A quick post today that will serve as a reminder (to me as much as anyone) of why I write in Maine about Maine and have no inclination to do it anywhere else.
This came to me in the middle of a Q&A at a talk at the Auburn (Maine) Public Library this week. A reader brought up Waldo County, where many of my books are set, saying how fascinating the place was, that it was a sort of parallel universe. You step through a door in Jackson, Monroe, Thorndike and you enter another world.
Well, that got us to talking about Maine in general and how much we love that we live here. It was a nice reality check amid the talk of crime and murders and gritty settings and scroungy characters in my books. Maine is a beautiful and special place.
I sometimes neglect to give Maine its due, at least not on this blog, which is about crime writing, after all. But the magic of Maine is why I’m here, why my characters are here, and they feel it, too. Jack McMorrow will never return to Manhattan from Prosperity, Maine. Brandon Blake will never leave his boat on Casco Bay.
We all have those “ahhh moments” when we are fortunate enough to come upon some beautiful corner of the state. Last week it was the east side of Penobscot Bay. One morning we took the boat down the Penobscot River from Bucksport, passing under the Verona Narrows bridge, that spectacular piece of sculpture that spans the river at Verona Island. We ran down the river and out into the bay, staying on the east side. The air was cool, the bay was calm and, that far north in the bay, there were few boats in sight. We motored past Castine, Holbrook Island, Harborside, and the head of Cape Rosier. On the south side of the cape, at the entrance to Eggemoggin Reach, the waters went calm, a rippling gray sheet broken by porpoises, arcing like shimmering black dancers.
This is Robert McCloskey’s turf, the setting for his wonderful books. One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, and all the rest. We slipped between the islands, Pond and Hog, with haze-shrouded Butter and Great Spruce Head in the distance, the locations of many picnics past for our family. Moving into the Reach, we passed the tip of Little Deer and continued east, checking out some haunts from years ago, when we spent a lot of time here.
Back to Buck’s Harbor, we stopped at Buck’s Harbor Marine for fuel, walked up to the store for sandwiches. The old Condon’s Garage, of McCloskey fame, was closed and dark. The sandwiches from the store were freshly made and we bought a bag full and took them with us. Outside of the harbor, we stopped and ate. More porpoises passed. Sailboats headed for the bay. We looked out on paradise.
And then we rode the swells blown up by the afternoon wind, all the way back up the bay to the river.
A parallel universe, indeed. What is the special place in Maine that makes you feel the same?