It was morning. As I walked to the barn to feed Whitty, his face was notably not hanging over the stall door, nor was his body visible as I approached. Odd. He was lying happily in his stall with a sleeping snake curled up in front of his belly. He introduced us, “Mom, this is Arnie, my new friend.”

With eyes wide open, I woke up startled by the absurdity of this dream.

That morning—the real morning—all was normal. But three days later, not so normal. Arnie showed up! A yellow rat snake with a black lengthwise body stripe. I felt like something between laughing and wishing I could pass out.

Rat snakes are tree snakes, climbers. Nonpoisonous (thankfully) but they can be aggressive (oh geez).

Whitty was completely nonplussed by Arnie, even when to my horror Arnie hung within inches over Whitty’s back from the barn supports. The barn was built with a small space between the tack room walls and the roof. Took Arnie no time to find it and into the tack room he snaked. He slept on a hay bale for the first couple of nights, like a happy cat, and traveled up and down the walls effortlessly. Quite mesmerizing to watch. He was polite and not afraid of me, which gave me courage. I started to like him. He also had a sense of humor: I was saddling Whitty for a morning ride, went to grab something from the tack-room shelf, and out popped Arnie’s head! I screamed, jumped back and very sternly told Arnie that if he EVER did that again, he could not stay. I might have wagged my finger at him, too. He pulled his head behind the bottles and I left the tack room on weak knees.

Arnie stayed about a week and then vanished … no note, nothing.

. . .

June starts white bird season here. White birds are small wading birds that are technically not called white birds but to me, they’re white birds with long, bright yellow beaks and amber markings on their backs, chests and crowns. They follow tractors and mowers to catch the grasshoppers they churn up. It’s a treat to have a flock of 12 white birds give purpose and silliness to my otherwise mindless mowing paths.

. . .

Whitty was grazing in the big pasture one afternoon and as I was walking out there, he turned just enough to show me the little bird bouncing around on his back. It was the sweetest sight! Bird scratched Whitty’s back for about 15 more seconds then bounced away but not without leaving a small present.

The joys and beauty of farm life!

. . .

Welcome to the July–August issue.

Rarely do I talk about an issue but this edition of ZEST is distinctive. Its eclectic highlights include an E.B. White–style story, a love story, the exciting first chapter of a new Maine sea adventure book and a very cool and creative music journey. We then meet a wide variety of Maine artists, each of whom was asked to tell their story by answering a tailored list of questions. Their Q&A answers/stories are honest—in some cases touching, humorous, definitely passionate—and told with confidence and vulnerability often at once.

What a treat for me to get to know everyone through their answers and, with that, gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their work, be that architecture, painting, photography or food. My hope is that you will as well.

I wish to thank Cynthia Winings of Cynthia Winings Gallery and John Danos of Greenhut Galleries for helping to put together this fine collection of featured Maine artists.

Thank you all … again and again!


P.S. For those suffering from Dull Sponge Syndrome—that draggy feeling caused by heat and humidity, and aptly coined by fine art photographer Dave Wade—here's a suggestion. Take a large pinch of fennel seed, chew it up really really good and swallow it. Relief is almost instant! I take a pinch every day after riding during the summer months.

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