So Quiet But I Finally Woke Up

Sometimes I feel like I’m drunk behind the wheel
the wheel of possibility
However it may roll, give it a spin
See if you can somehow factor in
You know there’s always more than one way
to say exactly what you mean to say

Was I out of my head or was I out of my mind?
How could I have ever been so blind?
I was waiting for an indication, it was hard to find
Don’t matter what I say, only what I do
I never mean to do bad things to you
So quiet but I finally woke up
If you’re sad then it’s time you spoke up too

Was I out of my head or was I out of my mind?
How could I have ever been so blind?
I was waiting for an indication, it was hard to find
Don’t matter what I say, only what I do
I never mean to do bad things to you
So quiet but I finally woke up
If you’re sad then it’s time you spoke up too

Was I out of my head or was I out of my mind?
How could I have ever been so blind?
I was waiting for an indication, it was hard to find
Don’t matter what I say, only what I do
I never mean to do bad things to you
So quiet but I finally wake up
If you’re sad then it’s time you spoke up too

Outta My Head – Fastball

Today was another day for a ride along the coast of Maine. I left Bangor at 4:30 this morning and drove to Ellsworth then north on US 1 all the way to Calais. I needed to clear my head after a difficult week of driving, and the beauty of the coast never fails to inspire.

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It’s fun to think I am looking at the same picture the earliest explorers looked at hundreds of years ago. The only thing different now is the presence of man made homes and docks. All the inlets, coves, islands and mud flats are unchanged. The above picture could be the vision of the first explorer to set foot on that beach. The presence of man brings new things, but still in harmony with nature.

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Many of these inlets may have filled in some with silt, but all it takes is one big storm to wash it back out. The ebb and flow of the ocean tides cleanse the coast and provide for all the flora and fauna that thrive here.

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As I roll along I feel my shoulders settle, my neck loosen. I smell the salt air and watch the birds fly over the flats. It’s so quiet but I finally woke up to the fact that I must have been blind to not realize before now, just how much I can see and do for almost no money. There are so many places to see and touch, smell and hear. I think about my former plans of a house or land, my little slice of the earth and I understand how narrow that goal is. Why limit yourself to just a small view?

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There is so much more I can see from the deck of a boat. Every day I can have a different view, every day I can turn the page in my book of life and add a new photo. Every day I can feel the joy of discovery, feel just like a child again.

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Can you see yourself anchored in this harbor, rowing the dingy to shore to go to the local Farmers Market for fresh vegetables and fruit, buy some fish caught just today right from the boat that caught it? A minimalist lifestyle can be had, and a much better life can be lived if your willing to do what it takes.

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This sea otter lives a life free from the daily grind we all face, so why can’t we? Alone or with friends he go’s where he want’s, when he want’s. So why can’t we? The answer is…we can, and I will! Imagine anchoring in this quiet cove. Nothing but the wind and the gentle sway of the boat. What is that kind of peaceful lifestyle worth?

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Nothing in life is free, nothing should be taken for granted. So many people work so hard for their retirement only to get sick or even die before they can enjoy life after work. Many others can’t stop working for fear of losing everything they worked so hard for. If you have almost nothing, you have almost nothing to lose I say. If my boat sank, I could work and buy another. If you lost your house at age 60, could you afford to buy another?

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The sunset of my life is coming, my body is not as resilient as it used to be. I can’t read a book without glasses, but I can rebuild a diesel engine. I can’t run a 5k race, but I can row a dingy and sail a sailboat. Ones worth in this world is not only measured by their physical prowess or their degrees earned in collage, but by their ability to fend for themselves. The founders of this country came here with minimal tools and supplies, the rest they had to come up with on their own. It may have been very hard by today’s standards, but they understood what it took to live a minimalist lifestyle, and I will do the same.

The sweat on my brow and the blisters on my hands are the price I will pay for my lifestyle of choice. I will have many more years of that currency with which to pursue my goals, live the dream before I am too old. My book of life will be filled with joy and laughter, sorrow and tears. A balance of each is my goal if I can help it. We shall see.

