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  • Many years ago, when my now grown children were young, we took our annual quintessential fall foliage and New England coastal tour on Columbus-Day weekend, and my daughters invited friends. One friend had relatives on Monhegan Island, and after driving for many hours, the first thing we wanted to do after disembarking from the ferry was to take a walk.

    I'd never been there before and Susan was still a child and didn't know the best way to go, so we took the trail along the spine of the Island. We spoke of our neighbor and friend, Paul Neimeic, who loved Andrew Wyeth and loved Monhegan Island because Andrew Wyeth loved it. Paul was and is a painter who adored Andrew Wyeth loved all things Wyeth.

    After we had walked a while, the girls wanted to go down to the water, so we descended from the spine trail down across cranberry bogs and salt marshy area to the heap of jagged rock along the shoreline. We noticed immediately that there seemed to be two areas of rock, a dry grey area and wet black area.

    We climbed through the dry grey area to the edge of the wet black area where we found a sign saying, "Keep off, Dangerous rocks!" The wet rocks, the sign said, were dangerously slippery, and people had been swept away to sea, but the kids were eager to get down to the water, and scrambled over them without incident. I followed more slowly.

    A huge, jagged boulder, maybe 25-30 feet tall, wide, shaped like a pyramid, rose out of the smaller rocks and the path of least resistance led the kids toward that rock. As we approached and skirted around the rock, we saw a man, painting. It turned out to be our friend and neighbor, Paul Niemiec, painting en pleine air, his Wyeth-like seascapes.

    We were surprised and excited! We didn't know he was on the Island--we all lived 400 miles away. He didn't know we were there, either. We had a happy little neighborly reunion and went on our way again, to meet Susan's aunt and Uncle, who were expecting us.

    It's one of those incidents in my life I will never forget. What are the chances we would all be there at the same time and that we would randomly choose to descend from the trail at the spot where he was painting, and that both he and we would disobey the warning signs and find each other 400 miles from home. It boggles the mind, but I like that kind of boggling. If he hadn't loved Andrew Wyeth, he wouldn't have been there, and if Susan's Aunt and Uncle hadn't lived there, we wouldn't have been there.

    That sunny day, behind that boulder, was the last time I ever saw Paul, as I moved away, 400 miles in the opposite direction. But I know he is still alive and painting, because I googled him. You can see his work here.

    Mary Stebbins Taitt

    image credit: Paintings by Paul Niemiec; the images would be better if they were left SMALL!
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