Behold! The latest and greatest issue of Quill & Ink is now available! In this issue, we talk about our most recent travels and the people and creatures we’ve encountered there. There is plenty to read and enjoy, and also check out our new layout and let us know what you think!
(Please click the image to view the latest issue.)
Please enjoy, and drop us a line with any questions, comments, or suggestions!
If you are so inclined to celebrate, perhaps you may consider borrowing traditions from societies around our planet that have welcomed the lengthening days over many thousands of years. Forgive grudges, as did folks in ancient Rome, share food with others, as in the Polish tradition, or create your own way to celebrate the occasion. Light candles, invite loved ones to share a special meal or pause to remember those you cannot be with, volunteer, recommit to a goal or an ideal … or simply feel joyful that there will be more daylight tomorrow than there is today.
Though we all essentially experience the solstice at the same time, the ways we choose to acknowledge it can be entirely individualistic!
On a somewhat related note, when we sold our house in Vermont and embarked on this new adventure, we also sold or donated approximately 95 percent of our possessions—including our holiday decorations. Luckily, living at the sea, we do not feel we are lacking in joyful surroundings.
Wishing you all peace and contentment and the very happiest of holidays!
Among our happy discoveries as part of this grand exploration is that a wealth of hidden and not-so-hidden gems can be found in some of the most unexpected places. Such is the case with the Haskell Free Library and Opera House in the towns of Derby Line, Vermont (in the United States, approximate population: 629) and Stanstead, Québec (in Canada, approximate population: 2,800), which we explored in September before we moved to Maine.
In many ways, it is unsurprising that this public space was created and deliberately placed on the international border, located at both 93 Caswell Avenue on the United States side and 1 rue Church on the Canadian side. This is currently the only library in the world that exists and operates in two countries at once.
This library and opera house—as well as several other buildings in this community through which the international border runs—is a fascinating curiosity, and likewise, so are the towns themselves. The border runs right through the center of what has been for centuries considered one happy, international community. Until fairly recently, residents—including those who lived on the three streets that cross the border—came and went more or less as they pleased with only the slightest of formality. After all, the two sides share a drinking water and wastewater system, and their fire departments frequently collaborate in property- and lifesaving efforts. Babies born to Stanstead families are often born in the United States since it offers the closest hospital. Residents of both countries team up for curling. It wasn’t that long ago that the residents—many of whom are linked by intermarriage and dual citizenship—shared schools, places of worship, physicians, and more, and they could just nod and wave at the border patrol agents when crossing back and forth because the community is small and just about everyone knew everyone else.
Sadly, though, the world in which we live now is creating significant problems for the townspeople who for so long all but existed without concern for the border. Local resistance to the increasing security in recent years has included, among other things, maintaining an international border marked with a charming row of potted flowers. But this lovely floral border is now the only one left; all the rest are locked down with iron gates, and all of them—even the flowerpot crossing—are equipped with cameras and weight sensors. Border patrol agents are everywhere—on foot, in SUVs, at border stations; in fact, there are more than four times the number of agents in this tiny community than there were in the late 1990s.
One of the streets that crosses the border is called Canusa Avenue—clever!—where the border runs essentially right down the middle of the street, east to west. Drivers on the north side of the line, heading west, are in Canada, and those driving east are in the United States. Because the houses lining the south side of it are in the United States, under the new rules, whenever Canusa Avenue’s American residents pull out of their driveways, they have technically left the United States and therefore must report to a border station! (For a more in-depth description of the Canusa Avenue situation, check out this article.)
Even a simple game of toss-and-catch can become a complicated matter: people playing on either side of the line—which could easily happen in neighborhoods bisected by the border—would have to go to customs to declare the ball every time they caught it. There are places where neighbors are separated only by a grassy lawn, but to visit one another, they must first report to customs.