PS: I had lunch in Calais at a small diner in town and met Katalin. We had a great conversation and she reminded me of a former post about exceptional people, of which she is one. The story of your boys giving you a ring and saying you were married to them was so endearing it made my heart melt. I told you when I sailed up the coast in a year or two I would stop by again and take you and your two sons out for a sail. And yes Katalin, I will show up, but I was lying to you a little. I don’t often include two songs in one post, but this song is what I felt when I drove back to Bangor.

 

 

Exceptional People

I’m sitting in Carlisle PA tonight, and I will continue to Maine tomorrow and take a couple days off to rest and have my truck serviced. I always look forward to these brief respites back in the state of my birth. Even with all my travels it still feels like home.

In my lifetime to date I have met many people. Most are but a small blip in the movie reel running through my mind. Past coworkers and acquaintances left in the wake of time, some I thought were friends that have faded away. Lonely as I am, I was reminded recently that all is not lost, there are some exceptional people left in this world.

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This is the TA truck stop in Commerce GA that I stayed at two nights ago. It’s not far from Atlanta where I picked up my return load to PA. As I’ve said before I generally choose TA stops due to their cleanliness and amenities. It’s been about five months since I was last here, and I went to the same restaurant as the last visit. Only a “Chain” restaurant but I like to treat myself once a week just to keep it interesting.

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When I go out to eat I always sit at the bar for two reasons. I don’t feel the need to take a table that would serve many and I find the service faster at the bar. As I walk in I see the same young woman working that I remember from my last visit. When I sat down I could see the look of recognition in her eyes.

Mary is her name and she remembered me from my blog and the photographs I showed her on my last visit. I must admit I was a little stunned she remembered as most people in the service industry meet so many people It’s hard to remember a face after so long. They were not very busy and I showed her some more of my recent photo’s and blog posts.

When I told her of my fathers passing, and she read a few posts I had written about it, I could see genuine sadness in her eyes. It’s hard to explain how I felt right then, but I guess it borders on an understanding of how she was brought up, what her outlook on life is, what makes her an exceptional person. You might say, “How could you possibly know that in the moment”, but I say you can.

I think when you first meet someone there is a period of time when there is no mask, no false bravado or fake niceties. We tend to fall back on our upbringing and the lessons taught in being polite in society. I find this most evident in the south where family is still the most important part of the culture. Parents still take a greater hand in the raising of their children, instead of allowing teachers and modern culture impress ideals in young minds we may not agree with.

Church groups and an etiquette of modesty are more often the norm, not the look at me mentality that rules the airwaves and drunken clubs downtown. I may not be a religious person, but I can see the effect of that upbringing and the type of people it produces. I prefer them, to speak the truth, instead of the loose and free lifestyle of many younger people, or the bitter and angry middle aged souls that feel the world owes them something. I have felt the pull of that bitterness many times in the last few years but I am fighting with all my will to escape from it’s grasp.

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As I walk Vinny on a dusty patch of grass I start to think about other exceptional people from my past. Mr Lowell my high school Asst Principal, Mr Mason my Jr high science teacher, and of course my parents. The person I am today is due in part to the things they taught me as a young boy. Some I remember well, some come back to me in a given situation, but all were vital to the stable and productive person I hope I have become. And to Mary’s mother I say thank you, you did a great job!

 

Togus VA Hospital Augusta Maine… 150 Years And Counting

A HISTORY OF TOGUS 1866-PRESENT (From VA Website, History of Togus)

In 1865 near end of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed an act creating the National Asylum (later changed to Home) for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The Eastern Branch at Togus, Maine was the first of the new homes to open in November 1866. The name “Togus” comes from the Native American name Worromongtogus, which means “mineral water”.

The Togus property was originally a summer resort known as Togus Springs. It was owned and operated by Horace Beals, a wealthy granite merchant from Rockland, Maine who hoped to establish a second “Saratoga Springs” type resort. He spent more than $250,000 on a hotel, stables, bowling alley, farmhouse, bathing house, race track and driveways. The resort opened in 1859 but failed during the Civil War and closed in 1863. Beals died shortly after this business failure and the government bought the land and buildings for $50,000.

