious about learning how to draw faces. She is working with us to help us learn “to see.” Drawing teaches people to observe beyond what they know, to slow things down. She helps students see the light and dark parts of a face and recognize shapes. The students love to see the difference between their first drawings during the four-week class compared to their last drawings. It really helps to feel encouraged when you can see how much you have improved!

This class has been enabling students to build confidence, strengthen learning skills and become less afraid to make mistakes because mistakes can help students learn.

Thank you GREF for your generous donation and thank you Sandra for working with our creative, talented students here at the St. George school!

(Ryan teaches art at the St. George School, where Gill is a 7th-grade student.)

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

Remembering Jack McDonough

John J. (Jack) McDonough, M.D., of Tenants Harbor died November 7 with the love of his life, his wife Barbara Aras, by his side. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jack pursued a distinguished career as a surgeon specializing in hand and microvascular surgery, most of it at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and in a private practice he founded with fellow surgeons Peter Stern and Thomas Kiefhaber.

In later life Jack, a keen sailor, considered Tenants Harbor his chosen home. Jack’s passion for history, especially of the Civil War, led him to also pursue a study of the history of the St. George peninsula. He was an enthusiastic volunteer at the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum, where he loved sharing the lighthouse’s history with visitors from all over the world. He was also a loyal volunteer at the Jackson Memorial Library.

Following his wishes, there will be no service. Jack was an ardent supporter of local education, especially that provided by the St. George School. Donations in his memory can be made to: St. George MSU Building Fund, 65 Main Street, PO Box 153, Tenants Harbor, Maine 04860.

Two new preserves to enjoy

Those present for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Meadowbrook Preserve to the public on November 10 got a chance to walk the 0.7-mile trail and enjoy the scenic views of forest and marshland it affords.

by Amanda Devine

There are two new preserves in town that help advance not just conservation on the St. George peninsula, protecting important habitat as well as scenic views, but also offer new opportunities for hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, hunters, students and educators, or anyone simply looking for a quiet place to connect with the natural world. Working together, the Town of St. George, the Georges River Land Trust, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) put together their resources and expertise to create these opportunities for the community.

The Bamford Preserve on Long Cove has been several years in the making. In June of 2015, MCHT, which also owns High Island in Tenants Harbor, took ownership of 36 acres on both sides of Long Cove Road. The land had been owned by the Bamford family for multiple generations, and no one in the family wanted to see it developed.  With funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program and through a generous bargain sale from the former owners, MCHT was able to permanently conserve the preserve’s diverse forests, wetlands, and shorefront.

Creating public access was another story, however. In 2017, the Town of St. George transferred a small but significant adjacent parcel to MCHT. This quarter-acre lot with frontage on Long Cove Road was home to the so-called “Woodcrafter’s Building,” which underwent several incarnations before falling into disrepair. The town came into possession of the land through tax delinquency, and when MCHT acquired the Bamford lands, it seemed a natural fit for this property to serve as a future trailhead.  Working with George C. Hall the following year, the MCHT demolished the building (already partially collapsed thanks to snow-loading and neglect), cleaned up the site, and in early 2019 created a four-car parking area with funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. MCHT staff and local volunteers have since planted the old building footprint in a mix of native shrubs and trees, hoping to improve the view as well as create better bird and pollinator habitat. They also revamped an old woods road into a 0.3-mile trail to the shore where a few (well, more than a few) hours spent with chainsaws, clearing saws, and a brush-hog have turned an overgrown tangle of invasive plants and wild apple trees into a welcoming meadow complete with a picnic table and shore access.  MCHT staff especially recommend visiting in mid-September, when the blackberries are ripe and the mosquitoes a little less fierce. MCHT welcomes St. George and especially Long Cove residents to enjoy this new neighborhood preserve. It’s a great place for an easy but highly scenic walk.

On the other side of town is another new preserve, this one owned by the Town of St. George. The Meadow Brook Preserve consists of 22 acres of highly scenic forest and marshland on the southeastern side of Turkey Cove Road, just west of the Transfer Station. Thanks to the efforts of the St. George Conservation Commission and the Georges River Land Trust—and with funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and matching town funds—there is now a three-car parking area and a 0.7-mile trail that leads hikers through the woods and to the brook for which the preserve is named.

MCHT originally acquired this property with funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program and then deeded it to the town. To ensure its permanent conservation, the Georges River Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the land, and also assists the town with management. Over the past year the St. George Conservation Commission met with abutters and local school teachers to solicit their input as to the preserve’s development. After many exploratory walks covering all seasons a final trail route was determined. This past summer and early fall Conservation Commission members, Georges River Land Trust staff and dedicated volunteers completed work on the trail construction. This included determining the final path, clearing brush and downed trees along the path and painting blazes along the trail. The kiosk was also constructed and installed.

