Dying To Get In

When I told my guy that Connie was taking me to Evergreen Cemetery in Portland today, he gave me a questioning look and asked, “Why?”

‘Why not?” I responded.

But really, it was because both she and I have friends who have posted incredible photographs of the natural world that is part of the cemetery and we wanted to discover what it was all about.

e1-evergreen cemetery

At first glance, Evergreen Cemetery may look like Anytown Cemetery for it features gravestones, memorials and tombs throughout. But . . . as we read on a panel near the entrance: “Established by the city in 1854, the cemetery was designed by Charles H. Howe as a rural landscape with winding carriage paths, ponds, footbridges, gardens, a chapel, funerary art, and sculpture. It also includes extensive wooded wetlands. Evergreen was modeled after America’s first rural cemetery, Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The cemetery, the second-largest publicly-owned open space in the City at 239 acres, has been host to a variety of wildlife such as geese, ducks, pheasants, swans, turtles, blue heron, fox, mink, deer, and moose. Its spaciousness combined with old growth pine and oak, vegetation, ponds, and surrounding wetland, provides a true wildlife oasis. It is considered a premier birdwatching sanctuary. Maine Audubon utilizes the cemetery for field trips, to include their annual Warbler Weeks conducted in May. Evergreen Cemetery is also a wonderful location to enjoy the vibrant colors of fall foliage in Maine.

e2-sunburst lichen

We didn’t actually spend much time exploring the cemetery itself, though that would be fun to do on a return trip, but as we waited for Connie’s friend Linda to join us, we did look at a few gravestones and were especially enamored with the sunburst lichen that lightened a stone gray morning.

e3-male mallard

Linda was only a few minutes behind us and then we all traveled to the back end of the cemetery, where the Mallards stopped us in our tracks. While you might ask why, remember that we are women of wonder and wonder we did: about his iridescent head,

e4-famale mallard

her lack of ducklings despite four attentive males,

e5-mrs. mallard

why their feet were orange,

e6-duck tweed

and the tweedy pattern of their feathers.

e7-ducklings

And then we spied a couple of other females with ducklings, this one standing tall as she allowed her youngsters to explore.

e7-chipping sparrow

They weren’t the only ones exploring–a Chipping Sparrow was doing the same, though it was almost impossible to see given that it blended in so well with its surroundings.

e8-black swallowwort

At last we pulled ourselves away from the ducks and our view of the car, and started down a trail where flowers and leaves made us take note. Last year, I first met the dark maroon flowers of Black Swallowwort, an invasive. Diminutive and pretty, it was difficult to dismiss them, especially when juxtaposed as they were against a sensitive fern frond.

e9-ragged-robin

Connie introduced us to another invasive that she immediately recognized as Ragged-robin. Linda and I were wowed by the pink petals, irregularly cleft.

e10-sunburned oak meat

The natural community kept changing and suddenly we found ourselves under a power line where dried spaghnum moss made us wonder if the land was typically wet. And then we saw something red, and the discarded outer shells nearby spoke to its source. It was the “meat” of an acorn, the red being its “sunburned” presentation.

e11-oak setting root

The evolution of an oak tree–it begins with an acorn.

e12-song sparrow

In the same opening, we watched several Song Sparrows move among the shrubs, and then one paused to serenade us.

e13-song sparrow

Upon finishing, it waited as if for our applause.

e14-arrowwood viburnum

Before moving on, we had one more plant to ID. Thanks to iNaturalist, Connie informed us that it was Arrowwood Viburnum. While we appreciated its umbel of flowers and large-toothed leaves, one stem in particular drew our attention. In a symbiotic relationship, ants stroked brownish-red aphids with their antennae, while the aphids released drops of honeydew sucked from the stem. The process was much like a cow being milked. It was actually rather creepy, but wicked cool and all three of us used a loupe to take a closer look.

e15-American honeysuckle

Back along a woodland trail we continued, again stopping periodically to take in the sights, ask questions, and appreciate our surroundings. Among our finds we discovered the newly forming fruits of a native honeysuckle.

e16-beaked hazelnut

We also rejoiced when we encountered the beaked fruits of Beaked Hazelnut.

