The St. Croix Memory

Being married to a  Maine guide who loves to do canoe trips, our friend Betty was quite competent in her own right. One summer she put together a girls’ trip on the St. Croix, a two nighter. All we had to bring was our own gear and we split up the meal duties.  We were joined by Betty’s niece, Annette, who also brought her fishing pole.

Linda and I shared a tent, and even though I DON’T snore, she discovered that I do. We were also paired up in the same canoe, me in the front, and she in the back. This was feeling familiar, as we struggled with the meaning of “Left!” “No, the OTHER left” and so on as we tried to dodge rocks and other river hazards.

We spent a lot of time hauling our canoe over gravel bars, being that the water was at October levels, even though this was July. What an arm workout we got! We had a hard time keeping up with Betty as she and Annette outpaddled us hour after hour. We would think we were just getting ready to catch up, get stuck on another gravel bar, and they would disappear around the next bend in the river.

On our last morning after packing up our gear, we lined up facing the river, and did our Tai Chi form before hopping into our canoes. Linda and I were a bit humbled that we’d been doing this form for a couple years, yet here’s Betty and Annette keeping right up with us and following along as if they’d been practicing it too!

Sleeping out, canoeing with friends, meals shared over a campfire, and the conversation, sometime serious, sometime hilarious, all form a bond that is unlike any other. Since then, we talked many times about doing the Allagash. A repeat trip for the experienced Betty, but on the bucket list for Linda and I. How many times did we say, “We’ll do it for sure next year, gals!”??

For Linda, it matters no more, and for me, it’s still on my bucket list. Maybe next year.




This, too, Shall Pass

Whenever I get bored with a routine and wonder if or when it will end or change, the next thing I know  it HAS changed and all of a sudden I’m looking back and wondering what happened.

I have two friends with whom I have done a number of different Bible study courses during the past 25 years.  Every time we’re doing a course I wonder if we’ll stop. It always seems to be going well, we’re really deepening our understanding of the Bible, Jesus, and ourselves. Next thing I know, we’re not doing it anymore.

Every night at bedtime my husband used to play cowboy songs every very loudly. I wondered if I’d ever get to sleep and I learned to sleep in spite of them. He no longer plays them but I cannot tell you when he stopped playing them. Now I actually miss them.

Linda and I enjoyed days of hiking and paddling, gardening and gabbing. I wondered how that could possibly ever change. This time I know what happened to break this routine. She died. Bummer (for me, for her, not so much, since she’s gone to heaven!).

Paul and I went to Lunt’s for a lobster roll for supper tonight. A gal about my age brought her elderly parents in and sat next to us. The gentleman reminded me so much of my father that I could hardly look at him. I wanted to tell the gal to enjoy this time with them no matter how cranky, slow or ill they were, because these times won’t last. I was so impatient with my parents at that stage, and I wanted to get past it. Now I am, and it’s painful to look back.

What’s the lesson? Give God thanks in ALL things. Live in the moment and cherish it, because this, too, shall pass.

The days of paddling and walks turned to months and a trust level developed that I seldom have experienced. Our conversations including light talk and deep talk on every imaginable topic. We shared our pasts and our dreams of the future. She was much more driven and focused to take steps to turn dreams into reality, whereas I more or less meander through each day.

She became very involved in the First United Methodist Church of Lincoln, and she joined our Bible study group with Trudy, Betty, Linda D. and Pastor Bruce Young. As with every endeavor, she brought a new level of discussion that entertained us but also made us think about God in new ways. The congregation always looked forward to her Texas twang and lightness when she lectured.

Mostly I admired her ability to live in the moment. She could lose herself in an activity, yard chore, book, or anything else that caught her attention. Many days she’d look at the clock and realize she’d missed lunch, or supper, or both!   But put a plate of food in front of her and she’d devour it. My father would just shake his head and wonder where she was putting all that food as she reached for seconds and sometimes thirds.

Our friendship went to new levels through our adventures as we spent time together in a variety of activities. We could even disagree! I’ve had few ‘best friends’ and I’m grateful for this one.

A Winter Rainbow

Even though I look out at the same scenery every day, it never really looks the same. As the seasons and the weather change, an observant eye will notice new things. This morning after I took a few photos of the sunrise I lingered outside as the air was warm enough and I could detect the faint smell of spring.

