The Working Waterfront

Finding Maine

‘Haphazard’ traveler returns to new memories

Eliza Brooks Abbey
Posted 2022-03-28
Last Modified 2022-03-28

Editor’s note: In our last edition, a letter writer suggested that islanders other than the four who write regular columns for us might contribute to our coverage of life in places surrounded by water. Challenge accepted here!

I arrived here in Maine three years ago on May 1. More accurately, one week before that. I couldn’t gain occupancy of my newly acquired property but had to leave my former home in Virginia. I rented a nice apartment on Little Deer Isle for that week.

I had watched the seasons change in reverse as I drove north. If I remember correctly, we traveled back two weeks per 100 miles. Don’t quote me on that.

I had just traded in my dinky car for a more substantial and capable late-model SUV. It was a steal—a Toyota (complete with Michelin tires!) for less than $3,000 with trade-in. I felt it to be a necessary evil in moving to Maine. I thought, surely no one in their right mind would rely on a subcompact car in such cold and icy environs.

I chose Maine because it held absolutely nothing but good memories…

In time, I would find that I was wrong about this. In the North, people know how to deal with snow, and they do. Not so much in the South, though they should be getting better at it with climate changes and so on.

I made two overnight stops along the way. I might have only made one, but I was traveling with two feline companions who had never traveled more than four hours in any direction, least of all a direction I had chosen. So while I listened to my GPS as the familiar—but not familiar enough—cities drew near and watched the seasons slide backwards with every passing mile, my darling girls sang the song of their people and threw up and pooped, and sang some more.

They and I eventually calmed down and settled in for the long haul. One stop at an old friend’s place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the second just outside of Boston. From Boston, it would be about a six-hour drive to my “forever home” on Deer Isle, substantially slowed down by the inevitable local routes and speed limits.

Every year since I was, well, since before I was conceived, I’d been vacationing in Maine with my family and later, with friends, occasionally with lovers. We always rented a cabin on a lake in Bridgton, and we always took the same two weeks as did at least one other family.

One of those families remains “my” family to this day. I chose Maine because it held absolutely nothing but good memories, memories as close as I can imagine to being utter bliss. New England is my home and returning to it felt as natural as breathing.

I am what they call a boomerang, a person who was here or vacationed here and couldn’t help but return for good. I like the label. It’s nicer sounding than boomer, the other label I have to live with. Born just on the cusp, I’m barely a boomer, but a boomer nonetheless.

So, boomerang boomer it is, though that sounds more like an amped-up metal band than anything.

Driving out of Blue Hill and along Caterpillar Road, I slowed down at the overlook. I knew it was coming. I first took it in when I’d driven from the airport in March to see the property. It takes my breath away every time. Every damn time I drive past that overlook I smile, and sometimes tear up. It’s just beautiful and utterly Maine. Coastal Maine.

The bridge crossing Eggemoggin Reach in the distance, islands dotting the blue, blue water, hills rising off to the south. Or is it west? East? I admit I hardly know what direction I’m traveling at any given moment, but then again I really never have, being a person who does not explain directions as going east or west, but rather left or right, and often relying heavily on landmarks.

I’m a haphazard traveler. But I found Maine. I found Deer Isle. And I found my little slice of bliss.

Eliza Brooks Abbey is a former chef who now lives in Deer Isle.