e17-mallards

At last we’d completed a short loop, and found ourselves drawn in again by the Mallards, both young and old.

e19-snapping turtle

But then our eyes focused on other residents in the shallow water.

e20-ducks and turtle

And we feared that we’d witness a snapping turtle devour a duckling. We kept encouraging mama to move her kids out of the way.

e21-3 turtles

Especially when we realized the pond was full of snappers and they all seemed focused on swimming to the same focal point.

e22-injured duck

But mamma took her time and let the kids roam freely. We did realize that she had an injured foot or leg and moved with a hop, which added to our anxiety. I also felt a certain affinity with her, given my current one-armed bandit situation due to a broken wrist that is slowly healing. Here’s hoping that she heals as well.

e22-mouth open

As we watched the drama play out before us, we noted two adult ducks hanging out under some alders beside the shore. Suddenly, a snapper approached them quickly and opened his mouth wide. Was he exhibiting aggressive behavior?

e23-mouth closing

We weren’t sure, but as suddenly as he’d approached, he closed his mouth and turned away.

e18-ducklings all in a row

We noticed that turning away was typical turtle behavior. They seemed to get within a couple of feet of the ducks and then turn. Why? We were, however, glad when momma got her ducklings all in a line and moved on.

e25-green heron

We, too, moved on . . . a few more feet toward the car. And then we stopped again to check on the action in the pond. That’s when a Green Heron flew in.

e26-green heron

He was also looking for lunch, though we never saw him succeed in his search.

e27-turtle wars

We did see the ducks and turtles again. And our turtle questions continued for we noticed that they would gather and then one would go after another and the water would boil. An act of aggression? Or a mating ritual?

e28-turtle face

We didn’t have all the answers, but one thing we knew–we’re dying to get into the cemetery again.

 

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode 4

We’d barely set off on episode 4 of The Amazing Race–Our Style when we hit our first roadblock just around the corner from home. A small patch of roadway at the foot of a friend’s driveway was being paved by the State. Our first challenge–how many state employees does it take to repair such a patch? Fifteen. Two to stop traffic, two to operate equipment, one to supervise, and ten to stand around and drink coffee.

Our next roadblock–a stop at our local hardware store to return a rented chainsaw. Well, truth be told, more like a borrowed chainsaw from the rental department. Regardless, the clock ticked on.

And still, there was one final roadblock–a stop at Prompto Ten Minute Oil Change, where we got to sit and watch the action, which actually took less than ten minutes.

At last, we reached the ticket office of Casco Bay Lines in Portland, Maine . . . as a ferry was departing. The ferry we wanted to be on. C’est la vie.

P1-PORTHOLE

Since we’d missed the boat. we decided to use the time until the next departure to our benefit and ate an early lunch at the Porthole, where we both ordered the scrumptious beer-battered fish sandwich.

P2-GATE 5

Following lunch, we hurried back to Gate 5, not sure if we’d be the only contestants on board.

P4-TICKET:CLUE

When it was time, my guy handed over our tickets and received our first clue.

P6-PEAKS ISLAND

We needed to exit the boat at Peaks Island in Casco Bay. That was easy given that this particular ferry only traveled between Portland and the island.

P7-MIKE'S CARTS

Finally, we were ready to get into the nitty gritty of the day’s adventure. We had a choice–ride all the way around the island on bicycles without stopping or complete a loop that only covered half the island via a golf cart, but included a few stops. Because of my current one-armed bandit situation, we chose Mike’s Carts.

P8-LEARNING TO DRIVE GOLF CART

Another set of contestants made the same choice, which made us realize we still had a chance to stay in the race. Mike explained the finer points of island driving.

P10-MAINE COAST AND ISLANDS

As we made our way to the first island challenge, we enjoyed the views.

P11-CAIRN ALLEY

The rocky coast of Maine proved to be much more than that, at least in this section–Cairn Beach. Other contestants passed by this challenge, but we decided to try it.

P12-CAIRN ALLEY

According to the clue, we needed to build a cairn that somehow reflected the surroundings. Examples surrounded us.

