Numbering Our Days in the Wilderness

“‘And Max stepped into his private boat, and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him and it was still hot.’”

This is a line from a story within a story—The Vigilance of Stars, by Patricia O’Donnell.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Her daughter Emma O’Donnell chooses this psalm in a different translation to begin her narrative entitled Remembering the Future. The book’s subtitle is The Experience of Time in Jewish and Christian Liturgy. Picking up this book again, I began thinking of wilderness experience, and of her mother’s novel, The Vigilance of Stars, some of which takes place in the Maine wilderness. I’d begun reading it with memories of Dr. O’Donnell’s narrative of memory and hope embodied in Time.

I’ve wanted to read these books because of both their Maine connection and a curious personal interest. I’m what is called a Maineiac, as opposed to being a Mainer. The former is one who moves to Maine (“from away,” naturally) and loves it.  The Mainer is someone born here, whom one supposes embodies the older Maine way of thinking and living derived from settler ancestors. (Please do not let the urban dictionary tell you a Maineiac is a descendent of settlers or one born in the state.) Emma, also, was born elsewhere, her mother was. I do not recall actually meeting Emma but remember that, as a child, she thought well of my story “Sphere Flyer” when I read it in a writers’ get-together at the University of Maine at Farmington. Her mother, Pat O’Donnell, was my creative writing mentor there. She later told me about Emma’s encouraging response to the story. I wonder how old Emma was at the time. Was she twelve years old, for instance?

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turned around

The snow was soft where not crispy, but neither was it gluey like today’s. Allen dropped me off down the road just above the widening gap between hills, where the north pond lies below. On his way to get groceries and meet with friends. Did not think I’d make it over the filthy plow-row—ice and snow crusted with sand the town plow had pushed up along the rural road. My young neighbor stuck his head out the door to see if I needed help. 

“Just want to do a bit of shoeing.”  I was getting out the big webbed shoes. He went back in. 

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We are heading to the Gulf of Maine (figuratively)

Here is a bit of The Gulf book quote from something I learned writing my (hoped for) forthcoming book on the coast of Maine.

Brooklyn Museum – Misty Morning, Coast of Maine – Arthur Parton

Maine had been inhabited by a primal people before the coming of Europeans, and how they had originally found it and why was not known in 1869; what had been recorded is the discovery of what became known as Maine by the Northmen, as J.G. Kohl, author of HISTORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF MAINE (published in1869) called the Vikings. According to this Maine scholar from the 19th century, these People had a well-developed civilized society in Iceland. They were mariners who sailed out from there and, led by Eric the Red, discovered and settled what was previously thought to be a mythic land—Greenland. Heriulf, fellow adventurer with Eric had a son named Biarne who sailed from Iceland looking for his father. Biarne was blown along strange coasts by a storm that drove him far from Greenland. After making his way back to father and Greenland, he told of these coasts. Later he returned under the command of Leif, son of Eric the Red. The year was 1000 A.D. Aided by the day’s length on the shortest day of the year, Leif was able to fix the geographic position of these coasts.