25 May 2005

Mr. Blue, Where are You?

It's been raining in Maine, now, for nearly a week. Or has it been longer? All I know is that this is unusual. We have something in Maine known as the mud season - it is the time that usually corresponds to the snow melting and the onset of the spring rains. But that should have ended a month ago. This is really odd.

It has been below 50 degrees for several days on end and the sun is a distant memory. Tonight we started a fire in our wood burning stove, not so much for heat (though we do still need it) but more to dry things out.

I keep thinking about the old ELO song, Mr. Blue Sky. Remember that one? I look out the dripping windows at the soggy yard, puddled streets and drooping trees; I imagine, like in the song, that one of these days the sun will come back out and I'll "run down the avenue and see the sun shine brightly..."

Well, one thing's for sure, everything is VERY green!

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

23 May 2005

Random Acts of Kindness

Last week my children and I drove south to Connecticut to visit family. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day full of blue skies, daffodils and blossoming trees.

On the way home, we were driving up I-95 in our mini-van when the back left tire blew out. The drizzle clouds had moved in and darkness was on its way. Thankful for cell phones and AAA, we made the necessary calls and then sat back to wait for help to arrive. Things such as this had happened before, and though thankful for the help, we were used to a long wait.

But much to our surprise, within 10 minutes help arrived in the form of a crusty old Mainer with a strong back and a tough smile. He changed our tire in record time with only a few friendly "yups" and "nopes" directed toward us. We phoned ahead to the Sears at the Maine Mall in Portland to find out if we could have a new tire put on. The man on the phone was fatherly and understanding, encouraging us to get there before closing time.

When we arrived at the Sears, the manager was outside waiting for us, and immediately directed us into the garage. The whole process was finished in less than an hour. After having dinner at the mall food court, we went back to get our car and were met with smiles and friendliness.

What could have been a long, stressful evening actually turned out to be rather delightful. Mainers are like one big family. They look out for each other and for their visitors. These men didn't know me but they went out of their way to help me and were friendly to boot.

As we continued north that night through the darkness and rain, I thought back to the big, blue welcome sign we had passed a few hours before: Welcome to Maine, The Way Life Should Be. Isn't that the truth?

15 May 2005

Pros and Cons

Today we had a discussion with friends about the southwestern part of the United States, New Mexico in particular. Our family has spent a lot of time in Santa Fe and I grew up in Colorado. Thinking about the rugged mountains, arid climate, wide-open spaces, and perpetually blue skies often sparks pangs of longing in my heart, especially on days such as this; well into springtime, it is 40 degrees, raining and windy in Maine. We are still wearing turtleneck sweaters and winter jackets.

But then, driving home from our visit with friends, through the rainy car windows we see the reluctant leaves just beginning to pop out on the maples and birch trees. The pale green is not yet more than a mist enveloping the still-bare branches. The bridge over our river carries us by an old mill that has been restored and made into a charming restaurant. The sturdy white clapboard houses along Main Street steady themselves against the wind, black shutters nailed on tight, bright red doors welcoming those caught out in the storm, and warm glowing lamps through the lace-curtained windows indicate a pleasant room filled with the scent of home-baked bread and hot cider.

Maine is so cozy and colorful. Each season brings a new reason to cherish this state. When I miss the blue skies of the southwest, I remember that every place has its pros and cons. But when I add them up, Maine seems to have much more of the former and very few of the latter.

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

09 May 2005

There were these trappers...

Recently my husband traveled with some business associates from Maine to the University of Michigan for training in his field of work.

He shared with me that at lunch one day, one of the seminar leaders, a woman, was chatting with them and they were discussing much of the business they do here in Maine. The woman was extremely interested in what they had to say, and she finally asked them, point blank,

"How do you hear about these things up in Maine?" To which, my husband retorted,

"Well, a year or so ago, there were these trappers that came through and passed on the information..."

We got a good laugh from that. The truth is, those unfamiliar with Maine do often think of it as remote, wild and primitive. But we don't mind. We know the truth about Maine.

It is remote. There aren't very many people here, and we like it that way. Tourists who come to visit Maine in the summertime are frightened by the rumors about our winters.

It is wild. We have bald eagles nesting all along the river that runs through the town where we live. Foxes and deer are common sights, and even moose are sometimes seen near the coast.

Primitive? I'll never tell. All I'll say is, it's the way life should be. :)

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

05 May 2005

Springtime in Maine

Springtime blooms late in the Pine Tree State. In late March when all the stores are receiving their spring and summer stock of clothing, Mainers are still dressed in snow boots and winter parkas.

At Easter, when many children in more southerly climates are dressed in springtime finery and merrily hunt their colored eggs among dandelions and wildflowers, Maine children are shuffling through a late spring snow or enjoying their egg-hunt indoors with popcorn and hot cocoa.

When much of America is planting its gardens in early May, Mainers are nurturing seedlings in tiny pots on their sunny windowsills, and counting the days until Memorial Day, when the frost warning is lifted.

Today, springtime has arrived in Maine. The forsythias are blooming, daffodils and tulips have popped out all over town, and the robins and chipmunks are everywhere. The temperature is a balmy 60 degrees with a bit of a biting breeze, but we are outside enjoying the sunshine. We imagine that tomorrow the temperature might reach the upper 60s. We imagine that the tomatoes will be planted early this year.

We also know it could still snow once more… but we don’t mind because this is the way life should be.

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

04 May 2005

Musings of a West Coast Gal in Maine

Families and friends are what hold our society together. We were created for relationships, and the connection with parents and siblings doesn’t end when we grow up and move away.

When my family moved to Maine several years ago, I left behind an extended family on the western end of the country ~ Mom in New Mexico, Dad in California, and 30-something baby brother in Washington state. I also left behind cherished friends who were there for me in the early years of the lives of my children. I left behind the abundant sunshine and wide-open spaces, and traded it in for overcast skies and frigid winters.

Compared to the West Coast, Maine is a foreign land of humid summers and thick forests. When I arrived, I found that there are insects I’d never heard of, foods I’d never tried, and colloquialisms that still give me a chuckle after all these years. Other than speaking the same language (sort of) I might as well have moved to China. But then, I like Maine so much better in many ways. It is far less populated, the air is very clean, and it has an unspoiled, rugged beauty that does cause us to say, in spite of ourselves, that it is the way life should be.

Truth be told, part of me longed to seek out new lands and have a bit of distance put between me and my quirky family. After all, I’m all grown up and have a family of my own now. But I miss my West Coast friends and family. We have a heart-connection that is strong in spite of the miles between us. My dad is close to my son and I often wish they could spend more time together. Nearly every week, I wish we could have my mom visit for dinner. My brother and I don’t talk nearly often enough – if only, if only …

It is unlikely that I will ever again live in the same hometown as my extended family and West Coast friends. It is unlikely that we will even live in the same state, or on the same side of the Mississippi. Maine is my home now and I love it so. But I can dream… and in the meantime, I can visit them vicariously through the heartfelt work of some of my good friends who have brought to life some of my favorite areas of the West in their writings.

Leanne Phillips is my California buddy who makes the Golden State shine in her special sites entitled:

All Info About California and The Beach Place Blog

Donna Gunnels is my friend who lives up near my brother. She is fortunate to live and write in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where she brings it to life in her site entitled:

Oregon/Washington Coast Vacations

Join me as I visit family and friends the new-fangled way. It may not be quite the same as an in-person visit, but it's the next best thing to being there.

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes