The Wild Life


Today was a day of lounging at the cottage and interacting with Maine Wild Life.  My first interaction came this morning, as I walked a couple of miles down the road to the 130 year old Spiritualist camp (still going strong, with a positively Victorian weekly summer schedule of medium readings, spiritual healing, and table-tipping by the sea).  My goal was to take some pictures of a peculiar Victorian-Oriental double-decker gazebo that I noticed on the way back from dinner the other night.  Mission accomplished, I turned around to come home.

About a mile from the cottage, I gained a stalker in the form of a bee.  The pestilential thing was obsessively fascinated with my head, for some reason.  I hadn’t washed my hair yet this morning, so I don’t think it was some kind of attractive fragrance from a hair-care product.  I am, however, at a complete loss as to why this wretched creature spent the next aeon in orbit around my head, being waved at and repeatedly batted away.  I even ran a couple of times to see if I could leave it behind, but the lovesick little blighter caught up every time.  It even ignored an entire bank of fragranced rose bushes in order to stay in orbit.

Now, for many people, this would be a simple nuisance.  After all, no one wishes to be dive-bombed by a tiny buzzing ballistic missile for a mile.

For me, though, it had the Added Piquancy of being a potentially life-threatening situation.

I am allergic to bees.  And when I say “allergic” I mean the mental-decomposition, tongue-swelling, difficult-breathing, collapsing anaphylactic meaning of “allergic.”

And yes, I have an epi-pen.  But I’d left it behind this morning.  I can hear that Nanny Chorus of “It doesn’t do any good if you don’t have it with you” but before you get too hard on me, understand that I am the Victim of Runaway Packaging.  Back in the day, the epi-pen came in a small syringe in a slim lightweight tube the size of a luxurious fountain pen.  It was pocket-sized that is.

A couple of years ago, the epi-pen became infected by the National Passion for Upsizing.  You can see this everywhere, from the proliferation of sport-utes on the road, to the Off-Road Baby Strollers, to Impact Resistant Disposable Plastic Packaging for small personal electronics.  As a result of this mania, my epi-pen is now easily twice the size it used to be – while carrying the same load of medication – and it’s stored in a whacking huge durable high impact plastic tube that is large enough to hold a couple of Gran Corona cigars.   The damned thing is larger than any of the pockets in any of my shorts of pants, and big enough to create an incident if I want to use any of my smaller handbags.

This pisses me off.  There’s no reason that I can see for the mass and size of this thing to have doubled or tripled.

I don’t need an epi-pen that is shrouded in splashy plastic.

I don’t need an epi-pen that can withstand a fall from ten stories.

I don’t need – or want – an epi-pen that requires me to carry a capacious handbag or small piece of luggage even when I have absolutely nothing else to haul around.

I need a blasted epi-pen that is small enough not to make a big damned nuisance out of itself if I need to carry it in a pocket.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any bloody say in the matter.  For the last two years we’ve been taunted by the promise of the “epinephrine key” – an item developed by an allergist who was sick of hearing that his patients with anaphylactic allergies weren’t carrying their epi-pens…guess why?  Because they’re too damned bulky.  I’m not alone.  I am going to be all over this “epinephrine key” because it’s small enough to fit on a keychain which means that if I have my keys, I’ll have the blasted epinephrine.  All of the information I can find about this thing says it’s still pending FDA approval…so I will be all over it if they can ever bring the bloody thing to market.

Anyway, what this all means is that when I acquired my unshakeable hymenopteric satellite this morning on the road, I was a goodly distance from my epi-pen, and every last buzzing dive-bomb brought me to wonder if I’d wind up dying on our vacation.

I’ve never met such a persistent insect.  I was informed later, at lunch, by a virtually complete stranger that this is characteristic of the Bees of the Region.  This other woman had been plagued by one at lunch for twenty minutes.  It left to come check me out, since I evidently laid on the Parfum des Bees this morning, but fortunately for me it went back to her and left me alone.

This was all after Round Two of Maine Wild Life, which was a visit to the Reny’s.  We forgot the cottage doesn’t have a washer and dryer, and Roy didn’t pack enough of some of his Necessaries.  It was either eat a couple of hours of our vacation at the laundromat, or go buy some more boxers.   Fortunately, this town – like all of the other Maine towns I’ve met – has a Reny’s.

