Woman Enough

Collecting Maine

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 29, 2011

Owls Head Lighthouse on an early, windless morning

Just a moment here to recap my travels; in early August, Elias and I left Belfast to go sailing in an aimless sort of way. We were unemployed, had saved some money by living aboard all winter, and were hungry to wring some salt water out of our clothes. Off we went sailing down east, only to return to Belfast two weeks later with a broken engine and hurricane on our heels.

Three weeks later, we were off again, ready to explore September sailing in Maine, which we had only heard to be wonderful. We left without a schedule or expectations, and our first few stops were islands in our own backyard.

That was over two weeks ago, and we’re just outside Portland now. The two trips combined have provided a rare opportunity to carefully examine the farther reaches of the place I call home.

I was raised in inland Maine, in a little town that makes up for it’s complete lack of industry with a large dazzling lake and a couple of charming villages. The family farm still thrives there, but more likely livings are made in larger towns 20-30 minutes away, where there used to be paper mills processing pulp from up north, but now those have been replaced by retailers. My neighbors growing up were not wealthy, but I think they were largely happy being left to themselves to lead simple lives.

I also grew up spending summers on the coast, in my grandfather’s house on a small island, unconnected to the mainland by bridge or ferry. Here, lobstering locals and summer people have reached a pleasant symbiotic arrangements over three or four generations of sharing the same postage-stamp sized piece of land and its surrounding waters.

A Port Clyde trawler.

I have always considered myself the product of two Maines, the one where the mills closed slowly over the course of my childhood and the one where the lobster industry rose and fell season by season.

I have traveled at two or three knots per hour along much of the Maine coast in recent days, and I am glimpsing the Maine that belongs the people of these other harbors and islands. Many of the things are the same, but the pulse of each place is markedly different.

Soon after setting foot on Chebeague island, there is a sign. It told us that locals wave when they drive by each other. It has a map, with the store, library, recreation center, golf and tennis courts all labeled. On North Haven, we were picked up almost immediately by summer people offering a ride to town and a guide book’s worth of island history.

When we first came into Port Clyde, it was unclear which of the many fishing wharves is for public access, and once ashore, it takes a good number of helpful strangers to find the general store and a good thirty minute walk to reach the lighthouse and museum. It’s all very pleasant, but the feel distinctly different from arriving in an area driven by tourism.

Sunset from Gay's Cove

When we arrived in Gay’s Cove off Cushing in the mouth of the St. George River, all the houses were closed for the season and the place felt blissfully deserted. We were there less than fifteen minutes when some kayakers approached to welcome us, answer questions, and offer advice on good walks ashore and protected anchorages.

Each spot is a little different, but they are all Maine. It is quite a thing to be from a place and still have so much to discover about it. I’ve always felt an incredible sense of place; I am from Maine, and that is a big part of me. But now I am discovering that there is a lot of Maine still to experience.

The world moves by awfully fast. We drive around at 65 mph, or pop under ground to ride subways to new neighborhoods in a matter of minutes. We fly across countries and oceans, we nap on trains as we commute from city to city.

This has been the summer that I slowed things down and watched a small part of the world pass at a much slower speed. A few days ago, I stared at Seguin Island for a good three hours, sailing around it. I took a picture, but I sure didn’t need it. It’s part of the collection of my Maine now, part of my experience and preserved within the story.

Seguin Island


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