Blame it on the pandemic. It seems our little corner of the world, way up north nearly into Canada and way out east into the Atlantic where the sun first rises, is quite popular this summer. Not that we don’t ask for it, especially here on the coast, with an explosion of unique shops and restaurants lining our main streets, and with enough hotels, motels and Airbnbs to house the hoards. And it feels like hoards this summer with traffic backed up to Sherman’s Point going south and nearly to Hannaford’s coming north. Though to be honest, this may have as much to do with the constant construction on downtown Camden’s sidewalks this summer as an increase in traffic. But never mind.
The seven empty storefronts that littered Camden’s downtown last winter, one by one began filling up this spring, the “For Rent” signs replaced with new names and new enterprises. One day soon I intend to walk up and down Main Street and see them for myself.
Lincolnville Beach is down to only two shops, Dwight Wass’ Fine Art Gallery and Maine Artisans. The Beach Store didn’t open and is for sale. With Chez Michel closed, we’ve got only three restaurants at the Beach, which are heroically picking up the slack. On a sunny day Lincolnville Beach is packed morning to night. We’re all just so happy to be maskless, protected from COVID by that little jab in the arm, and finally able to be out and about to mingle with one another.
TUESDAY, July 20
Library open, 3-6 p.m., 208 Main Street
WEDNESDAY, July 21
Schoolhouse Museum, 1-4 p.m., 33 Beach Road
Library open, 2-5 p.m., 208 Main Street
Broadband Committee, 5:30 p.m., Town Office
THURSDAY, July 22
Soup Café, Noon-1 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
FRIDAY, July 23
Library open, 9 a.m.-noon, 208 Main Street
Schoolhouse Museum, 1-4 p.m., 33 Beach Road
SATURDAY, July 24
Coleman Pond Association, 9 a.m., 32 Brawn Road
Library open, 9 a.m.-noon, 208 Main Street
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at noon, Community Building
Lincolnville Community Library, For information call 706-3896.
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 505-5101 or 789-5987
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m. outdoors or via Zoom
Aug. 14: Blueberry Wingding:
But none of this is new. It’s the natural rhythm of our year, this influx of folks in the summer and fall. First the families come, then school starts, the kids disappear, and we see older couples, retirees and younger folks making their way up the coast until about Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 12. (That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Give it time; it will.)
What is new are the house hunters. Apparently, the pandemic, which sent so many people home to work in front of their computers, has suddenly made Maine look possible to folks who could only dream about actually living here. Unbelievably, it’s now feasible for many to actually make a living here, remotely to be sure, at their old jobs.
Remember Brigadoon? The 1949 Broadway musical, later made into a movie, it features two American tourists who stumble upon Brigadoon, a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every 100 years.
Now, we’re hardly Brigadoon, located as we are smack on Route 1, the main highway up the East Coast, but for frazzled urban/suburban dwellers from the densely populated states to the south of us, we can evoke similar feelings that they’ve stumbled into a special place. Our quiet country roads, endless forests, peaceful ponds, and seacoast look pretty good to the traffic-bound commuter from suburban Boston or New York or Washington.
And we’re friendly. Most of us, most of the time. We don’t lock our doors, we say “good morning” to the passing jogger, though often we get a bewildered look in response; we show a good face. The Strawberry Social the UCC put on a couple of weeks ago was a virtual love fest with old friends and neighbors greeting each other, bridging the 15-month gap of isolation that had kept us apart. Any visitors who happened upon us that day would have seen us at our best. Midcoast Maine in general, maybe Lincolnville in particular, can look so enticing in the summer.
I say we’re friendly, but that’s not exactly the Maine I moved to in 1967. A young, single woman renting a house on the long road to Tenants Harbor, in miniskirt and fishnet tights, starting a teaching job in Rockland just didn’t fit in. Me and my little house stood between two other single women, one an older widow and the other a divorcee. Though my sardine-packing neighbor to the west was friendly enough (she knew my name, we waved from our driveways) it took a year before the widow finally acknowledged me.
“Diane,” she called across the field between us one summer morning as I hung out my wash, “come over for a cup of coffee.”
She didn’t just know my name, it turned out. She knew I’d come from Chicago, went to Colby, and taught sixth grade. Eleanor Rawley, my landlady, her former next-door neighbor were great friends, and of course, they talked. And I was often the subject. Over the past winter I’d had monthly visits with Eleanor to pay my rent, and we had long talks.
Lesson one: Mainers are great gossips. We love to talk about each other.
What took her so long to speak to me? She needed to see if I’d stay the winter. Why start a friendship with someone who wasn’t going to stick around? At least, that’s what I finally figured out.
