Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bigfoot in Maine update, summer musings!

Hi everyone! The warm weather is finally here (mostly), and even the sporadic rainy days are good days to get out into a part of Maine you haven't seen yet.

I'm plugging away on the book, and excited to report that I'm working on the last major chapter (Durham Gorilla!), then all I have to do is add a few bits and pieces in to catch up with some last minute interviews and site visits elsewhere... and then the illustrations!

It's pretty exciting to finally be closing in on what is at this point a decade-long project. It's also exciting that it has been well worth it. I've met a lot of amazing people, and gotten to poke around in corners of Maine I might never have seen otherwise.

It has also become obvious that finally packing the manuscript off to the publisher when I've finished and done a final edit is NOT going to be the end of the work. This project has started what looks to be a lifetime's worth of recording Maine's Bigfoot-related oral history and scattered accounts. I have a feeling that I'll continue exploring this Strange Maine topic for many years to come, even after the book is done.
Skowhegan region driveabout on a rainy day!
Most recently I've been up in the Skowhegan region, where a series of late-1970s sightings occurred. It was a rainy day, but we covered a lot of ground, albeit in a truck because it was pouring rain and there were many meandering miles to traverse, many of them on dirt roads. Many thanks to those of you out there (you know who you are) that helped make this happen.

One of the most important things I've learned throughout this whole process is to be patient, and to be careful. If what I'm hearing from people is as real as it seems to be, we have neighbors that need our respect and possibly someday our protection. It's an intriguing thought to chew on.

I've also learned how important it is to be able to talk openly about the unexplained, because many people encounter it in their lives, always unexpectedly, and if we can't listen to others respectfully about their experiences, we can be sure that if we ever find ourselves in the same situation, ridicule will await us as well.

So please stop and think before you disparage or slap someone down just because they're trying to sincerely share something with you that they can't explain, but need to talk about. Small steps towards making this a better world for all of us. It doesn't take much, guys!

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Poetry of Empty Tombs

Longfellow crypt - Photo by Michelle Y. Souliere, (c)2016
Hi folks! Hope your spring is going well. Here's a little treat from Troy Bennett over at the Bangor Daily News, a piece about one of Portland's long-running mysteries to entertain you while we continue to thaw out.

If you click on the link below, it will take you to the site where you can watch Bennett's 20 minute documentary about his search for the truth about the Longfellow family's tomb.

Longfellow’s tomb is totally empty. We went looking for the bodies.
By Troy R. Bennett, BDN Staff • October 31, 2018 5:56 am
October 31, 2018

[...]

In 1986, the city of Portland went to brick up the Longfellow family tomb in its historic Western Cemetery to protect it from vandals. But when they did so, they discovered the tomb completely empty — no sign of the six family members, including Henry’s parents, who were interred there in the late 19th century.

As a local historian looked into the case more at the time, the mystery deepened.

In his new investigation into the curious case, Bennett retraced the steps of historian Bill Jordan and discovered some new leads.

[...]
[Source:
https://bangordailynews.com/2018/10/31/news/portland/the-curious-case-of-the-poets-empty-tomb/]

If you'd like to see more of Troy Bennett's features on the Bangor Daily News website, you can find them here:
https://bangordailynews.com/author/tbennett/
You can also follow him on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/user11806700/videos

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Maine Wildlife in the Snow - Part 2

I'd better post this before all the snow is gone here in southern Maine (oh, I know there will be some more, but tomorrow is the first day of spring, and I'm perennially optimistic). Back in February I had a chance to go out tromping with a friend, and it being the day after a snowstorm, we found a smorgasbord of animal tracks.
Even in winter some streams keep flowing.
In the post before this one, we looked at coyote and skunk prints. You can read about it here: Maine Wildlife in the Snow - Part 1

This time we'll look at some other tracks and traces left in the snow from that same trip.

