Acadia Vessel #8 is my first piece completed in 2019. It was the result of my time as Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park in June 2018. One of the most prominent features of the location was the line between sea and land, how it changed while always being the same. I tried to capture the sense of that here.
The long dark straight line
Where gray sky meets grayer sea
Seems like forever.
– Harlan W. Butt
Harlan W. Butt is a metalsmith from Denton, Texas. Harlan's unique enamel and silver vessels are inspired by a love of nature and poetry. He is a Regents Professor of Art at the University of North Texas where he has taught since 1976. He is past President of the Enamelist Society and a Fellow of the American Crafts Council. His work has been exhibited in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and throughout the United States. He has spent time studying in Japan, including a year working in the studio of master metalsmith Shumei Tanaka and at the Biso Cloisonne Company, both in Kyoto. Visit his website.
Harlan W. Butt is considered one of the world’s premier contemporary enamelists. Over the span of his forty-year career, his techniques with cloisonné, Limoges painting, and other processes have transformed expectations of the medium.
"I'm attracted to places that are more natural and somewhat isolated from urban environments," he said during his stay as an artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park in June 2018. "I just think the whole idea of the artist-in-residence program is an amazing opportunity for artists. And I'm hoping that more artists take advantage of it. I think that the people who do not only enjoy it, but it can be a real fundamental part of how they're making their work, and what they're doing with it."
(Video by Yehyun Kim, Friends of Acadia, NPS)
Artist-in-Residence Journal: Harlan W. Butt Navigation
Acadia National Park, June 5-21, 2018
Day 1: June 5
My wife says I don't like the ocean but, that is not true. I love the ocean. I'm just not that fond of lying on the beach. Here at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, Maine, where the waves are pounding the rocky coastline, huge explosive spray cascading up into the air, I feel excitement and awe. It is true that the ocean opens up in me a feeling of aloneness. The rolling grey water in constant motion stretching out to the horizon causes a sensation of emptiness. This is not a negative emotion but rather one of insignificance. Being insignificance isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is kind of a recognition of reality.
From infancy we are taught and encouraged to develop a sense of individual self. We are rewarded for creating this image and making it grow stronger. Then we are pressured to make that self a member of a group, a tribe. But this self becomes our ego and sometimes it takes us over. The ocean reminds me that what I am is mostly illusion. As an individual entity I am, in fact, insignificant. But I am also these granite rocks. I am this roiling ocean. There really is no me.
The long straight dark line,
Where grey sky meets greyer sea,
Seems like forever.
Waves against the rocks,
The explosive ocean spray.
Sitting by the sea
I seem to know less and less,
And I really don't care.
My real purpose here,
The fundamental challenge,
Is to disappear.
Day 2: June 6
I arrived at the Alder Trail this morning at 8:45. The day is cool, damp and humid but, although it obviously rained last night there is no precipitation at the moment. The trail is pleasant and moderately level at first. The trees are interspersed with low growing shrubs and all of it is lush and green. Soon the path leads into the forest of red spruce and birch and the incline increases, up on and in between granite boulders. Tree roots, like arteries, have been exposed by the foot traffic that has worn away the soft soil of decomposed leaves and pine needles and they crisscross the path in a maze-like network. These roots range in size from finger to wrist thickness and the moisture has made them slippery. This added to the slickness of the rocks makes going awkward and demands attention to avoid tripping. For the first half mile one can still hear the ocean waves in the distance but, this fades away to leave the woods nearly silent. Eventually the Alder Trail ends as it connects with the Schoodic Head Trail.
A couple of times the trail seems to go in more than one direction and I have to retrace my steps a few times but there are blue metal markers on occasional trees and blue paint swaths on boulders to signify the path. As the elevation increases the trail more frequently crosses large areas of bed rock where the route is denoted by cairns of stacked rocks. Where the Schoodic Head Trail intersects with the Anvil Trail there is a panoramic view of Frenchman Bay and Mount Desert Island in the distance. The Anvil Trail begins a descent that leads back down towards the Schoodic Loop Road. In places it is steep and clambering down is aided in places by steps of log or stone constructed by the park service but, sometimes there is no choice but to crawl over and between crevasses and clefts in the lichen covered stone. There is one more overlook at the Anvil, a steep rock cliff that opens out to views of the ocean and Cadillac Mountain over on the island section of Acadia National Park. From here on its a continual descent through the forest to the sea. Drops of rain still cling to the Cutberry and Sheep Laurel leaves. I arrive back at the road not far from where I started at 11:30.
