Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Casco Bay’

At Home on Water.

In Happiness, Life, Nature, Writing on August 23, 2012 at 6:00 am

Herring gull below my balcony.

I live over a slip of water, on the leeward side of a wharf. Weather, good and bad, is driven from the west, so we don’t get it directly, oriented east as we are. The worst weather is saved for the other direction and when we get hit with bad weather it can serious. Once, during a nor’easter two winters ago, Carole and I watched a boat break lose of its mooring and bounce up and down the slip crashing into everything it could possibly crash into. We were having dinner while watching the storm, and when the boat came bucking past I called someone who could address such things. A team of men in a small boat appeared within minutes and set to chase. Eventually, wind blowing, water roiling, they lassoed the craft and towed it back to the dock.

This time of year, however, every day is perfect and every evening is more than perfect, were that possible. We have a lot of gulls here, herring gulls mostly, what a lot of folks would call a sea gull. There is no such thing as a sea gull, properly. Here in Maine we have herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, laughing gulls and the largest of the gulls, the great black-backed gull. The black-back is a bully and is aggressive, a trait that seems ubiquitious in creatures large and ornery. Not just creatures, come to think of it, large countries too. Large countries in particularly, to think of it even more. Anyway, the gulls scream and cavort with sunrise and provide us our morning alarm. Winter is a good time to sleep in. The gulls mostly go on vacation.

We see harbor seals out in the river frequently. They don’t come down our slip, as it’s too busy with water craft. But three or four wharfs up, behind Harbor Fish, there is a seal that frequents at high-tide. The people who work there call him Walter. Walter is a good name for a seal, I think. It seems as if it would a good name for a goat too, but that is beside the point.

I’ve lived here three years and like it very much. But I do miss the woods. Water is particularly nice to have in one’s view. Mountains, though, I think are best to look at. They tend to better trigger the imagination in me. As a young man the sight of mountains always prompted a desire to get into them. Now, I am more content to just enjoy the look of them.

This rummination is my way of saying that place matters, which is something I’ve not always understood. I’ve said it before–that place matters–and everyday I am reminded of time spent that mattered less importantly in places that held less promise. It is best to spend one’s time in places that matter most. Saying such a thing seems to be stating the obvious, but the obvious at times seems less an option than a requirement. That I wish I’d understood earlier.

Where the Fore River meets Casco Bay.

In Dogs, Life, Memoir, Nature on July 6, 2012 at 6:00 am

Sunrise, Eastern Prom, Portland

The bedroom window faces across the water due east, where the Fore River enters Casco Bay. In the winter, when the sun is late rising, I watch it come up over Bug Light in South Portland. This time of year, though, the sun is up early–5:35 this morning–and I usually miss it. Morning sun is a draw I usually can’t resist. The gulls don’t seem to be able to resist either and like water-borne roosters shout and caw at its arrival. This morning one screamed, I swear, right next to the bedroom window and in my half slumber, I thought someone was being throttled.

This morning the bedroom filled with amber light, low-angled and dappled by the water, and so I rose to it smiling. Maggie jumps off her bed when she hears me sit up. Carole and I joke that she can sense my eye-lids opening. She stretches Sphinx-like, letting out a little squeal. Then she flaps her ears, ready to get rolling. Even at nine years, she’s like a puppy in the morning, hardly able to contain herself. I know exactly how she feels.

We went to the Eastern Prom this morning, as we do most mornings. Early is better, if you like solitude with your coffee. Letting Maggie off leash, we stroll and explore. I like to stop on the bluff and look over the water toward Peaks Island and Little and Big Diamond. When I do, I remind myself not to take this for granted. It appears to me that all mornings are special, but some more than others. If the sacred is to be discovered, I bet it can be–or is, for some–best discovered in the morning.


I’m on the road this week–family reunion, holiday, etc. This is a repost. It first appeared in April, 2010. Thanks for reading.

Casco Bay, 5:00 am.

In Mythology, Nature on April 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I was awakened at 5:00 am this morning by a screeching, a sound akin to what I think a baby seal must make when its ice flow drifts away from mother, or at least in my interrupted slumber that is what it sounded like. But it was nothing so troublesome or romantic. The Wendameen, an historic Maine schooner, built in 1912 and used to sail tourists around Casco Bay, is tied up on the dock below my bedroom window. In the winter it is stripped and shrink wrapped and left to struggle against the Maine winter alone. Soon, however, it will come out of hibernation and move four wharfs away where it will impress upon its visitors a singular beauty. But now, this morning, it was rocking against the dock, the protective bumper squeaking as the tide rose, plaintive like the abandoned seal.