P14-CAIRN GROWING

One rock at a time,

P13-BASE OF OUR CAIRN

we created a base until . . .

P15-CAIRN REFLECTION

our final product was an artistic representation of the cattails behind it.

P16-TRAIL TO BATTERY STEELE

Upon completion of the cairn, our next clue suggested the need for batteries. And so we followed a trail away from the water.

P17-BOARDWALK

But really, water was a part of it. And a boardwalk–in much worse condition than the one that flipped my feet into the air on last week’s Left-handed Mondate.

P18-TWO WOMEN AHEAD

With great care I followed my guy–for two women we wanted to overcome were ahead of us. All the way along, birds serenaded us.

P20-sausage-shaped boudin

Thankfully, the boardwalk gave way to solid ground and among the offerings at our feet I noted a sausage-shaped boudin–I could only hope we might earn extra points for knowing such.

P19- APPROACHING BATTERY STEELE

The trail led us to a gallery of sorts for its a place frequented by midnight artists. Were we in the right place?

P22--MIDNIGHT ART

The question remained as we admired the creative works–but what did they have to do with batteries? Did the clue refer to the energy of the artists?

P21-BATTERY STEELE

And then the answer was made obvious–we were exploring the Battery Steele constructed in 1942. According to the Peaks Island Land Preserve: “During World War II, Battery Steele was the most important fortification in Casco Bay. Its two 16″ guns, triangulated by observation towers on Peaks Island, Jewell Island, Cushing Island, and Bailey Island, could shoot a shell weighing 2,240 pounds nearly 30 miles at enemy battleships or submarines to protect Portland Harbor.”

If you look closely, you might see my guy starring into a tunnel. The team of two women challenged us to walk down the dark tunnel. They made it about a third of the way before running out while screaming. We accepted the challenge and made it only as far, using my handicap as an excuse to turn around–I couldn’t spy any obstacles in the dark and didn’t want to risk tripping. Would our calm departure overcome their hysteria?

P23-SHORTCUT BACK

No matter, for we knew the outcome was out of our control. Because we’d chosen a cart over a bike, we next needed to locate the road that cut across the island and back toward the harbor. An islander was out for a walk and we stopped to ask if we were headed in the right direction. She told us to stay to the right, cross over at the four corners, and continue down the hill. Bingo. We returned the cart and received our next clue–to locate the smallest store on the island that is open year round.

P24-DUFFY'S HARDWARE

And that’s how we ended up in Duffy’s Hardware.

P25-DUFFY'S HARDWARE

It’s a one-room wonder that serves an important niche.

P26-TRAVELING GNOME

With the hardware challenge completed, we next needed to walk along until we discovered the Traveling Gnome. We found it subtly hidden in a garden with Casco Bay forming the backdrop.

P27-LOCKED GATE

The gnome’s clue was to find a way to the beach. We began to worry because time was running short and we found one locked gate after another.

P28-BEACH OF SORTS

But, we don’t give up easily and at last found a slice of sand.

P29-NATURE'S ART WORK

While walking along our goal was to locate three natural representations. The first–nature’s artistic palette.

P30-BRICK

The second–something with an historical reference.

P31-BARNICLES

The third–natural homes aka barnacles.

P33-LOBSTER TRAP MAZE

And then we both had to complete the lobster trap maze. Could we do it successfully?

P34-MAZE

Piece of cake.

P37-ICE CREAM

Speaking of cake, we had some spending money and a wee bit of time before the ferry arrived so we visited the local grocery store to satisfy our need for a sweet treat since the ice cream shop wasn’t open. Among the offerings we found sundaes and purchased two.

P38-ICE CREAM

Ahhhh. But when you are suddenly sidelined by a wrist fracture, consuming some treats requires help and so my guy broke the sundae up for me. It also means letting go of the fact that one might end up with sticky fingers for a while. If only The Amazing Race–Our Style included special credit for overcoming personal obstacles. Hmmm–maybe down the road.

P32-?

We’d completed all of the island challenges when one last question (mark) appeared.

P36-LOVE ROCK

Could you find a stone that represented our relationship and today’s Mondate?

We did. And with that we completed another episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style.