Down East 2013 ©
Suffice it to say that we were blown away by the volume, and the intimacy, of the responses we received to our question of “What is your idea of the real Maine?” Some of the most poignant responses are published in our January 2011 issue (available on newsstands December 21, or click here to buy a copy), but the printed page simply couldn’t accommodate all of the letters we wanted to publish. Here are some more particularly wonderful ones. Feel free to add your own response by submitting a comment at the bottom of this page. — The Editors
The real Maine is not the beauty of the coast, the lobsters, nor the beautiful scenery. The real Maine is the concern, caring, friendliness, and attitude of the people. After having lived in many places, Maine is the only place that I never intend to leave the rest of my lifetime.
—Marilyn Westervelt, Tenants Harbor, Maine
Last summer, while vacationing on Martin Point in Friendship, two of my granddaughters decided to row a dinghy about a half-mile south down Muscongus Bay to Gull Rock, despite admonitions given over the years about the problems presented when current and wind are moving in the same direction. As both were moving in a southerly direction on the way out, they apparently were pleased at the ease with which they got there.
However, when they started to head back to the dock, it was a different story. The mother of one, who observed their struggles from her position on the dock, hopped into my son's kayak and headed south to the rescue. When she reached the dinghy, attached a line to it and turned to paddle both vessels back north, she found that both vessels, if any movement could be detected, were drifting slowly south.
At this point, there miraculously appeared a lobster boat out of Friendship, with a jolly fisherman at the helm. He hove to and yelled over to my daughter-in-law: “Looks like a rescue gone bad!” He could not have been more right, so she happily agreed to accept assistance. He then secured a line to the dinghy and gave the girls a “Nantucket sleigh ride” back to the dock.
—David Acton, Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
The thing that I associate most with Maine is a type of person and personality: Self-reliant and with a sense of belonging. Sometimes gruff and no nonsense, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but always a Mainer.
—Chuck Simoneau, Lakeland, Florida
I am certainly not a world traveler, but no matter where I’ve been, lived or visited, I saw a piece of Maine everywhere. I believe it’s because Maine has the most raw and natural beauty — trees, lakes, ocean, and mountains, all within a short distance of each other and in some cases, all within the same place. However my deepest love of Maine is in its people. I seem to feel a little more acceptance, kindness, and caring from the most diverse people of all ages.
—Sharon Morris Krawczyk, South Casco, Maine
Every person on Monhegan has a story, and the island has a wonderful, magical way of melding those stories into powerful prose.
—Tom Lynch, Honeoye Falls, New York
My idea of the real Maine is something quite magical. It is as if the whole world becomes intensified when I’m there. The air has more oxygen, the colors of the sky, trees, and ocean are more intense, people seem to be more relaxed and living life to the fullest, whether they’re celebrating the weather or complaining about it!
—Nancy DePoe, Benton, Pennsylvania
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ll be retiring soon and returning to Maine in the spring.
—Ed Lorusso, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The real Maine to me is the following:
Real people, honest and hard working.
Real scenic beauty, both natural and man made from seacoast to forests to lighthouses. Real food from lobsters to blueberries.
—Richard York, Ramsey, New Jersey
Walking the seashore on the Nature Conservancy lands on Great Wass Island Maine. Here the rugged and special shoreline ecology is largely undisturbed and endlessly fascinating. Great granite rocks, and gentle sea grasses, lush heaths and barren ledges where pines struggle for a foothold, untouched forests and meadows that once supported grazing herds. This is the real Maine, forever preserved by the conservancy.
—Gary Hack, Beals, Maine
Maine’s beauty is subtle and unfolds in a thousand details. The flash of azure blue Atlantic that greets you as you drive over the Piscataqua River Bridge. The low-growing evergreens that, against all odds, flourish in the cracks between the lichen-encrusted rocks along the Maine Turnpike. Stiff grasses waving gently in the salt marshes. Classic New Englander homes from the nineteenth century that haven’t been “remuddled.” The rolling hills of the countryside to the west of Route 1, and, of course, the craggy shoreline and sandy beaches that draw us like a magnet to search for bits of storm-tossed sea glass. —Janice Vance, New Milford, Connecticut
The smell of blueberry muffins in the morning. The cold summer nights with the windows open and down comforters, accented with the hum of a fan in the heat of the same day! A walk in the woods, soft with moss and decaying pine needles. An acorn cap that doubles as a whistle. While I now live a lifetime away in South Texas, I can conjure up every smell, sound and feel of Maine in an instant.