After I came inside I opened the curtains to get the sun’s rays inside the house. I started my Tai Chi routine while looking out. I noticed something unusual. I often catch glimpses of odd or distorted reflections because of the angle of the panes of glass, so I paid little attention to this new sight on the frozen lake. “Must be just the angle of the reflection,” I thought, but it remained, even when I moved from one position to another, trying to get a closer look.

I went outside to see if the same affect could be observed, and there it was, a rainbow on top of the snow on the lake! I grabbed my camera again, hoping it would stay long enough to capture it. It did! I took several photos, even stepped out closer to the lake. Then, I looked to my left and saw another at another angle!

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It reminded me of the halo-like ring around the moon one sometimes sees. It also reminded me of the sun sparkles one sees in the summer, but those move as the observer moves. These did not, each rainbow color sparkled on the snow! I ran upstairs to see if they could be observed from our second-story bedroom, and yes! there they still were! I woke Paul, mostly just to have another witness of this unusual phenomenon.

These frozen lake reflections stayed for about half an hour. It was amazing, and another first looking out over the lake.

And so began a trail of common interests. We hiked. We paddled. We raced and lally-gagged (I am so not sure how to spell that, and Linda would spell it with a Texas accent). We did day trips and overnighters. We became a threesome with Betty Parsons, 20 years our senior and outdoor woman extraodinaire! Sometimes we dragged along Betty’s niece to even things out. I was always in the bow, Linda or Betty in the stern. 

We actually won a canoe race! The Moose River in Rockwood started on a lake, and required a portage. Race officials were posted to be sure there was no cheating. Betty landed at the portage just before us, and as we rolled in I hollered “Out of the way, Parsons!” The poor race official did not know we were friends, and I thought we might get thrown out of the race for unsportsmanlike behavior. 

Probably we should have stopped there, as after a nice ‘leisurely’ paddle down the Moose River, we encountered the infamous wind and waves of Moosehead Lake. Once out on the lake, the wind became almost violent. I kept yelling back to Linda, “We could make headway if you’d stop paddling backwards!” as the waves crashed over the bow, soaking me to the bone. 

We bore down, stroke after stroke, not daring to get too near the shore for fear of crashing, nor daring to get too far out in case we swamped. We finally rounded the bend of the cove toward the finish line, and there we pulled ourselves to a first place finish for our class! Awesome!

Linda’s trophy still sits atop her fireplace mantle, and I smile every time I see it. What a fun day. Thank you, Mizzz Parsons!

She was a new face one day at a meeting. I listened carefully to what she had to say, and afterward approached her with questions about what brought her to this area. We soon began discussing common interests, such as hiking and paddling, and enjoying the outdoors. She always maintained that I cornered her, but I was trying to get out of my own comfort zone and try to welcome a new resident.

Shortly after, she appeared at my church. Trudy and I slid over and invited her to sit with us. She even had a skirt on! Stay tuned for more church adventures in future posts…

That fall several gals decided to hike the Beehive in Acadia National Park. It was a fun trip, with easy conversation about many topics. Near the end of the hike, she shared her Chuppa-Chups (pronounced with a long ‘u’ sound) with us, and we were quickly converted to the special treats. They became an expected and highly anticipated ritual in the ensuing years for all of our outings and road trips.

If you attended Linda’s memorial service, you may have noticed a bowl of them sitting on the table. Lucky are those who took one. I am pondering at what special moment I will consume this last Chuppa-Chup from my friend’s stash.

When would YOU eat YOUR last “Linda Chuppa-Chup”?

Linda M. Ilse

Here are a few of my favorite photos of my friend Linda. I chose these because you can see her enthusiasm for the Burlington Volunteer Fire Department of Burlington, Maine.
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Never heard of Burlington, Maine? Well, 11 years ago, neither had Linda. She lived in Texas, and in the 80’s studied wildlife at the University of Maine. She always wanted to return. She found out about a log home that came up for sale, bought it, and moved here permanently.
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She set about making friends, getting involved in community organizations, and embraced a lifestyle of wood stove heat and organic gardens.
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Linda was a unique person, to say the least. She touched many people both in Texas and in Maine. She made everyone feel important by taking time to listen to them, help them, give them rides, and many other acts of kindness that would make Jesus proud. Was she perfect? Depends on the lens through which you view the human race.
I had the privilege to count her among my friends, one that I shall miss beyond words.

Why do I refer to her in the past tense? Early this morning Linda let go of this life to join her Lord and Savior in heaven. I can hear Him now saying, “Well done, my faithful servant. Well done.”