Red spruce and birch trees,
The forest damp and verdant.
Distant ocean waves.
The rocks and the roots,
Slippery from last night's rain,
Daring me to trip.
Drops of last night's rain;
Beads on the huckleberry
And wild raisin leaves.
Day 3: June 7
I am sitting alongside Sundew Trail, gazing out over the crazy, chaotic mosaic of rock that is the shoreline of Schoodic Peninsula. In front of me Winter Harbor is in constant motion and the waves lap incessantly against the wall of granite. The tide is out and so the rocks near the edge are draped in seaweed, as if the mossy blankets are trying to insulate the stone from the force of the sea. The fog comes down to the ocean camouflaging the horizon so the line between sky and sea is indistinguishable.
Then, in mere moments, the fog lifts and Cadillac Mountain appears across the harbor on Mount Desert Island. The peak of Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet above sea level, is the first place the sunrise is visible on the entire east coast of the continental U.S. for part of the year. Depending on visibility. Ah oh, there it goes. The mountain and all of Mount Desert Island just disappeared again, swallowed up by the mist.
Reality is like this. One moment it is nowhere to be found, shrouded in the fog of desire, anticipation, expectation and misdirection. We don't even recognize that what we imagine we see and hear and think is not the real world. Then, often unexpectedly, we are shocked at a glimpse of what is really real. Not our self-important lives, not our fears or accomplishments, not even our passions and causes.
The sun and the sea, the mountains and deserts, the seaweed covered rocks, the cry of a gull and even this mosquito buzzing around my ear is actual. It may be vulnerable but, it is real. We will all soon be gone. Individually we are more like the mosquito than the rocks or the sea. All our busy manipulations and selfish accumulations will fade away. The stone and water will endure and so too, perhaps, will humanity. As a species we may survive if we try to see more clearly. If we become a part of what is real rather than trying so hard to make what seems real serve us.
Across the harbor the mountain, the island, the horizon, are all gone as if they were never there at all. Maybe they weren't.
Just how can I know
If the mountain disappeared
Or was never there.
I have no idea
What is real and what is not.
I just keep living.
With no horizon
I feel so vulnerable.
Water against rocks.
On this steep rock ledge
Just how long can I stand here
Listening to the waves?
Day 4: June 8
This morning I drove up the Schoodic Loop Road to the head of East Trail, leaving the car at a turnout overlooking the sea. It was 10:00 and drizzling. But by the time I got on the trail the rain had stopped and it didn't start up again. Within a short-time the sun came out, the first time I had experienced sunshine while hiking since I arrived in Maine. The trail headed north into the forest of mossy rocks beneath spruce, birch, juniper and maple. It was up and down but mostly up. There was some climbing but nothing too severe and the path was clearly marked. I passed several while birch trees with sheets of bark peeling off with some paper-like fragments strewn upon the ground. It made me imagine what might be involved in constructing a birch bark canoe. How were these strips connected and made into a water tight covering? Something to look up.
The East Trail rose gradually, sometimes steeply, up to Schoodic Head at 440 feet high. That doesn't sound like much compared to the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado and it isn't, but the trail did start at sea level. Literally. At the peak there was a lovely easterly view looking out at Schoodic Harbor. I continued onto Buck Cove Mountain Trail where there was an even more dramatic overlook of Wonsqueak Harbor and Spruce Point. I stopped here to eat a Cliff Bar and have a drink of water.
From there it was a gradual descent to the Wonsqueak Path, a gravel bike road which bisects the peninsula from Schoodic Woods on the west to Buck Cove on the east. I walked the bike path, a pleasant stroll, to the Schoodic Loop Road where I headed south along the ocean back to where my car was parked. I did stop and sit on the cobbled shore for about 30 minutes to stare out at the ocean. It was a beautiful sunny day.
Deep and quiet woods.
Though the moss-covered boulders
Look soft, they are not.
Don't really know why
I so love to hike a trail.
It makes me feel free.
The sound of a buoy
Echoing over the sea,
Calling to beware.
Have seventeen syllables,
Whereas other poems have an unlimited number of words and thoughts and images that can go on for pages or even volumes.