When standing on a street on the US side of the line and looking at the next street over, one can observe that all the street signs are written in French. This is very different from many other borders, particularly in this part of the country; in most of those cases, one is often driving through rolling farmland or along an interstate from which the imposing border crossing stations are clearly visible upon approach. In these towns, one can simply unknowingly wander across a bit of lawn, cross a sidewalk on the wrong side, or even just enter a building from one side and exit from the other and end up accidentally border-jumping—thus becoming subject to detention and/or fines courtesy of the ubiquitous customs agents—so one must be very attentive and vigilant. Aimless, curious meandering around this pretty little area to see what might be at the end of one charming street or another is not at all recommended.
Despite some of the logistical concerns and extra qui vive involved with visiting this unique community, it is well worth the visit, and we indeed recommend it. (Just please be careful where you park and where you walk!) Spend an afternoon cozied up with a good book in front of a fireplace within the library or take in a performance in the opera house. You’ll have an intriguing story to share with others later!
Chris and Sara have both dreamed of moving to the coast of Maine since they were children.
In 2002, when they found themselves living in different states and working in corporate careers, Sara sent Chris this sheep piggy bank with Relocation to Maine Fund affixed to its front. Though it was intended as a playful gesture, Sheep P. Bank has traveled with them to their various residences and has prompted more than a few wistful conversations about making a life in such a beautiful place.
And now here they are!
Stay tuned for future pieces about life here on this majestic rocky outpost.
In coordinating the logistics for our very happily anticipated move to the sea, we have often felt as industrious as these glorious creatures, seen here in this absolutely gorgeous location in northeastern Vermont.
Beavers are fascinating animals with a surprising skill set and the ability to dramatically transform landscapes for the benefit of a vast array of creatures. Enjoy this short video compilation of footage we recently shot of them from our canoe-enabled vantage point:
Stay tuned for an upcoming feature in our next edition of Quill & Ink to learn more about beavers!
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
In our Spring & Summer 2017 issue of Quill & Ink, we announced that we have, after many years of dreaming about it, sold our lovely, cozy little home near Lake Champlain in northern Vermont and have embarked on an adventure of traveling to and living in new places and exploring distant horizons.
Later this fall, we will fulfill a decades-long dream of living an easy morning’s stroll from the ocean; until then, we find ourselves on this rather remote and beautiful land.
It once belonged to and was farmed by Sara’s great-great-grandfather and has remained within the family since that time. It is at an approximate elevation of 1,024 feet and is part of what are known as the Cold Hollow Mountains, which encompass important ecological landmarks across western New York, northern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and well into Canada, including southern Québec and all the way to the Maritime provinces, allowing for strong and diverse populations of moose, bobcats, bears, fishers, and many other magnificent members of our natural world. In fact, many species of birds have as much as 90 percent of their global population breeding in these mountains! The mountains also contribute to recreational and material industry—in fact, there is an active maple syrup operation on this old farm—as well as the clean air and water these pristine forests provide.
Iconic covered bridges straddle waterways all around us, some of which date back to 1883 and still enjoy regular use. They were designed for protection against heavy snowfalls and suitably fortified to withstand the demands of the heavy wagons and logging vehicles of yesteryear.
At the site of this particular bridge once stood a creamery, which supported the forty-nine farms that graced our immediate surroundings once upon a bucolic time.
As for the secluded mountain retreat nestled into the side of this mountain, it is airy and bright, boasting crisp, fresh spring water and a cozy woodstove. Wild fruit trees, berry bushes, and wildflowers ramble everywhere.
It is generally blissfully quiet here—we are, after all, a nearly fifteen-minute drive from a paved road, even farther from a country store, and nearly an hour from a traffic light—providing a grand stage for the birdsong and serenading insects. In the deep blackness of night without a nearby streetlight or a neighbor’s lamplight, the stars sparkle like scattered snow in the sun. And when the stars melt away and the sun peeps over the ridge …
On warmer mornings, we linger over breakfasts and steaming cups of coffee on the sunlit porch overlooking the layers of mountains that stretch their toes nearly into Québec (we’re so far north that French radio stations reach us far better than any others).
And it isn’t just breakfast we enjoy out in the fresh air.
Some of our little neighbors occasionally join us for a tasty meal on the porch.
Colder mornings often begin with sipping our coffees and snuggling with our dogs around the lambent fire.