Shades of gray



Those of us who winter over in the South get spoiled in a lot of ways. For one thing, we tend to take the sun for granted. Day after day that big bright orb comes up in the eastern sky in the morning and then drops below the western horizon late in the day.

When Diane and I returned to Maine this spring, we arrived at our lakeside home on a bright, sunny day and awoke the next morning to blue skies and puffy clouds. Then Mother Nature pulled the rug out from under us. The high pressure moved out to sea and the Big Gray descended upon the lake bringing endless days of cold driving rain, fog and wind.

We had forgotten that Maine could be so bleak in April. The grayness was everywhere and unrelenting. It seemed to get into our pores and our psyches. As an amateur painter you learn that there is more to gray than meets the eye. Gray is not just gray, there are varying shades of gray and mixing two complementary colors will give you different and interesting variations of gray hues.

Andrew Wyeth was intimately familiar with Maine’s shades of gray and it showed in his palette. Why, he could have painted the entire scene outside our lake house window in April by loading up his No. 6 round brush with washes of mixed gobs of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. No other colors would have been needed.

It got to us so much after a while, this gray pall, that we welcomed nightfall. Black became a refreshing color!

Finally, yesterday, the wind freshened and the sun pushed through the under-cast sporadically. It was a good day to take to the open roads, even the ones with no white centerlines left after the harsh winter.

We drove down to Franklin to search out some of my old childhood haunts. George’s Pond was still there 70 years later, as are the expansive blueberry barrens across from the pond. We found the camp that my family rented every summer during my childhood. Memories came flooding back: wonderful recollections of lazy August days catching bass and perch with my Dad in a leaky old rowboat, pan-fried perch fillets for supper and homemade blueberry pies.

With the help of some directions from a roadside stranger, we managed to find our way to Martin Ridge, not far from George’s Pond. Not surprisingly, my late great uncle’s little trapper’s shack, that once was perched amid the barrens atop the ridge, is not to be seen. There are large piles of barren boulders where the building once was. My father and I used the shack as our base camp when we fished Spring River Lake and Tunk Lake in the late 1940s.

Picking my way around the boulder piles, I stumbled upon the remnants of Uncle Harvard’s old shack. Now there is just a sinkhole in the top soil mingled with some broken glass, old coffee cans and some rusty bed springs.

Before we finished our cabin fever reliever that day, we made our way to Maine’s fabled coastal hamlets: Sedgwick, Brooksville, Surry, Blue Hill and Deer Isle. From one town to another, people were out and about, mowing lawns, picking up winter’s debris or just catching a few rays.

And finally, wherever we went, our senses were stirred by some splashes of color at long last. Leave it to the flowering forsythia to push back the shades of gray and usher in a promise: spring will come to Maine. It will. Just you wait and see.

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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