Lately, I keep dreaming the same dream. Or variations on the same dream. The location is the same, only the faces and incidents that happen change.
I dream of a stretch of road that runs from the main street of the small town of Pittsfield, Maine, following along the banks of the winding Sebasticook river through the smaller town of Burnham until I cross the town line into Clinton. In the dream, I drive or walk along parts of this road. Sometimes I hitch hike. In truth, I’ve done all of these at one time or another along this same stretch of road for real.
Sometimes I stop places along the way and interact with houses and people that I know and I don’t know (this being a dream, nothing is as it really is, or really was as the case may be). The woods along the roads are taller and darker than I remember. The fields are greener than is possible. At night, the stars crowd over your head thick as specks of sand on a beach and the sky presses down on your shoulders like a cold blanket. The river runs deep and clear with white-capped rapids.
This is a dream of course, and like all dreams it stretches the truth and colors it surreal. The real stretch of road would impress you only with its mundanity, a boring fifteen minute drive through a rural area where you’re as likely to see a mobile home as an old farm house.
But this stretch of road – from the library in Pittsfield, to my grandparent’s long gone dairy farm on the edge of Clinton – is where I grew up. More than any other place, I identify this at some primal level as “home.”
We spend a lifetime becoming who we are. But deep down in our marrow, we are always who we once were. This stretch of road is my home and will always call to me, though I long ago abandoned it as I outgrew Burnham, then Pittsfield, then Maine. I stretched my eyes further away and left. I plan never to return, at least not in a permanent way. For visits, yes. But you never know what the future might bring. If I sold a lot of books, became a famous writer, well, maybe the lure of privacy earned by living in a remote part of the country would be welcome again.
I don’t know why I’ve had several of these dreams over the past couple of years. Only that I know some part of me will always identify as a Mainer. My roots run as deep as anyone else’s and I take pride in them. I have been shaped and molded by this place, with its endless frigid winters, its temperate summers, its black flies and mosquitoes, its gawmy moose, its countless trees. My writing is influenced by it. I may never sell one of my Maine stories, but I will continue to write them. I could hardly do otherwise.
Maine is cold and snow. Maine is pine trees and lobsters. Maine is back roads through the woods, and long, dark nights. Maine is friendly but aloof. Maine is lobster boats and Bert and I. Maine is old Victorians and mobile homes, visits to the dump, fishing. Maine is an accent that dangles off the northeast coast of the United States, part of it and separate from it, forever thinking the rest of the country are a bunch of flatlanders with a wicked poor sense of humor.
I have never been a pessimist. I am far from a warm and cuddly human being, but I always tend to wish for better. Hope for the best. I learned those things from the people I grew up with. I grieve with each part that is lost forever.
Those, too, are Maine thoughts.
Just a dream I had. Nothing more. Maybe I’ll dream of this place again soon. I could hardly dream of anyplace else.