This past week saw the two-year anniversary of my return to Maine. The preceding 26 years had been spent living on the Gulf Coast of Texas--first on the Island of Galveston, then Houston, and finally in Humble. I left just before sunset on a Sunday evening and arrived just after sunrise on Thursday. I rode in the cab of an over-sized rental truck crammed with all the detritus of a happy, comfortable Southern life that I hoped would soften the transition to a spartan Northern one. Among the treasures were my four cats: Jezebel, Scarlet, Delilah, and Vanya. No residence would be home without them. I left a balmy 80 degree Texas and arrived to discover there was still snow in some places despite the 45 degrees of warmth. Living at sea level for so long I had forgotten the sensation of ear-popping and assumed I was experiencing fatal brain implosion. No doubt caused by endless country music and evangelization over the radio.
If I had known then what I was coming back to I would probably have turned around. But the truck was unloaded and returned before the full impact of my decision to come home revealed itself.
I love my home state. It's wild and it's raw. There's a simplicity that touches my heart. People don't expect much here. They don't whine about what they want. For the most part they are satisfied with what they have because they have earned it by hard work and determination. They take making the most of what they have in stride. I think Winter has a lot to do with it. In Texas I rarely experienced more than a few days of bone-chilling weather at a time. Even all the hurricanes that rearranged my home were warm blooded. But here, months of subarctic temperatures and falling snow really develop your sense of appreciation and gratitude for the simplest luxuries--heat, warmth, wool, flannel, soup, and companionship. You don't have a lot of leisure to lament. You do what needs to be done and then you rest, grateful and self-satisfied.
I came back with the best of intentions. To make life easier and prolong independence in her own home for my then 91 year-old mother. Somewhere along the way...between my last visit and my permanent return....she had transformed from Mother Theresa into Leona Helmsley. It's been difficult. Two very headstrong and independent people under the same roof. Her body slowly but steadily betraying itself and mine in full vigor. Her mind slipping into resolute misperception and mine aching to be heard. Neither of us are demure people. We are too much alike to ever be the best of friends. It's like living with Miss Haversham on Wuthering Heights only without the wedding dress. I trust Dickens and Bronte' will forgive the allusions. Her tongue and appetite are still as sharp as ever so I must be doing something right though I will never be told so. This is, I believe, penance for all the wrongs I knowingly committed and unwittingly contributed to during the happy years travelling the world between leaving and returning here.
But Maine is the great elixir. Breathing the air and drinking the natural beauty is a soothing compress to a blistered brow. No matter where I was living Maine was always home to my soul. I have returned to behind the back woods on the tundra of my birth and, all things considered, it is good to be here.
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