This is the end of the road

But not a dead end. Rather, I see it as a destination, a place of arrival or culmination, rather than a fatal trap. Like Key West or Provincetown or Cape May that way. Or so I hope, only smaller and less touristy.

When I said it’s on the verge of being discovered, a neighboring couple shuddered and individually chorused, “I hope not!”

Well, an influx of income and youth wouldn’t hurt. Leave it at that.

Downtown Eastport in the dead of winter, as viewed from the Breakwater.

Maine has many fingers that reach out to the sea, but among them, tiny Eastport is unique. There are reasons it’s called the City in the Bay. Technically, it’s an island – or a group of them, with the two inhabited ones connected to the mainland by causeway. Moose Island, where most of us live, is still big enough for plenty of explorations, including a state park, forests, and rocky coves.

Along my life journey to here, I did write a novel about subways, which now has me thinking. A packed underground train can carry 1,200 to 1,800 passengers. Compare that to Eastport’s year-round population, around 1,300, swelling to 6,000 in high summer.

I can joke about coming here to die, but I’m not being morbid. Rather, I just don’t feel there’s anywhere else I’d rather live out my remaining years. Let’s call it focus.

Yes, I’ve loved big cities, though among them I’ve lived only in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Boston, close as it was, served largely as a place to visit, even if once or twice a week.

One thing that’s changed everything is the Internet. I’m not as isolated as I would have been even a decade ago. I can stream concerts, operas, and indie movies, as well as order self-published books or about anything I want retail, even download rare historic volumes, often for free.

In some ways, it’s seemed I’m just setting up shop – or camp – here.

Covid really has changed a lot of our social outlook. It made me hungry for face-to-face gatherings, which a small town can foster, yet it’s also made long-distance meetings more flexible. We don’t always have to drive for hours anymore.

I’ve long touted pedestrian-friendly communities, and that fits the tip of Moose Island where I’m living.

And, yes, via blogging, I can stay in touch with a world of folks like you.

Once the car’s parked, it can stay there as long as I want.

I’m East of Acadia, if not quite Eden

I like to think that natural beauty can be found anywhere, but I have to admit that too often, what’s happened is that brute ugliness has prevailed in far too many places, typically as a result of greed. There’s no excuse for much of that, either. A little extra expenditure could have added grace to any development, created visual intrigue, lessened the harshness. Urban or rural or what’s in-between, alas.

Whenever possible, I chose career moves that opened me to natural or artistic settings and inspiration – along with opportunities to shine professionally. It’s meant avoiding suburbs, for one thing. Sometimes, though, it’s also meant invoking a sliding scale of value – you know, finding pockets of serenity within otherwise harsh localities. And then there were some other postings that principally industrial, even when it was mostly farmland. So it’s been a mix.

Still, as I’ve said, I came to realize that had I remained in my native corner of Ohio, I wouldn’t have been able to write poetry, the vibe was simply wrong. Or, if I had, it would have been much different from what I’ve done.

On the other hand, the four years I lived two hours east of Mount Rainier, back in the late ’70s, gave me repeated access to one of America’s greatest national treasures, often from lesser-known perspectives. What memories! And that’s before I turn to much of the back country and wilderness that was closer to our home. I even came to love the beauty of the desert where I was living, a landscape that initially struck us as hideous.

Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, glimpsed from the east.

Now I’m finding myself dwelling two hours east of an even more popular natural park, Acadia. Already, I have glimmers of many backwoods and remote rocky shores to explore in-between.

Technically, all of Downeast Maine is also Acadia, the French name of the region. For most folks, though, Acadia means the park.

The biggest land mammal out west was the elk, while here in northern New England, it’s the moose. Just as the celebrated shellfish here is lobster, rather than Dungeness crab.

The fact is, for many people, either place is about as close to paradise as you’d find on earth.

And, yes, I’m feeling lucky – or especially blessed – that way.

How strange that so much later, these lines still stir up conflict within me

I am surprised how much the seemingly disjointed distillations of the prose-poem experiments I’ve been publishing here still capture my experience of my first years in New Hampshire some 35 or so years ago. All the hope, confusion, redirection that accompanied the upheaval.

