Monday, September 10, 2007

Pining for the Pine Tree State

There is really something unique about Maine. Yes, our wages are too low and depending on the statistics you use to boost your ideological bent, our taxes are too high. If you send regular checks to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, in your opinion, they are the sole reason Maine lags behind the rest of the nation. For some of us, lagging behind isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when it comes to crime, population density, or even shopping malls (save for southern Maine).

Many times, natives don’t realize what they have. Oh, our state is far from perfect that’s for sure. But, we are a hell of a lot more pristine and have a measure of life quality that most points south of here don’t have. For many locals however, it’s become a classic case of “you don’t know what you got, ‘til it’s gone.” Some bitch and complain about the Pine Tree State, but when viewed from afar (or from a plane, upon one’s return), it’s not out of the ordinary to find oneself reciting Dorothy’s mantra, “there’s no place like home.”

While the Brookings-Growsmart on the state indicated that many Mainers had an overriding sense of negativity, many that come here “from away” appreciate what our state has to offer—often more so than those who’ve never been anywhere else.

It is easy to get “tunneled in” and taken by naysayers, but time away, particularly in an urban setting, makes one appreciate the return passage north, high above the Piscataqua to life, the way it should be.

Katherine Lesser’s op ed in yesterday’s Maine Sunday Telegram illustrates my point. I’m not sure where Ms. Lesser grew up, but she obviously had familiarity with Maine. She mentions reading Edna St. Vincent Millay as a teenager. As an adult, she found herself settled in Brooklyn, yet longing for a way to call our state home.

Ms. Lesser writes, “Many years of going to alumni reunions at Bowdoin (her husband graduated from Bowdoin) and vacationing in Maine followed. Many of these vacations were six- day sailing trips on Penobscot Bay. We sailed out of Rockland on the schooner Heritage.

Happy days on the Heritage included mornings observing a pair of loons, eagle parents feeding their young in their nest and glorious evening sunsets. Each night was spent in a quiet and beautiful cove. We took a trip Down East, to Lubec and Eastport, and visited Campobello Island. A highlight was an overnight in Machias, where we saw nesting eagles on the Machias River.

Driving to Maine, we would take a deep breath as we were leaving New York City to stop briefly in Connecticut, coast through Massachusetts and become eager as we arrived in Portsmouth, N.H. As we crossed the Piscataqua River bridge into Kittery, I always let out a cheer. I breathed better, and my skin felt different.”

She goes on to recount finally being able to move to Maine and settle in Portland. Friends and colleagues in New York, as well as locals, ask her why she chose to move to Maine? As if living in an urban setting is all that life’s about.

Interestingly, the trolls that comment via online forums (anonymously, I might add) have begun weighing in with vitriol, intimating that people like Ms. Lesser, choosing to settle in Maine“from away,” somehow are a bad thing.

While there are those who choose to come here from elsewhere and discount the culture and heritage of Maine and attempt to quash and quell local customs, I don’t see that being the case with this woman. In fact, it’s interesting, but I meet people all the time that are helping to preserve the culture of rural Maine and other areas of the state and more times than not, I find out that they came to the state from somewhere else and fell in love with it just the way it is.

I’m learning that not everyone who moves here from somewhere else is an enemy to our state and in fact, many people that have lived here forever are more apt to be part of the problem, rather than the solution.

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