Maine is an enigma.
The people of Maine are rugged individualists, the most stubborn set of people east of the Mississippi. They know how to fend for themselves – they grow their own food, sew their own clothes, change their own oil, fill their own potholes, set their own fractures. They’re often free-thinkers, unafraid to hold to notions their neighbors find faulty. Blazing a path isn’t an obstacle; it’s to be expected. Hermiting in Maine is considered an acceptable response to the world.
And yet, Mainers are neighbors. The kind of neighbors that don’t just lend a cup of sugar, they lend their blender and their chicken’s fresh eggs. They help each other without ever asking. They plow yards, cut wood, make meals, fix fences (or rock walls), loan cars. Part of Maine heritage is an unassuming work ethic. No one makes a big deal out of anyone, but everyone makes sure each person is treated with dignity.
It’s nothing to drive people to the airport (even though it’s a 2 hour trip one-way). In return, just a fresh cup of joe from Dunkin’ Donuts.
This is the way life should be.
But this is also vacation land – a place the world flocks during the 6 weeks of the Maine year claimed by summer. Our coast is inhabited by strangers, and rightfully so. The rocky beauty is stunning. The towns feel authentic and quaint. The lobster is the best in the world.
But I know oodles of Mainers who rarely, if ever, eat lobster. They’re more likely to be grilling hot dogs or hamburgers. They likely never visit the coast in the summer. If they do, the only thing they’ll report on is the absurd, urbanesque traffic. Trips to Acadia are saved for winter when it’s silence cultivates the serene.
Mainers have thick skin for cold weather, but when it comes to crowds, they’re a little flimsy.
People’s jobs are a patchwork of the state. Lobstering or serving in the summer on the coast. Orchard work or caddy in the fall. Lifty in the winter in the mountains. And God knows, no one is productive during mud season. The truth is, everyone just makes it work.
That’s the real motto of Maine – the place to live if you have enough grit to just make it work.
Maine is truly undefinable. It’s a place to spend days without talking to anyone, but it’s also one of the strongest communities I’ve ever been a part of. If you meet another displaced Mainer, you instantly bond. There’s no doubt, Maine is home for life. It’s a place known for the summer coast, but it’s really a place filled with fields, mountains, lakes and streams and winter for over six months. It’s a picturesque, idyllic place that’s economically difficult to survive in. But lots of us do with some creativity, a lot of thriftiness and a tsunami of stubbornness.
This Thanksgiving I’m incredibly thankful for the way this state has shaped me. I think it is easier to live elsewhere, but I think Maine makes it’s inhabitants better.
This isn’t just the way life should be; it’s a place to become a little more who you should be.