I’ve been wanting to visit Maine for many years now: Acadia National Park, lobstah, chowdah. Need I say more? Unfortunately, I could never afford the trip. I (like most authors) struggle to turn a profit. I write because words are on my heart. Realistically, writing does not pay the bills. Were it not for my husband’s support I’d be holed up in the rabbit cage nibbling on the carrots. Authors are a different breed of “starving artists” with a scant few affording vacations as luxurious as a jaunt to Maine.
Enter my friend Debbie. She had posted pictures of her recent trip to Maine so I asked if she could suggest places to stay on the cheap. Figuring we could pack enough groceries if we found affordable accommodations, I was shocked when she and her husband offered her “camp.”
Mainers don’t have summer cabins, they have camps. One of many things I learned during my time in Maine.
I was over the moon. My life-long dream seemed possible. Let me pause to say that I have trouble accepting gifts from people. I will gladly share my home, (heck I had just offered my home to fellow author, Jolina Petersheim when she visited FoxTale in Georgia to launch her book The Outcast).
However, being on the receiving end of a generous gift makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like being indebted. My friend Tommye Cashin offered her home a couple years ago and I accepted, but that was different. Her home was on St. Simon’s Island, in the heart of the south where I feel at home. A place where people don’t think I talk funny. I fell head over heels in love with St. Simon’s Island. My daughter is still pouting that we didn’t return this year. (That’s a hint Tommye).
My mother has chastised me, told me that I “need to learn how to let people do good things for me.” She offers examples of things I do for others and has told me that I am “robbing people of joy when you don’t allow them to do things for you.”
My mommy is wise.
To recap our spring, my husband and I were in project mode. In May, we began a simple project that should have taken no more than two weeks, tops. The first weekend in May, we laid down concrete backer board, carted enough slate to cover our massive front porch, and grabbed a couple tarps just in case it rained. As most Atlanta folk know, it rained. It rained like pouring you-know-what out of a boot, like a cow you-know-whatting on a rock. During the month of May there was so much rain that frogs took up residence in the blue tarp covering our porch. The downpours did not stop until the day Jolina and Misty came, the day before I left for Maine. (Three months to be exact but who was counting). Lake Lanier filled. Towns flooded. I gave up on my garden. Yes, me, advisor to the newbie gardener, gave up on growing any food this year.
While my husband worked his paying job, I cleaned the slate that had been stored in the basement for almost a decade (we purchased it on clearance). I poured my depression about the dreary weather, my lack of a book contract, and my general concerns about how I would pay for my daughter’s college all went into the work at hand…the front porch. My daughter sealed the slate and every afternoon my husband and I hung the tarp and prayed the rain would hold off long enough to finish the job. Rains continued and the project drug out. I loved the slate. I hated the slate. I dared anyone to use words that even rhymed with slate. (And don’t even get me started on the grout!) Hampered by bad weather, the project lingered. We sorely needed a break from what we now called the “year” (not month) of the house.
With Momma’s words tucked in my heart, I told my husband about Debbie’s offer, of her priceless gift. Could we actually accept her offer?
We did. We finished the slate, folded the tarp hours before Jolina arrived. We packed a suitcase and a cooler then pointed the car North toward the Yanks. Yes my friends, we drove. Y’all know my middle name is “LetsGo,” Renea LetsGo Winchester. I love seeing this great country and the road trip allowed me to fall in love with a whole lotta country (mainly farmland). Now, I wouldn’t be a true southerner if I didn’t say that this trip concerned me. Lawd knows I’m not a world traveler. Washington DC is the “most Northern” state I’ve ever visited (Senior trip in the year 19 mumble….mumble). I was afraid folk would make fun of me, be rude, wouldn’t like me. And ya know what? None of that happened. Those Mainers are good people. They are just like us (or us’ns if for those living in the way, way back woods). The only difference I could gather is that most of them drink Pepsi and unsweetened tea. I believe that can’t be helped because Coke controls the market down here in the south. I also believe they drink Pepsi because the cans are red, white and blue. Lawsie those Mainers are a patriotic lot. I have an entire blog post in the works about the patriots.
The trip was wonderful. Some of the things I experienced are so precious I must keep them tucked inside my heart, but in the future posts I will introduce you to the people and the beauty of Maine. For newbies just finding this blog, let me say “Welcome. I’m glad you’re here.”
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I think you will fall in love with Maine’s people as much as I have. Please, please share my blog post with others. If you don’t subscribe to this blog, please do so.This world is a small place and I’m sure someone will recognize some of the people in my posts. In my heart I hope I honor the people and the state that I have fallen in love with. And again, this one tiny little word “Thanks” can never express my gratitude to Debbie and Carl.
Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2014, Mercer University will release her next book: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches