This is the first of several “Dispatches from Maine” to be posted here through the beginning of October.
Last week seems like a blur to me now; running around visiting and saying good-bye to friends I won’t see again until October; taking care of a few last minute details for ongoing projects at the National Archives; making certain the house is clean and secure and ready to endure our summer absence; and packing and more packing . . . all the stuff we will need at our home away from home.
What type of clothes should we take? We are heading north just a week after the onset of summer and we anticipate the occasional hot weather we could very well encounter (an early heat wave accompanied by high humidity greeted us upon our arrival with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees). By the time we return home we will have put the window fans away with the arrival of crisp early autumn days when we will fire up the wood stove in the morning and evening to do battle against the nip in the air. Not that long ago, in April, the last vestiges of a harsh winter still clung to the margins of the lake, and there is every chance there will once again be snow in the air not long after we depart. Summer is short in northern New England and so one needs to be prepared for both heat and cold.
Then came the loading of the car and insuring that we had not forgotten anything important despite lists and more lists of things to do and what to take with us. By the time we had everything in the car it was late in the day and we were too beat to even consider hitting the road and making our way north. Our neighbors happened to be planning a fiesta with great food and drink and so the delay of our departure was a welcome respite after all the fuss and bother of the previous week.
One thing I did hope for yet failed to materialize was a good night’s sleep before our 10+ hour drive to Maine the following day. I have driven this route between our home in suburban Washington, DC and the lake cottage in Maine literally dozens of time over the past quarter of a century and I swear I can do it blind-folded. Still I am always “journey proud” . . . that deep-seated apprehension about an impending trip. What will the weather be en route? What about the traffic as we gradually escape the clutches of Washington and Baltimore on Interstate 95; by-passing Philadelphia through the pinelands of southern New Jersey and the meadowlands of north Jersey as we give New York City a wide berth along the Garden State Parkway and across Westchester County; and finally the diagonal trek on Interstate 84 from southeastern Connecticut to Worcester, the environs of Boston and northeastern Massachusetts. Finally we are moving quickly north through coastal New Hampshire and into Maine, our summer home. As it turned out, the trip was uneventful. The weather was fine and the traffic, save the swing around Boston and its harried drivers, was lighter than we expected. There was absolutely nothing to worry about.
And so here we are again, our 27th summer at the cottage on True’s Point, on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. We have truly become summer expatriates in every sense of the word. We have learned to navigate two very different places very well. There is our home in Maryland where we have resided for nearly four decades, and there is this summer lake cottage in Maine. Perhaps we are not fully understood in either place nor do we fully understand the lives around us in both places. There is certainly a great deal we still need to learn and comprehend and maybe we will never rise to the task. But you know what? That is perfectly fine with me. I enjoy the mystery that remains, and with it comes the comforting degree of privacy I have always cherished. I read recently that this nature of the expatriate is “an uncontrollable quality” that follows us back and forth between Maryland and Maine.
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