Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finding Self in Place, part 3.

{continued from part 1 and part 2.}

And so a year later, after several months living in San Francisco together, and several months of long-distance love, we made it happen.  I packed up a Ryder truck and moved my life from California to Maine, accompanied on the road by my dear friend Adrienne, and Charlie watching the reverse trip out the window next to us.  When I arrived and joined Sam in our new home, I was slightly overwhelmed by the culture shock of going from city to small town.   I took photos of the fields of wild flowers and abandoned barns on my road and sent them to my city friends.  I couldn’t get over the lack of bus and garbage truck noise.  There were no pedestrians to watch, no cool coffee shops.

I felt a welcome and familiar satisfaction as the seasons began to change.  In the crisp first weeks of autumn I started my first teaching job and watched from my classroom window the glorious show of color in the leaves.  I got used to the humming quiet of living surrounded by woods, and the first time we had a fire in our wood stove, I nearly fainted from the rush of emotion.  If I closed my eyes and breathed, I was sitting around the fire deep in the woods of Kabeyun.  I loved the way time was defined by the weather, as the waist-deep ferns behind our house changed to waist-deep snow. 

After our first year here, Sam and I slowly started to carve out a life for ourselves.  But we weren’t totally convinced that Maine was home.  Friendships were slow in coming.    We didn’t live on a lake.  Instead, our town featured ubiquitous white churches and hand-painted “Bean Supper” signs.  We spent as much time as we could in the mountains or on the coast, but the reality of our day-to-day didn’t live up to our romanticized view of New England.

Our first April, tired of the never-ending gray and slow-melting snow, we drove to North Carolina for a week’s vacation.   Great friends, who had settled into the mountains of Asheville, thought we would love it so much we’d want to move there.  We had a lovely visit and found the rolling mountains and pink azaleas beautiful.   Midweek we did a long, hot, buggy hike through the woods in the Smokeys up a mountain trail and after several hours reached the summit, but at the summit, there was no view, just more trees and more rooty, pine-needled ground. 

Though we hadn’t articulated it to each other, both of us knew while we were in the south, that we were drawn back home to the north.   We drove back to Maine, and by the time we crossed the Piscataqua Bridge at the Maine border, the evening light had that Edward Hopper glow, the landscape infused with a golden honey color that made the edges of the green highway signs and weathered red barns cut a crisp edge against the sky.  I don’t think we said it to each other at that moment, but both of us reflected later that we felt something deep inside of us when we came back to Maine, a tremendous sigh of relief.  Maine had, while we were away, become home.

It has been seven years since we had the epiphanal Maine border crossing. And so we have settled into Maine, grown to love its rocky coasts and countless lakes, and accepted its quirks and cultural shortcomings.

While of course I am a different person now, better even, living in Maine helps me stay on nodding terms with my young Kabeyun self.  I have come to understand just what it is that helps me stay intimately connected to the best parts of myself, that self that emerged on the docks of Winnepesauke: fresh water lakes, tall pine trees, puffy clouds, heat with slight humidity in the summer, big nasty snow storms in the winter, a wall made of river rocks,  a screen door that slams when you shut it, mountains with bare granite tops and a long, clear view.   And Sam. 

Now, the landscape, and more essentially, the life we have in Maine has Kabeyun woven all through it: woods, teaching, lakes, books, the exchange of ideas, and the cycle of seasons.  And actually, I have come to understand that all of these things have become a part of my very essence; I don’t need to be on the docks of Kabeyun with my feet dangling in the water in order to know who I am.

                                        That's me swimming in Thoreau's Walden Pond:


                                     And two years later (note the hair changes):  July 28, 2001

                       After the toast-to-end-all-wedding-toasts by Sean, our fellow NELP staffer:
                         Group shot of all the NELP staff and students in attendance at our wedding:

And pretty much, you know the rest of the story!


defining moments said...

that was beautiful! I loved reading it from beginning to end, well present. I feel like i knew all of that when i was reading it but i loved reading the details that i didn't know. I love you and miss you. i miss being a part of your life. i so wish we could enjoy each other now. we would have a lot of fun being close again. i miss you emilie. I love you.