A New Year memory of what I see, when I look Downeast

It is a New Year, and a time to reflect on days past while looking forward to days that sit around the corner waiting for us to arrive. It is a time for new beginnings and also a time to remember those that came not so very long ago.

Many of our friends ask: What is it about Downeast that made my wife and me make the decision to spend more of our time in Maine than in our home state of Pennsylvania? For me, being a writer, I regard that question in my own unique way and in a sense heard it this way, “What do you see when you look Downeast?”

The early morning is my time of day. This is when, in my opinion, the essence of a place, any place, is most alive. While others sleep, I slip up and out and try to capture some special moments. Here, it’s pretty easy to do if one simply takes the time to do it.

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Sometimes I catch it just right and watch the sun come up. On other mornings, I watch the slow creep of the fog as it rolls in. A whisper of wind here and there, and the fog levitates, floats in mid air and awaits the fishermen as they journey into it for another day. The lights of the boats bounce waving as they go by, and the lighthouse in the distance answers them right back, “All is ok.” And the sky of black turns to blue and then orange and finally yellow as the sun blinks above the horizon and I take a sip of coffee; the day is here.


Often I sit with eyes closed and simply listen. I hear the gulls along the shoreline speaking to one another, perhaps arguing, and sometimes I hear the hypnotic call of a loon float across the water. And depending on the time of day, the waves are either saying hello, or goodbye, no matter their direction, they speak fervently and eternally if one is willing to listen.

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When I look to the waters, I see flat sections of glass, interrupted now and then by the murmurs of ripples making their way to shore. Often fishermen push along these ripples turning them into wakes as they leave to earn their catch, to make their place on the waters dotted by islands, rock and ledge.

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But time spent here is not always solitary time, there are the “people” things that people do, and here, they too, make this place very special.

When in town I see people walking and driving slowly, which is ok because there are no traffic lights in town or pretty much in any of the surrounding areas, so definitely taking one’s time is a good thing. Here people know where they are going and what needs to get done and they do it with precision and courtesy. Traffic stops to let people cross and to let others turn and exit. People you pass say hello.


The other thing I see is people looking up instead of down. Perhaps the “Pokémon Go” app is secretly hidden on their phones, or their phone was left at home? But on days when I am in town, I see people willing to take the time to look you in the eye and say hello. This all by itself rattles the senses because today, it seems so foreign in other places, yet so common here.

And certainly not everything is easy and without issue. Even with its beauty on a grand scale in the mountains and waterways, on the trails and roads less traveled, when compared to the other coastal areas of Maine, the difficulties of life here are certainly more evident than anywhere else. The weather can be brutal in winter, and sometimes one waits until mid summer before warm temps arrive. And the distance to travel for essential services is much farther, so planning a trip into town requires lists and a disciplined approach to achieving all that is planned.

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I guess all of this is a good thing. If one lives here, we have it pretty much all to ourselves. Knowing that, I believe, makes the people part of the equation easier to understand; we are here together, in both place and time, the limits of both equally evident and equally embraced by all that call this place home, and it works beautifully. Perhaps the rest of the world should take note, it really could be this way everywhere in the world.


Happy New Year!

RJ Heller

About RJ Heller

Having arrived here from Pennsylvania over four years ago, there has been plenty to learn and even more to observe. This place is different, but I mean that in a good way. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a college graduate with a teaching degree, a business founder and seller, and a father of two children with my wife Stephanie; life has been full and somewhat adventurous, but finding Maine remains a high watermark in my life.