Unveiling my Vows

I promise to love you no matter what.

We do not know the topography of our future, but we are the ones who will navigate the trail.

Every day, I promise to wake up and try to love you how you deserve to be loved and treat you as the beautiful soul I know you to be.

I vow to speak my mind and listen to yours. I pray for the insight to know when I am wrong (frequently!?), and admit it. I will rely on the important words–“thank you”, “I am sorry”, “I love you”. I will teach our children to use these words with sincerity and frequency.

I promise to support you on the blue sky days and when it seems the sun never rose. I will generously give you space to maintain, grow, and see into fruition your dreams and authentic self. I ask for the same.

I vow to encourage you to cultivate strong relationships with family and friends…..

I love you.

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In Search of Amaryllis

I finally found a florist who would order my amaryllis for my January 15 wedding.  It was the sixth that I had called, and I had learned how to ask by that point.  I had learned to just say I am “buying stems for an event”–mentioning “wedding” seemed to imply I was spending thousands of dollars she did not have.  I had learned to mention calla lilies first and then casually float in the idea of amaryllis.  The florist did not say “no”, which I thought was encouraging.  She said they would be expensive and she would have to check on the availability while I drove to the other side of the island.

I walked into Westside Floral, and I finally felt like I had encountered a shop with a style akin to my own: one-of-a-kind branches hung all over the walls, stars made out of birch bark, wreaths of dried hydrageneas.  I did not want to be THAT girl: “is this for sale? Is this for sale?”  Most of it was not, but I did manage to buy a wire rooster stuffed with moss and plastic red berries.  I could use them as Christmas decorations and for the wedding!

When it came time to discuss my flower order, the florist tried to talk me out of the more delicate calla lilies and amaryllis.  “Sometimes they freeze in shipping, or the bloom has not opened or never will open, or they have a fold across the petal.”  As she told me all of this, I could imagine that for any other bride, those scenarios would make her burst into tears, anything less than perfect unbearable.

For me, it made me want to take the risk on the amaryllis even more.  “Oh, the symbolism!” my high school history teacher would say.  This delicate, beautiful flower goes on a long journey, and it could arrived damaged or not yet ready to blossom.

I promised I would not complain.  I promised, just as I intended to promise to    my future husband, that I would love the flowers no matter what….

The beginning of a first draft

I will always remember the first line I wrote to Mitch: “you look like fun”. It was the same line I had used time and time before, everyone wants to think they are fun whether it is true or not. Yet this time, I felt like I should not stop there. On the one hand, I didn’t have my hopes up. I had been trying to meet someone for far too long, and it seemed statistically unlikely that he would be the one. On the other hand, he seemed perfect: smart handsome engineer looking to settle down, around my age, in the eastern Maine corridor.
So I wrote a full paragraph to him. Thought we had a lot in common and wanted the same things, told him I liked working on projects (in my own way this was true although I certainly don’t wire things like he does), and asked him what he liked to do around Bangor. Had to tell him about the redemption center I found up there that also sold beverages, thought that was funny.
I sent it, and figured if he didn’t write back, at least I scratched that itch, except he did write back, almost immediately. “Wish I had met you a long time ago,” he wrote. That sounded hopeful. He had read my profile and he was equally interested in me as I was in him.
We went back and forth like that for several days, me excited every time I received a message from him. He seemed perfect for me, but I did not want to ruin it. Slow and respectable, slow and respectable.
Slow and respectable would have worked if the loaner car I was driving did not have bizarre acceleration issues. Rather than reach the start of a backpacking trip in the Bigelows, I found myself at Dysarts, spending my last couple of dollars on my credit card on a bowl of baked beans. I needed to trade in the loaner car for another the next morning, and I was broke. I did not have the gas money to drive to the island and back to Bangor.
I contemplated all the ex-boyfriends I could text, and I did not want to see any of them. I texted the nice young man I had met on okcupid, explaining my situation but not ask for a place to stay, and he said, “it would be out of character for me to not offer u a place to stay. U can sleep on my couch.”
“Great, what time can I come over?”
“I am flattered that you trust me but shouldn’t we meet in a public place first?” Oh yes, he was right.  By this point, I had become so comfortable with online dating that I frequently threw caution to the wind.  When I did go out on first dates, my go-to spot was right where I was sitting, the Dysart’s on the Hermon-Hampden line.  I liked watching how different men responded to the same menu, deciding whether I approved of their entree choice, seeing how they responded when I ultimately ordered pie.  Yet Mitch was with friends for the next several hours, and I could not stay there.

