Well, and the summer people, too. Squads of them, cars and trailers and campers full, all of them with lobsters and blueberries on their minds and (let’s face it) money in their wallets. Not that we year-rounders are envious, or not much, anyway, and what few little green-eyed monsters we may harbor in our hearts are quickly banished by the benefits our visitors bring. Which brings me to:
Hello again from Sarah Graves (that’s me on the left, a couple of weeks ago), here with a few pictures from Eastport, Maine as well as a look at the top six reasons year-round Mainers love summer visitors:
1. Fashion Most of the time I feel pretty normal, but when I see a person dressed head to toe in new LL Bean gear, complete with deck shoes, water bottle, and fanny pack, I am reminded that a Wadsworth’s Hardware sweatshirt, jeans with the knees frayed out, a pink baseball cap, and sandals that I’ve worn both to church and to work in the garden — often on the same day — are not common daily garb in the major metropolitan areas many of our visitors call home. I may even imitate some of their choices. (But I draw the line at fanny packs.)
2. Food. It gets better when they’re here. From the grocery store, where garlic-studded ciabatta, bunches of fresh leeks, and barbecue-ready cuts of meat are suddenly available, to the summer-only lobster shacks where you can sit by the water eating lobster rolls and chowder until they have to carry you home, more customers means more choice, and oh, boy, do we ever enjoy it. (Also, it helps to fatten us up so we’ll be able to survive next winter’s six snow-shoveling.)
3. Fun. In winter when it’s so dark and cold, it’s all we can do to complete the necessary tasks, like breathing in and breathing out. But when our visitors come, life wakes up! Concerts and plays, dance troupes and weekend festivals, boat races and bike rallies and fishing derbies and face-painting on the library lawn are going on all the time, not to mention the amusement we locals derive simply from observing the “people from away.” (Not that we are making fun of them, you understand. It’s just that when you have been looking at the same faces since last Labor Day, a set of features that did not spring from the gene pool of a local family is as fascinating as if it belonged to a species that recently arrived here from Mars.)
4. Light. Especially in coastal towns, not only is the sky dark in winter but many of the houses are, too, because no one is in them from September to June. Add to that the habit many of our street lights have of fizzling out along about February and by three or so on a winter afternoon, you practically need night-vision goggles. But when our visitors arrive, the lights go on behind the curtains in little houses all over town, and on a summer evening the warm glow from an upstairs room where someone is reading in bed is about the most lightening thing I can imagine. (Curiously, the street lights go back on then, too, possibly because by mid-July they have thawed out.)
5. Perspective. No, not the painterly kind, though there’s plenty of that. What I mean is that when the visitors arrive, they bring their sense of wonder, which is a sense that many of us have had worn down to a nub by then. Maine is beautiful in winter, but it’s also difficult, dangerous, even cruel, its harsh loveliness coming at a cost — in fuel bills, in isolation, and in the compound fractures that can result when we try to escape that isolation by venturing out on foot across the ever-present ice. But then the summer people come, and in their shining eyes we see again what we knew all along, but had forgotten: that we are lucky, so lucky to be able to be here all the time. (Well, except not in January. Or February. And maybe a little of March.)
Most of all, though, the top reason we like it when the summer visitors return is —
6. Their own shining-example selves. Across the street, the stained-glass artist, bread maker, and keeper of exotic goldfish has come back. Half a block one way, the real no-kidding expert on Chinese art is about to return, and in the other direction the writer, quilter, and general enjoyer of life is opening up her summer home now, also. And all over town it’s the same: There’s a llama-keeper, numerous painters, poets and writers, a woman who cuts the most intricate silhouettes out of paper with sharp scissors, sculptors (wood, stone, cast iron) and a couple who have bought three houses one after the other, the houses in falling-down condition when they purchase them and bright, structurally-sound showpieces when they move on. Really, what better neighbors could we want? Our only complaint is that eventually, they go back to their winter homes. (Where it’s warm and pleasant in January. And in February and March.)
In short, our summer people eat, drink, and make merry the whole season, packing in during their stay as much enjoyment of Maine and themselves as they possibly can — and that’s good for us, because by doing so they help remind us about the golden state of grace we live in all the time — one we find ourselves able to love even more when we follow their good example.
Except in January. And in February. And…well, you know.