Sunday Wanderings

IMG_1484I don’t have to go far to find this place as it’s an easy walk right down the street.

IMG_1493The sign says it all about when the shop is open this time of year.

IMG_1485Books are displayed in every available space starting at the front door.

IMG_1486Displays often reflect the season not only with decor but with titles.  You can be sure Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe are well represented now!

On the shelves, books, new and gently used, are arranged alphabetically as cleverly designated.

IMG_1487Mixed with the books, there just may be a surprise.

IMG_1491Throughout the space are chairs and tables that invite visitors to sit and stay awhile.  You may be offered a cup of tea while browsing, a nice touch on these chilly fall days.

Barnswallow is one of many bookstores that can be found throughout Maine.  Folks here like to support the locals which means the big chains don’t fare too well.  There’s something to be said for such small town places that serve dual purposes.  They are not only resources for reading material but for interesting programs featuring writers, poets and artists.  For me,  such opportunity is another reason Maine is the way life is supposed to be.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

History, Maine

Island Stories

Vinalhaven is another of Maine’s islands with a year round population and an interesting history. At one time it was known for quarries where granite was cut for use in buildings in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. among other places.

DSC00085Today the quarries are abandoned though there remains evidence of their existence.

DSC00138Quarry men are of the past and now most of the residents depend on lobstering for a living and, to a lesser degree, tourism.

DSC00080 (1)Well known folks have lived on the island.  Until his recent passing, Robert Indiana maintained a studio on Vinalhaven and it was a favorite place for  Margaret Wise Brown. If the name isn’t familiar, her children’s books likely are. Particularly notable is Goodnight Moon still popular all over the world.

DSC00150She had two cottages on Vinalhaven, one she named The Only because it was the only one on that side of the island.

DSC00077Close to it she built another small quirky cottage with no electricity or running water and it became a favorite retreat.

DSC00067Inside are reminders of her presence. In the kitchen are cookbooks from another era.

DSC00068In the  simply furnished main room are nooks close to the fireplace where she would warm an evening brandy.

DSC00070There are shelves lined with children’s books, of course including some of hers.

DSC00118Margaret loved fairies and on the property is a flat area she called the fairy ballroom and a water filled quarry which is the fairy pool.

DSC00096How she must have loved the views from atop a defunct quarry.  They are some of the most stunning views of Penobscot Bay I have ever seen.

DSC00073The islands in the distance, bisected by the ferry that runs from Rockland, are breathtaking making it very easy to see why Margaret Wise Brown was enchanted with the island.

DSC00153It is here she rests. She died when only 42 suffering an embolism after a relatively minor surgery. One day she will be joined here by the man to whom she was engaged and to whom she left this beautiful place.  I believe she would be happy to know that three generations continue to enjoy her special place and share it with friends.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, literature

Taking a Second Look

I have just finished reading Dan Brown’s most recent book, Origin, which had many references to  Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. These gave me reason to review photos I had taken of both.

As I looked at them, they gave credence to Gaudi’s words:

Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first. Originality consists of returning to the origin.

At Casa Mila, the influence of nature is obvious beginning with the facade which reminded of something growing from the earth.

Inside graceful nautilus shapes are among those reminiscent of the sea.On the rooftop are amazing organic structures with flowers and layers resembling the earth’s strata.

Sagrada Familia continues to illustrate Gaudi’s fascination with nature and his interpretations go beyond traditional which for me is his genius.


Inside are soaring treelike columns.

Their branches spread across the ceiling giving one the illusion of being in a forest.

One could go on and on about the natural elements at Sagrada Familia, but as I looked at my photos I was stuck by contrasting religious images.

Ones depicting the birth story are delicate and detailed.


In sharp contrast are the dramatic interpretations of the crucifixion.

Not only are they crudely done, there is such incredible sadness in them.

Without question, Gaudi was an architect of tremendous talent who was not afraid to think outside the boundaries.  While other of his work is complete, Sagrada Familia has been a work in progress for 140 years.


Thanks to private donations someday, perhaps by 2040, it will look like this.

As in his other books, Dan Brown’s Origin raises some interesting questions, but what I most appreciated was being influenced to take a second look at Gaudi’s designs and again being awed by his originality.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Random, Travel

Hemingway in Cuba

One of my all time favorite authors is Ernest Hemingway, so it was a special treat to visit Finca Vigia, his retreat in Cuba.  Located outside Havana, Hemingway purchased the property in 1940 and lived there for the next 20 years, staying longer than many Americans when relations between the U.S. and Cuba began deteriorating.

Hemingway houseThe house only could be viewed through large open windows, and the first thing that struck me was how many books were there.  I overheard a guide say there were 7,000 volumes on the shelves.

Hemingway houseI so wished to be close enough to read the titles in order to see what authors or subjects interested him.

Hemingway houseAs I looked through the window into his study, I imagined Hemingway sitting at his desk surrounded by favorite things and writing The Old Man and the Sea.   His Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner was influenced by the local fishermen with whom he became friends. How I would have loved to hear the stories and fishing adventures they shared!

Hemingway houseIn every room were trophies from his hunting excursions,

Hemingway houseand on the bathroom wall over the scale he scrawled his weight.  Such personal touches made Hemingway seem so real, and my mind was reeling as I recalled snippets of his life and from his books.

Hemingway houseLook closely on the shelf and you will see a rather large lizard preserved as a testament to the bravery of one of his cats of which there were said to be many.  The lizard was a little creepy, but Hemingway obviously had no aversion to being in the company of formerly living creatures.

Hemingway houseYou may remember Hemingway was friends with Picasso and the white piece barely seen clearly here is the artist’s interpretation of a bull’s head, perhaps similar to the one hanging next to the disc.

Hemingway house.Every room was open and airy, giving space to a man known to live life to the fullest.  It is said that Ernest Hemingway was well liked in Cuba and to this day there is a marlin fishing tournament in his honor.

Finca Vigia is one of several places Hemingway spent time that I have visited, and this was my favorite because so much of him seemed to be there.  While I didn’t breathe his air, it was a treat to walk in his space.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Metamorphosis Monday

You’re Gonna Love it Tuesday


Havana: A Quick Glimpse

CubaFrom my hotel room window, Havana looks like any big city, sprawling and busy.

CubaWhen you wander out, however, the street scene takes on a life of its own.  First thing you notice is the cars, old American made ones from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.    Someone told me there are about 50,000 of them in Cuba which makes it a veritable car museum!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACubaIt’s not at all unusual to see a hood lifted, the driver pouring in a quart of oil or fiddling with the spark plugs or whatever.   And the interiors are real throwbacks….no automatic windows, sophisticated sound systems, luxurious finishes here.

CubaOmigosh, this one is identical to my first car which was pretty old when I got it.    Do you think it possible that old Chevvy ended up here?

CubaAs fascinating as the cars were the people.  I generally don’t take a lot of people pics, but I couldn’t help myself this time, and you can probably see why.  I mean how often do you see a woman smoking a cigar

Cubaor such a dapper gentleman strolling the sidewalk?  Of course, when he noticed I had snapped his photo, he subtly held out his hand.  Remember, it’s possible to make more money posing for photos than working in a professional capacity.

CubaCubaCubaCubaHad I been able to wander I do believe I could have captured people enough for a book.

CubaThese guys would definitely be in it 

Cubaif for no reason other than their ingenious chessboard!  Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.


CubaCubaCubaOld cemeteries fascinate me, so a visit to the Christopher Columbus Cemetery (no, he’s not buried there) was a favorite stop.   If you’ve ever visited Recoleta in Buenos Aires, you will be reminded of it.   In fact, I’m not sure this one isn’t even more lovely with its stained glass windows, interesting shapes

Cubaand beautiful carved sculptures such as this version of the Pieta. 

CubaBecause this is a much visited site, it is one of the places being refurbished by the government.  The result is a sparkling wonder.

