by Julia Spencer-Fleming
I’ll be the first to confess, I didn’t have a full understanding of what I was getting into when I agreed to marry a Mainer and move to Portland. I had met my boyfriend when we were both grad students in Washington, D.C., but he never made any bones about his desire to return to “God’s country.” (His expression, not mine.) Upon graduating from law school, he accepted a job with one of the larger firms in Maine, and thus began my year of long-distance Maine courtship.
Every four or five or six weeks, I would fly from Washington, DC to Logan Airport in Boston
and take the Mermaid Shuttle up to Portland. (That’s a do-you-really-know-Maine trivia question: have you ever used the Mermaid?) The city would be unbearably hot and sticky, and I would arrive to fresh Atlantic breezes and a ferry ride out to Peak’s Island. Or the citywould be gray and cold and covered with dirty slush, and I would spend the weekend shussing down the pristine white slopes of Sugarloaf Ski Resort. Or the city would be crowded with newly-arrived political drones and I would be relaxing in an historic B&B with a view of the mountains in glorious full foliage.
You get the picture. Over the course of that year, my view of Maine developed as an earthly paradise, free from all sordid cares and difficulties. Here is a partial list of the things I had NOT been introduced during my courtship:
Bondo covering up salt-induced rust damage
Duct tape as a cure-all
30 days of the temperatures never rising above 20F during January
Potholes big enough to qualify as vernal pools
The necessity of wearing Hunter Orange every time one steps outdoors in November
Summer traffic on Route 1
Reader, I married him. Would I have done differently if I had known that Maine had a few blackflies in the ointment? Of course not. Getting to know a place deeply over many years is not dissimilar to getting to know a person the same way. The flaws start out as annoyances and wind up as endearing familiarities. And, as in a good marriage, Maine has given me the space to grow into the person I was meant to be. I’ve changed from a hurried, harried urbanite to a relaxed, contemplative country dweller. I went from having an entire black-tie wardrobe to wearing Bean boots beneath my skirt at the symphony. I started as a law student looking for money and status and grew up to be a writer facing the world with open hands.
And on those summer days when I’m walking through Camden, or sunning at Pemaquid Point, or just driving on Route 295 over Tukey’s Bridge with Casco Bay stretching out to one side and Portland rising on its hill in front of me, I know it’s been a match made in heaven.