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Friday, November 21, 2014

Riding Aound New England: One November in Maine

     For the love of Maine. On a gray November day, we headed up, to go "down east". In Bangor, we hit snow. Suddenly it was winter. The sky was gray, the trees were dark and gloomy, the snow was white. The air was damp and chill. We cut across, then, to head for the coast. For Calais, for Eastport, for Lubec, for all those towns by the sea. We have been here in the summer. Now we brave Novembers changeling days. It's different now. No tourists. Most of the motels and restaurants and shops are "closed for the season". There is no traffic. We have Maine to ourselves.

       We find rose hips in the snow. Bright red, bright green leaves. The only bright things on a gray foggy day. Across the river is Canada. Here we are, at the edge of our world. The tides come and  go on this river. A bridge goes across. We can see that there it is just as here. Church steeples, buildings of brick and stone, street lights, and cars, docks and boats. Old fishermen and the sweetness of teen agers. Good folks and bad. In all the world. In every country. Life lived. We are all the same.

       We hit the Waco Diner in Eastport for breakfast one morning. The oldest diner  that has been continuously operating in the United States. The rain pours down. We are right on the docks. Inside it is warm and bright. The old men drink coffee and razz the waitress. We have smoked salmon and eggs. And homefries, done the real New England way, and a bagel with cream cheese. The town is quiet. No shops are open this early in the morning.

       We walk off our big breakfast, up one side of the street and down the other. Gazing in the windows. Talking to the man getting his boat ready to go out. Smelling the sea. Listening to the ravens croaking on the roof tops, and the sea gulls mewling as they fly overhead. Checking out the free library. Waiting for nine thirty, when the Hardware store opens.

        The hardware store. Run by this family for many generations. It started out as a ship chandlery, selling goods for the ships going out to sea. Changing with the times. Now selling almost any thing you might need! And, yes, S.L. was an uncle to Henry .

        Eastport is the eastern most city in the country. Here is where the night fades and the dawn comes, first, before it spreads light over the rest of the country. The Indians here were called People of the Dawn. The road goes down a steep, steep hill. Down to the sea. In the rain drops we see the beautiful church, with a gull perched on the cross at both ends.

        We visit the Quoddy Head lighthouse. All white and red. The fog horn booming. The light flashing. The waves crashing and roaring on the rocks. The bell bouy sounding. Its lonely here and wild, and far away. You can feel it in your heart. Then Schoodic Point. We have spent many hours here, before. Now we have it all to our selves. This day has dawned bright and full of sunshine, after a full moon night. It's cold. The wind roars and the sea roars, and the waves blow high against the cliffs. Even the gulls are quiet. A flock of ducks bob and dive, not minding the wild sea, at all, at all.

      We drive slowly. Past all the old places where we have been. The towns, the docks, the sea glass beach, the lobster boats. The wind whipped cemetery, where lie fisherfolk and families, and Katie. And next to Katie, Jean, "like a daughter to Katie". Does any one know, any more the story? I feel the story here, standing in the wild windy sunshine.

       I like these little towns, with colorful buildings, and lobster bouys and narrow streets. I like the town docks, with friendly people, and friendly dogs. With small working boats, and fancy yachts. Where good smells come from the restaurant kitchens. Where you must shout to be heard over the wind and the tide. Where the night falls soft over water and land.

       I like these places, with tug boats and high masts, and bridges to walk across. With smokers cooking barbeque and  lobster traps, all crusty with salt and sea weed.

       I like how inland the blueberry barrens are most beautiful now, all pink and mauve and reflecting the morning sun. We have felt the heartbeat of the real Maine, now in November. The hard working, down home Maine. The shabby at the edges Maine. The beautiful, salty spirit of down east. I will come again, thank you!