I recently sold this painting at the Louisville Art Association's 2023 National Juried Show. It was my first show since I relocated to Colorado. Honestly, I was shocked that I got into the show. I know I shouldn't be shocked, I've worked really hard to develop my style and niche as an artist, but I was. When I attended the show opening, I was blown away by the work of other much more accomplished artists than myself. I mean loads of talent everywhere. And the opening reception was standing room only! I did not get any awards but honestly for me, the sale was what mattered. I spend the majority of my free time outside of my full time job as a high school art teacher working on my art business. I very much hope to do this full time some day. It was really nice to get accepted into a big juried show here in Colorado. It definitely boosted my confidence as an artist and reminded me why I continue to put in the hours. I've applied to three additional shows since then and just received notification that I got accepted into two more juried show here in Colorado. The future is looking bright!
I started this post with this information because the story behind this painting is also one of boosted confidence, but in a different way. This painting is inspired by my trips to Acadia National Park. I've gone twice in my life to Acadia. Once on a solo trip and once with my partner.
The first trip I took was in 2014. It was summer break and I don't remember how the idea got into my head that I wanted to go to Maine, but somewhere along the way I got fixated on the idea and made it happen. I went for ten days on a solo trip. For me, this trip was a rights of passage. I went alone, I did not have transportation and relied on public transportation in the form of shuttles, national park busses, and hitch hiking. I went to Maine with just a backpack of gear and suit case. This was before I learned how to backpack. On my first Maine trip, I was using an old Coleman tent I got when I was 16 years old. Huge and cumbersome. I took my old backpacking stove, an MSR that required white gas and a lot of effort to set up...it leaked...it was messy. I had hoodies for sweaters and a cheap rain jacket from Walmart. I was weighed down with gear. I had it planned out so that I was staying in two different campgrounds around the park so that I only had to move campgrounds twice with all of my gear.
I stayed in Bangor for a night to supply before heading out to Mount Desert Island via the shuttle that runs from Bangor to Acadia. I spent the day walking around Bangor to sight see. I saw Stephen King's house complete with an iron fence adorned with bats, I saw a giant statue or a lumberjack, I drank beers and ate delicious pizza with an elderly man in his late 60s that was visiting his son, I visited a dive bar on my way back to the hotel I picked mostly because they advertised a build-your-own-waffle bar with fresh, wild blueberries. It was a fun experience!
My first trip there was very much me flying to a new location and being open to all experiences. I just flowed with what the day brought. Once I got out to Mount Desert Island, I stayed at Mount Desert Campground. My favorite thing about staying there was that it had kayaks you could rent right from the campground. I was very nervous about kayaking in the ocean by myself and almost didn't do it, but on the last day I felt like I would regret not taking part in that adventure so I forced myself into a kayak to check the box. It was such a magical experience. I found this sheltered cove with calm water and large boulder islands supporting evergreen trees near the campground. There were seals everywhere and they kept coming up to my kayak to investigate. It made me super nervous but also very excited. I had never seen a seal up close like that and their curiosity made me happy and intrigued at the same time. It's weird how disconnected humans have become from nature so that when we do have an experience with the natural world, we consider it precious rather than the norm while also feeling slightly terrified of it.
I write about being a solo female traveler and outdoorswoman often, and this trip was what I would consider one of the formative experiences in my life. In addition to kayaking with seals for the first time, I also went on a whale watching trip, rented a bike and rode the carriage trails (where I treated myself to pop overs at the Jordan Pond House), and did some amazing and scary hikes like the Beehive trail that requires climbing up ladders on a cliff face and walking over rebar across gaps.
I tried lobster for the first time. I'm a vegetarian now, but I wasn't at the time I visited Maine in 2014. I went full carnivore. I specifically picked a place where you can select your own live lobster from a tank. I mean, I looked that lobster dead in the eyes as I pointed to him and said "that one" and watched as they retrieved him from the tank. As I sat waiting for them to boil him alive in a pot (makes me very sad now thinking about it), the waitress brought my shell cracking tools and a very helpful place mat that described exactly how to crack open and devour a lobster. I was excited. So they brought him out all red and shiny from being boiled and smothered in butter. I started following the placemat tutorial, retrieving a part of his tail, dipping it into a ramekin of butter, and popped it into my mouth. I immediately gagged. I hated it. I hated the texture and the taste. And the worst part was when I ripped the tail from the body, this green goo was in its abdomen. I was like "Is this normal?" but then I noticed the people next to me dipping bread into the body goo and eating it. I was disgusted. And I had this very expensive murdered lobster in front of me. I forced myself to choke it down. The waitress noticed I wasn't feeling it and came over laughing. I was like "this is not my thing." Never again. And now every time I visit a store or fish market and see the lobsters in the tank, I think back to that experience with guilt and disgust.
I didn't shower much or do laundry while I was on the island. When I flew back home, I took my shoes off in the car and my ex immediately rolled down the window. I mean, I was filthy. Disgusting. My ex stopped at a gas station so I could wash my feet in the sink before continuing home in the car for two hours. We tied my shoes to the luggage rack on the top of the car. I hadn't realized how bad I smelled and had my shoes off on the plane for the entire trip. Whoops. I mean are you really getting the full flight experience if you're not sitting next to a screaming baby or a very stinky granola girl?
