As we enter the winter holiday season I am reminded of the walk we took last winter with the guest from Wisconsin, who it turned out was a wind engineer looking to leave the industry because of the way its ethics had changed when she got in 10 years ago idealistic about its possibilities (coincidence and she took this photo) who said, when she saw where the turbines would be over out lakes, “Anyone in the wind industry knows that is the worst place to put wind turbines, the most intermittent availability in in wooded hilly areas”. So First Wind and Baldacci and Angus King must know this too but do they care? We fought our case in court WED DEC 12 and now are fighting their ability to get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers based on the endangered lynx and eagles in our area. Honestly we wish TR were here to help us fight this corruption. We are sure he would:
Wind is a concept we had to consider if we were going to take the silver aluminum clunker canoe out on the lake. Wind was a concept we also had to consider if we were to take our 14 foot also silver aluminum boat out on the lake to go to town to get supplies or if uptown getting supplies, to keep an eye on to see if the wind was bringing in a fast thunderstorm, in which case our boat became a lightning rod. Mother instilled the fear of God into us about taking the boats out in lightning or even if it looked like it might lightning. And it could come up fast. Definitely we could not go out when it was very windy, which was mostly the autumn when we were back in school in Connecticut.
Sometimes, laying in the quiet, the dead quiet of night, at the cabin 5 miles away from anything and anyone I could hear the wind rustling in the trees. It was a beautiful sound, reassuring and haunting at the same time. When my mother hinted that she might sell the log cabin, built by her cousin when he was a young man of 30 and his father, I whispered to her “Please, no, mom, that place is my soul.” I was not one given to whispering but at that moment I wanted to sound like those beautiful leaves speaking to me in the night or watching me in their movement in the early morning, warning me in the afternoon that I
had to move the boat in to the cove to keep it from slamming on the rugged rocky shore in front of the cabin. My mother loved the cabin as much as I did so it must have relieved her to know that one of her offspring actually cared. Our relationship had been a complicated one but we had one thing in common- a love for nature, for Maine and for the total healing and spirituality of it all. My sister had long ago escaped to California, moving there right out of college in the Midwest and never returning East except for visits. My brother, institutionalized for mental problems in the 60’s, would never function in the “real” world ever again even though he lived in a halfway house in Hartford, went back to live with my parents, who then bought him his own condo as they approached the inevitable.
Who would have thought, when I took a leap of faith and purchased my great grandparents’ homestead “uptown” (since their amazing lake property and tourist business had been sold out from under our family with no warning by a relative who could no longer keep it going and, for whatever reason, didn’t think to ask the family for help) that the wind would become my enemy? Not the wind itself exactly, but the people who greedily claimed they could use this intermittent energy to create electricity for people outside of Maine, outside of our State? What sense did that make? To blast our hills, to kill and scare off our wildlife, to ruin our topography forever, the one Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt wrote about, the Maine woods, forever? Who would have thought, when I decided to make decidedly unlikely and irrational go of a retreat for the weary city dweller, a place where the industrialized views and sounds of progress were so very far away that people always commented “ I had no idea you were so far away from everything” “ It took forever to get here but boy was it worth it”, that we would be fighting this wind battle? Not I. Fifteen years in to putting our all into it, people had come from all over the United States and even rarely from another country- England, Finland, Holland- it seemed to be actually working. My Swedish husband and I had been married in the backyard in 2003, good reviews came in from the press and individuals. Season by season we managed to keep it going- putting all we made back into it- wallpapering, insulating, replacing mattresses, upgrading appliances, bit by bit making it better and better for our guests, who were amazing people looking for some silence, some beauty and some solace in their lives. And remarkably they found us.
And even more remarkably it worked.
We had issues with the local factory, which supported the town. Located nearby us it emitted a 24-7 hum. We knew the perils of noise pollution. One manager was brashly rude at my requests to see what they could do about it. Eventuallu another manager came on board who worked with us, decreasing the sound so it was more tolerable. They had been laying people off for a few years, only employed 75 anyway, then finally closed. We learned here about big corporations and how challenging it was to get anywhere with them. When the factory closed it was sad for the town but we found our silence, which was much better for our purpose.
Then the dry town became a wet one. What were the chances? Since the town of Island Falls was founded by my great great grandparents the Sewalls and the Craigs in 1845, the town had been dry. In 2004 the old library, the beautiful big old green Nina Sawyer building, became a bar. The first few years it was civilized and contained. Then it became a rowdy crowd, with blaring bands on the weekends and booming bass sounds from the jukebox other nights. People had fights on the street, screaming and hooting and pealing out. I went on a mission calling the State Police, became partners with another neighbor who argued with the town that this violated the existing noise ordinance, only to meet with the bar owners’ wife screaming at me at town meetings that I was the one who tried to close the starch factory (not true). The neighbor and I joined forces, the two Donnas, calling the selectman in the middle of the night and the authorities. The more reports we had in the more they were likely to listen. Eventually they closed; Mismanagement we had heard, also the possibility of some illegal activities, though never proven. Once again we had won the dead silence. And our business survived somehow miraculously.
Things come in threes. This one was bigger than the others. When the other two were happening I thought nothing else could be worse- and what were the odds of any disturbances in this quiet hamlet off the beaten path, population less than 800? It was like going back in time, people waving at you as they took their daily walk or drove by, friendly hellos at the post office and small talk about the weather, always something to watch in a beautiful nature filled spot like Island Falls. My great grandparents had settled there for the beauty of the location, a tiny island sandwiched in between the rushing river water we called the “falls”. Their first home had been just opposite the falls, now the Briarpatch Gift and Flower shop, one of the few businesses surviving in Island Falls.
Soon, all too soon, we were to face this warp in time, this never changing simplicity, as going forward in to a destruction I could never have fathomed would come this far north or to any part of our pristine parts. And my heart was feeling cracked every day, as many other hearts had cracked in Lincoln, where views of Mt Katahdin and lakes now saw skyscraper sized wind turbines, whooshing when they worked, though their efficiency was low, sounding like a helicopter or airplane where once the deer and moose heard only silence and the natives viewed only breathtaking scenery like Mount Katahdin, which meant the Great One in the Native tongue. In Mars Hill, adjacent to homes and the ski slope, 25 of the monsters did their damage. In the name of what? Who will listen to our pleas when the sounds of the wind turbines change our wildlife and our lives forever?