Day 5: June 9
I started out early toDay arriving at the Lower Harbor Trail at 7:15 am. It starts to get light here at 4:30 and by 5:00 its bright unless its overcast. This trail is rather easy but after a short walk through the woods it follows closely along Winter Harbor from what appears like a forest pond out to the sea. The sun is already brilliant and sparkles on the water, the distant clouds are white and puffy.
Something I've noticed about myself when hiking alone in a remote area is that my attention is different than normal. I more carefully watch where I walk to make sure I don't step in water or twist an ankle on a rock or tread on a snake. That attention is necessary, and failure has real consequences. I must observe where I'm going and what's up ahead. I've been lost a time or two and it's no fun.
Following a trail, keeping an eye out for markers or just being aware of where the path leads is important. Also, if there is something up ahead that I might want to notice, like a deer or coyote or something I could need to avoid like a bear or an obnoxious hiker, my attention may be important. But its more than that.
I find myself being aware of sounds and smells and activating a kind of innate radar for what's going on around me. I'm sure we all inherited some element of this from 100,000 years of living in nature. It reminds me of when my cat is startled, and all his hair stands on end, even his tail inflates. His awareness of everything around him intensifies, if only for a moment when he realizes it's just a dust bunny. My reaction isn't so dramatic but, I definitely feel opened to what is around me when I'm hiking, unlike almost any other time.
Of course, there are sights and sounds and smells everywhere but, we get so used to them that we take them for granted. Out in the wild it can be hazardous to take too much for granted. Naturally, towards the end of a hike, especially an arduous one, my attention wavers and I start thinking about the pain in my foot, how much longer it is to my destination, what I'm going to have for dinner. That can mean trouble and especially when hiking alone, as I usually do, errors in judgment or lack of attention can be dangerous. But the kind of attention I'm talking about is also exhilarating and its one reason I do this whenever I can.
Lower Harbor Trail loops back to the road and I follow Frazer Creek path around to where I left the car.
As I walk along
My attention emanates
Out beyond myself.
Aware of what's around me,
Day 6: June 10
Today, Sunday, I took it easy. Day of rest. I did hike down to the sea by way of the Sundew Trail but that was more of a stroll, about a mile from the door of my apartment at the Schoodic Institute. I have to marvel at the contrast between my living space here, with a full kitchen including a dishwasher and microwave and a living room with a lounger and DirectTV with the cabin I inhabited at Denali which had no electricity or indoor plumbing and spikes protruding from the wooden window shutters to discourage the grizzlies from trying to break in. I'm not complaining, and I don't mind the comfort, I just wasn't expecting it.
Down on the rocky shore looking out at where Winter Harbor merges with the Atlantic Ocean I am attempting to be empty. I have no immediate expectations or goals. My purpose here at Acadia National Park is to be inspired and to collect data, images and impressions, to take back to my studio where I will attempt to create works of art that will communicate my experience of this place. I don't know just how I'll do that. And it's not my intention to solve that puzzle today. It's not really a day of rest. It's a day to be empty and absorb
Ocean, rocks and gulls.
I used to look for meaning,
Now I try to breathe.
It's really funny
How thoughtful I become here
Sitting by the sea.
Day 7: June 11
Well today was something a little different. Yehyun Kim and Will Newton, journalism and photography interns for Jay Elhard, Interpretive Media Specialist at Acadia National Park came to visit me at the Schoodic Institute. I was familiar with Jay because he was part of the Artist-In-Residence program at Denali National Park, arriving there soon after my residence. He published a collection of art works from the program which included mine.
Yehyun and Will spent most of the day with me, photographing and videotaping me working in my studio here, walking in the woods and gazing out to sea. They also interviewed me about how my work has been influenced by the Artist-In-Residence (AIR) program and especially Acadia. They were both very knowledgeable and professional but also extremely pleasant and they made me feel comfortable being the center of attention, something of which I am not usually fond. They must have taken over 100 photographs. I wish now that I had taken at least one picture of them, but I didn't think of it when they were here. They did promise to send some of the photos they took so I hope to include some of them in a future post. The purpose of their visit was to promote Acadia National Park and the AiR program, possibly on their website.
Discussing my work
Helps clarify the meaning
To me most of all.
Day 8: June 12
The last two days here were easy ones. Today was not. But the sky was blue, the sun was warm and there was a cool intermittent breeze. I left the Schoodic Institute at around 9:00 am and drove over to Mount Desert Island where the main section of Acadia National Park is located. I arrived in the park around 10:15 and reached the Bubble Rock parking area at 10:30. I actually took a wrong turn on the Park Loop Road and ended up at this place by default, but I assumed that there are no bad trails. That was my second mistake. I checked out the guide book and noticed that the East Pemetic Trail was short and led to the Pemetic North Ridge Trail, which the book said had spectacular views. That part was correct, but I'll get to that in a moment.
