Day Thirteen of my artist-in-residency is a day off. I wake up with a vicious headache and skip Sunday morning pickleball. By midmorning I feel better so Dan and I decide to go to the Schoodic Peninsula, hike around a little bit. It’s the quiet side of Acadia National Park, the side we like.
Dan comes downstairs wearing his orange chamois shirt and his blue suspenders. All painting is based on blue and orange. I’m thinking I’m going to get some images I can use in a painting.
I take some shots of Cadillac Mountain and, even better, a lighthouse in front of Cadillac Mountain. We go to Blueberry Hill and walk around a little bit. He suggests the waves against the rocks would be a good image. Maybe.
Walking back to the car I see Dan against the dark brush: white hair, orange shirt, blue suspenders. Just go ahead of me, I say. He groans, knowing what I’m up to, but he complies.
We drive past a sign that says Schoodic Institute. We wonder what it is. We drive up, we’re surprised by the buildings: bunkhouses, laboratories, a dining hall, an auditorium, classrooms.
I want to see this big building, I say. We drive up to it. I realize with a jolt I’ve been here before, back when it was a naval station.
The week before my sophomore year in college, I spent hiking Acadia National Park with my friends Ruth and Yoko and twins whose names I’ve forgotten. I flew from Cleveland to Portland. Ruth met me at the airport and told me we’d have to take the bus to our cabin in East Sullivan. A promised car had not materialized.
It took us a day and a half to get there from the airport, about 170 miles. We were thrown off the bus to Bangor because Ruth said “Fuck” to the driver and we spent the night in the bus station parking lot.
At the cabin we had very little food and very little money. A farmer gave us a huge squash, and we dig mussels and clams for dinner.
It was cold one night, so we turned on the heat. If one of the twins hadn’t wakened us moaning we probably would have died from a gas leak.
It was probably the prospect of free food that appealed to us. We had party clothes. We put them in our backpacks and we hitchhiked to the Schoodic Peninsula. We hiked a few miles along the park road until we got close to the naval station. We went into a cedar swamp and changed our clothes, combed our hair and put on makeup.
We walked into a change-of-command party in the mansion, uninvited but very welcome. It was a big room, elegant, with flowers, champagne, officers in dress whites, a few wives who seemed very old to us and a lot of tasty food still left on the buffet table. We pounced on the food.
It was probably one of the most important days in some admiral’s life, but we didn’t care. We ate the food, drank the champagne and sassed the Navy brass. I sat on a highly decorated officer’s lap and asked him about his ribbons. He didn’t care either.
Oh to be young and firm and the only young women at a party in a remote naval station…