An Accidental Journey

Peonies at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

When I was a small child of five, my family moved to Maine. My dad was finishing his PhD and got his first teaching assignment at Bowdoin College. I was just beginning kindergarten.

Is it possible to fall in love at the age of five? Because if it is, I did. I loved so much about Maine, beginning at the edge of our backyard. Behind our brown plank house, in a yard with clumps of birch trees whose bark made perfect "paper," lay a bog. It was a magical place where I discovered peepers, tasted my first cranberries and stood peering into the depths of the murky pond. I marveled at the frogs' eggs gathered in gelatinous blobs, the beginnings of my education in biology and reproduction.

We didn't live in Maine for long; just three years, but enough for the landscape of the place to imprint itself on my consciousness; stretches of land with rocky outcroppings, white steepled churches, docks and piers heaped with lobster pots and fishing nets, the smell of ocean and the clack of clamshells.

Rocky Coastal Beach, Hampton, N

The car-sweep of these images wove itself into my consciousness, so that even now, fifty years later, I dream of traveling back to Maine. In my dreams, I swim up a river banded by ferns and rimmed with pine trees; there is the promise of blueberries hiding within the woods. The dream is so vivid that I believe I am there and awaken with the sensation of just having returned from this faraway place.

Dogwood in the yard of a older home in Kittery, ME

It didn't seem so strange then, when I accidentally ended up in Maine last week. My family and I flew out to a wedding in Vermont and, wishing to make a small vacation out of it, I suggested we stop off at the coast for a day; in New Hampshire to be exact. Arriving at dinner time, we set off in search of sustenance other than McDonald's. After getting turned around on a round about, we crossed a bridge and came upon what looked to be an excellent taqueria. A man whom I asked in the parking lot noted that it was the best Mexican food in Maine outside of Southern California. We were in Maine, not New Hampshire!

Boats like clamshells at Kittery Point, ME

The feeling of delight that rose up in me was exquisite. We all looked at each other and began to laugh. Imagine that!! We had arrived in Maine by accident. What followed was a day and a half of intense exploration; of inhaling smells and remembering once familiar sights. I could tell you that we lingered at a dock, wandered through an art museum  and mixed with the locals in a general store, but that wouldn't quite capture it. Throughout the hours we spent there, I felt that I had returned to something quite precious that I don't want to lose again.

Weehawken Sequence, John Marin, circa 1916, 10" x 12.5," oil on canvas

Is there a place in your life that calls to your soul, appears in your dreams, a place to which you've made a secret promise to return?