Magic of travel outdoors

The coast of Maine is like very old chocolate, raged where it's broken off.Outside my window, the sky is falling. That’s what we say when the clouds, over-encumbered by wind, temperature and moisture, fall to the ground in large torrents of, usually, vertical rivers.

Meanwhile, flocks of eiders bounce in the waves, drifting upwind and down, occasionally diving, presumably for snacks, much as I dive for a box of Triscuits or a handful of grapes. We’re not so much different, the ducks and me.

On the other hand, I’ve dreamt of being a seagull. Maybe a Jonathan Livingston Seagull that flies for the sheer thrill of surfing wandering waves of oxygen, nitrogen and a few samplings of other, minor, molecules. Ducks and geese do it to migrate. Eagles and other carnivores do it to hunt for food.

Seagulls fly gracefully, swooping and gliding, stopping to grab a bite when it is easy, then getting back to the business at hand, riding invisible air currents across the air above the metamorphosed shore.

When I awoke at 5 a.m., the temperature was 42F on the other side of the window pane separating my pillow from the building sea of Muscongus Bay. The rising sun, uncharacteristically invisible above a layer of threatening overcast, turned the eastern sky light pink.

By the time we were eating breakfast, about 9 a.m., the thermometer had climbed all the way to 44F. At a favorite eatery, I broke my brief fast with two poached eggs on English muffins, topped with lobster, crab and the best Hollandaise sauce ever to have passed my lips, and worth the excessive price of a sweatshirt management had used the Hollandaise to bait me into the gift shop. There is a reason such an establishment is called a “tourist trap.” And I am proud to wear a location-emblazoned billboard, with which I quietly boast of my worldly travels.

Trees in the north country are beginning to change color, from summer greenery to prints of red, yellow and orange tints that identify the wooded tribes residing in peaceful, if not braggardly, coexistence. Maples are mostly bright red, birches turn yellow.

Leaves next to water are first to ease into their fall garb. As we drive down country roads, we notice small ponds bordered with maple and alder bunting. Soon entire hillsides will be splashed with a panoply of blazing paint, cast by the bucketful by industrious woods faeries that only a month or so ago were dancing across woods-edged fields with twinkling lanterns mere humans attribute as lightning bugs.

The colors I see in the north country are merely the vanguard of fashion that soon will decorate the South Mountains. It’s interesting to me how everything is connected to everything else, how volcanoes west of my home are part of the same forces that created, a few million years ago, the mountains of New England, as different as the latter appear from the former.

One can, with considerable reliability, identify the state passing by the car window by the rocky cross-sections exposing human efforts to cut roads through the hills. Pennsylvania rock seems most often rusty, while New Hampshire is more infused with granite (hence the state known as The Granite State).

Maine always has struck me as a huge forest set on a base of glittering rock which has been broken off at the southern end, leaving an exposed ragged edge like a very old chocolate bar infused with sugar crystals. Seen from the correct angle, the effect of a setting sun is indescribably wonderlicious.

On the other hand, I’ve never been in a wild place that was not somehow magical.

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