Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cranberry Isles

One of the neatest things about this part of Maine is that the coast is dotted with so many little harbors, as well as lots of islands.  Lots of little towns developed around the harbors, and, while they all share the common features of a sea harbor, each of them is different and has its own character.  As a result, you could easily spend a summer here just exploring all of these quaint little villages--wouldn't be a bad way to spend a summer, either!  While we spend most of our time here in Bar Harbor, we do very much love driving around in these little places, seeing the lovely flowers, the unique architecture and style of houses, the old buildings housing shops and restaurants, and, of course, the seaports and the boats in the harbors.  So Wednesday we drove to Southwest Harbor, where we took the ferry that goes out to the Cranberry Isles, stopping a couple of times along the way until we got to Little Cranberry Island.  Trisha had read about some of the things to see there the other day so we decided this would make a good day trip--and what unexpected treasures awaited us!

The day was glorious, lots of sunshine shimmering on the water as we stood on the dock waiting for the ferry.  We met a lovely couple from Boston who were taking their bikes to go riding on Little Cranberry, as well as Great Cranberry Island.  They were staying at Bass Harbor, not too far from Southwest, yet another of these beautiful little towns.  The ferry first went just across the harbor to another dock to pick up some folks and then, en route to the first scheduled stop at Great Cranberry, they made a stop at a private home to let some folks off.  Not a bad setting for these folks to have their summer home right where the ferry can drop them off!  Sat next to a German couple on the ferry, from Dusseldorf, very near Duisburg, where I had spent some time when I was a college student.  They now live in Virginia Beach, where he works for a hi tech company that does systems for the automotive industry.  We had a very interesting discussion about the intricacies of the global market that exists in just about every industry today.  

We got to Little Cranberry Island just about lunch time, and there's one restaurant, right at the end of one of the docks, where we got a table out on the porch looking over the harbor.  It was fantastic to watch as folks would come in from big sailboats or motor yachts moored out in the harbor, tying their dinghies to the dock to come for lunch; saw some really beautiful boats, some with lots of wood trim, just gorgeous.  And it was even more interesting to watch the lobster boats as they came in from the morning's work, unloading their catch.  They have a lobster fisherman's co-op here, so all of them bring their haul to a central dock, where they unload the lobsters into bins that are weighed by a co-op employee, they get credit for what they brought in, and the co-op employees then transfer the lobster to these big crates that are all tied together between the docks, just under the surface, to hold the lobster until they transfer them to huge containers to be packed down and shipped out.  Very interesting process. 

After lunch we went to the galleries and pottery co-op shops they have on the main dock, and then to the Islesford Historical Museum, where they have a permanent display of old photos and information about the early days of lobstering and clamming on Little Cranberry and other surrounding islands.  That was interesting, but the main attraction was an exhibit of the works of Ashley Bryan, an amazing artist, painter, illustrator and author of children's books, sculptor, and so much more.  Trisha had used so many of his books in her work with The Craddock Center, so this was really a wonderful coincidence for us to be here when they had this exhibit going.  He's 91 years old, born in 1923, the same year Trisha's parents were born, and he's still going strong.  His works are all so colorful, bright and just brimming with joy and energy.  We watched a video of him with a classroom of small children, reading his poetry to them and seeing their response was just amazing.  He is so versatile, using oil on canvas, wood block carving and printing, stained glass made from beach glass, puppets, and so many different media.  The exhibit was also essentially a story of his life, with a chronological progression of his childhood in New York and how he developed his interest and skill as a sketch artist, beginning in kindergarten--even self-publishing a book of his sketches at that age!  Lots of the story boards also contained some really beautiful and profound quotes of his, extolling his philosophy of life.  And some parts of it were hard to read--to see how this incredibly talented man was denied admission to colleges when he applied, because of his race.  He was even told by one school that they "weren't going to waste a scholarship on a colored person."  But he ultimately found Cooper Union, New York's prestigious art institute, where scholarships were based totally on blind submissions of a prospective student's work, and he was selected.  After studying there for two years, he found himself in the segregated Army during WWII, but after the war he returned to finish his degree at Cooper Union and also received a degree from Columbia.  He went on to teach at several colleges, and spent much of his career at Dartmouth, where he retired as an art professor emeritus.  He moved to Little Cranberry Island a number of years ago.