I decided to suggest a new place that I had never been before: the Dysart’s on Broadway.  Having made a plan, I headed off to the Bangor Mall in an attempt to receive a free make-over.  I did not know if Macy’s still did that, but it was worth an attempt since I had no eyeliner on me.  The girl at the make-up counter would only instruct me how to do it myself, she was not going to put it on for me.  Drats.  It still ate up time until we were suppose to meet.

The End of Fair Season

i. Skowhegan

We had said that we just wanted to look at the animals.  After arriving at dusk, the demolition derby just starting, every ride lit up and inviting, we bought wrist bands so we could go as many as we wanted.  I could not stop smiling, my first fair dating an electrical engineer who told me everything was safer than it looked.  I believed him, believed him as our Ferris wheel tea cup rocked at the tippy top, as we were spun and jolted in every direction.  With him next to me, I had no fear.

ii.  Blue Hill

“There’s no poultry barn?!”  He wanted to leave upon arrival, not quite sure he could take the place seriously.  We headed away from the dust and the heat and the crowds, across the road and up the hillside.  I led him slightly off trail, to a spot where the blueberries had not yet been picked, and we gleaned what was left, the berries still sweet but drying up.  We listened to the pulse of the fair and spoke of businesses that we had dreamed of birthing, our ambition and imagination equally matched.

iii.  Unity

Every year, at 1pm on the Saturday of Common Ground, I return to the Folk Arts Tent to hear the Balkan Women’s Choir.  Each month has annual pilgrimages that I may or may not choose to take depending on the year, but I always try to make it to the reunion of this particular tribe.  This year, I brought him, perhaps to offer him an out more than anything else.  This is my life, this is all I have ever known, I did not choose it but it is mine.  He took my hand and danced with me, and I did not worry if my steps were in time to the music.

iv.  Fryeburg

We watched the video on logging drives, and smelled the peanut butter fudge just out of the oven, and admired the equipment of years past.  We had each chosen separately to live here, but loving the same sprawling wild state made us closer to each other somehow.

Bluuuuuuuuuuuuueberries!

Her guests had left two pints of hand-picked blueberries in the fridge.  They had laid a napkin across each container, and she believed they must have been forgotten rather than left as a present for her.  She had already bought a fresh pint of blueberries for the guests arriving that day, wild organic Maine blueberries able to impress and please any visitor.  She stashed the berries on top of a laundry basket of linens that she would not use, and she hustled along with making beds and vacumning and shining up the place in a way that became a consistent product.

She did not think twice about the berries until she reached the Mount Desert transfer station.  She started trying to find the trash and recyclables that she had stashed alongside the laundry baskets and duffel bags of clothing, alongside her box of bathroom items and her sleeping bag and tent.  She opened one of the back doors and her gaze settled on the upsidedown berry containers.  The berries pooled up behind her hiking boot, and snuck in every layer of folded towels in the laundry basket, and made their way underneath the seat that had been folded down.

She stood in shock at her open car door before she started grabbing fistfuls of whatever berries did not look contaminated.  She sold berries as part of her produce gig, and this was exactly the sort of drama she associated with the sweet irresistible fruit.  She had seen the aftermath of so many berries take a tumble and roll in every direction on the floor, and it seems like you can never quite find them all.  They tend to either dry or ferment in the corners of produce sections across the state of Maine, and the fruit flies will find any the produce girls cannot.  Sure enough, now the blueberries would find every corner of her car.

She continued to pick at what could be salvaged, taking up a prime parking space in a dump open 24-7 and busiest on weekend afternoons.  She decided she could not thoroughly clean the car until she reached her mother’s driveway.  She would have to rewash her towels and the bulk of her laundry.