—Martha Curran Goyet, St. Paul, Texas
Maine is where my parents chose to retire after living in seven different states; it is where my sisters moved when my father was dying of cancer and it is where they stayed, put down roots and got married after our father died; it is where we vacation with our children; and it is where my husband and I will retire.
—Deirdre Donahue, Arlington, Virginia
We used to go away on vacation every year. Since we moved to Boothbay Harbor three years ago, we never travel. We live in vacationland.
—Joyce Dinnar, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
From growing up in the Kennebunport, Goose Rocks Beach area, my idea of Maine is:
Voices of so many cousins I'll never hear again, so many of their stories I don't know now.Going back has never been the same. The water is colder, the cousins got older, a lot of homes with new owners, houses built on rights-of-way, too many unknown people. I guess you really can't go home again. My great great-grandfather purchased the west end of Goose Rocks in 1898 to hunt on and leave land to his family, if he only could see it now. He came on a stagecoach from Biddeford, crossing the river a low tide – that was the original Kings Highway to Beechwood.
—Randi J. Kolseth, Lincolnton, North Carolina
We live on our coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii. When we consider taking a vacation from our own little paradise it is always to Maine. What else can I say?
—Debbie Donald, Kailua Kona, Hawaii
—Julie Wesson, Sunny Ridge, Wisconsin
Maine is a breath of fresh air.
—Nan Patterson, Lake Bluff, Illinois
To me, nothing better exemplifies the perfect picture of Maine than the pedestrian drawbridge at Perkins Cove. First, that a drawbridge would be built just for foot traffic and bicyclists is pretty amazing, but then to have boaters approach the bridge and depend on whoever is nearby to press the button to raise the bridge is something I can’t imagine anywhere else but in Maine.
—Bernie Wagenblast, Cranford, New Jersey
Ah, well, Maine is a dream. I do love it.
—Henry Pope, New Haven, Connecticut
My husband, daughter, and I moved to Maine two-and-a-half years ago from Minnesota. Right now my idea of the real Maine is my morning race-walk along the Eastern Prom to the Old Port and then my cool down walking East End Beach, listening to the water lap the shores, the seagulls, the clang of the boats on the water. Picking up interesting rocks or shells and squealing with delight when I find a pretty piece of beach glass. I see all of what Maine has to offer on my morning walks on the Prom; the islands, the wonderful Old Port, the sailboats, the ferrys, the forests, the ocean, the lighthouses, and more. The real Maine is right here in Portland!
—Patti K. Trygg, Portland, Maine
The real Maine is a place I love to call home.
—Sandy Feil, Brunswick, Maine
No tall fences or billboards block views of our bold and beautiful landscape.
—Christine Hopf-Lovette, Wiscasset, Maine
Maine is sweet salt air, constant breezes, fragrent pine forests and, most important, a population of “I can do it” people: organic farmers, skilled artisans, dedicated fishermen/women, and an ever-expanding exciting restaurant scene. There is a lot of need in Maine with endless opportunities to volunteer and support the infrastructure and people that have made Maine the desirable place that it is.
—Dianne Oelberger, St George, Maine
Sadly, the only real Maine is the very rural Maine. The coastal towns have morphed into mega-tourist trendy towns. Real Maine is the natives, not the locations.
—Nat and Aug Archer, Placerville, California
I remember visiting Maine several years ago when I made my first lap walking around the perimeter of the Back Cove in Portland. There I come upon local people of all ages walking, jogging and bicycling. To me it was striking apparent that these people have not only a healthy lifestyle, they also share a deep appreciation and enthusiasm for life. While it was the natural beauty of the area that initially attracted me to Maine, the spirit and culture of its people was the reason I decided to retire in Maine.
—Curt White, Falmouth, Maine
Maine is real people who look you in the eyes and genuinely care about you.
—Craig Fansler, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The most delicious air on earth.