One of the most unexpected blessings of this day, however, was that he was there, and we got to see him and Trisha got to spend some time talking with him.  Though she was familiar with a lot of his children's books, what neither of us knew until we read the story boards is that he studied at the Universtity of Freiburg in Germany, the same school where Trisha spent her junior year of college!  As we were walking into the exhibit, he was just leaving the room when a man and his wife approached him, and we overheard the conversation--the man had been one of Bryan's students 20 years ago and talked about what an influence he had been on his life, and his wife was going on about how she had heard so much about him over the years and was so happy to have the chance to meet him.  Bryan was so gracious, and then said he wanted to go outside where some musicians were playing out on the lawn, hammered dulcimer, guitars, etc., as he said he wanted to hear them play.  As we walked through the exhibit we also overheard some children looking at a display of his books and talking about which ones they had read and how much they loved him.  Trisha went over to them and told them that Bryan was here and they couldn't believe it--they were so excited!  Well, we went outside and there he was, sitting on the front row, enjoying the lovely music.  When there was a break, Trisha went over to introduce herself and tell him how she had studied at Freiburg, too--such a wonderful and animated discussion they had--all in German, of course.  He told Trisha how he decided to go there to study German because of the profound influence Rilke's poetry had had on him--he talked about how lovely this poetry is in English, but he knew he would never be able to really fully appreciate it unless he learned German, so he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and went to Germany!  He then began reciting one of Rilke's poems in German that is a great example of the difference in English and German.  Trisha was so ecstatic to talk to him and share this common connection--what a treat!!  Another wonderful day here in Maine!!

From the dock at Southwest Harbor, as we waited for the ferry

 Ted, a cocker-poo, with his parents on the ferry--a really sweet little dog!
 Leaving the harbor
 Some really impressive boats in this harbor!

 Cute no smoking sign on the ferry!

 This is the private house where the ferry stopped to let the residents off
 One of the beautiful wooden boats moored in the harbor at Little Cranberry Island
 Lobster traps

 Each lobster fisher has their own individually colored marker buoys so everyone knows whose traps are below
 The beach and big lawn as we walked up the dock from the ferry--a group of school children were having a picnic in the lower right of the photo.  Looked like a field trip of kids who came to see the Ashley Bryan exhibit

 Some shots of the harbor on the island, from the porch of the restaurant where we had lunch
 Lobster boats coming in with their catch
He's unloading his lobster from the boat's holding tank to the bins n the dock to be weighed.
 Gulls lining the roofline of an adjacent building
 Beautiful wooden boat, coming into the dock to tie up so these folks could come have lunch at the restaurant

 Another lobster boat bringing in their haul
 From the historical museum's display about the history of the island
 Looking out a window in the museum toward the water

 Some shots of some of the quotes and displays of Bryan's work

 The reflections of the glass case make this photo hard to discern, but it's a group of his puppets

 A photo of Bryan painting on Little Cranberry Island

 Some of his stained glass, made from collected beach glass

 He made a book of spirituals, using wood block printing to make the illustrations

 Here he is, at 91, so interested in hearing the music of these other artists!  I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of Bryan and Trisha together, but just as the musicians took a break and this guy on Bryan's right left and Trisha went to his chair to talk to Bryan, several families with small children noticed Santa on Vacation and wanted pictures, so I was talking to them for the time Trisha was with Bryan.
 On the dock as we awaited the ferry for the return trip

 Looking down on the collection of bins of lobsters, awaiting further processing and packing for shipping


  1. Your blog is fantastic and we're enjoying it tremendously! Almond and I look forward to seeing you back on the roads in Goose Island. Safe travels.

    1. Donna, glad you're enjoying the blog. Hope all is well with you and Almond and we'll look forward to seeing you folks, too, when we get back home.