The Words Of The Prophets Are Written On The Subway Walls

Back in October, a few weeks after I left the cacophony of NYC to the more ambitiously inclined, Forbes Magazine ranked Maine dead last in its yearly Best States For Business survey.  Where’d they get that notion?  Are there less corporate tax breaks here, or is it the geographical remove, tucked way up in the top corner of the country?  There’s a lot of coastline, though;  shouldn’t that be good for commerce?  Or maybe it’s the sparse population;  heck, more people live below 110th St in Manhattan than in our entire state, it’s just that a three-piece here means Carhartts, flannel and a tool belt. A real DIY kinda place.  We all need income, so we’re not adverse to making a living, and there’s that New England work ethic, so sloth and idleness are not to blame.  Last, really?  Hmmm.

Maybe with a slogan like Vacationland, we sell ourselves as a place to play, not work, and stats in a survey tell whatever story you want them to. Those suits at the money magazines can spin a yarn just as well as any Down East denizen, apparently.  There’s certainly no shortage of busyness here, especially if you listen to an oldtimer when he notes, “Yah know spring’s here when folks start either diggin’ in their gahden or sandin’ down their schooner.”  If you’ve done either, you’ve no doubt the industry of the task.  The curious thing is that Mainers tell themselves a story:  that finding work is hard, that jobs aren’t easy to come by, that economic times are always tough here.  Maybe Forbes didn’t rely on statistics for their survey.  Perhaps it was a write-in campaign.

Now six months later, the Institute for Economics and Peace perches the Pine Tree State in peak position as the #1 Most Peaceful in the US.  ‘The Way Life Should Be,’ the state tagline, is cliche for a reason.  Peace.  Stillness.  Ah, yes.  Shhh.. listen.

**ribbet ** ribbet ** ribbet **

Does this mean that economic enterprise and peacefulness are at odds?  Mutually exclusive?

I’ve had a long, snowy winter to contemplate this.  My ear’s better attuned now to groundswell and scuttle.  So much gets drowned out in our technolife, but November to April in the Northeast is like being on silent retreat – aside from the chainsaws, listening to Labor Mural dramas on WERU, and Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman report on waves of change in the Middle East and waves of destruction in Japan.  It’s mostly tranquil here – a grand environment to ponder and listen.  And listen I do.

Seems the more we pare down, the richer life gets.  By reducing noise and distraction, one of my primary goals for leaving the city – (Who can write there anyway?  Well, except for Jonathan Franzen, Rick Moody, Colson Whitehead and, oh – never mind.  Focus, Kellie, focus.), I’ve gained a keen ear.  By tuning into ever-sensitized wavelengths, I’ve gained endless wisdom, all locked in a virtual Maine zip file.  I hear the messages of prophets everywhere:  in the peeping frogs in vernal pools near Lucia’s Beach,  in the profundities of seemingly mundane chats with new friends, in the warning calls of hawks, as they spy prey below, running on battened-down earth.  I hear it in my own words, even, when they’re reflected back to me;  funny, I often miss them the first time out.

But for all the halcyon moments, impatient desires rustle and poke at my new peace.  I WANT to be busy.  Isn’t activity essential this season?  My mind is fertile with ideas and wanderlust.  I want to strap on stilts, take this expanding me out for a stroll with purpose – I want my steps to cover ten times as much ground as they did before.  I want to move like a giant, calling up the wind like The Alchemist, and sweep away everything not rooted down.  The earth is shifting so wide and deep, down to its mantle, and loosening what’s on the surface.  The blasting sandstorm, the blizzard, the waves are all churning and eroding.  I, too, am shedding and recalibrating.

Indeed, Paul Simon knew.  The prophets are everywhere.  Their words ARE on the subway walls, and tenement halls, and in your mouth, and in mine.  Discerning what to believe, Ah! That’s the key!  Do I listen to Forbes, pack up my bags and head back to a Brooklyn job?  Or do I believe peace lives here, on this ground?  Or maybe, just maybe, both are mobile and malleable?

I wonder – these stories that Maine, and we, tell, are they real – are they true, or are they all talk & no listening?

Leave a comment


  1. Hartley

     /  17 April 2011

    Dear Kellie,
    Beautiful! Regarding the Maine expression “You can’t get there from here!”, it seems that you have successfully got yourself somewhere at least halfway, between “there” and “here”! Sounds like a wonderful place to be! Can’t wait to see where it takes you! Lots of love, Hartley

    • Hartley ~ It’s finally sinkin’ in that everywhere is between here and there. Think I would’ve figured that out before, eh? It’s been an adventure! xo

  2. Rebecca Robinson

     /  18 April 2011

    Oh, such good food for thought! Eloquently put, Ms. Brooks.

    • Rebecca ~ Thanks! I’m starting to listen in ways I’ve never before – and realizing that wisdom is everywhere – and sometimes not where we expect to find it (silly surveys…) xo

  3. A wonderful post! As a musician, so much of my life has been about listening, and appreciating the spaces in between sound as much as the sounds themselves. That’s why I hate the cacaphony of places like, say, Times Square, which assaults you visually, aurally, olfactorily, bodily; your whole body vibrates with the stimulation, and you lose touch with your own vibrations…. your own thoughts, desires, feelings, because something is shouting at you from every building, every story (or multiple stories), “Look at me! Buy me! Go here! Go there!” As each ad screams at us, the next ad must scream louder, and so it goes…. drowning out our very selves even as they intend to tug us this way and that.

    But — here is a TED talk on the topic of listening I think you and your readers will love: it’s brilliant Scotswoman Evelyn Glennie, the world’s first solo percussionist…. and she happens to be profoundly deaf.

    She’s truly inspiring….

    • vlb ~ looking forward to her TED talk! I saw Touch The Sound years ago, and was blown away by it! Glad to hear she’s still sharing her story – it’s an insight into all the mystery of our lives. Listening with our skin, our eyes…xoxo

  4. Damon K.

     /  21 April 2011

    Fantastic! “waves of change… waves of destruction” rhythm SO powerful. You’re nailing it.

    oh, and Touch the Sound is on Hulu streaming right now 🙂

  5. fivereflections

     /  25 December 2011

    Merry Christmas from David in Maine USA


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