The first set wound up being a bit of a joke on us. At first we came across what at a distance looked like the flurry a grouse might leave in the snow.
But on closer inspection, it was pretty clear that it was the sign of a very busy rabbit or hare (not sure whether it was cottontail or snowshoe, but more likely cottontail). Note the telltale droppings, like little punctuation marks!
Next we saw plenty of little mice tracks, with tail marks evident, this one heading toward the safety of a tree:
Last but not least, we found evidence of porcupine nibbling on some of the soft young pines in the area:
Pretty soon all that will be left are pockets of snow in the shadowy areas, and some ice here and there. Come May the leaves will be budding, and eventually leafing out. Not long now! Happy spring, everyone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Maine Wildlife in the Snow

It might not be "strange," but it is rather magical to be able to see the tracks of animals in the Maine winter snow. Back in February I had a chance to go out tromping with a friend, and it being the day after a snowstorm made for a bumper crop of tracks.

A network of tiny critters making their way from seed to seed.

Here are just a few:
Above is a coyote track (there were a lot of these), in which you can see the telltale two-claw dots at the front of the foot (look at the red arrow directing you to the 6:00 point of the photo).

To the right, you can see the full trackway, where the coyote carefully pads along the raised, packed runner left by snowmobilers in the fresh snow, very daintily stepping within the same spots as it moves along. You can see our bootprints along the edge of the coyote's runway to get an idea of scale.

The last track set for this post (I'll come back with more later) was a real puzzler at first. You can see them below. The lateral footpads set behind long toeprints, with prominent claws showing on many of the tracks, indicated a number of species possibilities, but the size, only a few inches long, could only match one thing, if I am not mistaken -- a skunk! So I'm glad we only saw his tracks and not himself.
1. Trackway          2.  Lateral footpad visible          3.  Clawmarks visible

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ermines everywhere!

It sounds like this winter has had a bumper crop of little ermines (short tailed and long tailed weasels in their lovely white winter coats) running amuck in Maine's woods and neighborhoods. Our first post about this phenomenon was back in 2006, and there has been a running commentary on the subject ever since. You can read that earlier post here: Mystery White Critter

We have heard reports from a bunch of places over the years: Poland, Troy, Brewer, Crawford, Casco, Harmony, York, and Naples for starters.

Today I have a treat for you -- one of the folks, Dave Taylor, who had an ermine as an unexpected houseguest earlier this year, had this to say: "We just recently caught a pure white weasel in our home with a live trap. Released him back into the woods on about 50 acres. Have several good photos and videos. Cute little guy." He was kind enough to send along some photos. I never realized exactly how petite they are!

Here is a glimpse of the little fellow in Dave's kitchen, so you can get an idea of his size:
And here he is, safely stowed in his trap, ready to be released back into the wild, just as devilishly cute as ever!
If you want to learn a little more about ermines, here are a couple of good resources -- an article on the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust site: https://hhltmaine.org/nature-notes/nature-notes-weasels/
and another on the Natural Resources Council of Maine site: https://www.nrcm.org/nrcm-creature-feature/ermine/

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Waiting in the woods: in between the words

Adventures outside, between the light & the shadows: trees and so much more to see.
Photo by M. Souliere (c)2018
[The photo above is from a recent fieldtrip with a Maine Guide friend into wild pockets in Androscoggin County.  Click on the photo to see a larger version.]

This post is not so much about the reporting I do, and more about the philosophy and feeling behind it. I don't often say much about this, beyond talking to friends and family about it -- but it seems important that some of these thoughts should find their way here onto my blog.

I've been working on my second book for so long that it astonishes even me sometimes. Fitting it in around a grueling work schedule has been challenging, but this past year or so I feel like I've come much closer to figuring out a solution to fitting those pieces together. There are some more abstract elements that have become clearly very important as part of writing this book.

While my goal is to have Bigfoot in Maine done by the end of this year, the funny thing about it is that it will probably remain a lifelong pursuit even when the book is done.

"Why?!" -- You may well ask.

Why?  First, the truest reasons -- Because it draws me outside, into Maine's woods and hills and waterways.  I crave more outdoors.  In my everyday work life, the outdoors is so close, yet so far away.  I cannot live without it.  I live much better with more of it.  We all need to not only look out, but also to go outside more often.  There is nothing more real than walking into the wind and sun with the growing ground underneath your feet.

