Being away for so long, almost three weeks this time, I felt a tad disconnected upon returning to Maine life. It’s like I’m moving here all over again. This was mostly intentional, in that I allowed myself to BE exactly where I was – in New York with friends and in Connecticut with family, which was my most successful trip back home yet. I gave myself permission to not write over the Christmas holiday, and while I missed it, I am glad I did so – it freed me up to immerse myself in Broadway shows, dinner dates with friends, and the revelry of end-of-year merrymaking. But now that I’m back up north, I want to jumpstart my life here. I want to welcome Maine back with haste and open arms. Indeed, my heart did grow fonder…
Years ago I took a quiz in Utne Reader, one of my favorite alternative magazines, about how consciously I integrated community into my daily routines – questions ranged from how often did I speak with my neighbors to my interactions with the people in my peripheral world, like my mail carrier, the local deli cashier, and the guy who picks up my garbage. I did alright on the test, probably because I had been living in the same place I had grown up.
However, I learned that quality can shift when you’re somewhere new and it takes deliberate effort to incorporate the ancillary population. I didn’t realize how much the fabric of community life is strengthened by those types of relationships until I lived in NYC, where people go out of their way to avoid eye contact and even discussing the weather is sometimes considered TMI: too much information.
It’s easy here, though, to talk with people – it’s expected, even. Hence, my first couple of days back have been entirely pleasant. Politeness rules the incidental. At the post office, I wasn’t just greeted with a foot-high stack of mail: holiday cards, January issues and (happily in the age of online banking) almost no bills, but also a warm “Welcome back! How was your Christmas?” My postmaster would make Emily Post proud. She even enquired about my pre-holiday cold and if I have fully recovered. I value these moments more than ever before.
I proceeded on to the local health clinic, where I needed to get a refill on antibiotics for a lingering ailment that pretty much laid me out for most of Christmas week. Health always seems to top everyone’s list of resolutions with good reason, doesn’t it? The nurse practitioner I met with was friendly, efficient, and chatted me up for a good 15 minutes after we settled the bill. Another reason I like living here is that even without health insurance, I can see a medical professional without breaking the bank, and get more personal attention than I have since my family doctor of many years passed away. She recommended a new pharmacy to get my prescription filled, Jensen’s, in Rockland and what a treat it was! It was minimalist in decoration and display and had the feel of an art gallery/cafe – complete with coffee, tea and muffins and a comfortable seating area in which to wait. I’ve never been in a drugstore as peaceful and well-designed as this, and the pharmacist was as helpful as could be. Even here I was engaged in conversation with him and another customer. No rushing in and out; we had time to share small talk. These benefits of small town living are really having an impact on me.
Next, I wandered around Camden, doing a little post-holiday shopping for next year, and took a moment to appreciate the winter harbor – the late afternoon light in January is magical, isn’t it?
Heading back to my car, I cross paths with a paisley Prius with vanity plates that said GANESH. I wonder if the driver’s intention is to remove all obstacles for the Green Movement to flourish in 2011? If so, he has my vote – heck, I’d drive a funky-designed car if it meant clearing away environmental impediments. As much as I’d like to give up driving to combat climate change, I must admit I love it too much – so my next vehicle will be either have to be electric or at least a hybrid, but that’s another post. In any case, the driver nodded, smiled and waved as he rolled by, continuing to brighten my day.
Lastly, I signed up for a free yoga class that I found in the local newspaper, The Free Press, easily the best regional weekly in the Midcoast area. I plan my week by their cultural and community listings, and am never disappointed. I meet many people this way, and really am beginning to feel a part of the rhythm. The Shivashakti School of Yoga hosts classes in a repurposed school building that also features art instruction, a dance studio, and a coffehouse/open-mic night. Rachel, our yogini, led us through a gentle, but intense hour and half that was more than enough to hook me for the next few months. Her grounding and approachability won me over; that she trusted enough to offer a free class was icing on the cake. I am so looking forward to stretching, toning, breathing, and just plain being with her as I attend to my health and well-being in the new year.
Such simple pleasure to be found in everyday courtesy and community – how cynical we can become when the world races past us and we lose the kindness of small moments of connection. It was so nice to get away, and it is so nice to be home again, getting back to writing and hiking and the daily encounters I’ve come to cherish. It’s like sinking into a hot tub of fragrant bubbles and soaking away the cares of the rush-a-minute world.