[At] Home In/To Maine

[Above Photo:  Sunset from the porch.]

1 July 2017

It took 28 hours from the time I ascended the stairs onto Ethiopian Airlines Flight 877 in Blantyre, changing planes in Addis, refueling in Dublin, and changing again in DC, until I finally deplaned in Boston. Linda’s daughter, Rachael, met me at Logan and drove me to her home in Littleton, where I was able to see Kyle and hold their two children, Amelia and James. They are wonders, as all children are; relentlessly learning, trying, reaching. Two of the chickens, out of the coop, were roosting in a lilac bush. New windows in the house. I wound down quickly after supper and slept deeply.

Now I’m on the ferry, returning from two nights with Jeff and Bonnie in their new home on Martha’s Vineyard. It was built by a dentist who lived there from retirement until 91yo and has wonderful clean lines (He was a dentist, after all.), large rooms, and sits in the midst of an 8 acre oak forest. The large porch has a table and chairs, a grill, a hammock, and an amazing top-of-the-line aluminum ping pong table, a fully-outfitted porch.  Jeff and I tried to recover our youthful ping pong chops with lots of pleasure and little success. It suggests to me that success may not be all that important. We all talked a lot about mortality—Jeff is two years my senior and he’s lost three close friends this Spring, one brilliant college professor to dementia and two who died quite suddenly. I think my sleep deprivation from the flight and the scrambling of my internal clock by changing time zones (6 hours) contributed to my morbid concerns.

It is thick fog in the channel between The Vineyard and Woods Hole, and the ferry toots its path clear. I’ll drive to Boston to visit Zach (Linda’s 3rd born) at Short Path Distillery in Everett—manufactory of the world’s best gin—and on to see my brother and his wife in Brunswick. Tomorrow I’ll head for Blue Hill to see more family, including my nephew Rob and 87yo sister, just in from Cape Town, before heading for Beach Island on Tuesday, Independence Day.  I hope it isn’t a foggy July; sometimes we get soaked in pea soup for weeks. It is, of course, beautiful and a time for visiting the other cottages and drinking endless cups of tea while catching up.

I worry it may be painful, since Beach Island was the summer focus for my family for many years and my children haven’t wanted to see me in two and one-half years. But other family is there, it is spectacularly pristine and lovely, and I have a lot of thinking and writing to do.

I always leave the island in improved condition, all the walking, lifting, carrying, rowing, and paddling strengthen my physical state and mental clarity. I continue to marvel at my good fortune, dodging the sure aim of metastatic lung cancer.  I have lived so much since its discovery in 2008; the cancer treatment, its recurrence and further treatment contributed to a significant part of my learning.

The ferry is about to land.

The shuttle bus ride is filled with holiday pleasure-seekers of the largely white, overweight American variety. They seem jolly, in general, including the lady across from me holding her 3yo daughter, the latter whose voice has that pleading rise at the end of each sentence: “I want to drive the bus.” “I want some ice cream.” I might just take her to speech therapy, it is so irritating to hear; better yet, regularly engage her in conversations where she feels listened to and she learns a bit about listening to others. It sounds so Valley Girl unentitled, the plea, and will prevent her from landing that excellent job she craves if it persists.

Short Path Distillery in Everett is a marvel. Now 2yo, it has expanded it’s range of standard products—-Gin, Summer Gin, Triple Sec, Light Rum, Dark Rum, Ouzo—and special one-off runs—Blueberry Gin, and so forth. They recently bought a new copper pot still, an immense stainless steel mash fermenter, and have engaged a cooper to make barrels for their anticipated single malt whiskey. The distillery has trebled its space, both distilling and tasting room areas.  Bottle sales are shooting up; an increase of “only” 210% this May compared with the previous year was “a disappointment”!  Zach is, as always, friendly and welcoming and deservedly proud of the operation. Drop by the website and, if you are in the vicinity, by the distillery for a tour, a tasting, and a good time.

On to Brunswick, the home of Bowdoin College and my brother and his wife. Chas and Susan are steady; one can count on them being there. Our snazzy new-used boat (40mph) is in the driveway on a trailer, and we have wonderful grilled Atlantic salmon for supper. Catching up goes on for a long time. In the morning I’m off for Downeast Maine.

My nephew Rob has a very lovely summer place set on a couple of acres overlooking a 2 ½ mile tidal salt pond outside of Blue Hill. The house is large and comfortable, with lots of wood and many windows.  The view through the trees of the tidal bore rushing through the narrow inlet, creating “Blue Hill Falls”,  is directly in front of them.

Amazingly, the 2.3 acres with 400+ feet of beachfront that is adjacent to their property is for sale and the price has halved in 2 years.  Apparently, the land and housing market have not recovered yet from 2008. I’ve walked the property three times and shall again today. I’ll meet with a realtor and look at other properties here in Blue Hill and on Mount Desert Island—which is considerably more expensive—so I don’t purchase it impulsively. But after kayaking about 2/3 of the length of the pond yesterday, seeing the beauty and wildlife, and thinking about the view and proximity to family, as well as the price, I am strongly drawn to this.  I may want to put a modest house with nice touches on the property after I return from Africa. It fulfills my dream of a view, privacy, excellent neighbors, and water access near-perfectly.  It feels moderately rootless to have as a home only a summer cabin on an island, as beckoning as it is, or a rental in Africa. It’s all habit, though; we didn’t start this human journey each owning our own dwellings!

Family traits persist. As different as I feel I am from my sister and my brother, I see tendencies in myself and similarities with each of them which trouble me. A need to be at the center of attention, a readiness to suspicion, a pervasive sense of guilt, hesitation about asking directly for what one wants, a sense of unworthiness. For some reason, I am fatigued with looking to my past for explanations and I just want to practice changing myself. Action!  Linda, you’ve peeled the scales off my eyes!

After visiting several properties today on the Blue Hill peninsula, tomorrow I’ll meet with a realtor on Mount Desert Island to see a few. Today I saw glorious acreage sloping gradually to salt water beaches, but they were generally too isolated for me or I didn’t like the houses. The next day I’ll head out to Beach Island, which I am missing mightily, with my brother in our new, speedy boat.

I hope next Sunday’s blog will be more stimulating!



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