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Things left behind

I have many more friends in Maine than I did in Washington. Perhaps that’s no surprise. This is an environment more receptive to the interpersonal:  basic, kind treatment of others. In these coastal Northern New England communities, people are our greatest resource, what’s sure to remain when the tide goes out. To survive here, I’ve had to unlearn behaviors accumulated in Washington and through childhood.

I’ve written here about things I carry; now I write about things left behind. Exactly three years ago I packed up my belongings, dogs, son’s detritus and moved to Waldoboro. I left behind family and friends, a job, a suburban neighborhood, and miserably hot summers. Yet I’ve managed to rake in — as I now rake for blueberries on my fields — the best of the Washington crop.

Many of my Washington relationships have grown much stronger in the past few years, as people visit me for quality periods of time or I return to Baltimore-DC and enjoy getting to know my new great niece and other family during long weekend visits. I’ve also been very lucky with work: many of my favorite colleagues have become wonderful clients, and my Word Sharpener business is booming.

Yet, just as I must winnow out the twigs and leaves from the ripe blueberries I rake in, I’ve had to reconsider many of the ties that once bound me to Washington traditions. I lived in DC for three decades, and grew up in Baltimore. I’d become so ensconced in certain behaviors that I’ve only just come to grips with getting rid of what hurts me.

For instance, my shy upbringing taught me to be accommodating. When a cousin emailed recently to say she would stop by at 9:30AM on Monday morning after visiting her kids for the weekend at a Maine camp, I cleaned my house, put work aside, and prepared for the visit. When it got to be 10:30, then 11, and finally, at nearly noon, I felt like someone had lobbed me with a mud ball. Turns out, as she puts it, “weather intervened.” It was raining.

Bottom line: I wasn’t high on her priority list of visits. In return, I’ve raked this cousin into my compost pile. Neat and simple. “We’ll make this work next summer,” she text-ed. That message, also deleted.

Similarly, I’ve had to really pick carefully through my crop of Washington friends and acquaintances. My life is here now. Between work, being on the boards of two great community organizations, enjoying the gamut of recreational activities from kayaking to skiing, learning to paint, and so much more, I can’t continue to invest in old patterns. That person doesn’t live there anymore.

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2 Responses to Things left behind

  1. Melissa Bell says:

    This is equal parts quietly thoughtful and a powerful read. When you swept your life and dogs into the big valise and moved north, I thought that took guts. Good move, Susan. You’re a special soul, and Maine is fortunate! Love the writing!

  2. Ken says:

    Lovely work, my friend. I envy your life in Maine…when things get overwhelming here…the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…I morph into fantasy land and it looks a lot like your life in Waldaboro. How I would love to be a big fish in a little pond and run my own theatre away from the urban sprawl…and have the kind of personal and professional ties to my community that you do…to say nothing of the plethora of birds you get to see and photograph! Looking forward to more of your writing…and painting!

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