Tuesday, October 13, 2015


1. a pleasing view, especially one seen through a long, narrow opening.
2. a mental view of a succession of remembered or anticipated events. 
This past weekend, we took our annual trip to Acadia National Park.  We almost did not make it.  It was cold.  We were tired.  It takes a lot of work, and a lot of gear, and a lot of energy to get five people and everything they need to be warm, well fed, and well equipped up north for a weekend of camping.  Though we waffled for a bit about whether we were up for the work of it, in the end, our memories of the times we have spent there in years past got us moving and out the door. 

As soon as we stepped out of the overloaded minivan and into the crisp autumn-ness of Mount Desert Island, we knew we had been right to come.  It was good to be back.  We breathed in the cool air, allowed the warm sun to hit our skin, and felt the dock shifting beneath our feet.  And remembered, sensorially -- our bodies connecting with the notion before our minds -- why we come.

We snuck up Cadillac Mountain just before sunset.  And took in the views.  And laughed about our memory of being here just last year.  And of how someone had stepped in front of our view from our carefully placed car, just as the sun slipped down below the horizon.

The next day, we headed off to do what we love in Acadia.  Bicycle riding on the carriage roads.  And despite the challenge of fitting five bikes and all the gear and snacks to feed a fleet and finding parking, after all that...the first 30 minutes were blissful.  And I rode last in line, keeping myself intentionally behind our youngest biker, so he would not feel rushed, or as though he might be left behind.  Riding for the first time on his own free standing bicycle rather than on a tagalong behind Jonathan.  

It was a monumental step in Werner Family growth, in Werner Family forward momentum.  Much less physical strain on Jonathan.  For those 30 minutes, it was bliss.  Easy, gorgeous, bliss.

And then.  Elliott's new bike broke.  His gears cracked and the chain got stuck in the highest gear.  Which made peddling with already tired legs,well, impossible.

Which was really not a huge deal, because we were very near to Jordan Pond House.  A lovely place for three of us to hang out while Jonathan and Nicholas rode like the wind in the coming dark to return with the car and pick us up.

Nicholas had jumped at the chance to ride fast and without the need to wait for fraternal shorter legs to keep up.  As he snapped on his helmet and left Julia, Elliott and I sitting sipping hot cocoas on the deck (it really wasn't a hard position to be in), he smirked and announced, I think we are cursed.  Last year Julia hit a rock and flew head first off her bike, and we needed to leave you and Julia behind and go get the car because she was hurt and couldn't ride.  And now this.

And yet here we are again.  And I know we will be back.

The story telling, the true stories, the stories that were once bad but, with years between the happening and the telling, have now become good.  Funny even.  We look back at them through an ever narrowing tunnel as the years pass and memories get condensed and fragments that don't fit get misplaced or rewritten.  And I have been able to wrap the unplanned mishaps, the difficulties, the hard edges up in a soft blanket of remembering the bigger picture.  The moments of awe, of feeling our bodies easing and our behavior shifting and our openness to each other and to this place expanding.  In these familiar woods.  On these known trails.  It's that bigger picture, I know, that we will remember.  And be drawn back to again.

The three of us who were left behind settled into exploring the area by foot with a degree of leisure that we do not usually have while there.  And we headed down to the pond.

All three of us were struck by this view of the water and mountains.  And we finally understood why that one spot of the carriage road is always so very full of people on foot taking pictures.  It is because there is a walking path down from Jordan House that leads right there. Something we had never noticed as we wheeled by.

With that mystery finally explained, I became entranced by the meadow between the House and the Pond.  Full of low scrubby grasses and littered with rocks.

This meadow leading to the shore, whose edge is also outlined on this side with rocks.

As usual, the National Park Service did not let us down.  And we were quickly educated in glacial movements and moraines.

And with our extra quiet time, Julia sat down to try to capture the sparkling silver ripples in the waters of the pond in that fading light.  We would not have seen this, or had these quiet moments together, if it had not been for that bike chain.

 I left her to it.  And wandered off and discovered this sign.

The vista before you is being maintained with the use of prescribed fire.  The prescribed fire will reduce new tree growth that would grow up to block the view.  The vistas are a cultural landscape, and as a part of the park missions, park staff is responsible for keeping vistas open for visitors to enjoy. 
In the past, this historical vista was restored and maintained by the mechanical cutting of selected trees.  In addition to removing taller vegetation, fire will also help promote the growth of grasses and shorter shrubs that will require less maintenance.... 
The burned area will quickly be covered with new growth of grasses and low shrubs such as blueberry.  In fact, wild blueberry fields in Maine are burned regularly to help increase crop production.  Be sure to come back in a few years for an outstanding crop of berries!
A closer look at the details of the meadow and I saw it.  The char and darkened markings of fire. This darkness creating exactly what I was finding so beautiful.  The edges, the contrast, the beaten scrubby wear. It is in fact that wildness, the darkness, the shadows, and the contrast that gives each vista its power to hold you.

Before we knew it, with only one trip into the gift shop through which we cautiously navigated carrying bike helmets and backpacks through narrow aisles and treacherously placed small glass trinkets, all in order to warm up, Nicholas and Jonathan were back.  With the car.

Next day, a quick trip to a charming bike shop and an inexpensive rental, and we were off again.  Back on the carriage roads.

Elliott worked on his uphill launching skills.

Jonathan enjoyed having only the back pack to haul along with him.

Julia worked on acrobatics.

And I attempted to take pictures while riding my bike.  Instead of stopping to take them.  Which is really hard.  But I was trying, because Nicholas was working on his patience with my picture taking. He has taken to saying, in a not unkind nasal imitation of my frequent plea: Wait! One second! This one's for the blog!

And Elliott did his best to keep up.

Though the scene below was, as the day went on, becoming a more and more frequent sight as I rounded a turn, lagging behind as usual because I had stopped to take a picture.

Snacks in that backpack helped.

And frequent stops to explore.

But the vistas.  What I now understood were the intentionally maintained view corridors, the narrow openings to that breath-stealing openness.  These must indeed be carefully maintained.

By coming here each year, we are also carefully maintaining our own scenes and lookout points.  Layering newer stories on top of older memories.  What it was like then with what it is now.  Adjusting these layers to fit with each other.  Sometimes, without this careful maintenance, the bigger picture, the growth and years and changes, might be lost in the shadows, in the now-ness of the woods.  But each view, each open sun filled spot drew us to it.  

And so, this was a year of getting to know a few areas of the park a little bit better.  Of glimpsing the light, the sun, the water through the shade of trees.  And of telling more of our story, and attaching other story lines to our time here.  Of capturing images, and words, and behavior, and meaning that we will weave into our family life until we return again.  Images of vistas as well as of the details and debris.  We will remember, include in our tellings, the dark spots, the edges, the char, the broken bike chain.  Because that is, in fact, what makes it all so richly textured.  In the past, the now, and in anticipation of the next time.  Noticing as much of it as we can.

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