Friday, June 24, 2011

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?


  1. What a wonderful return to a place both from your childhood and also from your dreams. Yosemite for me...we went there almost every year since I was 6. My summer memories mostly all through my life and the last time I was there it felt that it might be my last visit so I saturated my self in sites and sounds and smells. I return often now in prayer, meditation and dreams.

  2. How wonderful that you had this surprise visit to the place of dreams. I have a tiny version of this in my childhood memories of summers at the Jersey Shore. I have been back many times since and it has changed a great deal, but I still have a tender spot in my heart for the place.

  3. I'm so happy that you ended up in Maine! Yes I do have a place and I have returned to it several times by accident all in the space of one month. It was meant to be. Who knows why we leave things so late before eventually returning, but I'm so glad that the decision was taken out of my hands and that I landed in my beloved mountain village where i spent most of my childhood.

  4. Blue Sky--I was curious when I wrote the post as to how many people might have such a place. And Yosemite! What a wonderful place to have. I love the fact that it has been with you lifelong and that it continues to nourish and sustain you.

    Altoon--That's something I think about a lot-the way in which a place changes over the years, and how those changes affect the quality of the place. Being prejudiced towards more bucolic landscapes, its only recently that I've been able to open my arms to spots that were once hidden delights, and now have gone mainstream.

    Robyn--that is amazing that you found yourself--quite by accident in the village of childhood. I hope that we'll hear more about that sometime in one of your posts:)

  5. Hannah, I've missed your beautiful writing this summer - so good to have you back. Thank you for this post and the memories it has inspired.

  6. I just went to MAine fore the first time this year! And it really is so lush and lovely.
    My places that calls to me - Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Barcelona, Spain

  7. Why thank you Patricia--that is so good to hear.

    Wow Phoenix--that must have been amazing for you--especially traveling from Colorado. The difference between the west and the east is stunning--almost like being in a different country.
    I know that it felt that way for me.

  8. What beautiful images to match your memories-- what seems like happy childhood memories-- of a sense of place that never left you.

  9. Oh Hannah, I wish I'd known you were in is such a small state...perhaps we could have met! I'm glad you were able to return to Maine for a visit...places are so powerful in our memories!