I don't have any photos from my first trip which makes me sad. I had all of my photos stored on an external hard drive and somewhere along the way, I lost it between moves to Washington and Utah. So my only photos are in my mind. Snapshots from that trip that stand out in my mind are sitting on the grass in the commons in Bar Harbor waiting for the shuttle to the airport to go home. There was a group of rough looking drifters near me also hanging out on the grass. I had a ton of extra gear that I couldn't take home like food and propane so I ended up giving it to them. They were super stoked! I was glad I could pass it along rather than just dumping it in the trash. I remember how windy and cold the whale watching boat was and I was bundled up head to toe. I remember how still and oily the water looked. Like silver glass. I remember being surprised one night when I came back from the bathroom to discover I had camped on a spider egg and they hatched and hundreds of baby spiders were crawling over my tent. I remember eating a whoopie pie and feeling sick afterwards. I remember writing "Bar Harbor" on a piece of cardboard and putting it on the table at the campground while I ate ice cream to see if I could get a ride into town for July 4th. It worked. One of the advantages of being a solo female traveler is the ability to always get a ride into town. I remember kayaking in the cove with the seals.
It's funny the memories we retain and the ones we don't. What causes our brains to work that way? Are those moments significant for some reason or were we just in the right mindset and mood to create the neurological pathways that recall that event?
My trip was partly upsetting though. I had very much wanted my ex-husband to come with me on the trip, but he was very much against camping for ten days straight and so I went alone. I remember feeling very sad that I didn't have the person I loved with me on that trip. And our marriage deteriorated a few years after that. Sometimes things just don't work out.
My second Acadia National Park experience was much different and not nearly as profound personally, but more profound for my relationship with my new partner. My current husband is stationed at Fort Drum, New York. I was still living in Utah at the time so I flew out to see him for a few weeks during the summer. We decided to road trip to Acadia National Park. My husband was underwhelmed by the park. He said he expected big mountains after us adventuring in Washington, Oregon, and Utah together. Instead, I had brought him to coastal hills. We did have a great time together though.
Some of the highlights of the trip include riding the carriage trails, swimming in the lakes, and hiking the Beehive trail. Riding the carriage trails in Acadia National Park is an amazing experience. You can rent bikes in town and then get directly onto the trails built by the Rockefeller between 1913 and 1940. Rockefeller was an avid horseman and wanted to travel around Mount Desert Island via horse and carriage rather than by vehicle. The National Park Service has maintained this tradition and now you can bike the trails! It's my favorite activity in the park. Especially when you bike to the Jordan Pond House for snacks on the lawn. Fantastic day!
The Beehive trail can be intimidating for some people. It's not a strenuous or long hike, but it does involve climbing up rebar ladders attached to a cliff face and walking over rebar ladders across gaps in the rock. It's definitely an iconic hike in the area. There's a more gnarly trail called the Precipice trail but it's never been open on my visits due to Peregrine Falcon nesting. We've got to respect the wildlife as we are visitors in their home!
The highlight of the trip was our kayaking experience on one of the lakes. I have a tendency to vacation to hard. Like my partners feel like they need a vacation from vacation because I want to go and do and see everything possible while I'm there. I don't do down time very well. I'm definitely getting better at it as I approach 40, but when I'm in a new place, I want to make it count. So my husband expressed that he really wanted to spend some time just floating on a lake relaxing. He has a high stress job and for him, just floating in a kayak on the water is the pinnacle of relaxation. So I found a place where we could rent kayaks for the day. I decided I wanted to paddle all the way across the lake from a sheltered cove with loons and eagles hunting for food. The water was pretty calm, but it was very cold. We got within 100 yards of the shore on the other side. As a joke, I paddled toward my husband but stopped so that I was floating gently towards him. He was distracted by something and didn't see me coming. When he did finally did look over, he freaked out because he thought I was going to crash into him and just bailed out of his kayak and into the lake. He swears I rammed him, but I definitely did not ha ha. The water was freezing and of course me being the loving wife that I am, I busted out my phone and started video recording the event. The kayak was too full of water to flip over and him climb back in so he had to swim to shore dragging the kayak behind him. Once he got to shore, he emptied the water out and was getting back into the kayak from a boulder. He sort of just lumped his body into the kayak and flipped over again. I was hysterical with laughter.
One of my favorite things about my husband is how easy going he is and sees the positive in all things. Sometimes it's almost on the level of toxic positivity but in this case, he was freezing, his knee was cut up, and he was soaking wet, but he laughed it off and now it's a huge joke and memory we have!
The painting I created from our Acadia experience was influenced by a sunset walk we took on afternoon from the campground. We scrambled down the coastline to the rocky shore and explored the abandoned crab nets and buoys, the huge rock formations, and watched the sunset together.
I'm grateful for these experiences. I'm grateful for my partner who is the most easy going adventure and travel partner I could ask for. I'm a highly independent woman almost to a fault, but I do understand how nice it is to have a man in my life that I can just let take the wheel because I trust, respect, and find refuge in him. I'm looking forward to many more experiences with him. I'm also looking forward to many more adventures that inspire my artwork.