The first veteran was admitted to Togus on November 10, 1866. The veteran population of the home remained under 400 until a building program began in 1868 which provided housing 3,000 veterans. The home was organized much like a military camp with the men living in barracks and wearing modified Army uniforms. Although a 100 bed hospital was completed in 1870, medical care at the home was limited, even by the standards of the day.

In 1890, a narrow gauge railroad from the Kennebec River in Randolph and an electric trolley line from Augusta were completed and Togus became a popular excursion spot for Sunday picnics. There were frequent band concerts, a zoo, a hotel and a theater which brought shows directly from Broadway.

Togus became a Veterans Administration facility following the Consolidation Act of July 1930 which joined all agencies providing benefits to veterans and their dependents. Most buildings which make up our present facility were constructed in the following decade. Togus’ role gradually changed from a domiciliary or home to a full-service medical center with the greatest change occurring after World War II due to the large number of returning veterans requiring medical care.

In 1989, VA was designated a cabinet-level agency and became the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, onboard Togus VA campus is a Medical Center, a Regional Office and a National Cemetery. The Medical Center, has a staff of over 1,050 personnel representing various disciplines.  It has 67 in-patient beds and 100 beds in the Nursing Home Care Units which provide for long-term care as well as Alzheimer’s/ dementia. Currently there are six community based outpatient clinics (CBOC) located throughout Maine and provide local services to veterans. These CBOCs include Bangor, Calais, Caribou, Lincoln, Rumford and Saco and there are also VA Mental Health Clinics in Bangor and Portland. Togus VA Medical Center’s current structure shows the VA’s focus on increased outpatient health care while also raising overall quality indicators.

Togus VA staff have a strong commitment to provide the highest quality care in the most economical manner possible. To do this, they have a quality assurance program where managers are responsible for reviewing the quality of care provided, potential risks and cost effectiveness. The purpose of this review is to identify opportunities for continued improvement. The medical center is fully accredited by the Joint Commission.

The Regional Office, serving the entire state of Maine, is located on the Togus VA campus and provides services for veterans and their families in compensation and pension and other non-medical benefits.

The National Cemetery, the only national cemetery in Maine, is now inactive but well-kept and is the final resting place for 5,373 veterans from the War of 1812 through the Korean War. It was first opened in 1867 and was closed to new burials in 1961. Togus National Cemetery

In 2000, the Beals House opened to provide temporary no-cost accommodations for families of in-patient Togus veterans. A former on-campus home for senior VA staff, it was donated to the non-profit agency which now operates it. It has served more than 1,800 families since it was renovated for family members and placed in operation.

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This is the building where my father will most likely spend the remainder of his life.  I went to visit him today on the 150th Anniversary of the founding of this hospital.  It was a beautiful day to be in Maine, 72 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze, and I brought him outside for the festivities.  There was a parade, a BBQ and hundreds of veterans, their family’s and staff.  I think he really enjoyed the parade, and he saluted every veteran that went by.

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There were antique cars and trucks, restored Army Jeeps and even solderers on horseback.

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I think his favorite parts were the Harley’s and the service dogs.

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After the parade we went to have lunch.  No problem with his appetite!  1/4 of a chicken, baked potato and 2 hot dogs!  Even I couldn’t eat that much and I outweigh him by 100 lbs!

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I think he had a good time, but he’s fading fast.  The drugs he needs to stay calm due to his dementia and PTSD have a sad effect.  His mental acuity and concentration are very low and he gets distracted very easy.  He may not remember much a few hours later, but I got to spend some time with him and at least for a little while, he was smiling.  I’m sorry this happened to you Dad, but I’m trying my best to make your last time on this earth as comfortable as possible.  I hope you know we all love you.

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Time For Another Walk Vinny

Flying J truck stop in Carlisle Pa, not a great place for a reset.  Oh well, I’ve reset in worse places.  Let’s take a walk Vinny and see what we can find.

Here’s a grassy area to do your “Business” on.

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Some nice crab apple trees to sit under.

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Interesting plants growing beside a cornfield.

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This “Children of the Corn” looking house in the field!

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Do you remember the movie?  Written by Stephen King from Maine.  I met him once…kind of a jerk!

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Issac the child preacher from the 1984 movie “

A truck fueling at the natural gas depot.

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Not much going on in the repair shop.

