If you’ve never been to rural, wooded Maine during black fly season, you can’t understand just how bad it is. When I first moved to Maine and people told me about “black flies,” I was like, “All flies are black.” But these are flies of a different sort.
They are small. They are mean. And they are legion.
Right now, as we work in our yard, garden, or take care of the animals, we are followed by a cloud of biting black flies. They go up your nose, down your throat, in your eyes, and I have to comb my hair several times a day to rid my long hair of the pesky little carcasses.
It’s been a tough week in the insect department here in Maine.
But my husband says that this is just what keeps the cost of real estate down in what, otherwise, has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. So this week, to keep my Zen and remember why I love Maine so much, I am devoting my post to some of the things I love about living in Maine. Keep in mind, I am from “away,” which I will have to explain to some of my readers in another post at a later date.
1. Mainers dress for practical purposes.
I’ve never been one for wearing fancy clothing. In fact, there’s evidence of an epic battle my poor mother endured throughout my childhood in a picture of my first day of school when I was five years old. She put me in a pretty dress. It was itchy. I hated it. I let her know about it.
All of my life, I have preferred comfort over style, which was not the most popular approach to fashion when I lived in the Dallas area. And, since I’ve been working from home the last few years, my focus on comfort has become even more pronounced. I wear my pajamas and house slippers just as long as I can every day. In fact, I used to walk my oldest son to the bus stop on our road in my robe.
My sweet neighbor knitted me some mittens to match my robe for the chilly mornings at the bus stop. Yes, Maine is awesome like that.
But this is always how I know for sure I found my people. I sometimes have to travel for work and make presentations at conferences. It’s then that I become very much aware of my struggling fashion sense. I see suits, heels, manicured nails, and perfect lipstick at the conferences, in the restaurants, at the airports. I am out of sorts for sure.
But, when I am headed home and get on my last connecting flight to Bangor, I see LL Bean boots and bags, jeans and sweaters, and all kinds of reasonable-to-me clothing, I am thankful to be with my people again.
2. Your neighbors will truly help you in times of need.
I’ve never seen anything like the neighborhood support I have seen in Maine. I think we might be particularly fortunate in the neighbor department, but I have heard others say the same things about how kind and helpful their neighbors here are.
I first realized this when, shortly after we moved here, I had to have surgery. On the second day after my surgery, our next-door neighbor arrived with enough stew for two dinners and a large batch of homemade rolls. It was touching and so kind and so needed.
But that was when we had first moved in and didn’t know many of our neighbors yet (we are a family of introverts). Last summer, my husband was injured in a chemical burn incident involving some super-caustic concrete. For real, it takes two of us to run this house and care for the boys and our animals. Having my husband injured so badly was both scary because I was worried about him and exhausting because it meant I had to run the house alone, but we would soon get help.
It wasn’t long before our dinners were arriving at the door, neighbors were pulling the weeds in our vegetable garden, and one neighbor helped my husband finish the critical chicken pen. It was like a little rally of support, and it touched my heart.
Still, these are just a couple of many stories of kindness and support we get from our neighbors. Even growing up in rural Texas in the 1980s, I didn’t see anything like this, and Texas is a really friendly place.
Writing about this kindness in Maine totally makes the black flies more tolerable.
I was recently having a conversation with a family member who was telling me that people just don’t care about each other enough anymore. I told him I had seen evidence to the contrary in Maine. I think he might want to move here.
3. The ocean.
There’s not too much I need to say about this one. We live about 40 minutes from the coast, and we can visit any time of year. The ocean speaks to me, as I know it must to so many others. We have a lot of ocean in Maine. The ocean is good for my soul and always a treat. I grew up in the middle of Texas and saw the ocean only a few times in my young life. Yeah, I’m thankful to live near the ocean.
4. Even though the winters are long and can be tough, they are beautiful.
My former department chair told me that you just have to find the beauty in the winter. It’s true, but it’s not hard for me. I do like the cold anyway. Every time I visit my home state of Texas in the summer, I am convinced I will die walking between the house and the car and the car and the house. So the cold is fine with me.
But the winters here are long, and, sometimes, especially in February, the negative temperatures feel brutal to this southern girl.
Yet the beauty of these long, brutal winters gets me through it. The snow on the pine trees. The ice on the rocks. The serenity of freshly-fallen snow. These experiences are amazing and wonderful to me. Maine is a beautiful place in the late summer and early fall, the most beautiful place on Earth, I am convinced. But the winters are spectacular to me as well, and even though they are long and tough, there’s something really empowering about coming through one.
Just don’t forget to take your Vitamin D.
Just wait until Halloween. I can’t wait to blog about Halloween in Maine. For now, I’ll just say this: Halloween is my favorite holiday, and Mainers “do it up” right!
When I first moved to Maine, I lived in Bangor, and I couldn’t believe the decorations, the costumes, and even the fortune teller at one person’s house. Now, even though we live in the country, I am impressed with the way Halloween is handled. The treats are big, meaningful, and full of love. Even though our oldest son is 19, some of our neighbors still make up treats to send home for him with our youngest, who is way into trick-or-treating.
I love Halloween in Maine. It’s like the Halloween I imagined from my childhood, and I am thankful to live here.
Just writing about all of these lovely things about living in Maine is helping me get my Maine Zen back. Of course, it helps that I am inside writing. My poor husband is outside working in the garden getting eaten alive I’m sure. But we’ll get through this, and, as soon as this is posted, I will go outside to help my husband. I will not be defeated by those flies!
Even though I’m from “away” and can never be a real Mainer, I’ve learned to be tougher from living in Maine. I’m still a little wimpy though, so I’ll probably be complaining about the black flies all the way to Father’s Day. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum though.
3 thoughts on “On My Favorite Things About Living in Maine”
My new professor! You are so much fun, and seeing you in this venue makes me so much more hopeful that maybe I CAN do this grad school thing! I am from the Deep South of Louisiana and now live in the even deeper south of Mobile, AL. My fiancé is from Frenchville, ME right on the Canadian border. My daughters and I are going to meet his huge family for July 4th weekend. Reading your blog makes me excited about coming there, as well as more connected to you as my professor. You are very humble, Dr. Sands!
Elizabeth, thank you for the message and thanks for reading!
What a nice tribute to your new home! It made me think about how much more helpful I could be to my own neighbors here in Michigan.
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