Friday, January 4, 2008. -4° upon waking. Make coffee 6:30 a.m., Allen makes the fire. Breakfast on thin German bread and one fried egg. We have butter. Allen to the dentist. Below zero so I change my mind about snowshoeing at the airport while they work on him. I stay home vacuuming rugs, sweeping the yellow pine floors with dust mop and broom; wash the towels and Allen’s clothes. Throw them into the dryer.
The mill is centerpiece, a steaming cauldron amid built up blocks — the town within the town — its great gray monolith partly obscured in self-generated mist and moving cloud. But now R. was working there, the migrant success story. After living rurally, here is when and where I begin to realize the Catholic culture, the inner unspoken grace that Monica Wood gives creative tongue to in When We Were the Kennedys. Our landlady was Catholic, and her family of older resident women, were from New Brunswick — French — and one was a nun. This is all I had to go on, for otherwise Catholicism in Rumford/Mexico wasn’t spoken of.
Another Maine Metaphor is coming out, this one with a seasonal focus, Maine In Winter. But today I’m essaying about a neighboring town and author, in part because of personal connections with the town. The town is Mexico, Maine.
Going home through Franconia Notch, my spouse and I watched the great Whites rising like an apparition glimpsed between darker mountainous slopes. This whiteness—befitting the name of the range—was rime ice, crusting bold surfaces, before disappearing a day or two later. Then we searched for the telltale contour of Agiocochook, as Native Abenakis fitly named the greatest for its vast white summit: The Snowy Forehead.
Of these Presidentials Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “Let us forget the other names of American statesmen that have been stamped upon these hills, but still call the loftiest Washington. Mountains are Earth’s undecaying monuments.”
Summer to fall we may have brief encounters with creatures, with Maine beasts. In winter this snowshoer came upon blood, two scattered bone-fulls of deer—a coyote feast—in woods next door to her house. This happened here a few winters ago. We have a variety of critter encounters.
The phoebe-bug-spider observation. A phoebe in-flight drove some bug, maybe a moth, into one of several great webs, then backed off as a giant spider began feverishly winding its prey. —But the bug escaped! The phoebe gave chase, snatched it back, flit across to the powerline, perched, and swallowed it! I stood at the porch door looking through the screen, watching this web and drama. Surprised.
Ruth Moore’s Maine 1950’s small-town characters enter The Walk Down Main Street individually. At first it’s a parade. Then they take up residence together for us in interacting, unfolding their relations, within community. This is a novel in which yare (yeah), gaumy (gormy), and they (their or there) might signify the peculiar Downeast accent.
Martin Hoodless we meet first, quintessential hard-working stubborn judgmental curmudgeonly “old Mainer.” Hoodless is in the egg production business, built from ground upwards and finally debt-free (for the second time). The crank thinks the town’s preoccupation with basketball, and its team in particular, is worthless. (That sentiment is not quintessential Maine.)
We are going to miss the Christmas get together this year. Last year was so good, and I really appreciated seeing Earnestine’s daughters, meeting Eleanor’s granddaughter, and just all-around having a good time and good food with good company. Your generosity in this regard has been with us over the decades since we came here and is much appreciated. Thank you. Bless!
“In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World, written by Jake Meador, points to a way to help us recognize common, good qualities in J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterworks. One might read Tolkien and find this communal quality throughout. We especially see the connection through his affection and satirical treatment of certain aspects of small rural communities. One might begin with the Shire where he starts his epic quest, The Lord of the Rings, yet there are other such places, with their own distinctions, in other areas of Middle-earth; we find them also in Tolkien’s short stories.”