If you had to choose one thing that keeps you in Maine, what would it be?
The question stumped me. Only one?
A National Public Radio show called “State of the RE:Union” asks this question for their project “The One Thing.” They are exploring the shrinking populations of small-town America, hoping to gather illuminating stories from those who still live in relatively rural settings. But the stories have to be short — no more than 250 words — so you have to be quick and concise.
I am “from away,” but I began coming to Maine regularly about 34 years ago. It was more than 11 years ago when I became a full-time resident. As of today, my husband and I have no intention of leaving, ever. But why? The down-to-earth, straight-talking population? The more natural pace of living? The vibrant artistic and literary scenes? Beautiful scenery? Safety? Trust?
Yes! All of those and more. But what made me decide to stay?
Finally it came to me; there was a turning point, my one thing. I decided to stay in Maine because of the sunrise.
Behind our old house are three small barns, a pond and 13 acres of rolling field. In a busy household filled with children, then teenagers, I neglected the opportunity to connect with my big backyard. Just prior to New Year’s Day 2010, I resolved to change that, and I made a pledge to be outdoors for sunrise every day for a year.
Thanks to the sunrise, I became acquainted with every contour of those 13 acres, immersed daily in the suspension of time when dark melts into day. I witnessed the changing paths of sun and moon across the year; startled herons, porcupine, raccoon and deer during a time that is generally their own; and I felt the warm, furry weight of an injured fawn, wet from spring grass, in my hands.
Sometime during the course of that year, I tuned into the rhythms of the natural world. In my home state of Maine, the rhythms suited me perfectly.
When I visited cities that year, I discovered that many people don’t know where the sun comes up in their neighborhood. The sunrise oriented me wherever I went, and it welcomed me home when I returned.
I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, where most of my family still lives. Late in 2001, my husband received two job offers — one in central Maine and one in Hartford, Conn.
“I like them both,” he said. “You choose.”
Of course I want to be near family, I thought, and Hartford was close to home and family. Easy choice. But as we drove into Hartford to check out the neighborhoods, the highway went from four to eight to 12 lanes. I felt tension ramping up in the city bubble. Images of the World Trade Center crashing to the ground were still fresh in my mind.
Maine felt like a better place to raise my children; so I chose Maine. A part of me felt ashamed that a twinge of fear had influenced my decision.
It was the right choice. My kids found a home and happiness in Maine. Now they are grown, launched, so what keeps me here?
There are many things, but the tides turned irrevocably in 2010. Sometime during that year of sunrise, Maine twined its essence around my heart, through the hushed twilit dreamscapes of fog and snow cover, a fiery yoke of sun emerging from the ocean, crystal raindrops on a spring leaf, soft clucking of waterfowl, and spider webs in the tall grass backlit by the rising light of day.
Maybe a touch of fear influenced my decision to come to Maine, but the sunrise, fearlessly, convinced me to stay.
Reader Write-In Opportunities!
First: Thanksgiving is coming up. In my next column, I will be writing about ways we may give to the elderly during the holidays and all year. Please send your stories and ideas about volunteering time, creativity and companionship to the elderly to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will incorporate your stories into the column.
Second: “The One Thing” program is open to all at http://stateofthereunion.com/the-one-thing/. Alternatively, I am happy to assemble local stories of what brought you to Maine or what keeps you here. If I receive enough replies, I will publish stories in a future column.