Susan Vaughan here. Although I’m a native West Virginian, after forty years living n the Mid-Coast, I consider Maine home. (Except to native Mainers, I’m still “from away.”) My husband and I discovered the beauty of the Pine Tree State on a summer trip that landed us in Bar Harbor the day before we had to head south. One tour of Acadia National Park’s Ocean Drive and Cadillac Mountain, and we knew we had to return the next summer.
We did, and the summer after that and the summer after that, spending two weeks camping at Mount Desert Campground. We took a deep breath and applied to school districts along the Maine coast. After being hired, we quit our teaching jobs in the Maryland suburbs of D.C., and here we are, now retired.
But the Maine coast and Acadia National Park are only two answers to the question in the above title. Maine has so much more natural beauty to offer beyond the rocky coast—the mountains, the streams, the lakes, the state parks. I love the ocean, but the state’s lakes are special places. During our early years here, 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. We haven’t yet visited Maine’s inland attraction, the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, but it’s on the list for a fall weekend.
Maine’s people are also high on the list of assets. It’s been said that Maine is a small town, and I can attest to that if it means neighbors helping neighbors. Last summer I was comforted by the small-town vibe. I signaled a left turn and stopped at an intersection on the two-lane highway. Behind me, I heard the screech of tires and brakes. In the rearview mirror I saw the car that had been following me (too closely) go airborne, swing a 180, and bounce into the ditch on the opposite side of the road. It didn’t hit me, and no one, thank goodness, was injured. I made my turn (to get out of the middle of the highway) and called 911. The other driver in the ditch and lifted her three-year-old out of the back. She’d looked back at her child and didn’t see that I had stopped. Yes, that could’ve been worse—for all three. Official vehicles arrived quickly. No photo of that incident or of the hug. I didn’t have the foresight to know I’d need it for this post.
Here’s the Maine-small-town thing. The police officer knew me because I’d taught with his wife. More pickups with official bubbles atop their cabs pulled up. One guy came over and said, “Mrs. Vaughan, are you okay?” I recognized him as one of my former students. We had a hug and I thanked him for his caring, which was especially touching because his fire station wasn’t where the accident occurred, but two towns away.
Maybe it’s the clear air or the beauty or the people, but something here has lured creative people over the decades. Art galleries and museums are everywhere. In my corner of the Mid-Coast, in Rockland, we have the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, on Winter Street. The CMCA’s amazing building is itself a work of art. Exhibitions change but all feature works by artists with ties to the state of Maine. Starting in July, the featured is John Bisbee, an exhibit titled “American Steel.”
Just across Main Street, is the world-class Farnsworth Museum, with a range of exhibits in more than one building. Some of my favorite paintings are by the famous Wyeth family—N.C., Jamie, and Andrew. Now through December, the Farnsworth is featuring an exhibit by Chinese dissident-artist Ai Weiwei, titled “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold.”
Maine has been an inspiration to me as a writer. I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to think I could write for publication if I hadn’t moved here. I’d never met a “real” author or artist or musician, but in this state, they’re thick on the ground. Getting to know some local authors led me to start that first manuscript, something I’d considered for years. And now I’m the author of fourteen published novels, the latest, DARK VISION, now in paperback, part of the DARK Files series.
So why Maine for you? If you have more answers to my question, or questions, please leave a comment.