A group post in which a group of Maine writers share some of the things/places/events/secrets that make our own Maine special.
Kate Flora: My Maine thing, starting as a very small child on that farm in Union, is wild Maine blueberries. My mother reported that
when I was born in July instead of September (I was always impatient) the nurse, who could hold me in the palm of her hand, called me “Little Blueberry Eyes.” They’re not so blue now, but I make up for it by being a blueberry baroness (or perhaps, given the term “blueberry barrens,” I am a blueberry barreness?) since my husband bought me an 18-acre blueberry field. I collect blueberry recipes. I was once a candidate for Maine Blueberry Queen. And I love the day, every other year (since wild blueberries crops are harvested every other year) when my friends and I gather in the field and pick berries together, then have a picnic and swim in the pond.
Susan Vaughan: My Maine thing is Maine’s varied landscape—the rocky coast, the mountains, the streams and lakes. I love the ocean, but the state’s lakes are special places. When my husband and I moved to the Maine coast nearly forty years ago, we made certain to explore. Columbus Day gave us teachers the weekend free for leaf peeping like tourists.We stayed at a friend’s log cabin at Rangeley Lake, a rented one by Moosehead Lake, and another by Millinocket Pond with a view of Mt. Katahdin. The owners of the various places were so kind, informing us of the best hikes and the best places to eat. And once at a cabin on Nicatous Lake (forty miles from the nearest town) we expected to eat one evening in the lodge. Oops, the dining room wasn’t open, so that meant cheese sandwiches and canned soup. But the owner took pity on us and brought us baked potatoes topped with lobster!
Dick Cass: In 1963, with a clutch of earthworms in the pocket of my dungarees and in the company of my dad and my favorite uncle, I winched up my first fish off the Route 1 bridge in Solon and fell in love with that beautiful numbnuts of the river, the brook trout. Like any anthropomorphizing fool, I believe some species are a touch more attractive than others: the Roosevelt elk, king salmon, the eagle, and the brook trout. But if there is a species that speaks to my sense of Maine, it is salvelinus fontinalis.
Dark green to brown, its flanks are marbled in lighter shades, a coloration called vermiculation. With their dark skin sprinkled in red dots haloed in blue, they are as beautiful as moving water and succulent as steak. Yes, I eat ‘em, too, if not very often. I’ve fished all over the place, for steelhead and tarpon and snook, for striped bass and largemouth and smallmouth, and I’ve never seen a fish I loved the looks of so well.
Maine holds one of the few major populations of native brook trout outside of Labrador. Delicate and beautiful, the fish are an indicator species for clear pure cold fresh water. They are extremely sensitive to heat, pollution, and other environmental degradation. Over half of Maine’s brook trout waters are not stocked, which means they have self-sustaining populations. This means that a lot of Maine’s waters are still clear, pure, cold, and fresh. May it always be so.
Bruce Robert Coffin: There really are just too many Maine things to pick only one. If I must choose, then my obvious choice would be the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT, one of the nations oldest and most well-known hiking trails, stretches nearly 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine. The Pine Tree State encompasses more than 12 percent of the entire AT. 270 miles of rambling trail passes through some of the most difficult, remote, and breathtaking locations in the country. Maine is also home to Mount Kahtahdin, the northern terminus of the trail, located within Baxter State Park. There is much to love about Maine and the Appalachian Trail is like a ribbon surrounding all of it.
Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: My Maine things are two places that renew the spirit and stretch the mind when you visit them, something I should do far more often than I manage to at present.
One is Washburn/Norlands, a living history center just down the road from me in Livermore, Maine. It’s a working 19th century farm that offers live-ins, hosts Civil War encampments, and provides a number of other educational and entertaining events. When they lost their barn to a devastating fire, they turned raising a new one into an opportunity to involve the community and teach old-time methods of construction. I wrote about an early stage of this in Pounding Pegs
For those who want more information, go to: http://www.norlands.org
The second place is the Theater at Monmouth, Maine’s Shakespearean theater. In addition to a couple of plays by the bard each summer season, they present the work of other playwrights from all eras. Look for them at: http://www.theateratmonmouth.org
Maureen Milliken: Everything everyone has already said, and add to it, one thing I really love is that you can be driving along in the middle of woods or somewhere else, and all the sudden you burst out onto a ridge where you have the most incredible view.
