My eyes watered up as the plane flew over the ocean, dotted with islands. Inland was rich pine green with distant mountains. Lightening snaked down under grey clouds. Of course we’d brought the rain back with us, but everyone is grateful due to near drought conditions. It’s too ironic.
As we approached the runway, our plane angled away and circled. There was a moose on the runway! What a homecoming for the author of Moose Crossing. Was it an omen? Or just the storm?
As soon as we got in the car, the rain lashed down with a force I’ve never seen outside of Maine. The road became a river. Lightening flashed. Thunder cracked. Henry was just getting used to driving on the American side of the road.
We decided to ride out the storm in Portland at our favorite Japanese restaurant. Sapporo has the freshest sushi at a great value. Tuna is caught right off the coast. On a cold day, we often order the nabeyaki udon, a chicken-vegetable-noodle soup. Even my Japanese sister-in-law was impressed last time she visited.
Storms in Maine tend to be violent but short lasting. They blow out to sea, clearing the heat and humidity. A typical summer day is in the upper 70’s with cooler nights. It felt refreshing after the 90 plus muggy heat of NYC.
Back on the highway our happy smiles were short lived. Our tire blew out on a nail! Luckily the spare was okay as we haven’t gotten cell phones yet. Vacation traffic was zooming by. Off the shoulder was a swamp and islands. The air smelled fresh in the light rain.
We pulled off the highway and wound back home slowly on Rt. 1. Hay was rolled on the golden fields. Cattle and sheep were grazing. It was farm country, but still so different from the hedged green English fields.
Excited cries came from the kids as we drove into town. On our garage door was a damp welcome home sign from my friend Charlotte Agell. It’s a bit of a joke. Charlotte’s first young adult novel was called Welcome Home or Someplace Like It. It’s a fabulous story about a family returning home to coastal Maine. How appropriate.
It felt so odd walking back into our old life as if we had never left. My children didn’t dwell on it and ran off through the woods to visit their buddies. No need to call first. My daughter came home in war paint with a big grin. My son’s friend had walked back with him to see our dog. We’re friends with their parents too.
Our hometown is friendly. People have been stopping by to say hi. We’ve run into others on dog walks, at the farmers’ market or shopping in town. You have to factor an extra 10 minutes into going anywhere for time to chat.
On Sunday we went to Popham Beach with friends who could well understand our dazed confusion at being back home. The Bradley-Webbs had moved to Paris but had kept their home in Maine as a summer house, much to our delight. They had visited us in England, and we had stayed with them twice in France. Our 11-year-old daughters picked up as if no time had passed, giggling away.
Elizabeth and I went for a long walk on the 3 mile beach and passed other friends. In one direction Popham is a nature reserve and on the other end summer houses overlook small islands.
Not exactly beach weather, but isn’t Popham gorgeous in the mist? That’s Seguin lighthouse in the photo below and in my new header image. It's funny: doesn't the photo look more like a watercolor than my painting does? You can see why I chose that medium.
Once I’ve unpacked, I will be painting again this summer. I write novels during the rest of the year. My two vocations work well with the climate. I’ve missed the change of seasons while living in England, the land of eternal spring. There is nothing nicer than a Maine summer, especially when the rain stops!
I’m taking time to relax in the midst of unpacking. The kids’ first request was to go to Cote’s for the best homemade ice cream in Maine. It’s served from an unassuming shack on Brunswick’s Maine Street (love that pun!) Usually the line is long. The rumbles of thunder must have scared off the less intrepid. The ice cream was even better than we remembered, and we beat the rain home.
We need sweet treats, as there are still boxes and suitcases to unpack from England. To make room for our tenants, we stored even more boxes in my daughter’s room. They were shoulder high, now knee high. Despite all the upheaval, or maybe because of it, we are all sleeping so well in our own beds.
It’s a delight to be back in our house where the furniture is comfortable with good reading lights, and there is room to stretch out. I stop and admire every painting as if seeing it for the first time. Our house at under 3,000 square feet isn’t large by American standards, but it’s more than twice the size of what we had in England. We have a mini forest for a backyard.
The lilies are cheerful even if the weeds are not. I’ve pruned the burning bushes back into trees already. I’ve fixed the refrigerator, a stuck drawer and plugged shower heads. The clothes are unpacked but not my office. I’m trying to reorganize as I unpack, to regain the sparse order we had in England with so much less clutter.
That sabbatical seems to have given me peace with my life. I’m so much more appreciative of our home after missing it. There’s a true sense of belonging one gets in a small town although sometimes the perspective can be too narrow. The time spent abroad has widened my vision and stimulated my imagination.
I’m eager to get back to work and to see what happens. I can’t wait to try out my new SLR camera. First I need to settle in and catch up with friends. I didn't realize how happy I was to be home until I took a break from unpacking to have a pint and crisps (Uh, I mean a beer and potato chips) with Henry on our deck. The sun was setting in a cool blue sky casting gold on the tall pines. Can you see why I love it here?