After another great breakfast at our hotel (I’ll admit it—I snagged a second chocolate croissant before all was said and done), we set off for Maine. The day was mostly driving, with a stop at a Connecticut Cracker Barrel, where we were shocked at how cool and humidity-free the air was. I thought about my friends who had moved south for the MFA program. How did they stand that first summer, when this was what they thought July was supposed to feel like? Our first summer in North Carolina, I was luxuriating in the relative coolness of the weather, compared to the insanely hot and mega-long Orlando summers.
We crossed into Maine that afternoon and rolled down our windows. Our friend Sandy had promised that as soon as you cross the border into Maine the air smells fresher and cleaner. Sadly, we quickly realized we were behind a municipal waste truck. We rolled the windows back up.
At the visitor center, we marveled at the signs.
Our favorite was a poster about the dangers of moose-car collisions.
At last, we arrived at my aunt’s house, a sprawling two-story house she practically built herself (more on this later). After a quick dinner, we headed out with Aunt Evelyn and Dad to a little jazz concert at Tidal Falls.
Let me set the scene for you: the town my aunt lives near is called Sullivan and is home to somewhere around a thousand people. It’s near the coast, and as you drive you’ll get glimpses of the water, of distant mountains, of pine and birch and fir trees. The area is populated with locals who for generations have been fishing, trapping crabs and lobsters, and digging clams; and also with retirees—artists, poets, actors, professors, musicians.
It is exactly as you might hope a place would be: small, quiet, and populated with both hard workers and creative types, people who care about their town, who care about beauty and life, who appreciate culture and history, who love a good view, and who will promptly shoot you if you mess with their lobster traps.
The jazz concert was held on a grassy expanse overlooking the water, where the tide goes out, and the sun was setting as families gathered around picnic tables, eating Chorizo sausage, wedges of cheese, crusty bread. Some were grilling out, and bottles of white wine sat on the tables, catching the dying light. Children literally rolled through the grass; others organized relay races, while a little group of kids sat at the feet of the musicians, just listening. An older couple had brought two green lawn chairs and had set them up facing the water. They both read books and listened to the music and voices behind them, the sun going down behind the hills in front of them.
This is a place you could never put in a novel. It’s too lovely, it’s too perfect. It’s a place where people form societies just to restore historic buildings. It’s a place where artists and writers donate their time to teach at the senior college and the arts center. At the concert, many of the picnic tables were decorated with bouquets of flowers in vases covered with tissue paper; someone had been at an event the previous evening and saw that the flowers were going to be thrown away, so he collected them and brought them to the concert so they could be enjoyed a little longer. It’s that kind of place.