From the East Pemetic Trailhead the path started right up a steep, stony route. I was immediately clambering up, over, around and between boulders that ranged in size from basket balls to hippos. In places it was like someone had dumped truckloads of huge rocks down the mountainside. The way was well marked with blue paint strokes but sometimes I had to look carefully to recognize them. Often, when I spotted the next mark, I couldn't believe that it was really the trail. In one place they had anchored a wooden railing to the rocks to make it possible to climb up. Then as the ascent continued it switched to extensive ramps of bedrock at a thirty-degree angle skyward. Occasionally they approached a forty-five degrees angle. I had to lean forward as if I was heading into a hurricane. Then I encountered stone stairs and log steps that the park service had graciously installed, probably more to control erosion that to make the trail easier for hikers. You would think that would make the going easier but easy was not my impression. Perhaps it was because by this time I was sweating and panting and ready to reach level ground. However, each time I thought I was at the top a new obstacle course presented itself.
Finally, I reached the intersection with the Pemetic North Ridge Trail at a place with a fantastic overlook. Checking the sign post I found that I had only traveled a half mile. Looking back now, this was the most strenuous section of trail I hiked the whole day. But, of course I didn't know that then. About 0.2 miles south on a much more reasonable upward gradient I reached the crest of Pemetic Mountain at 1,248 feet above sea level. By the way, Pemetic was the original Native American name for Mount Desert Island.
After a short break to consume an orange wedge and a drink of water I started a much more gradual descent and arrived at the confluence of the Pemetic South Ridge Trail and the Pemetic East Cliff Trail. I took off my pack and sat down there to enjoy the view. I could look out at the distant Atlantic and see what I think was Little Cranberry Island. Though the day was still glorious there was a bank of haze to the east and I could not see the Schoodic Penisula from that promontory. Between the granite rocks clumps of Black Crowberry and Common Juniper grew in profusion. I'm always amazed and encouraged by the tenacity of low shrubbery that so often refuses to be intimidated by the harshness of a landscape.
I won't go into detail about the rest of the trail leading back down to the Park Loop Road since it was much more gradual and reasonable going but it was another two and a half miles before I met the road about a mile south of where I had left the car, so I headed down to Jordan Pond and followed the path that circles the pond on the west side where I connected with the trail that went up to the parking area. I had been hiking for about three and a half hours but, it felt like a lot more. I was exhausted but, it was a great day.
Gazing from the ridge
Down upon the blue-grey sea,
Time seems relative.
Life in perspective.
Whether mine matters or not
Growing between rocks,
Crowberry and juniper
Day 9: June 13
The sky is a pastel blue but, the breeze is more persistent today and the sea a bit angry. The color is a darker green all the way to the horizon dotted with white caps. The waves are much higher and more violent, crashing with a vengeance against the immobile coastline. Directly below me, where a few days ago two coots and their four little cootlets where calmly swimming in a cove protected on three sides by the granite cliffs, the waves now crash completely over the rocks in explosive waves of white spray leaving a swirling whirlpool of milky green water the color of pale jade. It's beautiful but more than a little frightening, as if the sea has been scorned and intends to retaliate. The air has turned chilly and I put on my windbreaker.
I'm well away from the water, maybe fifty feet from the closest spray but, there's still a vague feeling of being threatened. I really have no more to say yet I'm reluctant to leave and turn my back on the sea. The forecast for tonight is thunderstorms.
A cool sunny day,
But the waves are more violent,
Like they have a grudge.
The powerful surge
Of waves against the wet cliffs
Is a bit frightening.
Day 10: June 14
It did rain last night and early this morning but, now it's just half light and overcast with a continuous wrinkled blanket of cloud cover. The sea is rough and a dark pewter color. If I were to paint this ocean-scape at Schoodic Point I would be using fifty shades of grey. The stunted spruce tree next to where I sit looks like it has had a hard life but, has no intention of giving up. It has new growth and a cluster of pine cones on its low-lying branches. I don't hold out much hope for the seeds and yet I wouldn't have guessed that this tree would survive.
