Movable light

Dinghies resting on Fish Beach.

Dinghies resting on Fish Beach.

We woke yesterday with the sun pouring in our windows at 4:30 AM. This far north and this close to the summer solstice, days are deliciously long. Bobbi was interested in the breaking skies; I didn’t care much what I painted as long as I got outdoors. We decided to work at Fish Beach in the morning and the lighthouse in the afternoon.

A small tanker tied up at the pier. “I probably would only have twenty minutes to capture her,” I said, eyeing the boat up.

“The fish shacks aren’t going anywhere,” advised Bobbi. “Paint the tanker, quick.”

So far, the lemon-yellow Easter egg has been the least satisfactory of toning colors.

So far, the lemon-yellow Easter egg has been the least satisfactory of toning colors.

I plopped her square and small in the middle of a lemon-yellow canvas, with utterly no thought to composition. Painting an object in detail with no surround is a violation of a first rule of painting, but I didn’t see any option. I paid for it with an hour of wrassling before I finally quit and moved on.

The tanker was black against a dark pier. This lighting issue led us to discuss the circuit of the sun. “There should be an app for that,” I said.

Capt. Ray O'Neal delivering fuel at the Monhegan dock.

Capt. Ray O’Neal delivering fuel at the Monhegan dock.

“Of course there is,” Bobbi said, and showed me something called The Photographers Ephemeris, which predicts how light will fall on the land for any location on earth. Mary shared her favorite, Night Sky, which allows you to track constellations and stars anywhere. I aimed it at my feet and looked at what my cousins were seeing in Australia.

The earth’s curvature means that visibility over open water is limited to about three miles. Monhegan is 12 nautical miles off the mainland, but one can clearly see land. That’s because the Maine coast is fairly high and hilly, which one doesn’t necessarily notice while driving down to Port Clyde.

My Fitbit tells me I climbed 32 flights of stairs yesterday. That doesn’t put us in the ranks of elite towerrunners, but by midday we were tired. After a hot dog and coke for lunch, we wanted to paint something less exhausting. We set up again at Fish Beach and turned out three very respectable paintings. Suddenly, it was 5 PM and we needed food before we hiked. And maybe a glass of wine.

I sat down at our table with an oomph of expelled breath, saying to Mary, “I am so exhausted. I really can’t force out another painting.” Mary admitted that she felt the same way. We hated to disappoint Bobbi, but when we broached the question, she too heaved a sigh of relief. By the time we recovered our energy, we rationalized, it would be too late to paint anyway. None of us have gotten enough sleep this week, we told ourselves. The only sensible thing to do was to be in bed by twilight so we could be up with the chickens this morning.

The Captain Ray O'Neal heads back out into the open sea.

The Captain Ray O’Neal heads back out into the open sea.

That, of course, led to the question of what twilight is. Turns out that civil twilight is between sunset and when a person can no longer see well enough to drive their car without their headlights on. Nautical twilight is between sunset and when the captain of a ship cannot see the horizon. Astronomical twilight is from sunset until it’s dark enough to see the stars.

Of course our early bedtime vanished in a haze of silly stories. The sun rose again this morning, even a few minutes earlier than yesterday. Despite our sleep depravity, It’s once again time to raise brushes.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.