We had never driven through nine states in a day, not even when co-piloting a support van for Pamelia's stepbrother more than a decade ago as he bicycled in the nonstop Race Across America from Oregon to Florida. But that's an advantage of living in the compact Northeast: If you hit the road at dawn in Maine, you can see nearly one-fifth of the U.S. states before you pull into Winchester, Va., for dinner.
That's exactly what Pamelia and I did in kicking off what should be an eventful and creative Naturalist's Notebook off-season.
I say "off-season" even though The Naturalist's Notebook never really sleeps. Indeed, we're re-opening the Seal Harbor Notebook the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), the day after that (Small Business Saturday) and every weekend from then through Dec. 22. We will open it on Wednesdays as well during that stretch. Please check our website (thenaturalistsnotebook.com) or our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Naturalistsnotebook) for updates and hours.
Even apart from those holiday dates in Seal Harbor, however, the months ahead will be almost as busy as the past season, during which (among other things) we opened two additional Notebook locations (in Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor), began turning the Seal Harbor Notebook into a 13.8-billion-year environment, continued to develop our color-coded 13.8-Billion-Year Hue-Story of Our Life science-and-art initiative, ran art workshops ranging from encaustic painting (13.8-billion-year themes designed and taught by the amazing Dina Helal of the Whitney museum) to botanical drawing (Amy Gagnon) to anatomical drawing (Robin Owings) to ROY G BIV (Shannara Gillman), met a zillion great new people, added a puppy, worked on our new website, collaborated on a diorama-in-the-round, launched greeting cards and limited-edition giclee prints with the naturalist Bernd Heinrich, crowned Maine Wild Raspberry the champion of our Fifth Annual Sweet 16 Honey-Tasting Tournament, held a Maine hot-sauce tasting event in the middle of solar flares shooting out of our upstairs Sun, delighted an audience at the Northeast Harbor Library with a talk on animation by Dan McCoy of Pixar, welcomed the great astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of Cal Berkeley to the Big Bang room in Seal Harbor and began a sidewalk birding trail with the cooperation of shops in Northeast Harbor.
We did plan to rest after all that. But, well, the road to 2014 beckoned. And so Pamelia, Rocky the puppy and I climbed into our Notebook-mobile and set off on a series of autumn trips—not only to Virginia (where we did squeeze some down time in Hot Springs) but also to several closer destinations, including Dartmouth College; the Museum of Math and Sports Illustrated's offices in Manhattan; and the Maryland home of one of America's top geophysicists. These road trips are continuing as we meet with new and old Notebook collaborators, catch up with our families, work on SI's preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics, and generally brainstorm.
Today's Puzzlers Here are three to mull over. The first is an art-and-politics quiz. Can you identify the three U.S. presidents in the portraits below? The paintings hang at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., a retreat that 22 sitting presidents have visited.
The second Puzzler: What type of leaf is shown below?
a) Tulip poplar b) Southern oak c) Sassafras
The final Puzzler is one to which I don't know the answer. Can you identify this gigantic leaf we found on the ground during a hike in Virginia?