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Wait! What’s this little area?

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Let’s investigate Vinny!  Much cooler in here.

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And what do I find?  Like many truck stops, people have been living in the wooded areas around the edges of the parking area.  What I found are the remnants of some who are gone, like this old mattress in the brush.

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And then I found this.  A complete tent and many belongings, all trampled and left behind.  What happened to them?  It’s sad to see that someones life fell apart so badly.

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Where was the federal safety net for these people?  Why do so many people get benefits they don’t deserve, while others are left to live in tents beside truck stops? It’s a sad world we live in but at least some people are willing to directly help others, not just give to charities and feel they’ve done their part.  In fact, one of the employees here told me of several they help out with food.  We should all strive to follow their example and be better citizens.  We should all look to each other, not just the government for help and support.  Do something for someone today, whether you know them or not, and feel what it means to be generous.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
Ronald Reagan

“I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
Ronald Reagan

“Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
Ronald Reagan

 

 

 

 

Life in the way

This was the second post on this blog. I was living in Strong Maine taking care of my folks at this time. Alot has happened since then.

Weird Guy With The Dog

I think I started this blog just to find a way to get some of the things swirling around in my head out.  Like everyone, I have goals and aspirations, some attainable and some not.  I’ve spent many years reaching for things out of my grasp due to a lack of focus.  I think it was caused by inexperience, lifestyle choices and a lack of guidance.  I had no one person to look to as a young man to help me figure out what I wanted.  Now that I know what I want, I am trying to put things into achievable pieces, so I can feel good about reaching some small milestones.

Setting up parents house in Sebec Setting up parents house in Sebec

My focus at this time is my aging parents.  They are both in their 80’s and not doing well.  I have spent the last ten years helping them, first a little, then…

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Maine: “The Way Life Should Be!”

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Maine State Flag

I’ve lived in Maine pretty much my entire life. Like most people, the place you lived during your childhood seems to be the place you feel most comfortable, the place you call home. I can think of no other place I have lived that holds more meaning to the deepest part of me than Maine. From the magical granite coastline, to the breathtaking western mountains, to the thousands of brooks, rivers, ponds lakes and streams, Maine has more inspirational vistas packed into every corner than you could see in a lifetime.

Maine has a long and rich history of boat building going back centuries, and those traditions are still in practice in towns like Brooklin. Many Schooners were built for the coastal trade routes.

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Schooner Being Built In Maine

Every time I spend an afternoon sitting by a lake, fishing in a stream, hiking a mountain or listening to the waves crashing on the ocean shore, I understand what drew so many to this state at the beginning of this country. The winters are harsh, the summers short, but the soil is rich and the game abundant. One could still live off the land in the wilderness even today.

I think that is what I am attempting to do, only on the water not land.I want to be a modern day nomad, a viking perhaps, but minus the sword and helmet with horns sticking out! No ties to one spot, no roots holding me down, the closest thing to ultimate freedom I can get. But I think Winterport Maine will be my home port.

I stopped in and talked to the owner and some people who use this yard, and I was taken aback by how genuine, hospitable and friendly they all were. I had heard how people in the sailing community were a very close knit group, no thought to class or background. Everyone equal in their love for the water and the sound of the wind past sails. I think I may have found where I fit in.

What my future ultimately holds for me is unknown, hidden by the fog of a vision still maturing. One can make all the plans they want, but life can intervene and change things. I hold my head up, eyes straight ahead, goals set out before me. My will has never been stronger after my visit to the boat yard, my path so clear. I can make this work, or die trying.

 

 

 

If I Ever Lose My Faith

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You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy Church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse, but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
By Sting, The Police

As I was driving in the Pennsylvania mountains this morning, I was thinking about the people and things I lean on in my day-to-day life. Family and friends can be a great support system when things get rough. Music and books can temporarily take you to another place, away from whatever is troubling you. Pets give you unconditional love no matter what. But when you stop and think about it, there’s only one thing you can really count on, yourself.

You are the one person in control of your life and where its going. No matter what anyone says, you have to take the advise or ignore it, you have to make amends or walk away, you have to change your path or continue on as you are. If you have a lack of willpower, no one can instill that in you, you have to dig deeper. If you don’t have faith in yourself, no one else will.

