This weekend, with 3 percent power remaining on my phone, no available charger and no computer in the house, I was out of touch with the wider world. Thanks to this accidental unplugging, I also was very in touch with my children, our garden and, unfortunately, the black flies.
For more than 40 years, I’ve spent most of my summers in the mountains of Maine. When I was little, almost all of our food came from the garden. They were blissful days. As far as I can remember, we rarely went into town during those summers. Once in a while we would go to Bethel, to the IGA or to the hardware store across the street.
On the way to town we would sometimes stop to swim at Songo Pond if the house on the side of the road wasn’t occupied. Stopping for a swim usually meant we also got to go to Jimmy’s Log Cabin store for penny candies back when candies really cost just a penny or two or three each.
Every so often we would make a trip into Norway and South Paris. My parents got what they needed at the bigger stores, and we stocked up on books from the library.
Most of the time, my brother and I played in the fields and woods around the house. Sometimes we went on adventures with the neighbor children, but mostly we stuck close to home.
In the buggy sunshine this past Sunday and then in the cold drizzly rain on Memorial Day, my daughters and I returned to my parents’ summer home and got most everything planted. My parents save a few rows for me and my children every year. The black flies were swarming thick and the ticks were having a party, but we had mesh over our faces and we were determined.
We had dinner on the screened-in porch, noticing new blooms on the old cherry tree. We wondered how a tree could grow so beautifully with so little trunk remaining that it’s nearly hollow. For the most part, we didn’t look at clocks. We ate dinner when we were hungry and played board games until we were sleepy enough to go to bed.
Every time we go to this special place in the mountains of Maine, I’m flooded with gratitude and I want to share it. I wish everyone in the world could experience such peacefulness and deep connection with the earth and with family.
The fact is, I was given advantages in my life simply because of the family I was born into, through no effort of my own. I’m certainly not in the top 1 percent, but I was born with more advantages than many. Almost everyone I knew growing up came from families with advanced degrees and plenty of family money. They were the “professional class.” Because of that and because I try to be a decent human being, it’s my responsibility to do what I can to change our systems. Right now, everything is set up in favor of those who are white and come from generations of financial stability. Everyone else is at a disadvantage.
We need to remove the barriers so everyone can live in freedom. By “freedom,” I mean freedom from disease and oppression, freedom to experience nature as we know it (which requires acknowledging and ending global warming), freedom to live and love and learn without fear of state-sanctioned violence, among many other expansive and empowering freedoms.
As I do what I can to work for not only equality, or even simply for j ustice, but for liberation, I’m fueled by the belief that everyone should get to feel as free as I do when I spend time in the mountains of Maine.
Heather Denkmire is a writer and artist who lives in Portland with her two young daughters. Her small business helps nonprofit organizations win grants. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns appear monthly.