America is a mobile nation. We’re a people of wanderlust. The reasons why vary. Some are sound, some forced on us, often as a matter of survival. Many tribes of the first people of America roamed along with the game they needed to feed themselves. The Pilgrims braved an ocean voyage to get here, and pioneers moved ever westward to see what was over the next hill, the next valley. Some wanted the adventure, some were seeking riches. For the most part, all sought a better life.
Mainers are a slightly different breed. Don’t get me wrong. Mainers want adventures, riches, a better life, and tend to find it–they make it in their own backyard. Mainers sink their roots deep and rarely let go.
My maternal great-grandfather had a severe case of wanderlust. He was born in Maine. As a young man he traveled to Ohio, married a local beauty, and off they went to Nebraska–by oxcart. Their first two children were born there in a sod house. Next they moved to another sod house in Colby, Kansas where they had two more children.
I suspect great-grandmama was pregnant on the return to Maine since her fifth child, my grandmother, was born 16 months after her fourth. They stayed put at least another six years as my Gram’s baby brother was born in the same town as she. But great-grandpa still had itchy feet, and while he kept the family in Maine, he moved them a couple more times until he finally settled at the farm where I currently reside.
The farm is under the stewardship of great-grandpa’s grandson who was born and raised here. Next door is my mother’s cousin, born and raised on the farm Gram’s baby brother owned. That’s 94 years on the same parcel of land. Another cousin, once or twice removed but dear to my heart, lives within two miles of the house where she was born and raised. A childhood friend has always lived within a twenty mile radius of where she was born. Another cousin lives in her grandmother’s house, around the corner from where she grew up.
You get the idea; once those roots are sunk, they go deep.
So, what’s an Oregon girl doing in Maine?
I asked myself just that when it seemed Spring had forgotten New England last year. When the humidity of summer turned my brain into a gelatinous mess, I begged the question again. And, yes, I’ve experienced summer in the South. Still, humid weather is rare in Oregon, especially in the southern part that’s been home to me for the majority of my life.
But I started life in Maine. I was born in the same city as McDreamy actor Patrick Dempsey. A couple decades before his time, but what’s a few years. Thirty IS just a number. LoL. But by the time I was two, my dad had gotten a job in Boston, MA. He went past Harvard on his way to work each day. Paul Revere’s house was around the corner; Faneuil Hall a couple blocks away, as well as Breed’s Hill.
Before all that history could sink in, Dad was transferred to Pasadena, CA, home of the Rose Bowl, and off we went. The Rose Parade occupied most of the city throughout the year, land of palm trees, and non-snowy winters. I never became a typical SoCal girl. Never surfed, didn’t speak valley, but I did learn to drive on those crazy freeways, which are even crazier today.
Married, with children, and after vacationing in southern Oregon my husband thought we should move there. I thought we should move to Maine. (What did I say about Mainers?) But Oregon became my home and I love it. We had a few acres where we raised yearling steer, fattening them up over the summer on the rich grass of our pasture. Not only did I learn to install irrigation pipe, but how to balance and move those 40 foot suckers to water that pasture. I gardened and canned and loved the view of orchards spread around me. And, realized much of my life reflected my Maine roots.
I’m happy with my hands in the dirt, be it growing something edible or food for the eyes and soul. Sure, many of those who came before me had other occupations. My great-uncle–C.A. Thompson– ran a hand-made wooden tennis racquet factory. (The building still stands, housing a craft store!) A grandfather, uncles, and cousins who worked in the paper mills. A grandfather and great-uncle who delivered mail.
Oregon often makes me think of Maine, with much higher mountains. We have four actual seasons, with some slight differences.
Spring comes in March, just like the calendar says so my favorite flower, lilacs, bloom a month earlier than in Maine. Summers can be blistering hot, but dry. All too often, too dry as noted by the number of wildfires. Fall is gorgeous with clear blue skies on warm days, cool nights bringing a taste of frost, and leaves turning lovely colors. Winters are rainy and cold (a matter of perspective!) with a touch of snow now and then. There’s always snow on the mountains surrounding the Rogue Valley, having it on the valley floor is another matter with its own set of problems. The snow doesn’t last for months and we never have to endure Mud Season.
People wave to each other as you pass by. Neighbor helps neighbor. Community activities bring us together. Just like in Maine. Some have deep roots in the West, but it’s a fact they’ll never be as deep as the East.
My daughter grew up in Oregon. My grandchildren were born there. It is home. So, why am I 3,300 miles away? This was the first move that was my choice. Sure, I bought a house after my divorce, but I remained in the area that was home. People talk about bucket lists, and living in Maine was on mine.
I’d thought about it for over 40 years. Could I rely on reincarnation to make that dream come true? Seemed a better idea to take the chance and do it now. You’re more apt to regret something you didn’t do, than something you did.
Moving across the USA I’ve connected with a network of cousins. I’m learning more about those who came before me. Discovering the joy of driving down a twisty road with autumn leaves providing a canopy overhead. Smelling the pines as I step into the woods. Feeling the salt breeze on my face as I watch waves crash against the rocky shore. Watching the snowflakes drift and swirl in a winter dance. Hearing the snowplow making the road safe for us to travel.
Much of that I could do in Oregon, except for the cousins. Nor had I previously heard a snowplow. My maternal roots can be traced back to the mid-1700’s. It is these cousins who have welcomed me with open arms. Cousins I barely knew and have become very dear to me. Through them my circle of friends has grown. Plus, I’ve had time with a childhood friend, time we never before experienced except when tweens.
There’s also the matter of the series I write, Men of Maine. Never hurts to have a fresh eye, along with the other senses, on a locale you write about. (I wouldn’t say no to spying Patrick Dempsey up close and personal ;^) Still, my heart yearns for those loved ones in Oregon, and I will return. My roots are spread wide as well as deep.
My daughter summed it up best: Maine is my spirit animal, Oregon is my home.