Monday, October 22, 2012

Maine musings

Funny how you wake up and you forget that just hours earlier, you'd been vowing to never put one foot in front of the other again. The sun's out, the air is crisp -- do I have time for one last walk in Portland, Maine? Maybe.

Breakfast first. This is a nod to the different nature of this day: granola and yogurt. As if I were already one foot in the farmhouse door.

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My bag is packed. I can do this! Two more hours of rambling. Surely I can do this!

Where to? Oh, it's obvious. I've allowed Maine (at least coastal Maine) to identify herself for me as the fishermen's state -- the place of lobsters (my commenter Bex, whose husband is a lobsterman in Massachusetts will surely forgive me) and of those who risk the rough ocean waters to bring seafood to the table. So I walk briskly down to the old port area…

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and then even closer to the ocean waters.

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I weave my way around parking lots and blocked roads until I come to this pier. A fishermen's pier. It seems almost out of place here. On one side -- condos, on another -- bigger boats. I'm facing a sign, indeed, several signs warning against trespassing. So I pause. And watch. A handful of men are engaged in animated conversation. Eventually they drive off, except for one, who walks over toward me. It's a picturesque spot that you've discovered -- he tells me.
I know, but I don't want to go further… There are all these signs.
Yes, sure. But go ahead. Just don't break your leg or something. You know how it is -- liability.

I promise him I won't break my leg.

These huts, the lobstermen rent them out and they store their stuff here…
You too? I ask.
Sure. I've been at this same hut for sixty years. But now my boat is acting up. He goes off toward his truck and rumbles off.

I walk up and down the pier. Empty now in the late morning.

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It is indeed an atmospheric place -- depicting quite well a closed community of… lobstermen. Judging from their bumper stickers, they've had a rough time with the changing mores and regulations.

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Later, Ed and I talk about how complicated this is: the struggle between "sustainability" and fishing for a living. But right now, I just take it all in. As one who loves to eat sea food, I owe it to those who harvest it.

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And though it's getting dangerously close to my noon flight out, I make one more stop. At the studio of Mr. Anderson. I've been thinking a lot about his paintings and of course, I'm not one to ever spend money on a painting, but I am one to consider posters and I want one last glance at his. This time he is in the shop and I warm to him instantly: he's his own person, but, too, he is lively and effervescent and happy, so happy to be achieving a hefty amount of success in recent years.
I've sold many paintings this year! More than ever before. To collectors, to Europeans -- not bad for a guy who is 82!

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Not bad indeed.

Time to walk back to the Inn. A new route: I hadn't seen this before -- with a dedication to the lobsterman.

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And now I rush, because I cannot, cannot miss my flight home. A flight that leaves the ocean behind me.

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So I'm at the gate now, in time for boarding to Detroit. And I admit it -- I did something I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life: I withheld a smile. Here's what happened: I was waiting to board. The announcement came for those with special boarding requirements to preboard. We had one such person -- a woman, maybe near 70, who suddenly couldn't find her boarding pass, then couldn't handle her bag and her Starbucks cup and her pass, because she lacked a third hand -- she was a complete boarding disaster. And then I heard her say to the ground crew -- I'm in 4B. Oh no… I'm in 4A.

So that when I got on, I was in my busy mode. My "please, please don't engage me" mode. Please don't be friendly, don't ask me where I'm going -- I have exams to grade, a good book to read, please, I'll do anything but do not chat me up on this trip.

I sit down. She immediately turns to me and says -- you'll have to excuse me, but I'm really nervous about this flight. And this is the moment when I did not smile and I hate myself for it. I mumbled something about it being okay and went back to my work.

She is quiet, but her hand, the same hand that held the Starbucks is shaking. I notice that. When the flight attendant does her talk about air oxygen masks falling out if there is a change in cabin pressure, my seatmate leans over toward me -- excuse me, I know this won't happen, but if it does, will you, after putting your own, help me with my mask? My heart melts and I feel so terribly awful for not embracing her worries earlier.

Of course I'll help you with your mask. But let me ask you this -- do you ever go in cars?  -- this is my introduction into how safe flying is as opposed to being on the highway in a car. Yes, but she'd always flown with her husband before. He took care of everything for her. She just went along and now she's scared. She's traveling to Omaha to visit a brother, a factory guy who moved there because his job moved there, but who suddenly is very ill and she wants to help, even as her husband has to stay home.

I have many many thoughts about this sweet sweet person in the seat next to me. Here's one nugget, though, that stands out: despite my initial resilience, despite the crowds, the strangeness of everything, my seatmate never stops being utterly polite and well intentioned toward another. When someone sneezes all the way in the back of the plane, she says - bless you. When it is time to disembark, she hurries me on, knowing I have an impossibly tight connection, even though she likes having a familiar face at her side (I at least made sure that a wheel chair was waiting for her, but still, she would have liked my now fully operational grin encouraging her on).

And I will long remember the moments when I try to get some work done and she picks up her little magazine of soap opera highlights and I put out her tray for her and she places her coffee on it and when the attendant comes with refreshments, she asks for more coffee, even though surely she is nervous enough with the first dose.  After a while, she relaxes. Excuse me, she tells me, but I'm going to take a little nap. Please wake me when I have to do something different. We land ten minutes later. I hope she is with her brother and that he is doing well. And that she is doing well.

The flight from Detroit to Madison is in a different league. Whereas we had been traveling thus far through brilliant and friendly skies, this time, the pilots warn many, many times -- we are heading right into a storm system and we are going to be bumping our way into Madison. I suppose if you expect havoc, a few dips and sways are not going to move you one way or another. In my view, it is a perfectly fine glide into the little airport that is my home base.

I do not mind that Ed is late in picking me up, especially since he has spent the weekend fixing the brakes to the old Ford donkey car while I have been walking and oftentimes eating lobster.

We drive past the lakes which, at this moment are especially lovely, misty lovely, wistful, poetic almost.

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We shop for groceries -- a real treat as typically I squeeze this in by myself, on a work evening -- and we pick up takeout Chinese and now we're settled in to watch the debate and yes, yes, I am so happy to be home.