Conversations with Maine

Solitude on the Maine coast in the summer.

Loving our Maine summer, despite the rats in the pantry

By Robin Clifford Wood on Aug. 26, 2014, at 6:09 p.m.
I have never worried much about those little scratchings and scurryings that I occasionally hear from my bed on a summer night. It’s all part of the peaceful soundtrack of summer in Maine. “There goes some cute furry thing, living its little life,” I think to myself, smiling. Last week, …
Rebeckah Perry sings the national anthem for a Portland Sea Dogs game in 2010.

Star-Spangled Banner opens ballparks for Presque Isle woman

By Robin Clifford Wood on July 01, 2014, at 7:45 a.m.
Rebeckah Perry sings the national anthem like it’s her job, because, well, it is. At least, it’s one of her jobs. She’s quick to tell you that her primary job is being a mom to her two young daughters. She also gives a lot of music lessons, and she just …
The Birch Tree Theater at Windover Art Center in June in Newburgh.

A family’s ties from National Geographic to art in a barn

By Robin Clifford Wood on June 19, 2014, at 1:41 p.m.
“The most satisfying journey is one that is shared.” So wrote award-winning National Geographic photographer and writer Thomas J. Abercrombie, who died at the age of 75 in 2006. Last week I sat in a barn at a well-used art table, surrounded by a variety of whimsical artworks that cover …
Philomena Keller Baker (left) and Kathryn Olmstead (right) worked together on the book about Philomena's remarkable memoir of living through World War II and beyond.  They got together last week to talk about their shared project and the inspirations behind the work that they did together.

Maine woman who survived World War II as a child honors her mother

By Robin Clifford Wood on June 04, 2014, at 7:04 a.m.
Everybody has a story to tell. Some stories are deeply moving, thought-provoking, or even life-changing. Sadly, as generations age and die, most of those stories disappear into a fog of forgetting and remain untold. Not so with Philomena Keller Baker, who will celebrate her 80th birthday in a couple of …
Participants in the Wood family's ice cream blind taste test fill out their assessment forms at a recent event.

California ice cream gets blind taste test in Maine

By Robin Clifford Wood on May 19, 2014, at 11:36 a.m.
A couple of weeks ago, an old college friend asked if I’d like him to send me some free ice cream made by his new company. Is this a trick question? A few days later, eight pints of premium chocolate and vanilla ice cream arrived from California in a FedEx …
Jane Sumner, daughter of Maine artist Arthur Thompson, looks at one of her father's artworks hanging at the Boyd Place Gallery in Bangor.

Maine artist’s daughter adds back story to canvas

By Robin Clifford Wood on May 06, 2014, at 2:56 p.m.
Hey everybody — do you know that you have lifetime free admission to a local art gallery? Thanks to Boyd Place’s ambitious art committee, the Boyd Place Gallery has just hung another terrific exhibition, as it does three times a year. The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 …

Readers respond to ‘My mother’s choice to die’

By Robin Clifford Wood on April 28, 2014, at 2:24 p.m.
Last month I wrote a column titled, “ My mother’s choice to die.” I was nervous about it — first, because I’d never published anything quite so personal; second, because I thought the idea of making active choices at the end of life might go against some people’s beliefs. The …
Connie Carter, founder of Operation Breaking Stereotypes, at an event in Orono in this file photo.

Maine native forges ties by breaking stereotypes

By Robin Clifford Wood on April 08, 2014, at 12:30 p.m.
It isn’t so strange to imagine a bunch of Maine high school students taking a class trip to New York City, but it might sound strange to hear that the trip will mean attending school with and living in the homes of a bunch of inner city teenagers. And it …
Mary Lawrence Clifford, mother of columnist Robin Clifford Wood, died at her home on March 15, 2014.

My mother’s choice to die

By Robin Clifford Wood on March 25, 2014, at 1:39 p.m.
The story I’d like to tell today did not take place in Maine. Since it is a story about dying, however, the lessons are universal. I haven’t published for about a month because I went to New York to be with my parents when my mother’s health took a sudden …
Jeanette Beaton, 94, of Bangor, has traveled to 105 different places around the world.  She attended the Iditarod in Alaska for the eighth time in 2011.

94-year-old globetrotter recalls 105 journeys

By Robin Clifford Wood on Feb. 25, 2014, at 4:23 p.m.
Jeanette Beaton, born in Moscow, Maine, in 1919, has visited all 50 states plus more than 50 provinces, territories, islands and countries around the world. Her specialty is northern climes. She has attended Alaska’s Iditarod eight times, spent the night at Sweden’s Icehotel, ridden the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow, Russia, …
Mark Hathaway, survivor of "locked-in syndrome," sits in his Litchfield home in this February 2014 photo.

