My maternal grandmother lived most of her life in a farming village in Ohio. I loved my childhood visits with her in the country, but I lived in towns and cities until the day I walked up the porch steps of an old farmhouse in Maine and made it my home. The feeling that I was walking into Grandma’s movie was strengthened by the way the past seeps into the present in rural Maine, where old stone walls, faded clapboards, ramshackle barns, and abandoned farm machinery dot the landscape. Apple blossoms in May and fiery red maple trees in October only added to the feeling.
I left Ohio for college in 1968, and except for a few years in Wisconsin, I’ve lived in New England ever since. But I didn’t actually get to Maine until after I had spent a couple of summers hiking out west, soaking in the ruggedness of the Rockies, the geological extravagance of the Grand Canyon, and the magnificence of the redwoods. My traveling companions and I loved the Olympic Peninsula so much–both the mountains and the coast–that we decided to move west…eventually.
Back home in Massachusetts, we took a notion one fine day and drove up along the coast of Maine to Acadia National Park. At first I thought of Maine as the toy version: the forest was beautiful, but the white pines weren’t as tall or as lush as the Douglas firs in the Olympics. The mountains were rugged, but not like the Rockies. The coast was as mesmerizing as a shoreline could be, but it didn’t have the remote, serene beauty of the Olympic National Park coastal strip.
And yet … something about the place lodged itself in my imagination and slowly took root.
We got as far west as Milwaukee before New England called us back. We started spending a lot of time in Maine after my first child was born, and a year or so later a job opportunity allowed us to settle here permanently. I may not be descended from ten generations of Mainers, but I have claimed this landscape as my own, and my pictures pay it homage.
When I was eleven years old, I went on a grand train trip to California. I remember waking up in the middle of the night on the way back east and seeing snow falling on a midwestern town, a dream-like vision that told me I was almost home. When I come back from “out of state” these days, I know I’m almost home when I start to see the old stone walls, the ramshackle barns, the faded clapboards….