The Town of St. George, MCHT, and the Georges River Land Trust welcome you to explore these special places. In the spirit of “leave no trace,” please be prepared to carry out all waste (including pet waste) when visiting the properties, keep pets under control, share the trail, and don’t forget your bug spray from early summer through fall.

(Devine is a Regional Stewardship Manager at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.)

PHOTO: Dan Verillo

November poems

November
The trees stand still
As dead as sticks
Their bark is pale and grey
No leaves are left on their limbs after the cold winds before
Lifeless for now
Waiting for Spring to come

The geese fly high
Their white bellies and black beaks are all that you can see
They honk and they go
Yelling at each other
Above the wind
Screaming out directions
Leaving the cold behind

The ground is crisp with crumbling brown leaves
Everything is covered with prickly white frost
As cold as death
It freezes your feet
Yet it melts in your hands

The sun is dimming
The air is cold
Not a sound in the air
Not a color in the world
November is here

—Anya Felton

November haiku
November is a
Bridge to a different world
From brightness to bleak

—Natalie Gill

November
Leaves are gone
But some are still
Bold colors
Multi-colored grass
Thin jackets
Pink cheeks
Chilly breeze
Hair blowing in the wind
Cloudy skies
The thought of rain
The idea of snow

—Caroline Matthews

November
The trees are losing their leaves
And the birds are leaving their nests
Once they arrive in the south
They will have earned a long rest
The trees are tired
Fall makes them grow old
As the days get shorter
And the wind gets cold
As winter comes closer
The trees say good bye
And then say good night
Before going to sleep
In their blanket of white.

— Julian Davis

The poets are in the 7th grade at St. George School.

The nature never stopped

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

It’s been an interesting stretch of weather this fall. Rains, winds and snow(!) have been creating havoc for outdoor-work schedules (namely mine) and gave the St. George School students two of the warmest “snow” days I’ve ever heard of.

A silver lining that came with these weather events was the local deciduous trees—maples, oaks, birches, etc.—losing their leaves. Seemingly overnight, trees that had been loaded with yellows, reds and oranges quickly became bare, with fully exposed trunks. These “dropping-of-the-leaves” events made the world a little safer, however, as the pretty colors can be distracting to humans at times when they should be focused—like when driving. It’s also now a bit easier to scan the forest canopy for owls and other critters as things aren’t so cluttered up there. But the biggest bonus of this year’s dramatic leaf dropping has probably been the unveiling of the Winterberry.

Local Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillate) have spent most of 2019 quietly doing “natural things”—like growing and losing their small three-inch leaves and producing an impressive amount of tiny white flowers. But once surrounding trees and shrubs lost their leaves this fall it became close to impossible not to notice the loaded, red fruits of the Winterberry shrubs lining Route 131 at stretches. It’s a “Winterberry fall”—my favorite season to travel that road.

A shrub in the Holly family (Aquifoliaceae), Winterberry is creatively named for its bright red fruits and for the season into which said berries frequently remain on the plant. And while the Winterberry flowers are pollinated each spring, it’s not every year that the shrubs are covered and almost screaming with red berries. There are Winterberries every fall, but not every fall is a “Winterberry fall.”

How many migrating songbirds and overwintering corvids will tap into this fruity resource, fueling wings and life in an effort to sustain the never ending quest for nourishment? How many raccoons will plop themselves in the middle of a shrub and eat every red berry they can reach? How many Winterberry seeds will be deposited, fertilized, and eventually fruitful themselves with the “help” of animals? How long will that red last before critters pick them clean? So many questions. It will be fun to get some answers, while driving safely of course.

Of course, Winterberries are not just to be found along Route 131. On a recent Sunday I was on the Les Hyde Nature Trail by the library and school, sitting on a bench that overlooks the marsh. Winds were calm and the view was comforting as I sat there decked out in orange (a good habit for November). I was looking for anything perched on a limb but all I could see were the Winterberry shrubs across the water over by the beaver dam. Clear as day and all lit up red, from my perspective they were the story of the marsh as the sky started to darken at what felt like an obscenely early hour.

And it was the story until I spotted an oddly-shaped, non-duck critter swimming in the waters between the bench and the Winterberry. A swimming red fox with its fluffy tail pointed and almost entirely out of the water—what a sight! Never seen a fox swim before and I was glad I had been looking in that direction when it doggy-paddled by. It looked like a small reddish boat being pulled backwards. From one shade of red to another, or what I like to call “orange without the yellow.”

Before long (and before darkness) a muskrat swam through the scene as close to the bench as possible. With its thin, scaley tail mostly submerged, the muskrat offered a nice contrast in swimming form to the red fox, which had exited the water in full view. One view led to another, and pretty soon the story was the marsh itself. The focus and presentation kept changing, but the nature never stopped.

PHOTO: Kirk Gentalen