Places that immediately come to mind are West Road in Belgrade, U.S. Route 202 coming out of Albion toward Unity (look to the left if you’re going north, to the right if you’re east toward Albion), right after you turn onto Route 41 from 17 at Kents Hill in Readfield, a quick burst to the north east on Route 27 in New Sharon shortly after you leave Belgrade … and so many more.
My mom and I were just discussing yesterday how Mount Washington just pops up all over the place — you can see it from Portland’s Western Prom, from
Highland Road in South Portland, West Road in Belgrade, Pleasant View Ridge Road in China — and I bet hundreds of other places. Thousands.
Maine never disappoints with its dramatic and surprising landscape. And there’s just so much of it — its accessible to everyone.
And an additional shout out for our beautiful State House in Augusta, which always looks great, no matter where you approach it from. I can’t help but take photos every time I see it!
Jessie Crockett/Jessica Estevao: My Maine thing is stories since all of my family, on both sides, is from here. I had the grave misfortune to be born away and the stories of the places and the people and the attitudes my parents and grandmothers and even great-grandparents had to share made it feel like I was a part of it anyway. I imagine it was a bit like being a child of immigrants raised on tales of the old country. I think one reason I became a writer was because of all the stories: spooky ones, wry ones, laugh-out-loud whoppers.
Lea Wait: So many things in Maine to love! Art museums, auctions, high end crafts, people with wonderfully diverse backgrounds … but I think I’ll vote for an almost trite Maine experience: Lobster, steamed, served with melted butter (and maybe some steamed clams or mussels) eaten, preferably out of doors, overlooking a harbor. Is anything better? Well — you could add a glass of champagne!
Brenda Buchanan: My Maine Thing is pie made with tiny, sweet Maine blueberries.
I used to be ambivalent about pie – considered it a nice dessert, nothing more-until the summer I worked Downeast at the Raker’s Center in the middle of the Washington County blueberry barrens.
After being surrounded all day by people engaged in the hard work of raking berries I drove past numerous end-of-the-driveway honor-system pie stands every afternoon. I suppose having a kitchen full of berries still warm from the sun is an invitation to create a value-added product because it was ridiculously easy to score a pie every day. If the first stand I passed was sold out, one of the next five would still have pie to sell.
I soon graduated from buying pies to making them myself, but will never forget that particular summer, when I ate so much blueberry pie I nearly turned purple.
Vaughn C. Hardacker: We would be remiss if we were to do a blog on Our Maine Things and didn’t mention our state bird–the Black Fly!
John: Now that I’m retired, I try to walk to the store, library and post office as often as I can. With decent weather upon us, I’m pleased and amazed at how often those short jaunts turn into conversations, mostly with old library friends or people I’ve met through my participation in local groups, but sometimes when I’m overhearing conversations. Even with very divided political opinions here in rural Maine, chatting with others often centers around what we share as opposed to what we don’t. Helping people with rides, gardening assistance, giving away unwanted wood from tree trimming, talking about guilty pleasures like whose photo was on the ‘recently jailed’ website, or what the eight year old riding his bike caught when he and his dad fished off the dam yesterday are all things that make small town living a special Maine thing.
Barb: My new Maine thing is a Damariscotta River Cruise! We went with Lea Wait and Bob Thomas last year for an oyster tasting with wine pairings. So interesting. Every oyster tasted different because it was farmed differently, even though they all came from the same seed and all were grown in the same river! This year our whole family went on a the regular cruise and saw seals, and oyster farms and a bald eagle who put on an amazing show for us. I truly recommend this excursion.