We’re wet. I know, April showers bring May flowers but enough is enough.
Our critters are walking around flooded pastures, our driveway is slick with mud and potholes Wait, this doesn’t sound like a good promotional piece for visiting Maine does it? Let me start over…
The gods have given us ample reason to sit in front of our planning notebooks, big white boards and computers these last couple of weeks. We took advantage of the we weather to attend the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta. Held in the Civic Center, about 500 of us looked around while we listened to statistics, best practices and lots of advice (OK, maybe we were looking more than actively listening). In our defense, these gatherings are about networking, right? After Steve and I got over the surprise that we’re no longer the “young ones” in the room, we enjoyed catching up with folks we’ve known for decades in the Office of Tourism, from the Arts Commission and so many of the lodging and experience providers we’ve come to love from all over the state. Because Maine is so geographically huge, we often only connect in realtime during these sanctioned gatherings before “the season” kicks into gear. My favorite takeaways were the Maine Wine Trail and Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections who gave bags of chocolate covered almonds as parting gifts…the very definition of sweeet!
While Steve attended a session on Search Engine Optimization, I went to the State Library and museum for an update on Maine’s Bicentennial plans for 2020. The packed room was full of eager participants but the majority of details still feel rather vague. If everything works out, there will be tall ships in Belfast and Bucksport (5 minutes and 12 minutes from the campground), a statewide beanhole bean suppah (every community in Maine will hold a public supper on the same night) and lots more that still exist in the “fingers’ crossed stage”. As I learn more, I’ll share but if you’re really interested, it would be a great idea to follow the progress on the official website and all the rest of the social media outlets. In the meantime, I dropped into a rabbit hole to give you more information about the importance of beans in Maine’s history…the hole was too deep so I climbed back out but you might want to click over to the Maine Folklife Center for a little more information and make it a point to listen to the Good Old State of Maine song recording .
I didn’t sit down today to give you a blow by blow report of our time in Augusta but it’s turning out that way. We left Searsport for the tourism conference early because of a snow storm and because of the extra half hour, I got a chance to indulge in a favorite practice: hunting through the racks at Goodwill. Although I’m pleased to say that the expedition led to a couple of great linen tunics, the real pleasure was waiting for me at the door. You know how it is when you’re standing in a line that doesn’t move quickly and you scan your environment with no particular attention? Well I noticed Leo standing by the exit and without really thinking about it, my mind slipped him into the box of “oh, he’s not quite right” and that was it. But after I checked out I found myself right in front of him and when I smiled and said hello, he returned my greeting with a spark of happiness that caused me to pause and chat. Leo spoke with charm and I could have easily spent the day with him. A native of Augusta, he was fluent in English, French, Greek and Italian because he grew up in the tenement housing of the textile mills. The necklace he wore was made of bear claws and seeds and hand carved wooden beads. He has since lost the majority of his eyesight but even without being able to see, he carved the wooden feather on his walking stick to the point that it’s almost transparent and wood burned it by heating a nail in the fireplace during the winter. In our short time together Leo told me about earning a living by guiding sportsmen in the Northern woods. He told of places where the lumber jacks had abandoned camp during the recession and left the cast iron pots still sitting on ancient ashes. He spoke of salmon and moose and bear with the same facility I talk of campsites and reservations. He and his wife have lived off the grid their entire lives and he showed me the horsetail brush he made to brush out the gunpowder from his rifle. I’m not making this up. Leo was the diamond of my day and that 15 minute chance encounter has enriched my life…I wish the same for you.