Why we live here

By PORTLAND PHOENIX STAFF  |  April 22, 2009


One morning last winter, when I was still living on Munjoy Hill, I geared up and trekked out to unbury my car after a blizzardy snow-banned night. Shovel in one hand, coffee in the other, I trudged from St. Lawrence Street toward the Eastern Prom; it was my first winter in Maine, so I remained somewhat mystified — and irritated — by this strange "parking ban" phenomenon that had people doing all kinds of taxing, time-consuming activities at the exact times that they'd rather be in their beds with tea and a good book.

Somewhere around Beckett or Vesper, I started hearing the scraunching sound of ice scrapers, many of them. And in one moment, as I crested the hill and looked down on the whitened expanse, the cacophony became a chorus. Instead of a sea of grumbling drones, I saw dozens of neighbors worked bemusedly toward their common goal. I considered them, and the choppy ocean as their backdrop, and I was so happy to live here.

I moved to Maine in May of 2007 after an ill-conceived/-advised/-executed stint in grad school in Washington, DC. Before that, I'd been living in Boston for years. I came here with my then-man; between the two of us, we knew precisely one person in this state — his mother, who lives in Damariscotta. But we had each other, and we made a life here, one that was attractive for its newness. Until, a year later, following a lot of nonsense that I won't bore anyone with (except those who have already been bored at length, to whom I offer my sincerest cringes and apologies), said man and I broke up.

Even though I had a job I liked, friends I loved, and lots of other stuff going on, it was easy to feel a bit adrift. The person who I'd made this move with, my partner in crime, was absent. The home we'd created here was no longer shared space. When you come to a place with just one other person, it turns out that every single bar, coffee shop, and sidewalk becomes laden with that person's memory — because for a while, there was no one else with whom to create memories. Places become people, places become feelings. But even in the wake of this mess, despite all the wacky thoughts I had, and plans I made — healthy and not — I never once considered leaving Portland.

I didn't leave because I love being so often near to water, and if not to water, then to trees.

I didn't leave because here, in Portland, I rediscovered my penchant for performing, a passion that's been bolstered by this area's vibrant, supportive, talented community-theater world.

I didn't leave because I know people who keep chickens in their yard, hang their laundry outside through the winter, recycle fanatically, ride their bikes fanatically, etc. — and because living in Maine makes me cognizant of these things in the first place.

I didn't leave because Portland feels scrappy.

I didn't leave because I love the people and the products at Arabica, Longfellow Books, Rosie's, Artemisia, and Videoport.

I didn't leave because when friends and family who've never been to Portland come to visit me, they're always surprised by how much they like it.

I didn't leave because hardiness is so highly valued here.

I didn't leave because I enjoy walking down the street on a pseudo-spring morning and having everyone be full of smiles and wonder and anticipation, like we really were in caves for five months.

I didn't leave because I feel like I'm home.

I'm not saying that I'll never split. Nor would I suggest that everything's been great since I got here — money is tight, my love life is in shambles, and sometimes this town feels more like high school than my high school did. And winter in Maine lasts a few months too long. But it is so lovely to be able to say: I'm not leaving because I want to stay.
_Deirdre Fulton

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