It is possible, to get up very early in the morning in Deer Isle, Maine – middle of the night is more like it – and drive the hour and a half to Bangor International Airport in the dark, and after a series of flights, find yourself somewhere in the middle of the day in the middle of the continent, not far from another major airport, but not close to anything at all that would make you feel … somewhere. Certainly very far from the nearest ocean. The lack of somewhere-ness is as strong an attribute to the place as its features: the highways and concrete buildings containing the things people need to live: shelter, food, stuff- all of these offerings wrapped into the same shell- the same shape and color scheme as anywhere else you might find them in North America. And it might occur to you that once upon a time, having returned to the US from a couple of years abroad, you thought maybe I could get a job at that airport and live in one of those… units. Lots of people do it, how bad can it be?
How bad can it be? Most of the people there are obviously more affluent than we are. The highways are packed with new cars, and former farmland sprouts new house after new house, connected by networks of fresh black asphalt. There’s tasteful landscaping- little trees and shrubs rising from tiny islands of artificially-colored bark mulch and acres upon acres of freshly-sodded lawn. There are schools and parks (and lots of big, warehouse-like churches) and mile after mile of strip malls containing things you can buy and even things you can do- movies, nail salons, and well- shopping. There are the schools and other municipal buildings for recreation. And of course there’s stuff on TV, and here I’m just taking a wild guess, but there’s probably a huge television in most of these living units, a TV like the one in the motel room that seems inclined to show me ‘reality’ shows about ‘real’ people out in the rest of the world somewhere doing ‘real’ things. You know, real things like pawn shops and storage units full of stuff that you can buy and sell.
Okay, I’m intrigued by the show about treehouses. Heck, I’m intrigued by it all, especially when it’s after midnight in a motel room and I’m wondering about all this stuff I’m missing. And it will occur to me that our life could have been much different had we made a few different choices along the way. Even the choice, right now, to be here in Maine in January instead of someplace south, someplace warmer.
But I’m sitting next to a fire (a fire that I built with birch bark and junk mail and logs that I split into splintery strips- not a picture of one on a screen or even a propane flame created with the push of a button) and out the window I see a grey, blustery day, waves breaking over the ledge in the mouth of the cove, and wintery clouds drifting through Eggemoggin Reach. It is freakin’ gorgeous.
We’re here only because of someone’s kindness, because the choices we’ve made have economically limited our options, given us not much money and little security… the lack of security and its corresponding lack of commitment which enabled us to hunker-down here, hoping our savings from summer work tides us over until the next summer while we pursue our personal occupations. But we’re here, and with any luck we’ll go for a paddle this afternoon.
Well, we didn't get out for a paddle that particular afternoon. The wind picked-up, and then the snow and ice followed. Trees blew down, power went out... in other words, it started to really feel like winter. That's when you start watching the forecast even more carefully for those little windows of opportunity, which came over the past couple of days. It's still a little cooler than we would like, but it's a treat to get out at all, and of course, there's nothing like a little travel to more populated and less oceanic parts of the continent to help us appreciate the backyard.
Every moment out there is precious. I think we'll be staying put for awhile.