I'm not going to portray it as the Siege of Leningrad. People here in Seal Harbor are not cut off from food or fresh water. We can come and go freely. As I sit here at the desk in The Naturalist's Notebook, I'm eating a fresh slice of pizza from Dennis's coffee house next door.
Nevertheless, Seal Harbor is suffering a bit. Economically, that is. On Monday signs were posted on every major route leading to this little island village, warning away potential visitors with the words BRIDGE OUT AHEAD. I don't know about you, but few messages will make me hit the brakes faster than one suggesting that my car might soon hurtle off the site of a missing bridge, no doubt into a thousand-foot-deep, rocky gorge.
Mind you, none of that will happen to a driver brave enough to venture all the way to Seal Harbor. A more accurate sign might have said SMALL ROAD CULVERT BEING REPLACED AHEAD—YOU'LL BE MILDLY INCONVENIENCED BY A SHORT DETOUR THROUGH LOVELY ACADIA NATIONAL PARK. Cars zig into Acadia and zag back out. They're hardly gone long enough to know that they've missed downtown Seal Harbor during their re-routing.
But they have missed it, and Seal Harbor is already feeling extra quiet. The slow hours make it easier for me to concentrate on my Sports Illustrated work and deal with phone and email orders for books such as Lichens of North America and An Artist's Handbook and The Beekeeper's Bible, but it's more fun when people are in the Notebook milking Millie the cow, learning the Fibonacci numbers, solving puzzles, doing cave drawings, shopping for cool stuff, talking about birds and otherwise enjoying the last few weeks of the 2011 Notebook.
The Notebook actually feels even friendlier and cozier as the cool autumn weather settles in. In the last few days we've had visitors from as far away as Alaska, Arizona, Indiana and China. That's a reason for optimism. If they can make it, why should a bit of road work (or a scary sign) stop anybody else? ****************************
Diving for Dinner
We've had the pleasure this week of watching a kingfisher in action in front of our house. He rests atop a spruce tree at water's edge when not hovering and diving like the pied kingfisher in the high-speed, slow-motion video below:
Baseball and the Ocean
Over a recent breakfast (baked apple pancakes whipped up by Julie and Patrick, our temporary student housemates, using some of the 40 pounds of McIntosh that we unexpectedly acquired last week), Patrick looked thoughtfully out at the bay. "How deep is the deepest part of the ocean?" he asked.
An oceanographer would have immediately responded, "Six-and-three-quarter miles." Not being an oceanographer, I opened one of the crowded file drawers in my brain and pulled out three seemingly unrelated images: of an underwater canyon, Mount Everest and New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.
The mind works in strange ways. We often file the same memories several times under different headings. An acquaintance named Rachel might be filed in my brain under People With Red Hair, Women Whose Names Begin With R, Folks I Associate With New York City, Medical Experts I Know Personally and various other distinctions. And so it is that I connect the deepest spot in the ocean with a canyon, a mountain and a baseball player.
The deepest place in any ocean is the Mariana Trench. It sits at the bottom of the Pacific near Asia. My sports-fan brain always thinks of it as the Mariano Rivera Trench because of the name similarity, and perhaps because both the trench near near Guam and the all-time great relief pitcher from Panama represent superlatives.
I've seen illustrations of the canyon-like shape of the trench (hence that image popping into my head), and the common yardstick for comparing great heights (or depths) relative to sea level is Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth. Obvious question: If you set Mount Everest in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, would the top stick out of the water?
Answer: It wouldn't come close. I always remember that Mount Everest is 29,000 feet tall, perhaps because I like the number 29 and wore it in my lone season of playing high-school football. In any case, if you place a 29,000-foot mountain in a nearly 36,000-foot-deep trench, you're left with more than a mile of water covering the peak.
And while Mariano Rivera is great under pressure and this week broke the major league record for career saves, not even he could save someone in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, where the pressure is 15,570 pounds per square inch and the water temperature is around 34 degrees. All things considered, Patrick, Julie, Pamelia and I are probably better off sitting on a sunny deck, enjoying apple pancakes and merely letting our minds explore that canyon of water nearly seven miles deep.
True or false: On the planet Venus, one day lasts longer than one year.