This past August found me driving up to Portland, Maine from NYC, on holiday with my best friend L, with whom I’d never actually traveled before, so we were psyched to be vacationing together. I’d been road-tripping alone all summer and was excited to add another destination to the growing list of places I’d visited – Fallingwater, the Windy City, Hoosier National Forest, the cornfields of Iowa, southern Vermont’s Green Mountains and Montreal, except now I was sharing the highway time contentedly chatting away instead of tuning past yet another twangy radio station. The odometer seemed to roll faster with company in the car. After we caught each other up on our respective summers, I decided this was the best time to slip in to the conversation I would be scoping out Portland as a possible future home.
“What?!” L said, surprised. “You’re leaving Brooklyn? You just moved there! You love your apartment, your neighborhood, your stoop.”
“Well, I do, you’re right. But when I was camping in Vermont over Memorial Day weekend with T & G, they suggested I might be happier in a crunchy, more outdoorsy city, like Burlington, where they lived or maybe Portland. I filed it away at the time, but here we are, and Burlington doesn’t appeal so much, despite both of them living there, so I thought I’d look at Portland through that lens. Besides, you know it’s getting harder to justify my rent without any income. I’m just blowing through my savings.” I had quit my job in May, and wasn’t really interested in getting another one. This was the time for my writing, the lady-in-waiting of my dreams. And she’d been waiting, patiently, for decades…
“Yeah, okay, that makes sense, and it could be a better place for you to write,” she replied, reading my mind. “I would miss you, though. A lot.”
“Same here, but you could come up anytime and visit,” I said hopefully. “And you know my wanderlust, it’s not easily tamed.”
So with that, we explored the city with L’s Mainer friend B as our guide. Turned out I couldn’t imagine myself there – it seemed like a smaller Brooklyn, and well, I might just as well stay in Brooklyn, then, right? Right, I thought to myself.
A few days later, giving L & B some time together, I ambled up the coast to Camden, heading for a 4-day Windjammer cruise on Penobscot Bay. It was perfect. The sun shone, the wind blew and… my heart stirred. I think I was falling in love – with sailing, with the bay, heck, even the whole damned state. By the end of that adventure, I heard the Mid-coast calling and I was going to take that call. I asked around, checked out a few apartments, and was in for a shock! This was a typical conversation:
“Here’s your living room, dining room. Back there’s your bedroom with 2 closets. The kitchen gets the morning sun, laundry room behind that door, the bathroom – you’ll see there’s both a clawfoot tub and shower in there,” explained a potential landlord.
My own washer and dryer? A tub I could fill with lavender bubbles and soak for hours? Two closets? I was afraid to ask. “How much?”
“$675,” he replied.
He looked quizzically at me. “No, a month.”
My New York mind went blank. I couldn’t compute. $675 a month? Is that possible? I’d been living in the city too long, I thought to myself, if I am that surprised. Out loud I said “I’ll think about it.”
Overwhelmed by the possibility of cutting my monthly expenses by two-thirds, I had to catch my breath and evaluate the situation. I spent the next couple of days exploring the area, both by car & computer. I made lists. Pros: stable finances, proximity to the coast (kayaking! sailing! handsome bearded sailors!), year-round arts community (including a nationally respected museum and recently refurbished arthouse), scenery to spare, and a place where I could hear myself think. Cons: Distance from everyone I love, especially my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Oh, my nephew. He’s just learning to talk, to say my name, with all the consonants. How could I leave him? Only one con, but a big one. I needed to return home, to think clearly.
Back in Brooklyn, I sat with it all. While mulling over my next year, I logged into my bank account and was dismayed at the ever smaller amount. I tried to write, but the sirens and horns and car alarms… argh! So I pulled up Craigslist and skimmed for prospective apartments. Like magic, there it was! A sweet little farmhouse for rent, right near Camden. I drove back up a few days later to check it out. After meeting the summering-in-Maine owners, I felt like Baby Bear – the location was just right, the price was just right, the feeling was just right. The only quirk in the whole situation – it was only available for 10 months a year – so I would have to find another pillow on which to lay my head next July & August. Aha! Summer in Connecticut with my sister! And my friends back in the city? Well, they would all be welcome to enjoy a relaxing, rural getaway. And all those cards and stationery I’d been stockpiling over the years? I would refine my letter-writing.
I signed the lease that day.