Lines of Understanding

Part 1: Throwing Ink

With two amazing trips planed for 2019, one to Hawaii with my side of the family and one to Alaska with Erin’s side of the family, I concluded that not only did I need to make a travel log, I needed a special book for each trip. I bought two 5×5 Handbook journals with grand visions of combining all of the travel log ideas I’d done before into one amazing book. This would be my best travel log yet. I put so much pressure on myself that the Hawaii book turned out to be the least detailed travel log I’ve done to date, barely filling a quarter of the seventy-five pages. Crestfallen and berating myself for not capturing the trip as I had wanted to, I hastily finished the book before we left for Alaska, vowing to capture this trip as I had wanted to capture Hawaii.  I managed to letter the title page and make one very rough sketch before I let it all go and returned to the words. It was day one of the trip. 

Normally on trips I leave my journal (time capsule) at home, but this time I had brought it along. I put the sketch book aside, and I began to document the trip directly into my time capsule. Soon I was behind on writing daily, but instead of berating myself, I resolved to continue on as best I could and to write down notes throughout the day, as well as a synopsis of the day, in my notebook. Nothing was too mundane, no conversation too short. I wrote not only about the things that we did and saw but the employees that I talked to. I asked them their stories. Instead of collecting brochures, receipts and business cards I simply took notes. It was freeing, and I captured far more about the trip and the people than I ever had before. 

After we returned home I was still catching up on the entries from the trip so I continued to write a synopsis each morning about the previous day, a practice I continue today that has allowed me to be consistent in my journaling. 

Over time I added, to my time capsules, lettering to my entries and at the end of each month a timeline recap. In the spring of 2020 I discovered nature journaling and began taking photos with my phone of the changing world and then using them as reference to sketch directly into my time capsule adding color with colored pencils. I would use the sketchbooks for watercolor sketches that I would then paste into the time capsule.  

My chronicling of life is constantly evolving and I have drawn from many different journaling techniques over the years, pulling out the things that work best for me and ignoring the ones that did not.  I have gone from completely disorganized to over-complicated and still-disorganized to the spot that works best for me and what I am trying to accomplish. I have learned that numbering your pages and labeling everything are two of the most important things I can do to stay organized. I have symbols to put next to entries and a reference system so that I can find an idea in the proper notebook when I want to look something up or write an essay. I use a program called Evernote to keep an idea index of essays, quotes, poems, and many other things as well as a PDF copy of each notebook and time capsule. 

Over the years this process has taught me about myself not only through the words I’ve written but also through the trial and error of finding the proper flow for chronicling life in daily writing. Most important it has helped me to understand what really matters. 

A Brief History and Cinnamon Rolls

Chronicles of a Wandering Marshmellow, Essay

A Maine Adventure In Three Acts
Act one: Cobscook Bay State Park, Edmunds Township, Maine

Cobscook Bay State Park is surrounded on three sides by its namesake. This 888-acre park was purchased with funds from Duck Stamps and was originally a wildlife refuge. The camping area was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and it was not until 1964 that it became a state park. Exploration opportunities abound in this area aptly named the Bold Coast. Here, the tides average 24 feet, which equates to the water rising or falling approximately one foot every fifteen minutes in six hours. Cobscook comes from the Passamaquoddy word meaning “boiling tides,” and we understand why when we visit Reversing Falls. As the tide rushes out, the calm water is covered with large ringlets of water, and it seems as if the water is about to start boiling. 

Our campsite, number six, is one of a handful of first-come sites in the park that are right on or near the water. Our site can accommodate an RV up to thirty-five feet, over twice the size of Marshmellow. With such a large site and the easy maneuverability of Marshmellow, we spend two hours trying to find just the right spot to park for the week. I pull forward, back-up, get out and stand with my hands on my hips while conferring with Erin, then repeat the process several more times. Exasperated with our indecision, the boys wander down to the shore where they find a bone that looks like a miniature whale’s tail. Finally, we tuck Marshmellow in between the trees, angled just right so we can see the water through the big back window.

Our first night there are intermittent torrents of rain, no leaking window this time. It is still raining in the morning but that does not diminish the beauty of the landscape here, in a way it enhances it. But to our dismay, we have positioned Marshmellow right under a tree that is being ravaged by tent caterpillars.  I realize that the plinking sound we heard in the night was the caterpillars relieving themselves all over Marshmellow and the outdoor rug. By the end of the trip, Marshmellow will look as if it has been toasted. 

Erin had read that you can roast Pillsbury cinnamon rolls over hot coals, much like the doughboys, and we decide to give it a try. I have bought the extra-large ones, a mistake, and after a valiant effort, the boys and Erin determine that this particular culinary adventure is a bust. It will not be our last on this trip. 

In hopes of learning of a great bakery close by, I take the bone the boys found and drive up to the ranger station to see what the bone is and what local knowledge I can glean. A couple in their later years are working this morning. The wife is a tender-hearted woman who is small in stature but exudes an air of confidence and determination often found in local New Englanders. 

They give me a list of places to explore, tell me the bone is most likely from a deer, not a miniature whale and that Little River Lobster once had lobster for $3.50 per pound. An amazing price.

“What’s the name of that beach? The one I’m not allowed to go to anymore?” she asks her husband. 

“Jasper Beach, he says,” looking up and giving me a wry smile a twinkle in his eye. “One can only bring home so many stones.” 

“ I came here as a girl and hardly anything’s changed,” she tells me smiling too. I remember when that big field just before the mobile camping area sign was filled with cows. There used to be a big house on the top of the hill too. I bet that some of the apple trees in this park are two hundred years old. If you see apple trees, that means someone settled there for a time. In the middle of the woods or along the shore, it is a sure sign of homesteading.” 

The Pie Ladies is the place to go for all things that we should not eat but do anyway because they are so good. They are just up the road in Pembroke and well worth the 30-minute round trip. Started by a mother and daughter team, it now seems that a third generation is also working here. When Noah and I go for the first time, the grandmother is there, and she embodies the quintessential pie-baking grandma. Short and stocky, with a poof of curly white hair and kind loving eyes, she wears a practical dress and sensible shoes. When we indulge in a dozen cookies along with our cinnamon rolls, she fusses over the fact that the peanut butter ones are all broken. I also get two large cups of coffee because we have run out and my plan of getting a bag of locally roasted coffee has fallen to pieces. All I’ve been able to find is a small can of the mass-produced coffee for $6.99. In the Sixties, my parents traveled through fourteen European countries on $5.00 a day, and now I can’t even buy a can of bad coffee for that much. Oh, the privileged problems we endure while navigating this blessed life that we have. 

Our adventure continues next week. Tally Ho!