In Town / The Schoolyard / The Town Common

They looked into the lens–and history.

The sunlight in the old photo looks as it does today on a spring or early autumn afternoon. The facade of the white clapboard school shines, and the shadows cling to the posed figures, the shade line close to where we would see it now, more than 130 years later. There is even a familiar … Continue reading

Messing Around in Boats / The Streams and Coves

Setting Sail for Long-Ago Shores

Last week, I spent a morning in the 19th century. I shipped out on a wooden schooner named The Bowdoin, as if entering a time machine, sailing across Penobscot Bay from Searsport to Castine, Maine, with 15 high-school juniors from Belfast. They were students in an American Studies course who were learning about the Age … Continue reading

Seasons / The Schoolyard

BTUs, Student Age, and Academic Subjects: Notes towards a new theory of elementary school heating.

The school building is cold—again.  That is, the rest of the building is cold. My office and Mrs. Thomas’s office are saunas.  But Bill McWeeny’s room is glacial (yesterday it was a sauna); so is the art room. We’ve come to expect the lobby to be cold, given the constant traipsing in and out during … Continue reading

In Town / Local Characters / Off Neck / Seasons

Plowing by Woods on a Snowy Evening

A Nor’easter has us in its talons—finally. The entire East Coast has been hammered, there is a record twenty-two inches of snow in New York’s Central Park, and this storm might just bury us too. It has taken until Sunday, February 12th for a proper winter storm to arrive here in Castine, Maine. The kids … Continue reading

In Town / Local Characters / The Town Common

The Steeplewright Stuff

Most of Bob Hanscom’s work is in the 18th or 19th century. He commutes to his job up a set of narrow winding stairs, or sometimes up a ladder. And occasionally he is hoisted by crane, as high as 130 feet in the air, while standing in a yellow metal cylinder that he designed for … Continue reading


Fishin’ Blues

For my family, last summer was the summer of mackerel. On the second evening of our vacation in Castine, Maine my son Spencer caught his first fish, a shimmering black, green and silver mackerel of between 12 and 20 inches in length, depending on the time at which Spencer regaled us with the story. The … Continue reading

The Animals

Awaiting Bear Number Three

  Bears come in threes, I think, but perhaps this is just the conditioning of folklore. Nonetheless, I know that my third bear is in the area and will visit soon. I was not expecting my first bear. In fact, it seems to be a rule of bears that they will appear when you least … Continue reading