|From the Bank of the Penobscot River|
Muffy and I both love Maine. So when she asked that I write a guest post, I was happy to oblige. May it serve as a thank you for the many gifts she has given me, including her sense of humor, clothes and accessories (in exactly the right shades of pink, green and blue) and a gift of apples and cider left on our porch.
Most of the Nutmeggers I know who travel to Maine are familiar with Ogunquit and its sandy beaches, but the best is saved for those willing to drive, at least until the Wiscassett bridge on Route 1. It is there that the rocky coast and weathered towns just begin to come into focus as the modern landscape recedes into the rearview mirror.
It is hard to put your finger on exactly what Maine offers that other places do not. The most obvious is the beautiful scenery and lack of convenient shopping, although that is changing (a section of Rockland now has a Home Depot and looks as if it’s in Connecticut). But I know I miss it and haven’t found it anywhere else.
I now know that whenever a choice is made, such as between a beautiful setting and modern malls, that something is gained and something lost. You have to decide what you are willing to sacrifice. I’ve gained friends in Connecticut, but dearly miss the sense of peace and awe inspired by the Maine landscape. I also miss the diversity of lifestyles – there are individuals who intentionally choose to live without much material wealth and the wealthier residents don’t make a show of it, if they have any sense.
Last summer, I was fortunate to visit some relatives in Maine who don’t live on the coastline, but are in close proximity to the natural beauty the state offers, including lakes, rivers and the sea. My hostess, Jane, lives in an 1820’s colonial on a hill, white with black shutters, built by a sea captain, reached by a long driveway, lined with trees.
Jane appreciates the history of the house and says she often imagines long skirts rustling against the bannister as she ascends the main stairs. Jane has a particularly close attachment to her house as it was the one in which she grew up as a girl, when not living overseas as a young woman and adult, and is the place that she and her daughters, also world travelers as adults, call home.
Jane’s parents now live down the road in a smaller, more manageable dwelling, but they were the ones who first noticed the house on the hill, before it was even for sale. Jane says that her father, who was at college at the time, used to come home every weekend to visit his wife-to-be in Monmouth, near Augusta. He set out one Friday, hitched a ride with a man who “took him as far as the driveway.” The person driving the car was Mr. Jones, who sold the house to Jane’s father 30 years later.
Jane said that Mr. Jones worked for a paper company and did all the renovations. He put in the bathrooms and created a summer room, once a carriage house and woodshed. Before him, the previous owner created an apple orchard, remnants of which exist today.
Two summer’s ago in Maine, there was a happy reunion of all three of Jane’s daughters. The youngest, Quincy, was having a birthday, as well as celebrating a new job and apartment in Belfast (which has changed drastically since I first rented there in 1989, but still retains a rough-around-the-edges charm) and the second oldest, Caitlin, was home for a visit from the Netherlands where she works and studies. The oldest, Molly, was also home and lives in Maine, but often travels to Asia for work. There were also two couples from the Netherlands, one couple working in the states, while the other was taking a vacation, which all four often do together.
The house, decorated with its treasures from away, reflects the values this family holds dear. They are not afraid to experience the world, but they also know that there is a safe harbor waiting for them to which they can always return.
And isn’t that something to which we all aspire, no matter what your style of car, clothes, home or accessories?
Valerie Bannister is a freelance writer who lives in Chester, Connecticut with her two daughters.