This was a catastrophe of Maine proportions, but also a result of her good fortune.  She thought of all the abundance that had led to this minor topple.  Perhaps only because she had hit rockbottom more than once in her life, only because she had lost everything and rebuilt herself did she see this accident as a product of an embarassment of riches.  She had bought the house that had been left for dead, ice on the walls and snow coming in through the windows, and transformed it back into the cozy abode it was meant to be.  It had become the host of Thanksgiving dinners and summer barbecues, of young love and old love and ten year old girls who had left behind blueberries picked on top of Sargent Mountain.  The blueberries had spilled in a car that she bought sight unseen, a car that when she finally drove it she screamed “this is not my car, this is not my car” for months afterwards.

As she plucked berries from every nook and cranny, she strangely hoped this would not be the last berry spill in her backseat.  She had a glimpse of the future in that moment, of trying to clean up the spills of her children in the backseat.  You see, her greatest fortune had happened right there at the Mount Desert transfer station, on her first date with the man with whom she wanted to spend the next 970 years.  She took him to the dump, and he was so smitten with her at the moment that he too became convinced they were soulmates.

She knew that along the way, their love and the children they wished to have could stumble into these messy moments, but she hoped she would feel as much gratitude then as she did right now.

Ellsworth’s Accident Waiting to Happen

In the Whites, my hiker friends and I would joke that certain trails were “accidents waiting to happen”. I have to say that Myrick Street in Ellsworth and the section of Route 1 between Myrick Street and High Street is a bike accident waiting to happen, as arguably the most bike-unfriendly section of Hancock County. I realize this is strong language. Like the rest of the state of Maine, Hancock County has an ample number of no-shoulder or broken-shoulder roads. Yet in most situations, the road remains navigable to bikers without fearing eminent death.

Myrick Street and the aforementioned section of Route 1 have created a scenario that demands more courage than the average cyclist may possess. If the lane changes are confusing to a driver, they are frightening to a cyclist who realizes she cannot cling to the right side of the road and she must cross multiple lanes of traffic to turn left The hill past the bowling alley feels similarly risky, since the biker has nowhere to go while careening down the hill in front of vehicles also gaining speed.

Bayside is a slightly friendlier route. In fact, the bike path between Birch Ave and North Street may be the best option. Why would anyone bike Myrick Street any way? Just avoid it. Yet functional bikers who have no other means of transportation need to take Myrick Street to reach Walmart. Moreover, as the crossroads of Downeast Maine, Ellsworth is the crossroads of scores of cyclists starting or finishing cross-country journeys or cross-Maine journeys or any number of journeys. If only they all knew
to go the Bayside Road…

As I see it, the Department of Transportation has two options: either include bike lanes when they re-think Myrick Street or post no-bike signs so that they will not be responsible for any accidents or deaths.

Upon Waking….

She wanted to write about the April that she worked at the grocery store and they all ended up homeless by the end of the month, sleeping on couches or in cars.  She wanted to write about the times she had declared herself a freegan, the most glamorous way to declare that she could not afford groceries, and proceeded to miraculously feed herself on scraps.  She wanted to write about how scary it was to careen past Walmart in Ellsworth on a bicycle and even scarier still to try to coast down the hill past the bowling alley without getting herself killed.

Yet from experience, the whole sex-in-the-country theme had always been easier and more popular.  Not just encounters with the opposite sex, but romps in the woods and stories of place and season.  The fluff seemed more captivating, any snippet of how she felt about reality perhaps too familiar, so she was sticking with the fluff for now.

My First Bike Commute of the Year

I wake up at 4am and start looking out my French doors into the darkness of my backyard.  It should take me about an hour, I keep telling myself, the last time I biked from Bar Harbor to the Parkman lot it took me a hair over an hour.  Yet that was a couple years ago, and I am acutely aware of the softness of my body.  I had only rode my bike for the first time the evening before, and I worried what I was about to attempt was more a reflection of my ambition than my ability.  Part of me just figured my ability would soon catch up to my ambition, and I would just let the two work themselves out.

While I waited for a hint of light, I dressed for as if for a winter’s hike: long underwear, layers of shirts to wick away sweat, and of course the red-white-and-blue sweater of legends.  I made myself a freegan breakfast of gifted goat cheese and English muffin, and I took down and folded my clothes drying from the rafters.  Mostly I looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window more and paced.

At 5am, I was rearing to go.  Sunrise was in half an hour, wisps of dawn should be here by now.  I decided I would go for it.  I grabbed my backpack, a rack not yet installed on my bike, and carried my bike out into the chill of the end of April, down the stairs of my deck and out into the backyard that I was only starting to have the time to know.

