A Place We Call Our Own
Posted on February 25, 2014
In the morning I step out into one of my favorite scenes and settle with a creak into my wicker rocker, the serenity embracing and complete, only broken by the occasional call of a loon or the sophomoric arguments of seagulls. The crisp air hangs heavy with bacon and coffee like the mist over the islands of Old Harbor, where a sail drifts on the horizon like a luminous cloud. There are the echoes of my neighbor preparing his traps for the following day as the stories from the baritone narrator on his radio waif up to the porch. My spell is broken only by the buoy bell announcing the approach of a lobster boat as its diesel engines thrum up the Reach, heading out to some unknown traditional fishing ground. But I don’t mind these interruptions; they only complete the rhythm of island life in Maine.
Mariann and I used to make up reasons why we needed a second home, despite the fact that it was never a logical notion. Mine was that I needed a get away from the pressures of the office where I could paint- for the enjoyment of it, not as work. I think Mariann just wanted a place to cool-off from the hot Texas summers. The kids on the other hand, didn’t like the idea, at all. They argued we would never travel again and we would take them from their friends and activities- FOMO as they called it (fear of missing out) would grip them. In the end, Mariann and I really missed our early days on the East Coast and had always imagined a place back east, whether in our favorite holiday get-away in the Adirondacks, near friends in the Green Mountains of Vermont, or the first place I ever took her camping (that’s quite another story), in Maine. As it turned out, I was brought back to Maine for a project, and it hit me as the perfect place for us; beautiful coastal scenery, bountiful antique shops, art galleries, artisan restaurants, wooden boats, cool summers and most importantly, the feeling of authenticity; a place that felt real, the way things should be. A place where we could create memories; not just for us, but for generations to come. Ok –perhaps, a bit ambitious, but if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a romantic.
Not convinced, I flew Mariann up to look at places. There were rustic camps that I loved, but she couldn’t imagine cleaning, and the proper Federal-style houses with white picket fences that, although beautiful, seemed to hem me in. One morning we boarded a boat in Rockport for an hour ride to one of the islands. Being a West Texas gal, Mariann was not keen on the trip at all and boroughed deep into her lifejacket for the short journey, while I faced the salt spray like a puppy on its first car ride. As has always been the case in our long marriage, the house we found was a compromise. She got something a little newer than the hundred year-old camps I pined for, and I got a porch over-looking the ocean and the craggy islands of Hurricane Sound. We were both happy- a little cottage on the harbor where the book Goodnight Moon was written. Perfect. We put a contract on the house. A week later the market crashed. I remember the call; I was on a project in the jungles of Costa Rica and had to wade knee-deep into the surf to get reception. What were we doing, we asked ourselves. This was never something that made financial sense anyway- it was just a dream. But in the end the dream won out. In a moment of solidarity we decided that, given the turbulent market, there was probably no more stable place for our money than real estate. So we did it, smart thing or not.
Today our cottage in Maine is a part of who we are. It is our rudder, our respite. It is where we go to be centered. We have our routines on the island. Mariann piddles around the house. Max tinkers with the rusty old Land Rover we use to get around the island. Sari always has a book, or two, or three. The kids often rotate friends in and out, disappearing for hours on end on the back roads and trails, sailing or exploring in kayaks- or just simply sitting in them watching the spectacular sunsets. Mariann and I often go alone to get away. We take walks through scarlet autumn woods, pick cranberries, blueberries or blackberries, depending on the season (or the cobbler), we have picnic lunches on our favorite rock overlooks, or just sit by the fire and watch the snow fall. I paint, sometimes, but mostly just enjoy being. We love our little place in Maine. It’s who we are now. It’s how we are now.