Friday, July 13, 2012
this day is a maine day—an achingly perfect maine day. if perfection is a thing that's possible, that's achievable, if—at least to some small degree—it is, then this is it, this is as close as it gets. on a day like this day, the sun is always shining and the wind is always blowing a steady beat, but softly, gently. each breath of air is sweet and deep and never enough. sails are full, lives are full.
no tourist mobs on this day, but i do hear faint, indiscernible chatter that sounds like the steady rasping call of an unidentifiable shorebird insistently seeking its mate from across the water. in reality it is only cap'n fish's tour guide, chattering on and on about local facts and fictions as the boat cruise winds down and the small vessel returns to pier 1 in boothbay.
on a day like this day it is easy for me to withdraw into sounds and sensations, to be alone with my thoughts even while in the company of other people. i do that; i retreat sometimes. i am not ignoring the friends i am with—i explore, walk over the rocks, admire the rugosa roses, laugh with these danes on holiday, take some pictures, drink some wine, show them how to get at the meat of the very first lobster they've ever tasted—i am a part of the ongoing conversation, but i am also in my own world. i can do that, and i like it there.
retreating into a small interior oasis of being doesn't cause me to become oblivious to the things around me. quite the opposite—i am actually much more keenly aware of everything. how is that possible? i don't know. maybe it is because i am deliberately focusing on the small details of what is oftentimes overlooked—layers of bark on a tree, a lone lobster buoy bobbing near the shore, sharp mountain pine needle tips, a jagged crack in granite—that seizing the big obvious parts takes less effort.
before we meet up with the people we have come to see, we drive along the water where the road hugs the rocky shore. we pull over and go out on the rocks for a few minutes. the tide is coming in. there are no signs to warn me that this is private property because it is not. this land was made for all of us to enjoy—a window on the water for everyone. on the other side of the road the big houses stand tall and proud, with broad porches, gray, salt-weathered shingles, bright white trim, and thick velvety lawns that lead down to the winding road. these homes, like so many others with million dollar views of the coast, are occupied a mere few weeks in the summer and are not rented out. they are private, period. i think to myself, if i owned one of these i would lose myself upon the shore. no one would be able to find me.
we drive on. further along the narrow street there is an aptly named place called retreat; it's more to my liking—not a big house but a cozy bungalow—but the address, 55 grand view avenue, strikes me as inaccurate. it doesn't fit. the road is more of a curving lane than an avenue, and the view is lovely, but this is maine and i don't think grand sums it up the way it should be summed up. grand is the wrong adjective; it sounds too puffed-up. like an overused sobriquet, how many grands and greats can there be—roads and islands and towns and lakes (although i'm sure the folks in the big houses think grand is just fine)—in the state of maine? what is truly grand, what deserves to be called this? something rich in detail and scope, vast, mind-boggling on an almost unimaginable level. someplace like the grand canyon is aptly named; it is truly grand.
i decide to take a peek; i walk closer toward the little hideaway. the tiny building—gray, modest, plain—sits directly on the water. this bungalow, hidden on the ledges under the pines facing the water's edge where the sun sparkles and gems ride the waves, where rugosa roses and mountain pine shrubs thrive in the salt spray, is exquisitely simple. the view, although breathtaking, and painfully beautiful, is not grand. grand is for people from away—technically, i am one of those, not having been born on maine soil, but i believe i have the heart of a real mainer—but not for mainers. true maine is a land of hardy, gruff, sea-faring and farming folk and skilled artisans and crafts people, people who make their living from what the earth has to offer.
old maine, the genuine article, the highly sought after original, is a place of simple, natural pleasures. it is not lofty and full of itself. it is salt water, seagulls, spruce trees, lakes, rivers, mountains, fields, silence. but change is already here; it has been for a long time, and more is on the way. and yet, if you look hard enough you may be able to find a small piece of what came before, of what once was—and what still can be—the pleasurable lure of retreat in the real maine.