Living Inside the Moat

The sun has come up on our little corner of Maine and as the chilly night air of autumn finds its way back into the dark corners and hollows, it makes room for warmer breezes and evaporating dew. This morning I find myself driving slowly around the neighborhood on a pleasant Saturday morning. The combination of encroaching cool weather and the start of the school year has sent most of the summer visitors back to their primary billing addresses and leaves the roads wonderfully navigable again. Things are quieter now and the folks who I see enjoying the fresh, new day tend to be folks whom I know well. I love this season.

At the moment, there are just two of us in the car. My daughter, Lulu Belle sits, wrapped in pink and flowers as she takes her early morning nap. The only visible movement being the miniscule bobbing of the pacifier as she does her best to suck the beejeebee’s out of it. Action Girl has left for work and Short Stack is no doubt still dreaming about locomotives, little white bunnies with scooters and possibly a dump truck or two at his Grandparent’s house. That is, for my folk’s sake, I hope he’s dreaming. A night with a two year old is always a crapshoot.

Friday nights for him are routinely spent at their house. It gives him something to look forward to during the week and to be honest, it give us something to look forward to as well. We love our son, but getting to deal with just one kid, for one day a week is a real treat. We’re all very lucky to have this opportunity, parents, grandparents and kiddos all.

I had driven to my parent’s house shortly after Action Girl had gone to work for the day but upon finding their house dark and locked, I decided that we should go for a drive and try to actually enjoy the place where we live. It’s really beautiful here but between kids, work and the pile of construction materials I like to call a “house”, I rarely get to go out and see this place for my self. Coffee in hand and Lulu Belle in tow, we headed out to see what there was to see. It would be a circular drive. They always are.

I’m going to tip my hand here and let you in on something that I’ve been keeping to my self. The reason that our locals are so “local” and our community so tight knit is that we really don’t have much of choice. The geography dictates it. This is because where we live is pretty cut off from the surrounding area. Very cut off, actually. By water… All the way around.

Action Girl, Short Stack, Lulu Belle and I live on an island off the coast of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean reminds us of that every day. I take a ferry every day to get to work. The only other option is to swim and that’s really not a lot of fun. If I’m very lucky, it’s Action Girl who’s piloting the ferry and I get to kiss the captain and deliver her some good coffee. It’s a definite life style choice to live where we do and it isn’t a good fit for everyone.

We have a local grocery store that does a very admirable job keeping us all fed. There are a few places where you can go and eat out and some really nice people who make living here a very enjoyable experience. There are however, no secrets out here and you have to be all right with that. If you have a skeleton in your closet, you can bet that everyone has talked with it and found out your deep dark secrets. If that bothers you, then this place isn’t for you.

It cuts both ways though. We have barely purchased any clothes for our young kids since they keep appearing by the bag on our front porch. During a particularly nasty storm last year that had us with out power, water or heat for several days, we lived with neighbors who were only too happy to share their home and wood stove. We lock our door when we go out for the day, but it’s really a formality since most folks know where the key is kept. I really like it here.

As our drive progressed, I took the rare opportunity to take some pictures of the things that I love about this place, both beautiful and foolish. Here are the products of my drive.

The apples are dropping now and the island geese are very happy about that. I don’t actually know if these are anyone’s geese in particular. They hang out on this end of the island and cruse the shallows down at the beach. You can find them year round either looking for handouts, hissing at random kids or more often, both.

The cottages and year round houses here tend to date from the early 1900’s. This neat little row, over shadowed by ancient oak trees looks down to the water. The 1950’s era lawn chairs are probably the real deal. It’s such a pain to get stuff out to the island so folks tend to hang on to things longer and take better care of them.

One of the last, old street signs. Its blue enameled face shows the creativity that went into naming the roads.

The view across the swamp of the old gun battery. During the Second World War, German u-boats were known to prowl these waters. The remains of military installations dot the islands of Maine. Ours in no exception.

The view from “back shore” is one of open ocean and other islands. Some are empty, some have towns of their own and others are owned completely by the rich and xenophobic. We can all see each other from our own little rocks in the water, but don’t visit much.

An excellent example of why I like it here so much. An islander’s car wound up in this little swamp at one point and had to be towed out. The road crew out here thought that the event deserved a marker. If you come to visit, remember; no parking in the middle of the swamp!