I sit facing the sea with my back against a vertical slab of granite, sheltered from the wind. A few feet in front of me the cliff drops almost straight down half the length of a football field. The rock I lean on is steady and reliable but hard. No cushioning for my butt.
I've been thinking about diversity lately. Not racial or cultural diversity, as important as these are, but of nature's diversity developed over millions of years and how we humans are altering it without fully understanding how it all works. Right now, near my cabin in Colorado the residents are breathing smoke from wild fires burning nearby and in New Mexico. There have always been fires and there always will be but, they are becoming more frequent and wide spread. Its timely to blame global warming and I'm sure this is contributing to the problem but, it may be even more complicated. The increased temperatures and reduced humidity have unleashed an explosion in the population of spruce beetles and other insects throughout much of the West which has left millions of acres of dead trees. Near my cabin there are whole mountainsides of dead standing Engelman Spruce. These beetles are native, and this is what they do but, in the past the cold damp winters have checked the spread and duration of this pestilence. So now whether from a discarded cigarette, an unattended campfire or a lightning strike whole forests are going up in flames at an unprecedented rate.
The other event that concerns me is happening right here where I am in Maine. Throughout the eastern United States, the outbreak of Lyme disease is devastating. I grew up on the east coast, going hiking and camping, and I never heard of Lyme disease and apparently neither did most of the other folks living there. ToDay I personally know half a dozen people who are suffering from this epidemic. It is now the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States. There is a direct correlation between the Lyme bacteria and the deer tick that carries it.
So how do these two problems relate to biodiversity? There are some scientists who trace both tragedies to the loss of top predators in the environment. It is fairly easy to see how a lack of predators would result in an increase in the number of deer and therefore the deer tick. But the explosion in the white tail and mule deer populations throughout the country has also led to a depletion in many species of shrubs, undergrowth and flowers and this has caused reductions and threatening extinctions of species from orchids to songbirds to honey bees. And also, perhaps, bird species that eat the spruce beetles.
I'm no expert on these situations and I don't have any solutions. I know there are serious challenges to reintroducing wolves and bears into the environment. I'm not bringing these things up just to add to the general hysteria that we live with. As the Artist-In-Residence here at Acadia National Park I see it as one of my duties to notice the environment and consider how we, as humans are affecting it.
Well, this rock hasn't gotten any softer and I need to move on.
It's hard to comprehend
Nature's vast complexity.
This is its beauty.
Day 11: June 15
The sky is cerulean today at noon with just a few tiny white clouds off to the west like someone forgot and left them behind. The air is crystal and I can clearly see not only Mount Desert Island but Baker, Sutton and the Cranberry Islands from this my favorite point on the Sundew Trail. The sea is navy blue, a foamy turquoise where the surf splashes up on the rocks. After a week and a half here, the ocean has had a different personality every day.
The rays of the sun are glittering on the rippling surface of the water like spotlights on a sequined dress of an exotic dancer moving to Zydeco music. There is still impressive power in the way the waves crash against the cliffs but, it seems more perfunctory than violent. I hesitate to anthropomorphize nature but I'm trying to convey not only a visual image but my impressions of what it is like to be here.
Rhythmic seething sea,
Flowing in and flowing out,
Sunlight, water, rocks.
To gaze at the sea,
Like feeling eternity
Over and over.
Like receding waves,
I'm being sucked out to sea,
My thoughts dissolving.
Day 12: June 16
This morning I took a short hike over to Little Moose Island, which can only be reached on foot when the tide is out. To get there required walking over cobbles and seaweed wet from high tide. Both were slippery, and I had to watch my step. Once on the island, only a few hundred yards from the mainland, the trail alternates between round rocks, slabs of granite and narrow paths through common juniper and huckleberry groundcover. Views along the west and southern edges of the island looking out to sea were beautiful.
I encountered evidence of wildlife on the island. One was a small pile of scat near the trail that was composed mainly of hair but also with bits of crustacean shells. Later I discovered the remains of a dead gull. Feathers were scattered about with only one wing relatively intact and bones were beached white. Fox? Coyote? Owl? Eagle? I don't know but all four of these are residents of Acadia. Do animals die of natural causes? I guess all causes in nature are natural unless the creature choked on a bottle cap.
