Monday, July 21, 2008

The Maine Thing

Remember the old Calgon bubble bath commercial where a houseful of kids and muddy pets drive a young mother to plead for said bubble bath to come and “take her away?”
The last we see of the woman, her placid face is bobbing just above suds level, and we’re left to assume that the children and animals have conquered the home. Although I certainly enjoy taking a dip in my Jacuzzi tub at the end of a long day, I get much faster relaxation results in my living room, simply by transporting myself, via wall print, to a mythical location I refer to as “the Maine house.”

Much in the way that Jill and Eustace entered Narnia through a picture on the bedroom wall in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I can enter the tranquil lakeside cottage depicted on my wall with nothing more than a steady gaze. Oh, the wonders of the Maine house! The lake, the rustic row boats, the cozy cottage…and the parties I’ve thrown there—you really should stop by sometime. Simple wine and cheese affairs on cool evenings, private book readings, coffee and blueberry cobbler on the lake. Artsy people talk literature, music, and mixing brilliant shades of cerulean and fuchsia late into still nights under starry skies. And the romantic picnics! Fresh berries and simple sandwiches on a worn quilt at sunset to a soundtrack of smooth jazz.

Bouquets of wildflowers, bountiful produce, and secret woodland trails (moose use them all the time) are all part of daily life at the Maine house. Mornings play out on the water, and evenings on the shore….but the afternoons are for writing, or, failing that, painting …all serious art that always sells.

See, I have this thing about Maine, and I’ve passed at least some of it on to my kids. First of all, it’s one of the few states they haven’t visited—and I only barely did, as a kid in the 80’s. Best I remember, we stayed at a resort of the same ilk as the one in Dirty Dancing. I seem to remember tuxedoed waiters, a formal dining hall, and lots of shuffle board. But then, pre-adolescent angst probably warped my impressions of much of the trip.

So I don’t really feel like I’ve experienced Maine yet—at least not the Maine I see in all the pictures, the land with the pink clouds that seem to perpetually hover over everything, the Maine with the blueberries, and moose. I’m off to discover that Maine this week.

I’m excited, but I’m also wary. First of all, I don’t even know that the scene depicted in my Magic Painting is even in Maine. The print was an art gallery cast off, and I trimmed off all the identifying information to get it into a frame. This is one work that will be permanently left to the interpretation of the viewer, and I’ve just made it into my version of what I want Maine to be. And let’s face it, the Maine house never deviates from a state of perpetual August, and one with a flawless forecast at that.

Furthermore, I’m beginning to suspect that moose don’t even really exist, that maybe they are extinct, or perhaps even mythical, like the unicorn. We traveled into several so-called moose habitat areas last summer, and didn’t catch so much as a glimpse of an antler. Church friends just returned from the same area of Maine into which we are heading, and reported a moose-less trek. My mom didn’t even see any moose as far noth as Alaska, unless you want to count a brown blob out the window of a fast-moving train that a tour guide labeled as such to pacify tourists hungry for a sighting.

In short, I’m not certain if the Maine in which I believe is real. But I suspect that even if my experience fails to deliver the Maine of my dreams, my Maine will live on in an 18’’ X 24’’ inch rectangle in my living room.

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