And back we come to our main street. A typical off season Saturday morning with empty roads and quiet lawns. When it’s time for the ferry to make its visit at our dock there will be a brief flurry of activity but once its gone, all will be quiet again.

So, that was our drive on a nice Saturday morning. Lulu Belle had slept through most of it and by the time I had come back around to my starting point, my folks and visiting son were up and enjoying the day. It’s not often that I get to take stock of my home. We spend so much time immersed in the work of life that we forget to pop our heads up from time to time and actually look around. It was a good morning for that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pile of lumber that needs to be cut, placed and nailed into the approximate shape of an addition on Lulu Belle’s room. I glad for the mornings respite.

6 Responses

  1. Looks like a beautiful place and an excellent location for a childhood. I’m sure your children will have a lot of fond memories to look back on, growing up in such a town.

    Thanks! That in fact, was the idea. We moved out here from the mainland about five years ago with the express notion of where the best place to be a kid, would be. Things are a lot more laid back here and it reminds us both of the way things were in our own childhood. Kids play outside, Packs of bike riding five year olds wobble by our house from time to time. People drive slowly, etc. It feels just a bit like 1972 in terms of attitude. We also like the fact that we all know each other. If your kid does something foolish, then you know about it from a neighbor before the little bugger gets home.

  2. I’m trying to resist the urge to pack a quick suitcase and take the next flight to Manchester, zoom to the coast for a quick shopping trip at LL Bean, and then show up on your doorstep with a sleeping bag in tow.

    Your kids are going to really enjoy growing up there I think.

    Hey! If I can find the floor through all the baby accouterments and my two year old’s toys, you’re more than welcome! It’s getting mighty chilly these mornings though; you might want to consider coming this spring or summer. There are a LOT of rental properties out here available by the week. We could go shooting in the morning, let the kids play on the beaches in the afternoon and then fire up the grill and sample the local micro brewed beers in the evening! What do say?

  3. Beautiful area! I’ve never been to Maine. Got as far as Vermont and turned tail.

    The “no parking” sign is brilliantly placed.

    Do you have difficulty coming and going with a drive full of geese?

    Not my drive thankfully. Though they do make a pretty picture, I like to walk around barefoot too much and as you might guess, bare feet and goose poo don’t mix well.

    Next time, you ought to keep pushing through to Maine! The interior isn’t much to write home about but the coast! Oh, I do love it here!


  4. I laughed at the ‘no parking’ sign. Someone’s got a sense of humor.

    Are there schools on the island or do the kids have to go to the mainland?

    I love the ocean…the sand…the waves… Oh, to be able to walk to such a place where one can find the peace and serenity needed to recharge.

    We have a public school out here for grades K-5. After that, they need to take the ferry to town. The class sizes here on the island are 6-9 or so. Better than any private school.

    I love it out here too. The trouble is that I don’t get enough time to go and enjoy it, hence the job change.

  5. Hi, again. This is my second visit to your blog ;)) This is a very nice description of the place you live and makes me want to travel there.
    And I totally agree with you when you say that we are so deep down in our everyday life that we just don’t notice the beauty of our microcosmoses. So true!

    Welcome back, again! Every once in a while I realize that I haven’t done anything fun where I live. I just go to work and then home. Though it’s harder now with kids, on days like the one above, I pack the munchkins up and head out to see what’s happening and what’s changed. Other wise, why live some place nice?! Glad you’re enjoying the reading!

  6. Sounds like a plan TP. We still haven’t made up our minds about next year’s vacations. We’re supposed to visit my wife’s brother in London (my first trip across the Atlantic!) in the spring but the girls are giving Grandpa the full-court press for NH again in the summer. If so, I’m thinking I’d like to head up a few days early for a trip to Maine.

    Oh, I wouldn’t miss a trip overseas for much! At one point, I was heading to Europe almost every year for at least a couple of weeks. It’s wonderful. Expensive as all hell, but wonderful. The best way to do it is with a guide like your brother-in-law. That’s about as perfect as you can get. Maine will still be here when you get back, though! Just a thought, but The Lake is only about a two hour drive away from me. You can always make it an overnight!

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