Maine’s been taking its share of hits lately. Comedians, pundits, regular old joes on the street…everyone’s got something to say. I sometimes end up in meetings with people from other states and lately those meetings have turned into a game of “what’s going on up there?” dodge ball. We’re becoming known as argumentative, unfriendly, drug-addicted and poor. What was it that comedian called us a bit ago? A “crawl space between Quebec and New Hampshire where America hides its heroin?”
Lots of Mainers seemed to find that one funny. Frankly, I’m getting a little sick of it.
There are lots of reasons why I’m tired of hearing Maine get trashed. This may surprise some folks, but I like it here. I was one of those people who left Maine after college, but I came back. I came back because I missed, it, because I realized that my home was in this crazy, cold, pine-covered state. And that was because I’d been taught what home is.
Home, to me, is space. It’s quiet. It’s simplicity. It’s finding pleasure not in shopping trips or endless activity choices, but in walks in the woods and a few choice get-togethers.It’s surrounding myself with people who feel the same.
This weekend, my son went to a birthday party. There weren’t any bouncy houses, video games, or underpaid teenagers walking around in character costumes. There was, however, homemade apple pie as well as an incredible obstacle course through the woods, including a homemade zipline. Watching a dozen kids zip down a rope and land face-first in a quilt, laughing maniacally the whole way…well. I don’t think they were missing whack-a-mole at Chuck E. Cheese.
I feel like every other day, I hear people talking about young people moving out of state. “Why don’t they want to stay here?” people moan, wringing their hands. “Why won’t they move back?”
Well, I always want to answer, what did you teach them about Maine?
Did you show them that this is a place of beauty and wonder? Did you teach them that fun is found in their very own backyard, running around an obstacle course? Have you shown them how to catch frogs? Track a deer? Cook a fish? Have they hung around a campfire until the embers collapse into nothing? Can they build that fire? Did you teach them that?
Or did you teach them that this is a place of limits? Did you keep them blind to the different kind of opportunity that is here? Did you tell them that there’s nothing here for them? Did you let them believe the people that say we are unwelcoming and uneducated? That we are boring, cultureless, dull? That we are a crawl space?
One time I was talking to someone from way up in Washington County. I mentioned how they were at the end of the line. “Well, sure,” they said. “Unless you are coming from Canada. Then we are the beginning.” Perspective counts for a lot.
Flip your perspective. We are different. We are slower, simpler, more back-to-basics. Maybe we are the underside of a house. You know what some people call that?
It’s hard to build a house without one.
Teach that to your kids.