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Life can be very stormy, hard to see the way forward. The challenge we face can seem very daunting, insurmountable at times. One problem after another, sometimes many in a single day. Sometimes a little thing can set you off, turning an otherwise nice day into one of turmoil and despair. Gloomy clouds fall over you, fear stinging like a driving rain in your face.

You have to believe in yourself to get beyond this. You can’t let your past mistakes or fear hold you back. You can’t listen to the naysayers who tell you your ideas are foolish, unworthy. You can’t let the bad things in life block your view of what is beautiful and worthy of getting up every day for, and that is you.

You the person who loves to roll in the grass with your dog, sit by the campfire with your family, walk through the woods alone, sit by the ocean and listen to the waves. You the person who helps someone in need, with no want of pay. Listens when someone just needs to talk. Sits quietly holding someones hand when they just need a friend there beside them. You can be all this and more.

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The road of life is never straight. You may not be able to see what’s coming around the next turn. You can choose to live your life in fear for what comes next, or you can just believe in the power of you. You can face everything with the peace of mind that comes from within, the strength of hope and determination that you can overcome anything if you try.

When you hear your favorite song, see a beautiful sunrise, listen to the birds singing, you can feel very inspired. It can change your whole outlook on the day. As wonderful as those thing are, are they truly what is inspiring, or just the trigger to what’s already inside you? No matter what happens in this world, no matter what life throws at you, don’t ever lose your faith in you.

 

Tumbledown In Winter

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Tumbledown Mt in Maine is just about my favorite place on Earth so far. I have many memories of camping trips beside and on top of this magical place. Years ago there used to be a huge party every Memorial Day weekend with hundreds of people at what’s called “Tumbledown Field” at the start of the Parker Ridge Trail. The first few years I went it was a great time, lot’s of nice people, loud music, 4×4 truck racing and sometimes a little to much drink, but everyone got along well and fun was had by all.

The last year of the party the word had “Got Out” about this party and many more people from other states showed up. At best count there were over 900 people there, and it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand. Many people were injured, cars burned, fights and domestic problems,  underage drinking and a lot of drugs. It was so crazy the State Police would not come in to the camping area, they just stayed out on the road and stopped anyone who came out. I wish it had been different, but that’s what happens with crowds, booze and drugs. Bad combination.

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http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/tumbledown-mountain-and-little-jackson

There were many fun times though. This is the place where I camped for a week without speaking a single word just to see if I could! I woke up next to this pond every day and felt like I was all alone on the Earth. As I write this I can still feel the way it was, a complete feeling of peace and tranquil bliss that I have never felt since. A pioneer searching for the perfect place to put down roots and build a new life. If I could I would build a small cabin and live there forever.

157649This is also a where I went camping one Christmas weekend with a young woman named April. We were just kids really, I think I was 19 or 20 at the time. I had a Jeep then and we packed it up with our gear and drove to the log shelter at Tumbledown Brook near the start of the Parker Ridge Trail and set up camp. I had stopped at the Ranger station before going in for a fire permit and so someone would know we were there for safety’s sake.

Christmas eve I tried to start my truck but the battery was dead. The nearest house was a 4 or 5 mile walk but we needed help, so off we went! We got to the road, then hitched a ride to the Ranger station. He brought us back to within a mile of our camp, and gave me a battery from one of his vehicles. I carried this 40lb slab of lead into the jeep, installed it, only to find it was to weak to start my truck. We called it a day, with the thought of trying again in the morning.

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http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/tumbledown-mountain-and-little-jackson

On Christmas Day, we started out again, but this time to the first house I could find. I remember stopping a few times because April did not have good boots and her feet started to get to cold. She would sit down and I would put her bare feet inside my coat to warm them up, then move on. When we arrived at the house, we must have been a sight! Dirty clothes, hadn’t showered in days and smelled pretty bad! I met the owner and his adult son at the door. They immediately invited us in, and I explained our situation.

I asked him if anyone was willing to come and jump start my truck so we could go home. He spoke with his son, a few of the other guests he had, then did something that to this day I still can’t believe. He gave me the keys to his truck and asked me to bring it back when I was done! Can you imagine giving a total stranger you vehicle?

