I got to go on vacation to Maine this past week. My dad’s first job was in Portland. My sisters were born there. We have a long history there. And so, every year, my wife and I lead our kids there if we can. To see the land and the ocean, to see my parents. We have tried to make it an annual special place.
Is Maine the way life should be? That is what the sign says. If you are on vacation it is. Their license plates say “VACATION LAND”.
If you live there it can be a tough place —shrinking fishing population and seasonal vacation-y on the coast, paper company and small farm and potato — ish in the middles, wilderness everywhere else. Over my many years there I have hiked and camped most all the Appalachian Trail (except Katahdin, or so far ….), plied the waters in various craft or by swimming, ideally with a seal or two swimming at our sides. For many the water is cold. It is cold for me too but that cold is normal. Doesn’t everyone like orange and blue blotchy skin?
I was scarred by seeing Jaws when it came out. I was 11 I think. I made my mom leave the theater when the heads floated by in the upside down boat. My brother left soon afterwards when the person next to him put a hand on his thigh (I might have made this up). I remember trauma all around. I can vouch only for myself.
I love swimming, with seals, in shallow or deep water. I love swimming in Maine’s chilly waters. I scare myself everytime by imagining what sort of large unfriendly beast might be sighting me from below. I seem to have transmited this to my kids by joking (joking?) about the sturgeon that are sometimes sighted in the Back River. Every summer I seem to find myself recounting the story of getting bit by a (trout?) the first time I remember camping. I think I have even written about it before here. Hmmm. Losing my mind, or is that middel age? That fish either bit me or (just?)bumped into my belly. I have no scar so there is no proof of anything, just that fish, then Jaws. Then it occurs to me EVERY time I jump into cold water. Anywhere. Even in west Texas at Balmorhhea State Park — a swimming pool with giant catfish)
We eat at a great lobster shack every summer in Five Islands Georgetown. I did try to get Mars to jump in, as captioned above. I have seen folks do it — generally the teenagers who work at the restaurant at the end of a day. I declined Mars’ counter bribe. Picnic tables and a dock and family and friends and food, the way life should be.
It used to be that sometimes a local fisherman would haul a gigantic tuna up on the dock’s crane and a Japanese businessman would pull up in a Lexus, take a core sample, pay in cash, load the tuna in the trunk and drive, we presume, straight to the airport for shipping to Japan. We have not seen that for a long time. The animal life where we go in Maine is a bit different every year. Global warming? overfishing? Lets see over twenty odd years the fish have changed from sporadic runs of Bluefish (the ‘piranha of the Atlantic’), chasing pogies, to striped bass, to striped bass and sturgeon, to ….. well, we saw very few fish jump this year. However, there were plenty of Ospreys and Bald Eagles so they must be eating something, just something that was not jumping so much.
I am always sad when I leave vacations. This can hardly come a surprise, most people are. It can be nice to head home too but most often vacation is more fun than work. This cannot always be said for family vacations.
I think people lie when they say they come back from vacations with “their batteries recharged”. I understand the sentiment but when the same thing is on the same desk it can feel like the battery is at the same level as before.
Luckily I love designing too. The thing on my desk (well just one of the many things) is a new product. Batteries full.
Also published on Medium.