—Peter Gill, Bronxville, New York
Real Maine to me is being bundled up and strolling along Seapoint Beach in Kittery Point on a stormy and cold day with not a sole in sight and my dog, Jumbie, running wildly and carefree chasing the sea gulls.
—Don McDowell, Kittery Point, Maine
When I think of the real Maine, I think of Hallowell. We actually live in Augusta (exactly two miles from the door of the Liberal Cup) and the reason we bought a house there is because of its proximity to Hallowell. First: the talent. Besides all the visual artists whose work is displayed throughout the town, on any night of the week, you can walk down the street and hear live music pouring from some doorway, more often: several doorways! There’s the Wharf, Joyce’s, the Liberal Cup, Slates Monday Night Concert series, Higher Grounds — many musicians known around the state, the region, and even the country consider Hallowell their home. Second, the food: dining, drinks, pub fare to gourmet meals to traditional Maine chowdah — Hallowell has it all. Third: the river. Hallowell sits on the banks of the Kennebec River, which is an icon in itself and has contributed in so many ways to defining Maine! Finally: the people. Hallowell is filled with artists, musicians, business owners, politicians, straight people, gay people, people with disabilities, people of color. All are welcome and everyone takes great pride in their town. Hallowell is truly the Real Maine.
—Shauna Turnbull, Augusta, Maine
I thank God for his wondrous hand in creating the state of Maine.
—Haig Medzarentz, Bushnell, Florida
Maine is real to me because every time I cross the Piscataquis River, I feel at peace. It is with a sigh of relief that I feel like I am home again. I am once again thrilled by the smell of the salt air, the sight of the beautiful woods, and the ocean views. My parents moved the family away when I was ten. Since I am seventy now, I know what it feels like to be away and how wonderful it feels to be back.
—Priscilla Miller, Portland, Maine
What is so real about Maine that it grabbed our attention, stole our hearts, and made us do something so rash as to pack up and move from the big city life to the small town of Rockland? It is the warm people, with smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eye, and a rock solid value system fully lodged in their minds. People who not only believe in, but actually do the “right” thing. It is the coastline with all its nooks and crannies, small villages with real character that have not been spoiled by strip malls or Walmart Super Stores. It is the real working harbors that are not there just to host gigantic megaships with their flood of camera toting tourists. It is the small walkable cities like Rockland which offer wonderful shopping at one of a kind stores, incredible dining, amazing galleries and the Farnsworth Museum, cutting edge movies and entertainment at their old time Strand Theater, and places to sit by the sea to just appreciate the day. It is the working Maine islands where lobstermen rule. It is our island home on Vinalhaven where we appreciate the crystalline silence that is for us the real Maine, most especially on days when the wind is not blowing and the wind turbines stop churning.
—Sally Wylie, Vinalhaven, Maine
Maine is people who are courteous in traffic and strangers who hold doors, stop when they see you might need help, and respect privacy when it is needed. It is the poor and well-to-do living together in the same neighborhoods. Maine is the rivers flowing full of tidal water carrying ice up and down in the winter and lined with green trees in the warmer days. Maine is the whiteness of winter on the trees and covering everything. It is the brilliance of summer and the astounding colors of the flowers that never fade. It is the door closing in the fall with trees ablaze with breathtaking splendor. It is walks through the woods, seeing no humans, kayaking on the ponds, seeing no people.
—Molly Hahn, Gilbert, Arizona
My idea of the real Maine: When you cross the bridge into Maine and you can smell the pine trees wafting through the window of the car. You breathe in and know you are home! Your blood pressure goes down and you relax.
—MaryAnn Sarzynski, Olathe, Kansas
The people: the fisherman that put a crab crawling down the town pier so that our toddler would squeal with delight and “find” it; the polite folks who always hold the post office door open for both men and women; the courteous drivers who wave you into a crowded intersection; the neighbors who bring endless food when a family is in need — emotionally or physically; the anonymous snow shoveler, lawn mower, or gift giver for no occasion whatsoever; all of the old Mainers who share their lives and stories with those from away so graciously giving of their lives. This is the Maine that I can’t live without.
—Dorothy Healy, York Harbor, Maine