The last time I was in Maine was four years ago in May, just after my cousin died. It was a hard time: she was just barely 24 years old, and there was a terrible car accident along a dark road near Sonoma, and a week of life support, and then she was gone. My small family gathered in Sebastopol to say good-bye to her; there was an early morning at Goat Rock Beach when I plunged knee-deep into the Pacific on one of those incredibly clear days in Northern California when you can’t even believe such places exist because they are so beautiful, to put her ashes into the sea, and then I turned around and got on a plane for the East Coast. I’d planned for months to go to my best high school friend’s law school graduation in Ithaca, NY, by way of my best friend’s home town of Rochester, after which I’d go visit my brother in Pemaquid, Maine, and then go on to Barre, Vt., with my parents to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins … and so I did all of those things. When I landed up in Maine, it was cold and grey and I slept under an electric blanket and helped out in the boat shop and went to Sunday services and sang songs (thought I’m not religious) and it was just perfect.
This time, though, was different. I’d really only ever been here in the cold fall and that strange, chilly spring; but when I arrived Friday night after waking at 4a to catch an early flight, I was picked up and whisked off to drinks in a sweet part of Portland that I could maybe, almost, kinda, sorta see myself living in if, you know, I ever decided to live in Maine. But that was just the beginning: we had a gorgeous and delicious dinner with lots of red wine, and after the hour-long drive back ‘home’ sat under a sky so filled with stars I swear I have never seen so many in my entire life, not even in Scotland, not even out at Wildcat last month. The wind was warm and sweet and whistled all through the open windows of my second-floor room — remnants of the hurricane down south. We went to a wedding on an island the next day and got soaked on the way out the door (literally, soaked through) and drove through the windy dark talking as only siblings can do. I hadn’t seen my brother since January, and how I missed him. We didn’t even fight once! It is so hard to leave.
My brother Kurt and his girlfriend, Emily, are currently living at North Creek Farm in Phippsburg, Maine; he runs the the education program at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath and she is at the tail end of an apprenticeship at the farm (and there are greater things to come that’s for sure). It’s a great rambling farmhouse that tidily turns out sandwiches, cookies, pies, and assorted salads and soups “400 days of the year,” as well as perennials, roses (its proprietress has written several well-regarded books about roses), and a full garden from which the cafe draws. Despite the omniprescent mosquitoes (they swear to me they didn’t have have any until the past few weeks: hmmm), it’s a lovely spot, cozy and warm and full of wind and trees. I’d like to stay as long as I might, but I”m off to Rochester, NY, tomorrow morning for yet another wedding celebration and family reunion.
I feel I’ve been cheating on California lately: oh, Baltimore! I’ve cried. And now, Maine, oh Maine, land of sea and ships! But the truth is that I am always glad to come home to my foggy city by the bay and its golden hills and I am so very grateful that my heart can yawn wide enough to encompass other places, other locales. When I lived in Washington I longed so to return to Northern California it was hard for me to see past that; now that I am home at last I love to go (and go and go) to other spots and love even more to stay there for a bit, for I know I shall always be able to return to my Pacific Ocean and winding streets. Call me foolish for loving a place so much, but I will tell you that I do and that my love for it allows me to imagine living in other spots as long as I promise to return (perhaps, the coast of Maine; Santa Fe; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Spetses; Edinburgh; New York City; others I have yet to discover).
Pretty much: Maine is great. I have so much more to tell about it, but for tonight, here is our dinner, from the farm:
assorted cheeses and bread, Ravenswood Zin
veggie burger (moi!)
roasted “romance potatoes”
steamed beats from the garden (to die for)
tomatoes and lettuce from the garden
vermont cultured butter
If I look back on the past three weeks I must own up to the reality that I’ve been off of work for most of them, and it will be a sad awakening next Monday when I have to wake up at 6.30 to make it in on time with no long vacations in sight (I’m broke! And my rent has just increased!) and deadlines bear down on the horizon. But for now, I will sign off from this white-walled farmhouse along the far north coast, with promises to tell you all about the rain and drifting sun of Acadia, about the warm wind that lifts and twists the ends of your hair even as you impatiently try to tie it down, and about watching the Daily Show late-night and laughing so hard you can hardly breathe with your brother, very, very soon.
In the meantime: eat well. Gobble up many tomatoes as you can in these last few bits of summer. Think long and hard about the Nov. election and who you’ll choose to vote for (please). Go for long walks along the coast, or under trees nearby. Feel the wind changing into fall and don’t lament summer too much because this next season brings apples and winter squash and the changing of the light.
I’ll catch you on the other side.