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http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/tumbledown-mountain-and-little-jackson

April and I drove back to our camp, packed up and tried to start the truck, but still no luck. I hooked a chain to it and dragged it back to their house. The owners saw us coming, helped me hook up a charger to my truck, then brought us into their Christmas celebration. We spent the next 3 hours eating, drinking coffee, and answering questions from all their guests. They would not accept any money and said simple thanks were enough. That was one of the most important things to happen to me at that age as it showed me there were at least a few people worth knowing in this world.

1 (75) (Medium)I went back to that house Christmas Day 25 years later, and it was still the same family. They remembered me and April, invited me in and we spent an hour talking about our lives since then. They were just as nice as I had remembered them. It was a wonderful experience I will never forget.

The sad part of this story is my relationship with April. It wasn’t long after this that she told me it was “Just a fling” and she was gone. I know I was young, and people say it was just “Young Love” or some other dismissive statement, but it’s 30 years later and I still miss her. It was much more for me I guess that for her. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and I see no reason to change. I believe in romance,  slow dancing and candlelight dinners under the stars. Holding hands while walking on the beach, not saying a word because we don’t need to. You just know when it’s right, and that’s how I felt. She will be with me to my dying day.

 

A walk in the woods

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I love walking in the woods.  There’s something primal about the trees and the fallen leaves that make me feel like a pioneer, searching for a perfect spot for my home.  Just the right mix of sun and shade, slope and flat, dry and wet that makes me comfortable.  The combination was very important to them as it could mean life or death.  New England is not forgiving to the unprepared.

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The summers can be in the 90’s.  The winters can reach 30 degrees below zero.  A house in the open will be an oven in the summer, and the wind in the winter can drift snow up and over the roof.  If you build your house on a flat area, it can get very muddy in the spring, causing mold and mildew problems.  To much slope and runoff can undermine the foundation.  It took some thought along with plenty of trial and error for them to get it right.

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Those that did, enjoyed a good and long life in what I think is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Maybe I’m a little biased having grown up in Maine.  I have traveled a lot, but I always come back.  I guess it’s all in where you grew up.  I enjoyed swimming in small ponds and lakes as a boy, and I still do.  The shallow ponds would warm up quite a bit, maybe reach 70 degrees!  As a kid, that was warm for Maine.  As an adult, WHOA…that’s cold!

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Every time I hear someone talk about how hard they worked today, I think about how hard the pioneers of this country worked.  Every stone for the foundation, tree for log walls, sod for the roof, hand hewn boards for the doors…all where done by hand.  It could take weeks to set all the stones, each one lifted by hand.  How many trees could you cut down, trim to size, debark and set into place in a day?

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If you wanted to plant crops, what do you do with all the stones you dig up?  You don’t know work until you try to dig a hole in New England!  Nothing but rocks!  But the pioneers were smart.  Build stone walls of course!  Some walls run for miles in the northeast.  Land boundary’s were marked by them.  Every stone moved by hand.  Now that’s work.

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I think we have it pretty easy today.  We walk our dogs with their LL Bean coats on, drive our cars, use our washing machines, order pizza delivery, buy our clothes online, call our friends on the phone.  In 1755 our dogs ran free.  We had to hook up the horses to the wagon to go to town.  We washed our hand made clothes in the nearest stream.  If you wanted to eat, you grew it, hunted for it and prepared it, or go hungry.  If you wanted to talk to a friend, you walked or rode a horse, sometimes for many miles to see them.  But unlike today, if you asked them for help, they came without question.

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There were no food stamps, no welfare checks, no WIC program.  No mass transit, no soup kitchens, no handouts.  People just helped each other.  If I came to help you, I know you will come and help me.  Those that could not help themselves, they were provided for by all in the community.  You brought them food, washed their clothes, fixed their roof, picked them up on Sunday to go to church.  Filled their wood shed so they wouldn’t freeze.  No one wrote a check to UNICEF, or Save The Children, then wrote it off on their taxes thinking they did their part.  People finished their work, then worked for others without question.  That’s what a true community is.  It’s sad to say, but in many areas of America, I think those days are gone.  (Sigh)