What a ‘tree’ can teach us

Election opinion is banned from letters to the editor in this final week before the vote, and rightly so. One could launch a scurrilous attack with no chance for a candidate to respond. But who is thinking about anything else?

Given the election “season,” which has lasted all of two years (but who’s counting?), it seems a fitting moment to ask where, despite this sordid, depressing, profane, inane, obscene, soul-curdling contest, there is any good news. Well, there is.

At its annual meeting, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce gave its highest award not to a captain of industry but to the local librarian. Ruth Eveland, who also did a stint on the Town Council, won the Cadillac Award.

Hats off to Ruth and to the chamber. It’s a darned good town where the business community salutes the librarian. The chamber’s selection was followed by the Maine Library Association naming Eveland the Outstanding Librarian of 2016.

Librarians are among the unsung heroes in any community. They have moved way beyond shushing and are credited by many a nerd as having fed their reading habits, and by many a non-reader as having inculcated a love of books and learning in their psyches. Librarians, you rock.

And while we are on the humanities, two communities reminded us of how much fun live theater can be. The Grand in Ellsworth put on “The Producers,” a happy romp through the Hitler days, with live music to boot. In Lamoine, there also was a display of local talent during which the average Joe risked it all in front of his and her friends and neighbors.

Winter itself is a blessing. After a summer that surpassed all expectations for “visitation,” it is heavenly to feel the pace slow down. Our towns were crowded, our patience tested. Now the streets are empty, and we waved good-bye to the last cruise ship last week, not without a sigh of relief.

Cruise ships. Among the amenities are rock climbing walls, surf simulators, a merry-go-round, ice bars, “virtual reality escape games,” a ropes course, a half-acre lawn with “real grass” and, yes, Starbucks. One can learn to fold napkins into swans, or speak Japanese, or cook for the discriminating vegan. One may be at sea, but apparently it is important to bring along all the amusements of home.

The passengers are hardy; some come ashore even now at the tail end of the season, in the rain and the wind and the autumn chill, to reap the last bits of goodness from the shops and restaurants in town.

Now the sidewalks are clear. There are places to park. We can walk around our village centers, take to the trails, sit by the ocean and relish the solitude. We can linger in the shops, chatting with the staff, unhurried. Soon it will snow. We will invite our friends over for dinner. We will go to the Y, or the coffee shop, or the yarn store to start a Christmas project. To the valiant businesses that stay open for the winter, we salute you.

Winter businesses are welcoming locals. Go to Brooklin, get a meal and stay the night at the Brooklin Inn. Go to Hancock and do the same at the Crocker House. Visit the nooks and crannies of Stonington, Winter Harbor and Blue Hill. Do all your Christmas shopping in Down East Maine.

The quintessential Maine story this week made the national news, but in a good way. One Asher Woodworth won fame in Portland for dressing up as a tree and “moving very slowly across a crosswalk.”

Woodworth saw this as art. In a news interview, he said the “very clear vision for this performance kinda came to me out of an empty mind.” Perhaps an understatement, but still. There are no laws against dressing up as a tree, as long as one is not attempting to rob a bank or otherwise defraud someone. And Woodworth was crossing streets at designated crosswalks. But slooooowly.

It was this aspect of his art that caught the attention of local gendarmes, who busted the work of art for impeding traffic. Woodworth was charitable about his arrest. “I don’t disagree with the fact that I was arrested,” he said. “We need to not obstruct public ways.”

Bottom line? “I was arrested just because I was slowing down the pace of business as usual. Is it illegal to be slow?” Apparently yes. “I’m a tireless advocate of slowness and stillness and quiet in my life, and I feel like we could use a lot more of that right now.” Amen, brother.

One might recall the fateful day on Mount Desert Island when an apple tree, supine and lashed to a flatbed truck, brought traffic to a standstill as it wended its way to its new home on Somes Sound. Can we not pause for a tree? Can we not take a moment to wonder at a tree that steps out in front of us? In Maine, we always can find a moment to cherish. We need that now more than ever.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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