I got up and boiled water and let the coffee seep four minutes before pressing, as I do every morning. Always the same. Grind, pour, wait, drink. Sigh. This morning I looked, again as I always do, at the thermometer. It was fifty-five degrees outside and I opened the porch door and stepped out. The balcony faces east and the light was low and the color of honey. I looked up to the river and bobbing there in the golden coins of surface water must have been fifty common eiders, black on white, chirping, like a congregation before the service begins, low and personal, amongst themselves. They are collecting themselves, getting ready to head north for the summer. And below me, directly, was the loon I’d been watching recently. Molted. Black and white and the neck ringed. Also, getting ready to leave.

I am saddened to see them leave, these birds who have succeeded against winter so spectacularly. And tonight, so unusual, the tremolo call of the loon. My neighbor who has lived here twenty years tells me she’s never heard the loon call from the wharf. Magic, that call. Listen. They say the loon is amongst the oldest of the birds. Fifty million years or so. Good bye friends, safe travels. Welcome back, Persephone. It is good to see you again.

Casco Bay, Maggie, and a Winter Storm.

In Death, Dogs, Writers on January 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs.” ~ Jim Harrison, The Road Home

Maggie. Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful.

I’ve written of the Harrison quote before. I haunts me. I am a dog person. That is only part of it. I am also acutely aware of, dare I say?, dying. That’s the other thing.

We are given to reflection at year’s end. I will spare you that. (Thank god, you sigh.) No reflection or such similar gibberish. But being a dog person gives one opportunity for contemplation. We die more slowly than our dogs, says Harrison. So imagine how fast they die. Are dogs given to reflection? I think not. I’ve heard it said that dogs have no conception of time. How anyone would know this, I can’t explain. But it makes sense. Maggie seems as excited when I return to her after and hour as she does after a week. Indeed, if a dog where to live being so present, then perhaps the accelerated pace of their existence is not all that bad. But that is just a guess, a mere hopeful consolation.

* * *

It was snowing this morning on our walk to the Eastern Prom. Snowing hard. Quiet and no one around type snowing. I heard the waves crashing, which is not normal. But the storm was coming from the northeast and whipping up the bay and slamming it into the rocks–that’s when the phrase “turning the tide” came to mind–and with it thoughts of all the things over which we have no control. Like dying. Like our dogs dying. Like the rise and fall of a tide, the turning of the calendar page, the beginning of a new decade. And all that that entails. Which is a lot.

It is natural to think more about the end than the beginning, I think, as you grow older. At fifty-four, I don’t think about it all that much, the end. But I do think about it more than I think about the beginning, that I know. And sometimes it startles me. That’s when I get comfort being around a dog. I know they don’t think of such things. If they did, their eyes would show it, that self-possessed knowledge of the end, and I’ve never seen that in a dog’s eyes. Yes, we die more slowly, and our leisurely pace affords us time to think of such things.

Such it is that the tide rises in the morning and goes out in the afternoon.

Tonight, 8.27.09

In Mythology on August 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm

The Pretender has returned and the fishermen are off-loading the lobster. They had to go out far today, I’m told, and though I don’t know what that means exactly, I hold visions of rolling seas and high sun and salt in the air far from the mainland. I will need a fleece tonight, like I did this morning while walking Maggie. I can’t image this summer coming to an end.

I made pouched salmon steaks tonight with a butter sauce. The sauce needed a quarter of white wine, and of course the rest of the bottle, well, it couldn’t go to waste and the cook was thirsty and of course it is gone now and so the night rolls in and my coffee will soon be whisky and my cigar gone, but Ray LaMontagne will continue to sing in my ears regardless of the sunset, the cigar, the drink, the wine.

The ancients saw the end of summer as the end of life and the end of everything alive above the earth; they saw youthful maidens adorning themselves with wings and preparing to fly off, leaving, them, us, behind. So, tonight, the maidens are across the water and if I squint and look directly I can see them checking their harnesses and getting ready to flee. Wait!–not yet. You are not to go just this soon. Stay a while, please. Please.