And so much that evaporated, for the better, after meeting the woman I adore.

The weekly series continues, all the same. As I say, thanks for the memories, to all those who have been companions and positive influences in my zig-zag journey through life.

What are you thinking and feeling, looking back and looking ahead?

Whew! What a year!

Let’s clink to putting Covid behind us, more or less. Even if drinking the toast requires us to take off our masks. And clink again for better things ahead.

Two olives, for me, marks a festive occasion.

On my end, the year included downsizing earlier than anticipated when I uprooted from ducky Dover to diehard Downeast as a vanguard for the rest of the family. It was their idea, for the record. Not that I’m complaining while some old, long-buried dreams finally come to fruition. And in all of this, I’m still in their good hands.

Along the way, I drafted a juicy, unorthodox history of early Dover in time for the 400th anniversary of its settling. Forget what you thought about Colonial New England, this take challenges a lot of the prevailing view. (You’ll be reading more about that here at the Barn in the months ahead.)

I definitely wasn’t planning on researching and writing another book, but here it is, finished.

Clink once more.

It adds up to a lot of change to digest.

So clink again. Remember, in moderation, it’s supposed to help the digestion. Cheers!

Back to the scene of the crime – or should I say wound?

This time of the year typically involves reflecting on the past. Part of it stems, of course, from facing a New Year and looking ahead, as well as the news from distant friends in their Christmas and Chanukah cards. Part of it also arises as we hunker down in the long nights around the solstice. It’s more than just looking back over the previous 12 months to get a sense of what we what or need to do next. Sometimes, it reaches back much farther. Or what we’ve lost.

Back on November 4, I blogged on “Returning to high school and its misery” and so much emotional baggage I thought I’d left behind 57 years ago. That post was the first time I could honestly admit that the period was essentially miserable for me – until now, I had maintained walls of denial. My elder daughter, hearing of this, was incredulous. Seems everybody her age and younger knows those years are supposed to be miserable. Eradicate any indoctrination of they’re being “the best years of your life,” unless you’ve truly been stunted.

As that post related, a recently renewed connection has led to some much deeper conversation and awareness than we ever had back then. In addition, it’s opened paths to others and glimpses into how their lives have unfolded over the decades.

Some manifest the life I’d expected to follow – should I say fulfill? – after graduation from college and returning to my hometown. Instead, my career took me in a much different and likely rockier direction. One path would have deepened friendships over the years. The other kept leaving new friendships behind in the sunset, rarely by conscious decision but rather by the practical demands of resettling in a new location.

I’ve been counseled that emotions are real and don’t die or just go away. When they’re buried, they operate out of sight, insidiously, sometimes undermining what’s happening on the surface. As I discussed some of what I’ve been experiencing in revisiting the past, my wife observed that it sounded like these are happening now, rather than back-then. She had never heard my desire to return to my hometown, almost as a mission, but rather insisted that I could wait to break loose and run away. Acknowledging that the doors to any return had closed behind me was difficult, but that’s what’s occurring as the feelings come to full light. This time, there’s no denial of being hurt or feeling reject, no suppression of the sense of failure or hurt or that as they open, however belatedly, even slow me at the moment. What’s important is just sitting with them and being honest as another step in psychological health and wisdom. There’s energy in them, once I claim them. Let me say it’s something like having bass and alto harmonies running in music. Or solving a cold-case murder or heist and seeking justice.

One photo I chanced across cut hard. The caption named someone who looked nothing like she did back then, and it hinted at difficulties. I followed it to another, of the beauty I remembered in her youth. Quite simply, I’d had a big crush on her, though she was older and, in many ways, out of my league but sometimes in a big sister sort of way. Still, the last time we had been together ended badly, or maybe off-key, from my side, at least. At the minimum, I should have phoned her afterward, no matter if it was a very difficult summer for me.

