Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maine; Calais, St. Croix

     Welcome to Maine.  Our next six months will be spent traveling southward along the east coast, hopefully arriving at Kitty Hawk NC around the first of the year.  I am looking forward to this stretch, and hope you all enjoy it.

     It has rained eight of the first eleven days I have been here - not typical for the area but the result of a tropical storm that came up through the Atlantic.  It is supposed to clear for good tonight, so we should be moving along steadily for the next while.

     Today we are covering the stretch from Calais to Eastport.  Signs of spring abound here - in fact there are azaleas that have just finished blooming.  Alongside most of the roadways purple towers of Lupin are in bloom.

     There are other signs about also - many of them ones that we aren't used to seeing.  

     Falling ice is a major issue here; there are warning signs under numerous overhangs.

     Almost all rural roads have signs prohibiting trucks from using their engines to slow down, as it is rather noisy.

     More conspicuous though are the signs that you don't see.  Billboards are banned, and business are limited in the size of signage they can use.  It gives a much cleaner look to the landscape.

    We are starting in Calais, the town that hosts the eastern-most land border crossing into Canada.  In this area the border is defined by the St. Croix River.

     I have heard many people complain about the border issues that have arisen since 911.  There are many islands along the river here, and over the centuries many families have married across the border and many business relationships were created.  Homeland Security is viewed as being very ham-handed with all manner of regulations that make both visiting and business much more cumbersome.  

     The town was originally set up as a lumbering operation, the land being sold for 19 cents an acre to one Waterman Thomas in 1789.  It currently has a population of just over 3,000, and it appears that its biggest industry is the import of vacationing Canadians.

      As we move eastward we come into the tidal zone and the river widens quickly.

     Just outside of town is St. Croix Island where we find the remnants of the first European visitors to the area.

     In 1604 French explorer Samuel de Champlain landed and wintered here.  On the island is a model based on old records that shows the town's layout.

     Winters are brutal here, and without the help of the Passamaquoddy Indians the group would not have survived it.

     After working to repair their ships and build up their stores, they headed up into what is now Canada and established a settlement at Port Royal.

     The winters are brutal here - parts of this area got 18 feet of snow this last winter.  Many of the structures are built with very steep roof lines to help dump off the snow load.

     Some of them have a "Swiss chalet" look with the trimming along the eaves.

     Along the way you see the signs of the recently passed winter - huge snow-plows now sit idle for a few months.

     Locals say they have nine months of winter and three months of bad skiing here.  

     Along the way are numerous small establishments - small lumber mills are common.

     Many of the towns on the map are only noticeable by a cross roads adorned with a store and perhaps an old church.

     Soon, signs of the marine fishing industry start to appear.  

     Piles of lobster traps alongside boats that are dry-docked for the winter are common.

     Along the way is an Indian Reservation.

    This he Passamaquoddy Indians - which translated into English means "People of the Pollock Fish."  

     I had a conversation for several hours with one of the local elders.  He didn't want me to photograph him or the reservation area, but other than that they were quite welcoming.

     His biggest concerns are that the culture and the language are rapidly dying.  His generation had to learn the language in secret as the Jesuits who ran the local schools forbade both the language and the Indian customs.  Since the 1970's, engaging in the language and culture has become more socially acceptable.  But even though he and the others have now been able to teach their children the language, the current generation refuses to speak it.  Also, most of their children are marrying outside the tribes, so any means of passing on the language is being lost.  

      So he and a few others have started a project to create a dictionary of the language, and to put into writing the oral traditions that were passed down to them.  
     In areas around the reservation items can be seen hung on the road side markers that show the berm in the winter.

     Some seem more ominous than others.  I noticed these after I had spoken with him, so was unable to inquire if there was some meaning behind it.

     So, tomorrow we will visit Eastport, the easternmost city in the United States.

     I wanted to touch on a few personal things of note - about four hours south of here in Poland Maine I was able to stay a few days with Elizabeth Papps.

     Elizabeth has been following my writing since back when I wrote the meditations.  When she caught wind of Les Neville's Accident, she came to 'South Carolina for a month to help him and his family.  She lives on an old dairy farm and breeds dogs - labradoodles to be specific.  

         The Sunday before last she took me to a local Quaker church for their Sunday services.

     I found the service very unique and enjoyable.  Men sit on one side of the room and women on the other.  A man gets up and reads a few verses of the bible, followed by a woman reading a few verses.

     Then people stand up and speak about what the passages meant to them.  After each person shares, the congregation spontaneously breaks out in a verse of song that seems to mirror what that person shared.

     The subject that evolved was "being discerning versus being judgmental."  It really was thought provoking and heartening to see others share openly both their thoughts and what they are struggling with personally.

     I then drove up to Calais, where I attended a random Methodist church this last Sunday.  (This is a good story if you can stay with it.)  The rain had set in for its fourth day, and after the service a couple approached me and asked if I would come over for a meal and spend the night.  They lived a few miles south on a local lake called Cathance.

Lake Cathance, Maine

     They are from Pennsylvania, and own a small house here that they summer in.  Before I arrived at their house later in the day, they  called one of their daughters and asked her to look at my webpage.  (They don't have internet or television at the lake.)

     The daughter went to my facebook page, and saw an old picture of me with Elizabeth Papps.  It turns out that they had met Elizabeth twenty years ago when they had first started visiting Maine - and they met her a few hundred miles south of here.  Their children and Elizabeth's are lifelong friends, and they had been wanting to get back in touch with her but didn't have her cell number or email.  Another one of those amazing "coincidences" that happen on the road - that somehow just don't seem as amazing as they should because of the frequency of their occurrence. 

     This couple also asked that I not put their photo or their names out on the web - a request I have gotten numerous times here in Maine.  I am wondering if it will turn into a trend.

    On another note, I want to say goodbye to one of the classiest and most spiritual women I have ever known.

     Carol Benton of Mount Pleasant SC passed yesterday.  For those of you whose lives touched hers, no words are necessary to express what an awesome spirit she is.  For those of you who didn't know her, no words are enough.

     If the weather permits, I should be able to write the next few day straight, but am going to have to find a few days work soon as the radiator on my van is giving way.  I am really looking forward to this stretch of land - this is beautiful land.  The people are a bit stoic - but I am learning to work through that.  When I asked a fellow if he had lived here all his life, he looked me in the eyes and drawled:  "Not Yet."

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd."

     This woman, whose name escaped me, has lived seventy six years in the Quaker Village in Poland.  She arrived here as an orphan at age ten, and certainly "rules the roost" with all the other women.  

     And today's parting shot - 

      Well, now that we know pigs can fly we just need to find a town named "Hell" that freezes over . . .

Click Here if you can contribute a few dollars to this effort and Click Here to email me.

Have an awesome day !!

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