Since I'm not familiar with the timing of the tides here I decided to head back to my car before I was caught on the island. I was on the road by 10:00am. Just a few minutes’ drive from there was the Blueberry Hill parking lot and I pulled in. There was only one other vehicle in the lot, a pickup with a 'Paramedic’s' sticker on the tailgate. I had decided to hike the same trails I had covered on my second day here on Schoodic Penisula, the Alder and Anvil Trails, but to go the opposite direction starting at the Anvil Trailhead. I don't really mind walking a trail in reverse, it's what happens on 'out and back' as opposed to loop trails. I find walking in the opposite direction seems almost like a new trail since I see and notice things I may have missed before.
I won't go into detail about the hike other than to say the views past Schoodic Head on the downward track on the Alder Trail were fantastic. I stopped to eat an orange and a Cliff bar and drink some water at about 11:45. I could look out past Winter Harbor to Turtle and Heron islands and distant Ironbound Island and Egg Rock. I could also see, almost directly below me, the water tower at the Schoodic Institute.
I was back at Blueberry Hill parking lot by half past noon. From there I drove to a little gas station and grocery store in the town of Birch Harbor to fill up and buy a few things for dinner.
Will no one notice
When my own life is over?
The sun will still shine.
Day 13: June 17
Today really was a day of rest for me. Not only was it Sunday but, also Father's Day. I received some really nice messages from both of my children as well as my wife. But the real reason for taking it easy was that my left knee was feeling the stress of thirteen days of hiking, so I decided to give it a break. I did do laundry.
One of the benefits of the Artist-in-Residence program is that I have 24/7 access to the park. So, at 8:38 tonight I went down to Schoodic Point just before dark. This was certainly a popular place today but now I am the only one here. I'm not too hopeful that there will be stars tonight as it is overcast. The forecast for tomorrow is rain. The sea is a bit rough and seems to be getting rougher. I have my slicker over a sweatshirt. It's in the low 50's.
There is still a little light left out over Mount Desert Island but, its fading. A moon just appeared peeking through the clouds and a tiny flashing warning light from somewhere on the distant shore.
The night sea is ominous,
One light in the dark.
Day 14: June 18
Today was overcast and drizzly, no steady rain but a sprinkling of precipitation off and on all day. Nevertheless, I did walk down to the sea on the Sundew Trail and stopped at a different location than my usual. My mood was solemn and passive. It felt like a day for haiku.
So, the tide is out.
There are times when it seems like
It is always out.
The distant mountain,
Barely distinct from the sky,
Floating on the sea.
The fractured rocks here,
Coated and draped in seaweed
Like vomit on blocks.
The call of a loon
Cuts across the lapping waves
Sounding so mournful.
Sometimes these grey days,
As lonely as they can seem,
Offer some relief.
My sense of this place
Is so hard to put into words.
Descriptions fall short.
It's starting to rain,
It feels like a day for haiku,
Beautiful but sad.
How many artists,
Poets and writers of prose,
Have been inspired here?
White and grey gull,
Poised motionless in the air,
As if time has stopped.
Day 15: June 19
Hard to imagine a more perfect day, sunny and warm with a cool breeze. It's interesting how sunlight and cloud cover can influence a mood. It's just a little easier to be optimistic on a day like this.
The sea is blue again and the waves are caressing the rocks rather than battering them. I started out from the Sand Beach parking lot at 9:00. It took exactly two hours to drive here from my residence on the Schoodic Penisula. From this overlook on the Sand Beach Trail I can see Baker and the Cranberry Islands to the south. The Red Spruce and Jack Pine cling to the cliffs. Despite a few days of rain over the past fifteen, the weather has been remarkably pleasant.
It makes itself hard to ignore,
I can't turn away.
It's 11:50am and I'm at the Bowl, a roundish pond northwest of the Beehive, a steep mountain famous for its strenuous trail of assent which includes iron rungs fastened to the rock cliff creating a ladder. I am not going up that trail. But the Bowl is a lovely, roundish pond rimmed with rocks and fallen deadwood. There is Arrowhead Plant and dragonflies. The trees include Grey Birch, Paper Birch, Speckled Alder, Red Spruce and Red Maple. The surface of the pond looks like planished silver reflecting the blue of the sky with dark smudges caused by the wind that move across the water from north to south.
The breeze blows across
The hammered metal surface
Of this mountain pond.
Shadows from the clouds
Make thumbprints on the mountains.
They drift with the breeze.
For just a moment
I want to experience
The rocks and flowers.
Although I feel like I must record what I see and feel here for the creative process that it will hopefully inspire, I also have to remind myself to be here now, to pay attention to the moment. This journal, poetry and collection of photographs are intended to bring this moment back but there must be a moment to bring back. So, excuse me while I 'be here' without camera or pen or notebook. At least for now.
