Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reading and writing

I've been using the wood stove a lot this week, when the dog will share it with me.  With school out and some serious ice and snow glazing the roads, it's a great time to curl up with a good book.  Plus we're about to head off for a quick vacation, sailing in Florida, and I'm hoping there'll be some time for reading in between the hoisting sail and sipping rum-drinks under the stars.  Here are a few books I'm enjoying right now:

Love, sex, and scientific mysteries.  Robo-lobsters.  Barbie lobsters.  What more can a gal ask for?  The Secret Life of Lobsters has it all.  I'm most of the way done with this book, which tells the story of lobster biology and management from several points of view -- both from fishermen on Little Cranberry Island, and from various scientists involved in the early stages of understanding the biology of our crustacean friend.  Anyone who loves lobster, or is interested in the marine heritage of Maine, will enjoy this book.

Connie Small was born in 1901 and grew up in Lubec, wh ich at the time was full of fish-processing plants and fishermen.  Her father worked for the lifesaving service, and many of her relatives were ship captains and lighthouse keepers.  When she married Elson Small in 1920, they went off for a life keeping lights up and down the coast of Maine.  In The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife, Connie Small recounts their life on remote islands, working against the elements to light the lamp each night.  The book is full of anecdotes, but it memorializes a profession long gone today, often with delicious philosophical reflections.

On Seguin Island, Connie Small described the moment in the evening when all the keepers up and down the coast lit their lamps (taking pride in waiting until just the right moment, not lighting them a minute too soon):  I loved being in the tower at sunset.  When I took the lens cover off and the light flashed, I could begin counting from Portland to Pemaquid as almost simultaneously the lights came on -- thirteen of them. It was like saying "hello," hello," "hello," all down the coast.  This little book reveals a world few knew even when all the lights up and down the coast were manned, and I think modern readers will enjoy looking into this rare aspect of our state's history.

Maine is the only state with an elver fishery, for better or for worse.  I'm one to think it should be better managed, as right now it seems to be the Wild West.  (Cold River Cash.  Need I say more?)  But what do I know?

Soon I'll know a lot more.  Eels have crazy biology -- eggs are laid far out to sea, babies are carried along the Gulf Stream for up to a year, and then they swim upriver and transform into eels.  They live adult lives in fresh water, then head back out to the sea to spawn, then die.  I'm hoping this will be a fun read with as much detail as The Secret Life of Lobsters.  Then maybe I'll have the heart to watch the Animal Planet series.  But probably not.

I just picked this little book up from my favorite local bookstore, Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick. I'm a total sucker for guidebooks, and this one looks promising.  I've already learned quite a lot about chickadees -- did you know they stockpile seeds in summer, hiding them in cracks in tree bark and other hidey-holes, and eating them in winter?  And they can "hibernate" for shore periods of time when it gets really cold?

This book highlights terrific natural spots in my area, and includes several I've put on my "must visit" list.
Sitting at an oceanfront bar in Florida, enjoying a fascinating article . . . .
Besides all the reading, I've been tooting my own horn.  This month my piece about operating sailboats around whales ("Whale Etiquette") came out in Cruising World magazine.  Just a small article, but I'm still really pleased about it!  Toot!  Toot!

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