Reny’s is the number-one argument against the necessity of ever having a Wal-Mart.  Shopping at Reny’s is Supporting Local Business.  I think it’s even family-owned.

We don’t have things like Reny’s outside of Maine.  The closest thing we have to it in Texas is the Academy.  But even that comparison is selling Reny’s sadly short.  The store’s motto is “Reny’s: A Maine Adventure” and I would entirely agree.  If you can’t get it at Reny’s, you don’t really need to have it (the exception is for highly specialized goods, like horse tack, exhaust manifolds with an unusual configuration, and supplies required to repair antique toilets).  Otherwise, Reny’s has it.

What you can buy at a Reny’s:
Athletic clothing
Casual clothing (anything shy of evening gowns and tuxedos)
Jackets and other common outdoor clothing
Any kind of shoe other than the patent-leather bucks you need for a tuxedo
Anything you might need to maintain a swimming pool except for a new pump (and you might even be able to get the pump at select locations)
Multicolored plastic adirondack chairs
Gardening tools (anything from pruning shears to rakes to spades to hoses to watering systems)
Air conditioners
Fans (box and osciallating)
Window screens
Gourmet mustards
Pantry goods
Kosher teriyaki sauce
Cheap tea
Locally roasted high-end coffee beans
Anything you might want to take to the beach (chairs, coolers, umbrellas, pails, toys, floaties, noodles, towels, large rubber rafts)
Fishing rods, nets, hooks, sinkers, line, and feathers and other stuff for tying flies
Any beverage other than alcohol
Souvenir mugs
Cans of wild Maine blueberries
Wicker furniture
Decorative baskets
Occasional tables
Pots, pans, dishes, coffeemakers, deep-fryers, waffle irons, and any other thing you might want to have on hand in the kitchen
Ironing boards and irons
Yard-long Super Sparkler fireworks
Wading boots
Garden statuary
Linens, including towel sets
Clever net hoods to keep the bugs off your face when you’re hiking (or in my case, riding my horse when I get back)
Commemorative signs for a variety of local towns
Souvenir magnets
Penny store candy

And that’s just a start. It really is a Maine Adventure.

After our return from the Wild Life of Reny’s, we sat out and watched the tide lap at the rocks a few feet away from the deck.  Our neighbors celebrated Low Tide this afternoon by having an honest-to-God driftwood-fired cookout on the rocks exposed by the low-tide.  It produced a prodigious quantity of fragrant smoke, especially when they tossed a log that was overgrown with seaweed on the blaze.  I wandered down to see what they were up to in the hopes that the damp kelpy smoke indicated an honest-to-God clambake in progress, but no.  It was an Old Fashioned Wiener Roast.

Later, the tide put out the remnants of the smoking fire with a sound I am more accustomed to hearing from backyard fireworks. And then, as I said, we drifted down to hang out on the deck chairs and listen to the water. You can imagine my surprise when a small blackish creature of distinctly rodent-oriented ancestry* bounded across the rocks a few feet away from me and disappeared into a nearby pile of rocks.

“Dude” I said to Roy. “Dude, did you see that?”

Unfortunately (for him) he had not.  I made a note of several distinguishing type details, like size, an impression of furry hairy-osity, and an unusually fuzzy tail, plus a distinctly general sense of Cuteness, and I bailed out to go investigate on the web.

I love the internet.  I don’t have any more questions about things than I did at the age of 7 when my grandparents handed me a copy of the most recent World Almanac and told me not to ask any more questions until I’d read the entire 3-inch thick publication.  The big difference is that most of my questions now have obtainable and verifiable answers.

This one was a brief stumper, though.  I surveyed discussions of the Coastal Mammalian Wildlife of Maine and learned that – in addition to the black bears, deer, and moose (which I still have never seen), there are fishers, ermines, martens, and foxes.  These articles did not, for some reason, feel the need to include mice, rats, squirrels, and chipmunks: presumably these elements are so common as not to warrant individual attention.  I carefully, therefore, inspected streams of photographs of fishers, ermines, and martens.  I already knew this thing had not been a fox (too small, insufficiently red, not at all canine), a beaver or a muskrat (presence of tail fluffiness), or a moose.  I was stymied until I came across an incredibly comprehensive listing of Maine Wild Life (excepting the Reny’s) with representative photographs and – there – was astonished to definitively identify the critter I’d seen on the rocks.

