Thursday, August 10, 2006

Maine, buttercups and blueberries

I'm currently sitting on a grassy green lawn in Bar Harbor, Maine, with my nice warm laptop to keep me from freezing my tootsies off.

After all, I'm used to it being in the 90s at 11:00 in the morning -- not the low 70s.

Ah, Maine.

It's been fabulous here -- the skies bright blue, the breeze off the water fresh and cool, and the popovers delicious. We hiked around Jordan Pond two days ago -- spotted two loons, some chipmunks (my daughter's first chipmunk sighting) and a snake. And then the complaining began. It's a good thing there were popovers at the end of the trail, or I think Abby would still be sitting on a rock about 2/3 of the way around the pond.

And I'm finding several of my favorite plants -- I love the sweet fern, which smells like sycamore when you crush the leaves, and the low bush blueberries with their dusty blue jewels. Found a few cranberries in a boggy area -- still pale and lime green, and we're too late for the little ruby strawberries, although I recognize the plants.

Even though I didn't grow up in Maine, many of the things that grow here remind me deeply of my childhood in New Hartford, New York. The delicate yellow and purple crowns of vetch, the blowsy white Queen Anne's Lace and waxy buttercups, the little three-leafed strawberry plants -- just seeing them along the side of the roads zings me back to my childhoood summers. Lazy afternoons out in the fields, collecting the cotton from milkweed pods, gathering a bunch of crushed buttercup or Black-eyed Susans to carry home to my mother, the wind rattling the maple leaves of the nearby woods. Although I've lived longer in Texas now than the northeast, I remember the summers in New York -- picking wild berries, my fingers stained black from hours rooting through brambles -- better than any summer in Texas.

I think part of the reason I come back north with my children is to share a bit of my own past with them. I want my daughter to recognize a wild strawberry plant, my son to hold a buttercup to his palm to see the yellow glow. I can't take them to the orchards in the fall, where the smell of fresh apples, cinnamon and fallen leaves is so enticing you wish you could bottle it. I can't drive them through the stunning glory of the Adirondacks in October, or take them out on a snowy day to cut down a Christmas tree, to experience the thrill of crunching through freshly fallen snow. And I know they'll have their own memories -- the whirr of the cicadas in hot summer nights, the soft drift of cotton from the cottonwoods in June, the dewberries ripening alongside Town Lake.

But I want to share some of my lost enchantment with them -- the landscape of my own magical childhood. I'm perpetually pointing out things I remember from those magical summer afternoons. Goldenrod glowing in open fields (my mother thought it was ragweed), maple seeds that fall and whirl like airborne tops, the cattails like little brown soldiers in the marshes.

Speaking of children, mine are yammering that they'd like to go blueberry picking. I never did that as a child -- except for those summers in Newfoundland, another experience I hope to share with them when they're older -- but I'm all for new memories. So we're off to the blueberry field.... wish us luck!


At 9:42 AM, August 11, 2006, Blogger Susan said...

Pick some blueberries for me, Karen! I somehow feel cooler, just reading what you've written.--Susan

At 10:22 AM, August 11, 2006, Blogger Karen MacInerney said...

Susan, I got a handful for you just this morning... and it was delicious.

And today I'll have a double scoop of black raspberry ice cream in your honor.

Oh, the sacrifices I make...

At 9:47 AM, August 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful, Karen--so glad you're having such a great time.


At 7:47 PM, September 23, 2006, Blogger Derek said...

It was nice meeting you at the Barnes and Noble in Round Rock today -- we look forward to reading Murder on the Rocks!

-Derek, Karianne, and Kaeta Kurth


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