During perfect, crisp, fall days like this, we used to roll up the sidewalks in coastal towns like Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Old Orchard, Freeport, Damariscotta, Boothbay Harbor, Bar Harbor, even Portland.
But now that the sense of “Maine” is blurring into a fashion meme (viz. checkered shirts and Bean Boots in Singapore) and even a state of mind, fall is a time of awakenings. Food tastes better. Just now, right now, the crash of waves is more reflective during a long walk on the beach.
I was born in Portland in Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, the same hospital where Stephen King was born. (The last time I bragged about this, a local gave me the suspicious eye and challenged, “What floor?”) In spite of my local credentials, I’ve more than once been called “a year-round summer person” because I edit a city magazine that tirelessly looks for new attractions year-round. It’s the greatest job in the world to get to showcase the quirky Maine I love.
Put another way, we’re all in search of “a permanent vacation.” No, no, not the way the Angels use that phrase in their 1963 hit “My Boyfriend’s Back.” But in a freeing way where you can be commuting to work, look out your car window, and catch your breath when you see a deer, an eagle, a wave, a flock of seagulls. Tourists in our own lives, taking in the foliage? Okay! It’s our luck as Mainers that at least we aren’t commuters in our own lives. (Sorry, Yankees fans.)
So many business people I know have moved here to chase lost childhoods (summer camp, canoeing on a lake, tasting their first lobster rolls, even just sampling sincerity). In every case I can think of, they’ve rediscovered themselves here.
If we are tourists in our own lives, and we live in a tourist destination like Maine, that’s a double fantasy. Yoko Ono has told me (yes, I regularly chat with Yoko, well…once) that even she and John Lennon tried Maine on when The Dakota got too claustrophobic. She said he started at Kittery, driving along the coast, saying,“‘We should get this beautiful house hanging over the surf.’ Then he’d crane his neck and say, ‘Look up there. Let’s see that one.’ Then he’d see a place on the next peninsula steaming out of the fog and say, ‘Hurry, let’s go there.’” He was in a hurry for beauty–that’s how his mind worked.
We don’t just live our own dreams here, we live everyone else’s, too. If Maine is the wave at the end of the mind, we have to surf it. Hey-la-hey-lah. It’s our responsibility so next summer we can share it with our guests.