It was a mink.

An actual, unbelievable, incredible, honest-to-God wild mink.A “little black mink” no less.

This is not my mink because the Mink Sighting occurred during the rare ten minute interval I was without my camera, but my mink looked a lot like this one.

The only minks I have seen before were on coats. Or hats, or muffs.  I hadn’t ever given minks a lot of thought as animals, because I’m not generally fond of rodents at all. I would never, for example, have a mouse or (shudder) a rat as a pet.**  I know people do, and I know they can get quite attached to them, and I appreciate this.  Many people I know would never consider having a hair-trigger instinct-driving 1200 pound vegetarian death machine as a pet, let alone regularly get up and ride one.  To each their own, I say.  But my “own” is not rodents.

I gotta say it, though.  The mink was cute.

Roy was Vilely Disappointed to have missed out on the mink (less so to have missed out on the pernicious bee).

And then we went up the road to Bayside, a village that arose from a mid-1800s Methodist Summer Camp, a place that features a high density of Unspeakably Charming Gingerbread Sea Cottages with Appropriate Decor and Landscaping.

Photography Heaven, in other words.

There I had my third and fourth Wild Life Encounters.  Number three was a chipmunk that posed becomingly for me atop a warm antique stone wall with a backdrop of daylily flowers.  He stayed put, too, until I’d taken about five pictures of him.  Can’t wait to see those.  I love chipmunks.  We don’t have chipmunks in Texas.  Or if we do, I certainly never saw them.  They are also an exception to my No Rodents Rule.***  They’re so darned cute.  I know they’re wild, etc etc etc but I still cannot help wanting to pick them up and put them on my hand and feed them things.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take pictures of this little guy.

I don’t do many pictures with critters (or humans) in them, so it came as a total shock to me later to realize that while I’d intended to take a picture of a sailboat anchored in the harbor and bobbing on the waves, what I’d actually taken a picture of was the sailboat, anchor chain, wave bobbing…and a harbor seal swimming right into the shot.

Now, rodents are rodents,**** but harbor seals to me always seem like Ocean-Faring Dogs.  I want to pet them and give them a chew toy.  This one, as with the chipmunk, was obliging enough to stay on the surface long enough for me to grab several shots.  I don’t think my camera’s zoom will be sufficient to render a great picture of any of them, but I am still happy to have captured them.

Need I mention that Roy was not with me then?  He managed to miss out on all of the Wild Life.  As we took off for the lobster pound, he grumpily speculated that next I’d be seeing a moose.  If I do, that would really put the cap on this trip.  I’ve been wanting to see a moose for years.

Tomorrow holds the promise of another great lazy day.  I can’t remember the last time I had a vacation that was this restful.


This picture is from my last trip to Acadia in 2007. It’s a view of the sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain.

*I am informed by a Credible Source that these things are not “rodents” they are “mustelids”. A different branch of the Genetic Tree. I did not at any point get close enough to this animal to see its teeth, evidently the primary criterion for classification into Order Rodentia. Nor did I witness it eating meat, primary criterion for classification into Order Carnivora. I am comforted to find that Wikipedia indicates that membership in Family Mustelidae is primarily genetic. This was a Learning Experience, as I always thought that all of the “mustelids” (minks, weasels, otters, wolverines, badgers, stoats) and other stuff that aren’t mustelids but might be taken for them (mongooses and meerkats) were rodents too.  Now I know something I did not know before.

**Artifact from the Time Before I Learned About Mustelids.  I’m going to leave it in anyway, because I – even though erroneous – it is part of my original reaction to this creature.

***This classification, thank heavens, is correct.  Chipmunks, unlike minks, are rodents.  And they’re just so darned cute, with those little stripes and all.

****Although minks are not rodents…


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner will take you right there.

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