Spring is on its way and Mainers rejoice as the snow melts, the sun rises higher in the sky and shorts and sandals prematurely appear on overeager bodies.

Baron Wormser, poet laureate of Maine from 2000 to 2005, brought his book, “The Road Washes Out in Spring” to the University of Southern Maine Senior College for its annual One Book- One Community celebration.

Wormser, the keynote speaker, described his life off the grid. For more than 20 years, he and his family resided in rural Maine with no electricity and no running water. He carried water from the pump, he felled trees and split logs for his stove and he planted an enormous vegetable garden. Fortunately, his wife loved “going back to nature,” was strong willed, creative and eager to make do. The couple had two children, both born at home, and sent to local schools although their high school years were spent in a Massachusetts boarding school. To support his family, Wormser taught creative writing at the local high school and also ran four local town libraries.

The title of his book, of course, refers to the annual battle with the road leading to his home – ice, deep snows, even deeper mud, potholes, ruts – and Wormser had to get to school, every weekday and before the students arrived. How he managed all this and continued to write volumes of poetry made for a delightful lecture.

Restoration projects in the Scarborough Marsh were the subject of the March meeting of the Scarborough Historical Society. C. D. Armstrong, president of the Friends of the Scarborough Marsh, brought wonderful slides of the marsh, many of them aerial views, to illustrate his talk. Fifteen percent of the marshes in southern Maine are right here in Scarborough – 2,900 acres, described by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as a highly productive and diverse ecosystem, rare in this part of the state.

Over hundreds of years, the marsh has been used and misused by colonial farmers, fishermen, road builders, developers, fishermen and those seeking recreation, such as kayakers, canoeists and bird watchers. In 2000, the Friends of the Scarborough Marsh organized to “protect, restore and enhance the marsh,” hiring a consultant to develop a list of issues to address. Armstrong explained that doing the projects is the easy part – the hard part is planning, getting permits, fundraising and then monitoring the project for at least five years.

So far, the group has worked on Seavey Landing, Cascade Brook, and Mill Brook. Problems addressed are hay roads, ditches, phragmites, berms, washed out gravel, etc. Over the long run, the group would like to see expansion of the marsh boundaries so that pressure on undeveloped land abutting the marsh might be alleviated.

Richard “Dobbs” Hartshorne, classical bassist, thrilled an audience of all ages at the Scarborough Public Library with a most unusual program of classical music, humorous stories and slides of his travels in the Middle East. Hartshorne, an elderly gentleman dressed in black from head to toe, with gray beard and mustache, prefers to be called Dobbs. He declared that Bach is the greatest musician that ever lived and proceeded to play several of his works, transcribed by himself so that they could be performed on the bass.

Dobbs said that, as a child, he loved fairy tales and so decided to write some, with appropriate bass accompaniment. One story that provoked much laughter from the audience, featured Billy the birch tree and his adventures with Brenda the beaver. They fall in love, join the circus, have a run-in with a flame swallower, hitch a ride back to the forest on a logging truck and start a family. As Dobbs sang, in a repeating chorus, “Love was hard for Billy and Brenda, but love will conquer all.” For 30 years Dobbs played the bass with the Apple Hill Chamber Players of Sullivan, N.H. He also served in the Peace Corps in South America and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount McKinley. Now he devotes his time to playing the bass for those who perhaps would never otherwise hear classical music, such as in prisons and youth centers. The day after his concert in Scarborough, this amazing man was off to Afghanistan to play in the refugee camps and schools in that war torn country.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, in 1807. Two-hundred years later, on March 15, 2007, to be precise, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor, the 23rd stamp in the Literary Arts series. It is a handsome stamp. A portrait of Longfellow with his white hair, beard and mustache dominates the foreground, and in the background are scenes from one of his most famous poems, “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

To celebrate the first day of issue, the Maine Historical Society invited Julius Locklear, Maine district manager of the U.S. Postal Service District of Maine, to attend a ceremony at the society. Also present were representatives from the U.S. Congressional delegation and from Gov. Baldacci’s office.

Employees of the Postal Service sold first-day covers and panes of stamps. Highlighting the ceremony were local performers, including two third-grade classes from Nathan Clifford School. They recited “The Children’s Hour” and “The Day is Done” with marvelous precision and expression, to the audience’s great delight. Betsy Sholl, poet laureate of Maine, read “Snow Flakes,” reminding us to listen for the sibilant sounds of the letter “s” repeated in the poem. And Mitchell Clyde Thomas presented his own musical setting for the poem, “My Lost Youth,” for voice, piano and flute, which begins with the beloved lines: “Often I think of the beautiful town That is seated by the sea: Often in thought go up and down The pleasant streets of that dear old town, And my youth comes back to me.”

Accompanied by Alicia Gamow on the flute, Thomas, at the keyboard, brought the poem to life with his vibrant baritone. We heard again the familiar phrases, “Spanish sailors with bearded lips, the sea-fight far away and the dead captains as they lay in their graves o’erlooking the tranquil bay, and the shadows of Deering Woods” – every stanza ending in “A boy’s will is the wind’s will, And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

We are lucky folks to have the boyhood home of this great cultural icon right in our own back yard.


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