This past weekend I headed to Machias, Maine for the 30-somethingth Wild Blueberry Festival. Growing up I was always involved in the harvest and never got to attend the festival. Now I try to make a point of going to the festival. A town further south has started up a competing festival that has really done a lot of harm to the Machias Festival.
However, in recent years the Bee Hive Collective has breathed some life into the staid festival. They have brought bands in from out of town to play, organized a repair of a dance floor, and started the Blackfly Ball. I regret that I was unable to attend the Ball this year but hope that next year I can do so.
I was surprised to see a marching band go through town as well as my favorite little park dressed up for the occasion.
Sadly the competing fair has drawn away many of the usual sellers and thus many of the interesting things that were sold there aren’t any longer. Over the last few years I’ve felt the festival has been declining, the addition of the Bee Hive Collective has brought to it some great energy.
(I mean, c'mon, how often do you get to see a man dressed in pink on a 6 foot high unicycle in Machias, Maine?)
Connie wrote about returning “home” after an absence and how it no longer felt like home. I returned to where I grew up this past weekend, for a little rest, relaxation and deep thought. Home hasn’t felt like HOME for close to 7 years. It’s still a place to regroup, gather my wool and to return to a pace of life that hasn’t changed since 1990.
The Boston area has a much different pace from where I grew up. In Maine if it doesn’t get done today it will get done tomorrow. Less stress. In Mass if it doesn’t get done NOW I’m pretty sure somewhere at sometime someone’s head will explode. It’s intense and sometimes I need a timeout.
When I need that timeout I head to Maine. Its unchanged rugged coastline centers my mind and brings me back to a grounded reality. The farm remains the same as when I left it this summer. Sure my family has changed from hand harvesting the blueberry crop to machine harvesting but the layout of the garden beds and the flow of the river is unchanged from when I was 16. It’s not the lack of change that interests me in Maine or makes me love the state so deeply, the sense of “rugged individualism”(emerson wrote about his in one of his books) and the intensity of the colors and scenery. I plug into the Maine vibe and get back to reality.
Driving through my hometown I’m greated by the same corner store where I learned to play pool on quarter tables with my friends and the creepy old guy. I knew enough not to tell my Dad that the creepy old guy showed us how to properly line up the cue, how to hold the cue and the difference between the need for a power shot and a soft hand. I’m still a terrible pool player but I’ve got many fond memories of playing pool and listening to Nirvana on the juke box. The corner store has been overtaken by a café that I’ve never seen anyone enter but the building stands virtually unchanged by over 20 years.
Further up the road I see what was once a horrifyingly bad clearcut, they didn’t even leave the 100ft “beauty strip” as required by Maine law, which has been planted with fir trees, in neat and easily managed rows. The ingenuity of Mainers amazes me. These fir trees will be “tipped” for use in Maine Balsam fir wreaths and sold throughout the world via L L Bean. Next time I’m in town I’ll do a little trespassing and get some pics of the trees. 500 acres of neatly planted fir trees with gravel roads routed around each acre. It’s majestic in its neat parallel rows and maddening in it’s monoculture. Yet those 500 acres will have people lined up to purchase permits to harvest the tips for pennies a pound. It’s a yearly harvest ritual that I adore. I took part in it as a teen. Its hard work but almost nice. Surrounded by woods and crisp air you walk carrying pounds of fir “tips” as you walk to find the next good tree to harvest.*
Part of what I love is that Maine has this seasonal ebb and flow of life, which just doesn’t seem to happen here in Mass. I miss that in September you can tomatoes, in October you harvest your squash and cover up the rutabagas.
Maine screws my head on straight, or as gaily forward as it will go.