When, three years later Wally and I moved into our house at the top of Sleepy Hollow, the gossip gods followed us: My dad bought the house for us. My maiden name, Roesing, [which still showed up on my mail] – I must be Jewish. And my favorite which we only learned years later: we were drug dealers.
Small town Maine has come a long way in the past 50 years. A newcomer, especially one from a far-away city (Augusta-born Wally was never really accepted as a native) was “the other”, suspect, not really to be trusted. There just weren’t that many of us in 1970.
And then there were. Over the next decades more and more people found their way to Maine, to Lincolnville. The first wave were young couples who came like us, childless and then started having babies, or perhaps already with a kid or two in tow. We started agitating for a Kindergarten; it took years, but we finally prevailed. It was hard to ignore us, especially when most of the native Lincolnville young families joined in. The newcomers ran for office, got on town boards. Went to church in town, helped out at Grange doings, became firemen.
Lesson two: Join in. Go slow with change. Listen before you talk.
The next wave, starting in the late 90s and up to now are the retirees, energetic and enthusiastic folks with time to get involved in town projects: the Library, Community Building, municipal solar power, Historical Society, and so much more.
Lesson three: You don’t have to be born here to be from here. We’re all, every one of us, immigrants; even the Indigenous peoples came from somewhere else.
Tracee and I see a wide variety of visitors in our shop. Sure, they stop because they need a rug, but maybe because they’ve driven by for years and never stopped before, or, if we forget to bring in the Open flag at 5, they come in after dinner at the Beach because they’ve got time to kill before going back to their motel.
Generally, we chat them up. “Where are you from?” we ask. Or “from here?” Then a little spiel about rag rugs, “Here’s our loom. It’s 200 years old. The rugs are made from recycled clothes,” we tell them. Pretty soon, they either politely thank us and leave or hunker down for a longer conversation. Those are the fun ones. Sometimes it leads to a sale, but just as often it doesn’t.
People love to talk. Wally was a master at getting people to open up. He’d sit at the loom, working away, while carrying on a 45-minute conversation with a complete stranger, learn all about his life, his career, his family.
These days we’re likely to hear from people who are house hunting, or have just closed on, you know, that house down the road or around the corner. Sometimes it’s a long-time Lincolnville visitor, people who’ve been coming to their camp on Coleman or Pitcher or Norton for years and are finally ready to make the move permanent. Chances are they’ve already put down some roots here. They may remember Dean and Eugley’s or been to a few Grange suppers. They know their way around and know what they’re getting into.
But others still have stars in their eyes. The lovely wooded lot they buy in September may have a big surprise come next May when the black flies emerge in their backyard. That favorite restaurant might take several months off in the winter, right when a night out seems essential. The only option for wandering around a store on a gray afternoon is … Walmart.
Let’s face it. This isn’t an easy place to live. Not for any of us when the roads ice up, the power lines come down, and we don’t see the sun for weeks. But for anyone who enjoys calling in an order for a meal and having it delivered, for anyone who likes a variety of stores, entertainment, a change of scene, especially in the winter when half the businesses in town are shuttered and the sidewalks empty, well, things can feel especially bleak.
A would-be customer who stopped in the other day after “driving by this place for years” stayed to chat awhile, and of course, as it does so often these days, the subject came up. “What about all the people who want to move up here?” She was from Appleton and so, like me, felt entitled to be skeptical.
“I didn’t mind the isolation,” she said of the pandemic. “Life didn’t change that much for me.” We agreed that relying on your own inner resources goes a long way.
So, if the buzz about house sales turns out to be true, we can look forward to new neighbors, new townspeople in the coming months. New blood, new ideas, new friends. Maybe they’ll even learn to enjoy February.
And by the way. This really is Brigadoon.
Coleman Pond Association
This Saturday, July 24, the Pond Association’s annual meeting will be held, 9 a.m. to noon, at Whitney Oppersdorff’s studio, 32 Brawn Road. Corelyn Senn, our town’s resident wildlife photographer, will be talking about Coleman’s animal life as well as its rich lime industry history.
Three Men Honored
Last week’s regular Lincolnville Improvement Association (LIA) meeting had a surprise at the end when Bob Plausse, Brian Cronin and Andy Andrews were recognized for their decades of service to the organization and by extension, to the town. Each in turn has served as president of the LIA, but their work when well beyond that.
By the way, the LIA, thanks to their annual Blueberry Wingding fundraiser, was able to give four $1500 scholarships to Lincolnville students this year!
David Barrows Committal Service
A service for Dave Barrows will be held at Fletcher Cemetery on High Street, August 14 at 3 p.m. with a reception to follow at the Community Building.