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  • Published
    June 6, 2016


    I had a few different themes in mind for this week’s column. Two weekends ago, Susan and I varnished our old wooden boat, which we then launched midweek. For us, the scent of varnish is a true spring ritual. I have described in past columns the memory-filled annual awakening of our boat (and our olfactory senses), and could have could have done so again. And then there is the weather. Summer arrived overnight, it …

  • Published
    May 24, 2016

    Something to sing about

    Susan and I traveled to Bowdoin last Saturday night to hear Anna’s roommate sing. Virginia is a performance music major. As such, she always gives a year-end recital. This year’s was a little different, because the recital was part of her senior honors project. So, in addition to hearing some great singing, we heard a little bit about Virginia’s research into the vocal techniques illustrated by the songs she …

  • Published
    May 10, 2016

    Funerals: the stuff of life

    Editor’s note: Susan Piotti, wife of our regular columnist, John Piotti, is writing this week. “I hate funerals, and would not attend my own if it could be avoided.” — Robert T. Morris I do not agree with Robert T. Morris. Funerals do not make me uncomfortable. It may be an exaggeration to say I enjoy them, but I am always pleased that I attend. I would not want to miss all that funerals provide to learn more …

  • Published
    April 25, 2016

    Coin toss

    Somehow, Anna held onto the news for several days. Our daughter was waiting to see us in person, which would occur the next Saturday at Maine Maritime Academy, where Bowdoin was playing rugby. Anna is not one to keep much of anything to herself. If an idea is going through her head, she talks about it. And because she calls home daily, we hear about it. It must have been exceptionally hard for her to hold back, …

  • Published
    March 29, 2016


    Susan grew up in Vermont — a state associated with maple syrup the way Maine is with lobsters. So I’d be ready to follow her lead if she ever suggested we boil sap. But no such suggestion had ever been made until this past January, when Susan purchased five taps and buckets for my birthday. As it turns out, this was a novel experience for both of us. Despite her Vermont roots, Susan had never made syrup either. We…

  • Published
    March 15, 2016

    A changing climate for farms

    I found myself a few months ago speaking to a room of environmentalists at a forum about climate change. I had been invited to talk about farming. I focused on a single topic: how I’m alarmed to increasingly hear Mainers say that a warming climate, which they dread in so many ways, would at least help our farmers. I was eager to know if others in the room were hearing the same, and wondering if this group of …

  • Published
    March 1, 2016


    I recently turned 55. I don’t generally think much about birthdays, but I had been anticipating this one for years. The reason had nothing to do with how I will always think of 55 as the federal highway speed. (Susan repeatedly joked that, with this birthday, I had reached the speed limit.) Nor was this birthday important because I’m now eligible to be a member of the American Association of Retired Persons. (My …

  • Published
    February 16, 2016

    Guten Tag

    Editor’s note: This week, John Piotti has passed off his column to his wife, Susan. Like Inspector Clouseau in a classic scene from “The Pink Panther,” “Guten Tag” (good day) and “Wie geht’s” (what’s up?), along with “Gesundheit,” are the extent of my German knowledge. So when Anna asked me to travel with her for a week in Germany, while she did some research for her Bowdoin College honors project, I was a little …

  • Published
    February 2, 2016

    What makes us do what we do

    Earlier this month, while Susan and Anna were in Germany, I traveled to Atlanta to present at a conference. I had no choice but to leave John behind at home to fend for himself. I was booked on a flight leaving Portland at 5:50 a.m., which meant that I either needed to leave home at 3 a.m. or spend the night in Portland. But an overnight really wasn’t an option, because I couldn’t be away from home one minute …

  • Published
    January 21, 2016

    Give 'em what they want

    It began at my office Christmas party, and long before drinks began to flow — so that wasn’t the reason. A guest (not a staff member) told me how much she enjoyed my columns. Then I heard it again from people I ran into at Christmas concerts. And again on Christmas Eve from a shopkeeper. At first, I chalked it all up to the generosity and goodwill of the season. But well into January, I’m still hearing positive …

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