Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘The North woods’

North of “Not Many”

In Adventure, Creativity, Nature, Writers on August 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

Art in a land of giants.

The North Woods. We capitalize the words. Sometimes its the Great North Woods. It’s been reported that Maine’s Great North Woods comprises the largest contiguous undeveloped landmass in the lower forty-eight. I don’t know if that is factually correct, but I hold it true because it comforts me, knowing it’s up there, the vastness of it. Approximately four million acres of pine and moose and bear and lakes and ponds, a few modest mountains, and a lace-work of lumber roads.

A person can get seriously lost in such a place, and frequently I go north and attempt to do precisely that. It was during such an effort last week that I stumbled upon the cache of “drawing pencils” in the photograph above. I was north of the little village of Kokadjo. The welcome sign to Kokadjo states the population as “Not Many.” It is good to have a sense of humor in such a place. Passing through Kokadjo, I left the tarmac and rumbled along a lumber road for untold miles, then turned off onto an unused road. It was pitted and grown-over and I followed it until it began to bog out. I noticed a patch of St. John’s Wart and stopped. I let Lucy out, after attaching a bear-bell to her collar, and began to pick the St. John’s Wart. Harvest the flowers, dry them, crumble them, and you’ve got a winter tea to drive away the doldrums.

I stretched my legs, walking down a path, when I found them, the giant pencils, stacked neatly as you see them in the photograph. I looked around. No cabin. No evidence of life. No recent tire tracks, foot prints, nothing. Yet, here was art.

Joyce said that “The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” I thought of this quote and wondered who this God of creation was. I was struck by the obvious purity of the endeavor, as well as the humor. She–for there was something beautifully feminine about this exhibit–she, this goddess of creation, was beyond the work and the work was purer for that. It is possible to create for the purpose of creation only, not needing the prism of “the other.” It was an exhibit of voided ego precisely executed.

I do not know where I was. I did not check coordinates. That seemed contrary to the experience. It was quite simply my reward for giving myself up to the woods.

N 45° 41′ 12.57 – W 70° 36’35.80

In Nature on August 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm

N 45° 41′ 12.57/W 70° 36’35.80

N 45° 36’35.80/W 70° 21′ 50.09

Above: Coordinates for Eagle Pond and Horseshoe Pond respectively.

I was humbled by the North Woods last month. The Audubon Society and Trout Unlimited put a call out to members interested in volunteering for a study of remote ponds in Northern Maine which might hold native brook trout. It is estimated that 97 percent of all native brookies resident in the lower 48 live in the state of Maine. But no one knows for certain. One way to find out is to fish the ponds and lakes which have never been stocked. Hence the call to anglers comfortable in the backwoods. I raised my hand, packed my gear, loaded my dog into the Escape and headed north to Jackman, a lumber outpost a dozen or so miles shy of the Canadian border.

I did not leave home leave without committing the Google maps of my ponds to memory, not without my compass and a quick brush up of orienteering skills. I used to be pretty good with a map and compass. No more. Of the five ponds I was to survey, I could not deliver myself to a single one. I knew where I wanted to go, but I could not get there, which feels like a metaphor for (my) life. Apt metaphors aside, I found the woods impenetrably thick. The deeper I got into them, the less likely I was heading in the right direction and the more concerned I grew about getting out. Frankly, I bailed. Me and Lucy, tails between our legs, came home humbled.

The difference between pride and humiliation is a matter of a few degrees. Where I was proud of back country skills, I was handed up a meaty dish of humiliation. But that was then. Modern technology has a solution and I embrace it wholeheartedly. I now own a Delorme PN-60 GPS, loaded with the lastest topo map and, most importantly, keyed with the coordinates to my assigned ponds. No matter how deep I crawl into those wonderful 27,000 square miles we call the The Great North Woods, I should find my waters–and my way out! Old school be damned. Maps and compass are so very yesterday. So next week I’m off , as Twain said, to parts unknown, seeking redemption and tight lines.

The Maine Woods

In Life, Nature, Writers on July 8, 2010 at 6:03 am
The Maine Woods

The Maine Woods

Town is hot and full of tourists. Commercial Street is a conga line of slow-moving vehicles in both directions. Such is life in a destination. On Tuesday a cruise liner, the Summit, steamed into town and 1900 passengers descended the plank into the Old Port. Carole and I spotted the Summit from the bluff of Fort Allen at 7am, an hour still at sea away. It was passing between Peaks and Cushing Islands, the Whitehead Passage, yet small enough but obvious and shadowed in the distance by a morning sea haze. By the time it pulled into town, all eleven decks of it, the temperature was almost ninety degrees. According to the 2010 Portland berthing schedule, there is a record-setting seventy-three ships coming to town this season. Total passengers: 75,731.

I’m heading north. Time to get away. Escape. The Maine Woods. On the trail of Henry David. “On the 31st of August, 1846, I left Concord in Massachusetts for Bangor and the backwoods of Maine…” begins Thoreau’s The Maine Woods. Today Maggie and I go to Moosehead. I have a camp site in mind on the lake and I pray it does not have cell coverage.  John Muir took a copy of The Maine Woods with him on his 1879 trip to Alaska. But I will listen to it on as an audio book on the drive north. Such is the advance of civilization.