CubaFor book lovers, the square in Old Havana is filled with volumes, old and new.  A collector would have a field day visiting here, that is if he were interested in Spanish language books.  Every  vendor appeared to have copies of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea which was inspired by Cuban fishermen.  I’m now wishing I had bought an old copy.

CubaFor years, the Tropicana Club has been a favorite of visitors to Cuba, so how could it be left out?  

CubaCubaCubaCubaSitting under the moon and the stars,  we were treated to a Las Vegas style extravaganza all performed to Latin rhythms.

There is more to Havana than meets the eye here, but it’s impossible to share it all nor did we see it all as so much of our visit was limited.   Hmmm, wonder if that’s reason to go back another time!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Anything Blue Friday

literature, Tablescapes

Book Inspiration

How some people always manage to get it right is beyond me, but when I tell you this gal does, it’s true.

book club tablescapeFrom the minute you enter this lovely Maine cottage  you can expect to find welcoming vignettes.

book clubIf you are fortunate enough to pass through the kitchen, you will find something interesting or beautiful occupying every space and giving clues about the owner’s sensibility.

book club tablescapeLucky for the book group, she hosts us at least once a year, and we know the table will be a wonder to behold with a just right centerpiece and a mix of pattern and texture that make a perfect whole.

book club tablescapeOur book of choice this time is The Woman Upstairs in which the main character is an artist whose creations are miniature roomscapes.  Do you believe our hostess just happens to have pieces that capture the essence?

book club tablescapeIt would have been enough to have just one of these miniatures, but here are two, each with intricate detail meriting careful attention.

book club tablescapeThe hostess has magic fingers in her garden so we can always expect to see beautiful specimens  artfully arranged to complete any centerpiece and complement the patterns in linens and dishes.

9780307596901_p0_v2_s114x166With so much energy emanating from the table, you can bet a lively discussion of Claire Messud’s novel ensued.  This selection particularly lent itself to a variety of comments, some of which opened my eyes to a different way of looking at the book.  

In a nutshell, The Woman Upstairs  is a riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and betrayed by passion and desire for a world beyond her own.  Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who long ago abandoned her ambition to be a successful artist, has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her classroom walks Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents—dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar and professor at the École Normale Supérleure; and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist—have come to Boston for Skandar to take up a fellowship at Harvard. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who call him a “terrorist,” Nora is drawn into the complex world of the Shahid family: she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora’s happiness explodes her boundaries, until Sirena’s careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal which is the source of many an interesting opinion.  

The book haunted me for several days as I pondered who did what to whom.  Each character was so needy, and that in itself can often lead to unhealthy relationships.  All in all, The Woman Upstairs is a good selection for a book group as it allows a multitude of opinions as well as provides insight to the differences in perception.  If your book club takes it on, I’d love to hear about your discussion.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Random, Tablescapes

There’s a Story Here

The book club gathered this week at a charming Maine cottage for a spirited discussion of Desperate Characters by Paula Fox as we enjoyed a tasty lunch.  As always, I am delighted by the effort of a hostess to make dining a special pleasure.

This table combined touches of elegance with the simplicity that to me is characteristic of Maine.

The dishes were old, I think, reminiscent of another time.  They lend themselves to a formal setting, but today complemented with casual table linens, they had a just right feeling of comfort.

Taking comfort one step further were the vases simply arranged with a few colorful stems from right outside the cottage.  Access to blooming things, be they wild or cultivated, is another of the things I love about Maine.  No home ever need be without them!

As lovely as the table setting was, it was the table itself that absolutely blew me away when everything was removed from it.  It was long and narrow, well worn, much used.  From where had it come?

Was it from a ship bearing the name Achilles

and was this the ship?

Was the table in the gun room?

Who were the midshipmen who sat at each numbered place?

The hostess did not know the answers.  She and her husband saw the table some years ago, liked it, made it theirs.  What an absolute find!

 My mind is reeling with images of voyages on the open sea and the sailors aboard the good ship Achilles.  There is surely a story here that would tell of their conflicts, their homesickness, their adventure.  Oh, if that table could talk and if the story could be written!  

Should we give it a try?

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