A handful of reasons to be in good spirits this weekend up here in Notebook-land:
• The Acadia Night Sky Festival. You don't need to know Canis Major from Cassiopeia to enjoy this four-day celebration of astronomy in general and the vivid night skies over Mount Desert Island in particular. From lectures to musical performances to stargazing at Cadillac Mountain, the festival makes use of the island's rich assets—not the least of which is the relative absence of light pollution. MDI is one of the few spots left along the East Coast from which you can clearly see the Milky Way with the naked eye. One point of emphasis at the festival is to encourage people to use outdoor lighting that doesn't leak light upwards and thus diminish our view of the stars; there are night-sky-friendly choices on the market that everyone should consider when building or renovating.
You can see some extraordinary landscape-and-night-sky photography from MDI at http://www.nightskyfestival.org/Festival/Home_.html. Click through the day-by-day event calendar.
• Uncle Andy. Pamelia's 85-year-old lifelong family friend has just arrived from North Carolina with his wife, Adele, to visit us and the Notebook. We all have mentors in life, and Andy is one of Pamelia's. He has inspired her for years with his work creating and maintaining hiking trails (he still does this regularly) and his never-ebbing interest in the environment and learning. He was a dear friend of Pamelia's mom, who passed away year ago this week. He has long been troubled by war—we all are, of course, but Andy wants to find solutions. Of late he has been educating himself about Islam in hopes of bridging the chasm between the Christian and Moslem worlds. Unfortunately, he has been frustrated by the closed-mindedness he has encountered among some on the Christian side. This week he decided to take a break from religious peacemaking and read a new book about another of his loves, math.
I should note that Adele is an amazing person too. She was telling us last night about what it was like to be raised in Chicago by two parents who both were blind from childhood and who met in a braille music class. "I never heard them complain about being blind," she said, adding that—because they so loved music—they instead felt sorry for those who were deaf.
* The Maine International Film Festival by the sea at Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor. We were reading last night about the offerings at this first annual event, which starts next weekend at one of the coolest places in the world to see a movie (you eat while you watch). Among the films that we can't wait to see are two to which we feel a close connection: The Ears Are Behind the Eyes, by acclaimed and inventive Maine filmmaker Nancy Andrews, who teaches at the College of the Atlantic and is a good friend of The Naturalist's Notebook, and Welcome to My World, a documentary by Gwyn Welles about students from New York City and Trenton, Maine—where we live—taking part in a program called Operation Breaking Stereotypes. (For those of you who live in New York City, look for Nancy Andrews's newest film, On a Phantom Limb, to premiere at Anthology Film Archives at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23.)
• The trout study. This is interesting. Wildlife researchers are working less than a mile from the Notebook at a stream in Acadia National Park. According to a Notebook visitor who had just spoken with them, they have been removing trout from the stream, tagging them, taking DNA samples, attaching transmitters to some and then returning them to the water. The researchers are doing this because they have apparently found that at least some of these freshwater fish seem to be swimming out into the salt water and then returning to the fresh water, like salmon. That is not typical of trout. Or maybe only a few are doing it. That's why the study is needed.
• The College of the Atlantic's new school year. We are big fans of the small, ecology-focused college in Bar Harbor—we even get produce each week from its organic farm—and have been lucky enough over the summer to have had several of its students helping us. After breaks of one type or another, those student are now all back around. One of them, Eli, kicked off the school year by swimming from Bar Island (off Bar Harbor) to the college dock. Another, Haley, just returned after a month studying organic agriculture in Europe, and yet another, Sarah, a future savior of the seas, worked on a mussel farm. Special kudos to Luka, who spent most of his summer living and documenting plant life on a small deserted island off the Maine coast. He is too humble to talk about it, but he has just received a number of significant botany-related honors and scholarships.
• Artist Rocco Alberico's return. The New York-based creator of the extremely cool Acadia-themed piece we've had on display all summer will be here all week with his wife, playwright Wendy Yondorf. I assume he'll have with him the 3-D camera rig he used to shoot some of the images used in his artwork. Stop by to see him if you're around!