Day 16: June 20
I really enjoyed today's hike, although it was not as dramatic or strenuous as some, neither was it a walk in the park. Well, literally it was a walk in the park. But before I describe the hike I want to say a few words about Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Institute and the Artist-In-Residence (AIR) program.
The largest part of Acadia National Park is 30,000 acres on Mount Desert Island, which is about 40 percent of the island. But the park also includes 3,000 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula and 2,700 acres on Isle au Haut and a group of small offshore islands. The park was created by wealthy visitors and land owners in the late 1800's. In the 1840's a group of artists and writers found Mount Desert Island and communicated its beauty to the rest of the nation. A network of roads was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and an array of wealthy Americans in the east like the Asters, Carnegies, Fords, Morgans, Pulitzers and Vanderbilts enjoyed the island as a summer resort. They bought up and contributed much of the land that became the park. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson established Sieur du Monts National Monument and in 1919 Congress re-named it Lafayette National Park making it the first national park east of the Mississippi River. In 1929 it was re-named again Acadia.
The Schoodic Institute supports the Schoodic Education and Research Center offering assistance for scientific and educational research related to the Schoodic Peninsula and the coast of Maine. It offers scholarships and research fellowships and also supplies lesson plans and class visitations for school groups.
Like a number of national parks Acadia offers an Artist-In-Residence program for visual artists, writers, musicians, theater artists and those working in emerging technologies. Participants make a presentation to the public and donate a work of art inspired by the park or its location. Awardees must travel to the park at their own expense but are offered lodging and access to the park during their residency.
So, today's hike started out at 10:30 am at the parking lot of the Wonsqueak Bike Path where it intersects East Schoodic Drive. I followed the bike path east to where it crossed the Buck Cove Mountain Trail. I took the trail north passing over the Bunker Harbor Path and on to where is connected to the Birch Harbor Path. I walked east on that path to East Schoodic Drive and then south along the road back to the parking area. The Buck Cove Mountain Trail included some moderate climbing over rocks and roots but overall was an easy path through spruce, maple, birch and fir. Walking on the bike paths, which are essentially gravel roads, was very pleasant.
The hike totaled about 4.5 miles and took me a little less than three hours. And until I reached the section along Schoodic Drive I did not encounter a single person. This, in the middle of June on a beautiful sunny day with a cooling breeze. In contrast, yesterday on Mount Desert Island by the time I left the parking lot at Sand Beach there were cars parked for half a mile along the Park Loop Road because the Sand Beach Parking Lot and the Sand Beach Overflow Parking Lots were full. There was a steady line of visitors on the walkway along the road overlooking the sea.
Of course, the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia NP is more remote and to reach it involves an addition hour and a quarter of driving time if you are coming from points south like Portland or Boston. Let me be clear, I am not complaining about either the popularity of Acadia at Mount Desert Island or the more moderate attendance at Schoodic. One reason I come to the parks is for solitude. And I have no problem with visitors coming for whatever reason and enjoying the park in whatever way they choose. I think any experience in the parks creates a population more likely to support them both emotionally and financially. I'm just reporting my interaction here today and during by residency, which has been unforgettable.
The joy of walking,
One foot and then the other.
So simple and free.
Day 17: June 21
On my last day before leaving Acadia National Park I am at my favorite spot to sit and reflect along the Sundew Trail at the Schoodic Institute. Here before the rocks and sea with Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island across the harbor. It takes an hour and a quarter to drive there because you have to go all the way around Frenchman's Bay through Winter Harbor and over to Ellsworth then south over the bridge to the island. From here it appears so close. Despite the beautiful scenery and many hiking opportunities on Mount Desert Island there was plenty to do here on the Peninsula and this is where I spent most of my time as artist-in-residence. The sky today is azure overhead but off to the south it turns nearly white, as if the blue is fading away. The horizon is almost gone, sky and ocean merging.
It has been a great pleasure and an honor to be here at Acadia National Park. This is my third artist residency in a national park, the others being Denali in Alaska and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Each location has been so unique and special. Each environment has inspired me to compose vessels in metal and enamel. Now comes the process of creating.
The horizon line,
Separating sky from sea,
We came from the sea.
Perhaps that's why it calls us
To return back home.
Where will I go now
That the sea has drawn me in?
What will take its place?