What I’m discovering now is that our lives wound up in surprisingly parallel directions, though I’m also acknowledging that no one could have accompanied me on all of the relocations I’ve made, many of them shaped by closed doors as well as openings, most of them through my years in lower-level newspaper management. What I keep finding is that the deeper thread of that zig-zag journey, with addresses in nine states, has been spiritual growth. Yes, there I was, trying to move up in a shrinking business field. Ultimately, by stepping down and earning a union card, I made it to retirement.

For now, I’m hoping she replies to my overtures, but there’s no telling whether she’s even looking at her email or Facebook these days, much less responding. There are so many questions I want to ask and details and perspectives I want to hear. And parts I want to apologize for, as well as others I wish to celebrate.

~*~

My previous post included memes from the Disillusioned Bell-Ette, an outrageously funny FB page that also blew open some of the cover I’ve been working through.

Here are a few more.

I love mountains and have, after all, lived close to the Cascade Range in Washington state and the White Mountains of New Hampshire as well as in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and the Allegany foothills of Upstate New York. Much of Downeast Maine even fits the terrain. What makes this one so funny is that the three Bell-Ettes have ventured so far from the generally flat landscape of our high school, which sat very close to the highest point in the city. Nothing like this, though. So much for the first inside joke. Add to that the directions for pizza and chocolate candy. Clifton Gorge had been a largely unknown canyon with the Little Miami River running over a waterfall that was out of reach and nearly out of sight. Now it’s better known as part of a public park, and what had been a big cliff for me is now dwarfed by the bluffs along the Atlantic around here. As for being headed in the right direction? Mine was always away.

One streak of the Disillusioned Bell-Ette postings had them going abroad in search of Enlightenment. That is, far from our high school and hometown. And here I thought I’d been the only Bison to wind up in an ashram? Not all of their encounters had them meeting gurus or holy men.

With its broad streets, Kyoto could have been the downtown of our modernized home city, except for the lettering and the mountain at the end of the street. And we never would have imagined sushi. Some of us have come far over the years.

Underground public transit was another of those things that were far from us. Cincinnati, the metropolis to our south, almost had a subway, and that’s a fascinating story all its own. But considering the extent to which I fell in love with subways (yes, love does seem a strange word in this context) and even wrote a novel about the wonders, real and imagined, I was delighted to see the Bell-Ettes following up in, err, my tracks.

Manhattan, 57 Street station. I’ve been there.
Many Russian subway stations resemble palaces. My international travel has been restricted to Canada.

More to the point, I’m more fully realizing the downsides and hidden costs of what’s been an incredible life, even with its many near misses when it came to making the big time. Or maybe because I hadn’t been sucked upward in those opportunities.

Well, some of us were really green.

 

 

Blessings, all

As the sign in front of an Aroostook County church advised:

When temptation knocks,

let Jesus open the door.

~*~

Yes, I had to laugh.

It all starts with the events being remembered today.

The quote also flips the quotation from Revelation, which I recall with its association with an illustration on my grandparents’ dining room wall, where he’s knocking at a thick wooden door. Maybe that’s a symbol of our own hearts, too many days … closed, hard, and dark.

Today, let him enter, in spirit, and dine with you and those you love most dearly.

May you be spared all temptations in this blessed day.

 

Passin’ dem family boneyards along the route

One of my more familiar drives while living in Dover meant crossing over into Maine on my way to or from the Antique House.

Within a seven-mile stretch of the roadway, there were at least 16 family cemeteries – some with only two or three visible stones.

It’s all the more striking when you realize that two separate two-mile stretches have none at all, so the burials actually occur in just three miles. In those parts, you probably couldn’t turn around without encountering a tombstone.

Many of the graveyards are overgrown, with some surrounded by iron railings.

I’m guessing there are more, if we were going more slowly and looking even closer.

Still, we’re left wondering about the families, some who settled the grounds in the 1600s, and how long they remained.

But on the drive, each one is gone in a flash.

 

In my dreams

Just because I watch the stars doesn’t mean I trust them.

We had foxes at the bird feeder and viewed them as they slinked off into the woods, akin to Garrison Hill, and next to it was a bear.

I was a championship swimmer and a symphony violinist not actually competing or performing but enjoying the status.

At the airplane crash scene as a reporter, I helped put bodies in valet bags.