The “Big City” of Bangor Maine

Yesterday was the day to scratch off 15 items from my to-do list. Because we are fortunate enough to live in a town where small shops are the rule, occasionally this means a trip to the big city…about 45 minutes from here.

The mall area of Bangor looks like anywhere USA. All of the big box stores are there and so is all of the temptation. But the real pleasure lies in its novelty if you only go every few months. This may sound mundane but I bought a nifty new phone log, a new Olympus digital camera, all those Target kinds of supplies that make life simpler and two great old books from the Salvation Army Store.

Once I get past the musty smell of the S.A.S., I love the old book section and the shelves where they sell all the odds and ends of glassware. It must run in my blood because my mother used to haunt these shelves too. I’m always looking for books by Louise Andrews Kent and Elizabeth Goudge. These are women who wrote to capture the general understanding of their lives as they fit into the 1910’s-1970’s. I think the change from horse and carriage to cars was as extreme as we see today with our dependence on DSL and internet…two things I’d hate to live without.

Yesterday I found a book published in 1935, The Arts of Leisure by Marjorie Greenbie. The chapters are delightful. Under the heading of Arts of Solitude you find the Noble Art of Loafing and The Preposterous Art of Self-Indulgence. Under the heading of Arts of Civilization you find The Absorbing Art of Making Things and the Peaceful Art of Growing Things.

Mrs. Greenbie was addressing a public in the midst of a depression and mass unemployment. She writes that if we have less money, we will be less enslaved to mass interests…”if you have no money as a bait, you may be left alone for a few hours, and those hours are your ‘leisure’…and then you discover that there is nothing in life so cheap as joy…” By the mid-1930’s Mrs. Greenbie’s audience is the second generation to have left the farm for the city. Her book reminds people of what social values their grandparents steered by and then draws a road map for getting back to the pleasures of raising raspberries and finding companionship through the Lion’s Club and the Rotary. She tells her audience how to get back to the simple pleasures of being alive. I’m happy to report that 70 years later, she’s still describing my world in Maine.

Someone was once asked what she would do if she heard that the bomb was launched and the world was ending. She paused for a moment and said “I’d drive to Maine.” Why? “Because it always takes 20 years for any change to get there.”

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