If you are concerned about how Maine's landscape is changing daily, check out today's news!
After posting my Happy Feet story this summer I couldn't resist sharing today's penguin news from New Zealand.
See the story.
I decided to drive up to my cabin in Rangeley, Maine this week to paint. Specifically, to paint leaves. Its just about the end of “peak season” in the Rangeley area and there is no better place in the world (at least in my world) to catch a brief glimpse of New England’s fall colors. So I couldn’t wait to head up the back roads of Maine to Rangeley.
I first drove up to Rangeley with my son in the summer of 1999. A few months later, in the fall, our family bought a cabin on Rangeley Lake and we had our first view of this beautiful area in the fall as we drove up Route 17, now the “Rangeley Lakes Scenic By Way”, which runs from Rumford/Mexico up to the Rangeley Lakes area. I always look forward to this stretch of the trip, the last leg of a 4-5 hour drive. The bumps in the road feel like a free wheeling country roller coaster ride. We saw our first moose on this road and have hiked on the Appalachian Trail which runs nearby. At its peak the road passes through the “Heart of the Land”, one of the most beautiful scenic views in the state of Maine.
But on this trip I nearly drove off the road. Just a few weeks before the mountain views were spectacular…. ready to pop with color. But now, driving up Rte 17, in Roxbury, I saw a huge “dagger” on one of the mountain tops! It was a massive wind turbine! And then I saw a whole vista of wind turbines… looking like alien swords piercing the entire landscape. After more than a decade of seeing nothing but the mountains from this road, I was now looking at the Wind Turbines of Record Hill, a Project (I later learned) that was now going forward full steam. I pulled off the road, nearly hitting a bicyclist, and took a few pictures.
I thought about the wind turbines most of that evening. I knew that there had been some controversy over the installation of turbines at Saddleback Mountain near the Appalachian Trail a few years ago but so far nothing has happened…at least as far as I know. I knew nothing about the Record Hill Wind Project. But the next morning at the Rangeley Library it didn’t take long to find some basic facts and a report from the State of Maine on the Record Hill Wind Project, see http://www.maine.gov/dep/bep/2010/03-18-10/RH%20-%20DEP%20scenic%20excerpts.pdf
In the conclusion of this report it was noted that … ”the Project has been conceived and designed to have minimal visual impacts on scenic resources within the study area. The Project will not have an unreasonable adverse impact on scenic values and existing uses of scenic resources of state or national significance”
This was not quite my reaction on first glance at the wind turbines. And my guess is that it is not what is being experienced by many of the locals in the area either. And if my cabin was just a few miles south I too would be facing these noisy and flickering turbines as I paint, hike, canoe, garden, and chop wood. Maine takes pride in having some of the most beautiful, quiet, and unspoiled countryside in the United States. Is there a state at risk here? We may get the answer in the years ahead if the tour buses stop coming to see this “unspoiled” countryside of Maine.
I spent the better part of a day at the Rangeley Library reading about wind power in the State of Maine. I generally try to keep politics out of my news/blog but when something hits you this hard you simply cannot ignore it. On my drive up Route 17 I saw someone outside adding an addition to his house as the turbines were sprouting up overhead! And I later watched a video of a family in Aroostook County, Maine, who have spent most or their life’s savings on a retirement home only to find that they are now trying to sell their dream home because they can’t sleep due to the noise and the “flicker” of the wind turbines put up near their home.
But then this is not my backyard. I’m “from away”. I’m just here to paint leaves. I should be thinking of all the local jobs that come along with these projects, how it helps the local economy and the energy resources of the State of Maine, etc. But I’ve read enough in just one day that suggests that these jobs are generally short term, 6 month construction jobs that do not impact long term unemployment and that Maine may not, in fact, really need the minimal amount of energy provided by these turbines. Truth be told I am also embarrassed at how little I really know about the pros and cons of wind power turbines in the US. I should be more educated about this important issue. They have been around for a while and I’ve seen them on the landscape from California to Maine. But it has never been so disturbing to me. It is going to be hard for me to ignore them now or to pretend they are not there. They are nearly in my own back yard. I certainly don’t have any answers. But I am reminded of a few lines from Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”
…”how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
From Bob Dylan, Blowing In The Wind
For more information on Wind Power in Maine see: http://www.windtaskforce.org/
There are a few expressions that you often hear from potential customers while selling art and craft on the street. One of the most common expressions is "I'll be back". As art and craft vendors, we call them the "Be Backs". Most of them move on, find other things, and don't come back. I once met a craftsman who had a little contest at an art fair. He gave all the Be Backs a card with a time and a number on it. He placed a duplicate card in a bowl and told them that if they came back at that time later in the day there would be a drawing and that they could win one of his items if their card was drawn. I don't know how it all turned out but I thought it was a clever little ploy to get the Be Backs back! At a show in Newburyport, MA this past weekend I was reminded of this when I heard some folks say...."I'll be back..."I want to do the loop first"..."I've got it in my brain now"...."she has a Yankee Swap coming up so we will definitely need to come back and get that"...."I'll be back...I won't have to carry it around that way", etc.
But there was one little girl, about 10 years old, who saw one of my tulip paintings as she and her mother were driving down the street behind my booth! She was also a painter and she convinced her mother to stop, park, and come back to see the tulip painting. They both liked it and said they would be back later and asked if I would set it aside for them. I did. At about 5 PM, just before the show was about to shut down... they came back.... and said that as they were driving out of town they remembered that they had forgotten about the tulips! They hit the brakes, turned around, came back and bought the tulip painting.... just as I was starting to pack up. You gotta love the energy, persistence and honesty of some kids. I hope she paints some flowers when she grows up too! And you just never know these days. The elderly folks who needed a "Yankee Swap" gift might see my work again back at home... as they slowly cruise the internet... without having to "be back", "do the loop" again or even "carry it around"!
This page is where I put stuff that doesn't fit elsewhere.... news, photos, an occassional idea, work in process, etc.