Down East 2013 ©
Watershed moments galore:
My youngest son attended his junior prom. Equality Maine  launched its push-back against the "people's veto" drive to repeal the law granting equal marriage rights to gays and lesbians. I planted the last of this year's seedlings in my backyard labyrinth-cum-herb-garden. The midcoast town of Camden — a place where public image has always stood at a certain remove from social reality — voted to allow chickens  (and other "small farm animals") to reside in its tonier neighborhoods. A very small graduating class reached the end of the road at the progressive high school where I teach English. And an eruption of violence on the national stage raised the question of how safe we are, here in Maine, from the rising tide of right-wing extremism.
Some of these things are more self-explanatory than others, and at least one of them — the junior prom — rather defies any sensible commentary. The kids all looked awesome in their formal wear. (My older son, an eccentric person, wore a kilt to his prom several years ago, though at the last moment he demurred from rolling in on a six-foot "stretch" skateboard.)
I spent a few hours outside the polling station in Rockport Village with an extremely genial, 30-ish fellow named Greg Lawrence, a volunteer coordinator from EQME. Thanks to the new law, Greg is engaged to be married . Our job was to ask people leaving the polls for their support in upholding marriage equality. We got a fair number of positive responses along with a strong (though polite) dose of exegesis about "God's law," et cetera. One courtly gentleman, formerly of Connecticut, warned about what will happen "after we've opened that door." Adults marrying children! People marrying animals! I came home and googled around but was unable to find any news items concerning the drive to legalize bestiality in Massachusetts , where same-sex marriage has been legal for more than five years. No doubt a vast media cover-up is involved.
My herb labyrinth may objectively be described as awesome — at any rate this is the term most often applied by my son's totally reasonable teenage friends — but I haven't solved the problem of drainage in the underlying bed of packed construction fill. I fear for my lamb's ear and echinacea. But the catmint, spearmint, monkshood, hyssop, motherwort, Good King Henry and germander all look exceedingly well. I grow these things more for their names, I think, than for any of their strictly botanical merits.
Chickens in Camden! What's next, I wonder? "Elephants in Rockland," Greg laconically suggested. Anything can happen, now that we've opened that door.
At the Watershed School graduation, Rev. Ralph Moore, formerly of St. Peter's Episcopal Church and now the school's ethics teacher, delivered a very witty and literate address explaining, among other things, the semi-official Watershed motto (Tumultum Renovemus , or roughly, "Let the wild rumpus resume") in which he managed to draw a direct line from Maurice Sendak to the Greek dramatist Aeschylus . You really should have been there.
I don't really expect to hear about any lone gunman in Maine strolling into, say, a Unitarian Universalist Church  and taking out eight parishioners during the performance of a youth musical — though the folks in Knoxville probably weren't expecting it either. But this week's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington does remind us that extremist ideas and extremist speech do sometimes move unbalanced people to take extremist (and deadly) action .
One of my favorite drives in Maine — Route 52, south from the hip little city of Belfast  to the funky village in Lincolnville Center — takes you past a mobile home where, above a stockade-style privacy fence, some patriotic citizen has for several years now proudly displayed a large Confederate flag. What is this doing in Maine? I always wonder. Several miles farther along, a gentleman likes to tack up placards, some of them homemade, featuring the latest crop of right-wing exhortations. (I expect any day now he will take up the cause of defending decent Christian society against the scourge of homosexual unions.) I'd be willing to bet that these neighbors of mine represent no personal threat to myself or my loved ones. But I do worry, just a little.
It's true that extremism, paranoia, conspiracy theories and the like are not limited to the political right. A very liberal artist down the road, as I've noted before, subscribes to the 911-Truth fantasy, which is every bit as loony as the Obama-Birther blather parroted by, among others, Rush Limbaugh and the Holocaust Museum murderer. But my artist neighbor is a peaceful sort. I hope the rebel-flag guy is as well.