Have I mentioned Maine?
You know Maine, of course: it’s that most northern eastern corner of the contiguous United States, where the State Animal is a Moose and the State Fish is a Landlocked Salmon, each of whom surely enjoys the 17 million acres of forest and 6,000 lakes and ponds found throughout their land.
(Side note: I heart atlases. And websites like http://www.maine.gov/portal/facts_history/facts.html)
In any case, Maine is not a place where I’ve spent nearly as much time as I would like, though I almost took a job once. Still, I think of it with great fondness and curiosity; there is some part of me that imagines an alternate life for myself that is tucked into, and built around, the State Berry (Wild Blueberry) and the State Cat (Maine Coon Cat).
My main Maine experience (see what I did there?) came a few years ago, when I volunteered on a farm outside of Brunswick for a little while. It was an amazing set-up: I helped the farm’s owner in the morning, doing whatever chores she assigned to me (my favorite was planting potatoes), and then was free to explore in the afternoons and evenings. I usually went for a run after working, and then ventured out to a nearby town or shore before returning for dinner with the family.
I found the farm through an organization called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (http://www.wwoof.net), which is definitely a group to join if you have any interest in farming and travel. Hard, meaningful work, along with a sense of exploration, really appeals to me, and I often think I’d like to WWOOF a little more.
In any case, I discovered that Maine felt peaceful, protective, and independent to me (very fitting for the State Motto: Dirigo [I Lead]). It’s a gorgeous state – and I say that knowing that I didn’t even venture into the promised land that is Acadia National Park, or any of the 36 state parks, or eight national wildlife refuges, or a number of other recognized corners of awe.
And perhaps it is because I am subconsciously drawn to people who are drawn to similar things that I enjoy, but this trip – in which I stepped out of my job in DC for a while to experience something different, where for the first time I hopped in my car, by myself, with a destination but no real plan – was one that reminded me that wherever I go, there are bits of home scattered about, waiting for me to find them. In this place I’d never before visited, I found pieces of myself.
At the farm, that meant finding torn-out quotes from one of my favorite magazines (The Sun: http://thesunmagazine.org) taped to the wall, books I have read lining the shelves, plates I might have owned waiting to serve me meals, and people I wanted to know as friends waiting to welcome me, a stranger, into their homes. And in Maine itself, it meant that I found myself in quiet paths, small shops, the soothing rhythm of waves, and the heat of the sun when it dared to peek out and say hello.
Stepping into another person’s world, and discovering that there are similarities, is a powerful experience. It’s part of what I like so much about using Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com) for travel; it’s an opportunity to try on a different life. Now, years after my time on a farm in Maine, I live on the opposite side of the country, with a coast of my own. Sometimes, though, I turn my back to the Pacific and look towards the sunrise, towards the east, and wonder about where I might fit in, if ever I tried to call The Pine Tree State my own.
It’s a bold thing to say, but: among those 30,843 square miles, I’m sure I’d find my place, somewhere.