Emma Deans

Multimedia Storyteller | Professional Communicator

Posts from the ‘Presumpscot River’ category

I’ll dig with it…honoring Seamus Heaney

Beloved Irish poet Seamus Heaney passed away today, and I’m reminded of my senior year of high school when I first read one of his poems. The lines and words of “Digging” have stayed with me all these years. I identified with Heaney’s admiration for men like his hardworking, potato farming father. For me, guilt has always lingered with that respect…a feeling of inadequacy for not earning one’s living by the spade, but the pen. Heaney’s reverence for the rural, for regional history, and for the common man remind us all that the poetry of life is found right in our backyards, in the hands of our fathers.

Gratitude to Heaney for his insight, his cadence, and his beauty.

My father, the farrier

My father, the farrier

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

-Seamus Heaney, “Digging” from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney

Continuing down the river…

Yesterday we continued on the Presumpscot, putting in just below the Great Falls Dam at North Gorham Pond, portaging at Dundee Dam, and pulling out at Shaw Park in Gorham. This section of the river was clear and the fish were jumping especially from below Dundee Dam to the Covered Bridge in Windham. It was a sunny and hot day, which drew swimmers at various rope swings, swimming holes, and small beaches along the way. We saw a variety of wildlife including kingfishers, sandpipers, turtles, geese, and ducks.

Did you know that at different points in history, the Presumpscot has been dubbed the most controlled river in the country? I am delving into historical research about the river’s many mills and dams. The Dundee Dam, pictured below, is the largest on the river.

Dundee Dam in Windham

Looking up river at Dundee Dam in Windham

The paddle begins…

Yesterday, Kyle and I paddled from the Sebago Lake Basin through the North Gorham Pond, portaging at the Eel Weir Dam and Great Falls Dam. It was a warm but hazy day, and we stopped to take pictures, have lunch, and explore the area. We took the Eel Weir Canal from the Basin, because where the river begins is too shallow and rocky to canoe. Our trip lasted about four hours and it was a little tricky figuring out where to put in after the portages, as we have never done this section of the river before. It was a challenging but rewarding start!

You can explore the river on Google Maps (shown) or Google Earth.

You can explore the river on Google Maps (shown) or Google Earth.

Introducing the Presumpscot River Project

I am excited to share that for my final graduate multimedia project (thesis) I am exploring the Presumpscot River in southern Maine. I grew up within the Presumpscot’s watershed–the river is about a five minute drive from my parents’ home in Gorham and the Little River, a tributary, runs through our backyard. I will be posting updates as I canoe the river, learn about its history, and make connections to the greater ecosystems of which it is part!

Presumpscot River Project

The Presumpscot originates in the Sebago Lake Basin (lower right). I have already been exploring the river and mapping out a canoe route, along with partner Kyle Joyce.