As we come to the end of another Maine summer, and another wave of people “from away” have discovered how special Maine can be, we were talking among ourselves about what drew/draws us to Maine, and what it makes it such a good place for Maine crime writers. Here are some of our thoughts, and we’d love it if our readers would share their own answers to the question: Why Maine?
Susan Vaughn: Why Maine? Because Maine has something for everyone and many adventures that cost very little money. I live on the coast, where I can find a beach for a lazy day or a short hike for a picnic and a view of a peaceful cove. A couple of hours in the car takes me west and/or north. There I can choose to visit a pristine lake, like Millinocket Lake and a view of Mt. Katahdin, or a hike in Baxter State Park.
Barbara Ross: I’ve written before about how my mother-in-law totally on a trip to Maine impulsively bought a bed and breakfast. But the truth is, that wasn’t the beginning of our family’s association with Maine. For years, Bill and I camped with our kids at Acres of Wildlife in Steep Falls. It still holds such happy memories for me of the days when our children were young. Some years we went with friends, and in later years all Bill’s brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews gathered for a big weekend of camping that always included attempts by the brothers to top one another in the cooking department, something we all benefited from.
Now that we’re older, and less broke and have choices, why do we keep coming? Some days I would answer, “Because my husband hates the Cape.” But most days, I would say because it suits us. I’m even comfortable with my permanent status of being From Away. That outsider, observer role is perfect for a writer.
Lea Wait: Maine has everything I love, except all my children and grandchildren. Cool temperatures on sunny summer days. Snowy vistas in winter. I love living close to the water (in my case a tidal river,) but I love that the ocean and the mountains aren’t far away. That between fresh seafood and farmers’ markets and an increasing number of varied restaurants, supermarket food is only a back-up, and fast food means lobster rolls and fried clams. I love that Maine people encompass young and old, rich and poor, natives and those from away, and that it’s becoming an increasingly diverse state. I love our art museums and galleries, our antique shops, auctions and flea markets, and I love that so many craftspeople, artists and writers have made Maine their home. Perhaps most of all, I love Maine because I’ve chosen it to be my home.
John Clark: Did I have any choice? I’ve never forgotten what someone told me about why there were so many folks from the midwest living in Arizona. “See, California is slightly downhill from the rest of the country, so all the loose cannons kinda roll there. The ones with odd edges get trapped in the Valley Of The Sun.” Thinking about Maine and why I’m here is sorta the reverse. I think I had an invisible bungee cord between me and Maine that pulled me back every time I left. I’ve often wondered why I didn’t stay in Arizona for the summer while in college to work instead of driving/flying 2800 miles to paint bridges or rake blueberries and drop into the social soap opera that was the dating scene populated mostly by people who went to school together at UMO. There were plenty of fish out of water moments (great material for later YA fiction I might add).
After graduation, I had to return because I had draft lottery #28 and was summoned by the draft board when I filed for conscientious objector status. That led to a 27 year career at the state hospital in Augusta (yet another rich resource for story material).
Circumstances kept me here physically, but from a spiritual and creative point of view, I’ve remained because there are so many awesome places to see without ever leaving the state. Beth and I love exploring places in Washington County. We once went on a week long journey that covered 1900 miles and we never left Maine. Seen the milky way while sitting by the Machias River in Aroostook County? Had an eagle part your hair while kayaking in the fog? Caught cod off Boon Island before navigating back in dense fog? Canoed among 21 loons on Great Moose Pond? Had to out paddle twin bull moose on the Sawtelle Deadwater? I’ve had all of these experiences and hundreds more. These days I thank my higher power every day when I walk to the post ofice and find myself waving to half a dozen people who honk as they pass. I have the perfect job in terms of being at the heart of a Maine place, a nice place to live, abundant wildlife in my back yard and cheap movies in Pittsfield. Yes, I sometimes wonder what life might have been like had I remained in Arizona or run off with that girl from North Carolina, but my now is pretty awesome and a lot of that is because of where I live.
Kaitlyn Dunnett: I wasn’t sure I had anything to contribute to this topic, but then I remembered why I came to Maine lo those many years ago. I was in high school and going through college catalogs to decide where to apply and I saw a photo of the Gothic chapel on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. It was love at first sight. A screwy reason to pick a college? You betcha. The usual thing one associates with the state? Not hardly. But I’ve never regretted going with my impulse. After all, things worked out pretty well for me. In particular, two weeks after we both graduated from Bates, Sandy (a native Mainer) and I were married in that same chapel and we’re still together thirty-four years later.
Kate Flora: I was born in Maine, an impatient little preemie who couldn’t wait for September and had to get going in time for my first Maine July. I think that impulsive leap into a Maine summer, and onto the wonders of life on Sennebec Hill has installed Maine in my heart forever. For many years, I’ve divided my time between Massachusetts (yes, I want to put a small sign above my Mass. license plate that says: Not Really) and Maine, and my belief that there’s something special about Maine people is regularly reinforced. When we bought our little cottage on Bailey Island, I called the guy who’d designed the septic system and asked for a septic system inspection. “Why would you want to pay again for that?” he said. “I just looked at it last year. I’ll send you a letter.”
I frequently come back to a poem by Maine’s first poet laureate, Kate Barnes, Neighborliness, that she read at Governor King’s second inauguration:
we are glad to be part of a land
that remains so beautiful under its green skin
of woods and open fields, that is glitteringly
bordered by thousands of miles
of breaking waves, and that is lovely,
too, with an unbroken tradition
of concerns, with the kind, enduring grace
of its neighborliness.