Maine native hopes to inspire, educate after surviving coma, ‘locked-in syndrome’

By Robin Clifford Wood on Feb. 11, 2014, at 5:27 a.m.
In September 1980, a sudden, devastating illness left 24-year-old Mark Hathaway in a coma for six weeks. After regaining consciousness, Mark spent another six weeks fully aware of his surroundings but unable to move, blink or even breathe for himself. And yet, he’ll tell you how fortunate he feels to …
Travis Baker, playwright of award winning "One Blue Tarp," at his home in Orono.

Playwright’s award-winning Maine play comes to Penobscot Theatre

By Robin Clifford Wood on Jan. 28, 2014, at 12:45 p.m.
Travis Baker may be from away, but he has made diligent efforts to understand the essence of his new home state. In his award-winning play “One Blue Tarp,” which has its world premiere at Penobscot Theatre this week, he seeks to represent an authentic Maine: its people, culture and conflicts. …

Rhyming in the New Year

By Robin Clifford Wood on Dec. 31, 2013, at 3:49 p.m.
I went out walking yesterday – new crampons on my feet. The well-timed gift gave me a way to grip ground slicked with sleet.Story continues below advertisement.   A sheet of ice two inches thick had blanketed December. It was a trial, a Christmas trick we all will long remember. …
Vivian Murray, now living in  Bangor, spent her first 87 years living in Lubec. Her best friend for more than 75 years crocheted the afghan in this photo, and used to own the rocker that is now in Vivian's room at Phillips-Strickland House.

After 80 years in Lubec, Vivian gladly shares her wealth of stories

By Robin Clifford Wood on Dec. 17, 2013, at 5:05 p.m.
In the middle of an April blizzard in Lubec in 1924, Charles Tinker had to bundle up and walk the mile into town. He had to fetch the doctor. Charles’ wife, Mary, was in labor with her 12th child. I had a lovely conversation last week at the Phillips-Strickland House …
Obie Clifford, 81, after starting voice lessons in his 70s, now volunteers to sing concerts in retirement homes.  He performed in Falmouth earlier this fall.

Never too old: spending time with seniors

By Robin Clifford Wood on Nov. 19, 2013, at 5:34 p.m.
A few weeks ago, I drove down to Falmouth to see my 81-year-old father perform in front of a crowd. My Dad has been speaking in public for many decades in the context of his consulting work, based in New York City. I’ve also seen him address crowds as a …
Sunrise in Maine

A year of sunrise binds writer to Maine

By Robin Clifford Wood on Nov. 05, 2013, at 4:05 p.m.
If you had to choose one thing that keeps you in Maine, what would it be? The question stumped me. Only one? A National Public Radio show called “State of the RE:Union” asks this question for their project “The One Thing.” They are exploring the shrinking populations of small-town America, …
Several members of the Island Falls team that has worked on reviving the town's economy stands on the back deck of the new River Cafe. From left are Libby Moulton, Skip Lewin, Pete Connelly, Cheryl Connelly and Tabby York.

Island Falls, reimagined

By Robin Clifford Wood on Oct. 22, 2013, at 4:35 p.m.
There are a lot of stories of Mainers leaving the state to find opportunity. This is a story of a Mainer returning to create opportunity back home. Pete Connelly and his wife, Cheryl, are the owners of a rambling commercial building on the banks of the West Branch of the …
One of only 142 identified Revere bells still in existence in the United States hangs in the tower of Hampden's historic Harmony Hall.

Hampden Garden Club mixes history, hard work and flowers

By Robin Clifford Wood on Oct. 08, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.
I recently took a walk up Kennebec Road in Hampden to meet some people in a freshly restored 1828 church building. The story they had to tell was an uplifting combination of history, hard work, community collaboration and flowers. Like many old church buildings around New England, Harmony Hall has …

Love of Maine, love of medicine both shine in new book

By Robin Clifford Wood on Sept. 10, 2013, at 2:36 p.m.
A fluffy white dog with a wiggly tail yapped his hello for me at the door of Joan MacCracken’s log home in Brooksville. “It’s OK, Quig,” said Joan, reaching down to scoop him up. “Quigley? Like the dog in your book?” I asked. “Yup,” said Joan, giving Quigley a scratch. …
Tessa Wood with her Dad (who is about to tackle a crab dish called "Godzilla") at "Jacques-Imo's" Restaurant in New Orleans.

Road trip to the Deep South

By Robin Clifford Wood on Aug. 27, 2013, at 1:42 p.m.
This week’s column covers about 2,700 miles and spans 15 states — from Hampden, Maine to New Orleans, La. and part way back. Last week, my youngest daughter, Tessa, and I packed up our Honda with her electric keyboard, accordion and a few large duffel bags. We set out on …