This morning I opened my email and was going through the usual process of deleting anything that looked unfamiliar or suspicious when one caught my eye. I cautiously clicked on the unfamiliar name and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was simply an email from a fellow blogger, forwarded form my Bangor Daily account.
Fellow blogger, Mike Matson, had written about Maine in his blog “It goes without saying but bears repeating.” After finding my blog, he had reached out to say hello. Mike, like many of us, had recently taken the Facebook “How many states have you visited” quiz and was surprised by results that came up over and over again in his newsfeed.
It appears most folks from Kansas, have never visited Maine. I’m sure that’s not unique to Kansas, lots of folks have never visited Maine. As a friend recently said, you don’t just happen to drive through Maine on your way to someplace else. You actually have to come here on purpose! That’s kind of the way we like it! Oh don’t get me wrong, we welcome visitors, in fact, tourism is one of our biggest industries, but we like folks to know what they are getting into before they get here. We don’t need anyone showing up unawares and then complaining about it later!
Maine is a unique blend of people and cultures. Those weird town names, they come from our proud Native American Heritage. We have generations of French Canadian, Irish folks as well as pockets in towns of various Italian, Jewish, or most recently Somalian people! The most noted difference in our citizens though comes in the form of those “from here” versus those “from away.” Now, keeping in mind that every single one of us except the Native Americans was actually “from away” at some point, it seems odd that this would even be a thing now, but it is! For Mainers whose families have been here for generations, those of us who moved here, whether as adults or dragged along by our parents as infants, will always be “from away.” Even if we’ve had children here, those children are by extension “from away.” Or as many a Mainer has said to me, “just ‘cause the cat had kittens in the oven, don’t make ‘em biscuits.”
Yet, despite this vast cultural gap new Mainers can eventually prove themselves by virtue of simply sticking it out. Even I, having lived here a mere 26 years or so, take a little bit of enjoyment from watching a new Mainer struggle through their first winter. It’s that first one that will make or break you! And that’s what makes Mainers unique. We are here on purpose. Whether we were born here and chose to stay, or settled here later, we are here because we want to be. We are here because we found something wonderful here, and we can’t imagine being any place else.
What have we found here that is so wonderful? Well for me, besides the awe inspiring beauty of the landscape, in Maine I’ve found people who are like no others. According to federal report issued in 2011, Mainers volunteer in their communities in huge numbers. Maine was ranked 12th out of fifty states for volunteerism! In the number of teenagers who volunteer in this state, we ranked first out of the whole country. I was most especially proud of this because it shows we passed our strong community commitment down to the next generation of Mainers. We may not have much, our economic rankings are not nearly as impressive, but we share what we have, and take care of each other!
Bangor is home to me because of that community commitment. We care about each other. We take care of each other. We have taken the time to get to know our neighbors. Oh there are lots of places in Maine where you can live a solitude existence if you choose, but Bangor is a place where you truly can’t leave the house without running into a friend! I love that!
What amused be about Mike Matson’s email to me about Kansas was that last night was also the opening Night of The Wizard of Oz at Penobscot Theatre here in Bangor! Coincidence? (I attended a preview night this week and I can say without hesitation, if you don’t have tickets yet, buy them now, you don’t want to miss this and weekend shows are already all sold out)!
Kansas was fresh on my mind, and when Mike asked how many Mainers had ever been to Kansas I knew exactly why I’ve never visited! That place is scary! As a child, the idea of ever going anyplace where your house can get picked up by the wind at any moment without warning and just dropped someplace else was terrifying. And to think that you may be dropped some place with witches and flying monkeys! No way, I have successfully stayed clear of Kansas my entire life for those very reasons! Here in Maine, our houses stay put and nothing flies over heads but beautiful birds and colorful fall leaves, thank you very much!
Now, in the interest of being fair to Kansas, I’m sure this doesn’t happen often! I’m sure that Kansas is actually a lovely place to visit! In fact, when I started writing this today, I asked my Facebook friends from Maine how many of them have visited Kansas. I was surprised by the number who have, although several admitted it was more of drive through than a visit! Mike had suggested an exchange program between Mainers and Kansans. Well Mike, it appears lots of Mainers have actually been to Kansas but a few may still take you up on your offer! We do tend to be an adventurous bunch and we’d be happy to host a few Kansans in exchange! We’ll hook them up with some Bean Boots and see how they like a real Maine winter! I have to warn you though they may like it so much you might not get them back!
“And tho’ we seek far and wide, Our search will be in vain, To find a fairer spot on earth, Than Maine! Maine! Maine!”