There I sat, after a day of backpacking along Maine’s Bold Coast, staring into my pot of hot stroganoff noodles. I had forgotten to pack a spoon. My hands were grubby, stained with dirt and grime; I had half a liter of tea-colored water that had to last me until sometime the next day when I would reach Black Point Brook. I had nothing to wash my hands with and they were much too dirty to eat with.
I rooted around in my food bag, looking for something I could use as a utensil, knowing I wouldn’t find anything. If I were Dick Proenneke — subject of the ever-popular documentary “Alone in the Wilderness” — I would find a deadfall limb and carve myself a perfect wooden spoon in a few minutes. Of course, if I were Dick Proenneke, I wouldn’t have forgotten my spoon.
At the base of the cliff, among some wild roses, I found a piece of cedar 2 inches in diameter that was bleached gray. I broke off an irregularly shaped piece about 6 inches long from the fat end. With my pocket knife, I smoothed and shaped the ends as best I could. Not happy with the result, I rubbed it against a granite boulder, sanding the edges smooth, creating a small cloud of dust. The inside of the stick was red and crumbly, giving off a weak cedar scent. It looked more like half a salad tong than a spoon.
I dug into my noodles, more falling off the flat utensil than making it into my mouth. I sat, cook pot in my left hand, homemade spoon in my right, eating my dinner. The tide was coming in, making odd, almost living sounds as the water moved into the spaces between the rocks and drained back out with each wave. When my noodles were gone, I held the spoon up and looked at it, turning it slowly to see both sides. Then I tossed it into the surf and packed up my food bag for the night. Somewhere along the Bold Coast, among the rocks and seaweed, lies my spoon. When it washes back up on the rocks, a passing hiker will see just a short, broken stick, but I will know better.