Why? Secondly, the draw of curiosity on a growing mind -- Because there are more encounters out there that have never been told outside the small circle of family and friends. I can feel the truth of that in my very bones.

Why? Thirdly, the bigger picture -- Because each link that appears in the chain of Maine oral history strengthens everyone who is part of it.

Why? Fourth, the driving force behind it all -- Because I see myself as having a job -- a vocation. I am here to record these experiences that people have had, even if there is no acceptable "explanation" for them. Perhaps an explanation is not needed.

Why? Fifth, the hoped-for outcome -- Because the record of any experiences given to me in the course of my work stands for those who come after, for those who have not told their own history yet, for those who might think that "no one wants to hear this," that "they're just going to think I'm crazy or an idiot."

I've heard a lot of reasons from people as to why they don't want to come forward.

It's okay to keep things to yourself.   But if you have an encounter that defies all your prior life experience, something that doesn't fit into your known universe, I want to tell you that there are those of us who will listen.

AND --- almost more importantly --- If we are honorable, ethical journalists (or even friends), we will listen off the record -- we won't tell anyone else anything you don't want known. The information is still useful. I am constantly piecing together the massive puzzle that is Maine in all its complexity, and you would be surprised to hear some of the tiny clues that have led to huge breakthroughs and realizations further on down the road.

We will listen, whether you want the details repeated to help others who may be in the same boat, or whether you require us to never tell another soul. We will not assign you derogatory labels just because of something we haven't experienced ourselves happening to you. And those of us who are looking at the bigger picture will be grateful, and remember what you shared when you didn't have to.

You might not hear from us again for years -- or ever -- but know that your piece of the puzzle is percolating through a repository of history where we are all Mainers together, each with our own unique experience of the state and all that is in it.  Without each other, we are made less. Don't think your shot in the dark has been ignored, because these things take time.

In those moments where your piece of the puzzle comes to light and fills in a blank, connecting other pieces together, it helps create an amazing picture of Maine history, rich enough for all of us to give forward as a treasure to those who come after us, asking questions in their own time that only we can answer now.

All this work is done with no promise of glory, no promise of any tangible results.  Those of us who listen, who dig deep when everyone else is doing something they think is more fun -- we are looking long.  We are looking ahead as well as looking behind.

We are also trying to get as close as we can to a 360-degree view, because we know things only become clear when they are given perspective.  We never know what to expect, and that's a good thing.  We make no predictions - we lay our cards out and hope to be given a chance to pay attention enough to see things unfold.

And for those who shy away from telling because of ways they have seen others' stories being exploited by those who take them and don't care about anything but profit and personal gain -- I am sorry that this behavior exists in this world. It is unnecessary and violates everything I stand for. I respect your decision to back away from opening up because you have seen others injured in doing so.

To those who have trusted me with their experiences, thank you.  I came to you a stranger, and you were willing to take a chance that I could help other people with what I could glean from your accounts.  This means a tremendous amount to me, and I try to never let out of my mind for long the reality of how lucky I am that you all looked at me, or heard my voice, or saw my greeting on the screen, and said, "Okay.  I will give you a try."

Thank you all -- those who contribute tales, and those who are eager to see the work when it is done -- all of you.  And thank you for reading what is probably my longest update ever.

The seasons turn, and the daylight shifts.  When I'm not in my bookshop or at home, you'll find me in the woods and out in the air, looking around at the huge world that is encompassed within Maine. Life is short, and I know I'll likely not see all the Maine places I hope to breathe in, but you can be darn sure I'm going to experience as many as I can, whenever I can.

I hope you all get this chance too!

With all my heart,
Your scribe and stumbling fool,
Michelle
Me visiting with my old friend & neighbor, the Crookston Bigfoot, at the International Cryptozoology Museum.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

EVENT: Strange Maine at Wells Library for Halloween Eve!

Whoohooooo! I'm giving a spooky-season talk down at Wells Library soon! Come on by if you're in the neighborhood. 👻💕 Cross your fingers there's no hurricane this time!!! ;)

For more information visit the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/404884133377856/
or call Wells Library at (207) 646-8181.