I had been working 65 hours a week for the past year, and I had not spent much time doing anything other than that, furiously determined to pay back the friends and family who loaned me money for a down payment.  I did not care about the balance on my credit card as much as I cared about keeping my word to people who loved and trusted me more than they should.  As if it were a hike requiring endurance, I paid back $10000 in a year and transferred the remaining $3000 I owed to an interest-free investor who I intend to pay by the end of 2016.  My most pressing obligations behind me, renting out my house in various forms ahead of me, I quit the second job that had consumed my evenings and weekends.  I wanted my time more than the money.  The money would come especially on an island of plenty, but the time to be outside and exercise/exorcise would easily elude me if I let it.

I crossed my yard and walked my bike up the road to the social path that myself and the two neighbors share as access to the carriage roads behind my house.  I am always asked the length of it between the road and the carriage roads, and I hesitate, distance never ever feeling accurate to me.  One tenth of a mile? Two tenths?  It is a bumpy tunnel through the woods, including carrying my bike over three or so blowdowns that only the park could remove and they never will.  At the carriage road, I stop and look at my cell phone.  5:15.  I am supposed to start breaking down freight at 630.  I am never going to make it.

I jump on my bike and my delicate inner thighs are still sore from riding all over Somes Sound the day before.  I do not really want the seat to touch my legs at all, and I am only starting my journey.  True confessions: I do not like the endless conifers of my backyard, and I am quite relieved to finally pass the Giant Slide Trail, and soon after slip into the deciduous bliss of the forest before the trees have leafed out.  This is the forest of my childhood, and pre-leafing is my favorite time to notice things in the woods.

I pass Aunt Betty Pond, and begin the slow ascent up the carriage path side of McFarland Hill.  At 4am, I had been dreading it.  All I could think about was the summer–I must have been nineteen or so–when I was riding up the hill past the Southwest IGA and some ten year old boys screamed at me: “you are never going to make it”.  Then I was in the shape of my life, and I could make it without getting off my bike.  Going up that endless hill on Monday morning?  I could not breathe, I had to get off and walk a little.  I did not want to look at the time, I was certain I would not make it.

Once the hill leveled out, I hopped back on and saw that gorgeous view of Sargent, only a few miles further than I last saw it but seemingly much more distant.  I was slowly coming to grips with the beauty that was my life, and suddenly, as I careened downhill towards Bar Harbor, that beauty hit me all at once.

I passed the intersection near the Eagle Lake parking lot where I split my leg open and left in an ambulance, my bike dropped off at my house by strangers.  I have so many memories embedded here, for better or worse, and I am slowly feeling comfortable with all of them.

I did not dare to look at the time on my cell phone until I was at the Duck Brook bridge.  6am!  I was only moments from town.  I could make it in a reasonable time frame.

I pulled into A & B just as the grocery manager arrived, the grocery manager whom I had told to harass me until I rode my bike to work.  As it turned out, I did not need that much encouragement.  Locking up my bike, I asked her the time.  6:15!

All of my 4am worries were futile.  I made it.

Dating Brad Pitt

We eat iceberg lettuce and spoonfuls of your homemade lemon dill ice cream and oatmeal for breakfast, and I leave wearing a soft ll bean button-up that you were going to donate to Goodwill. At that moment, I do not know when or if I will talk to you again, but I do not care.  You feed me the most incredible poetry, not just slow-cooked chicken for breakfast and beef stew for supper, but I like looking at as much of your version of the universe as you have the patience for me to see, even when it is dark and brooding…..

Brussels Sprout

After all the other vegetables had come and gone, there stood the lone Brussels sprout, sweeter than ever from hard frost after hard frost, substantial with or without vinegar. All the others had been such flashy pretty boys, lots of promise but no delivery. He started spoiling her from the night they met, from when he filled the bath and watched her sink to a state of relaxation she could not remember the last time she felt. He visited her at work, and took her out on real dinner-and-movie sort of dates. When she told him she wanted to transform her shed into a tea room, he offered to bring his tools over and start moving the door around immediately. On the one hand, the spoiling felt old-fashioned and timeless; on the other, she had never experienced anything like it before and she craved it….