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I Forgot to Feel Afraid


Wind blew as I drifted to sleep, strongest I’ve heard in years. Countless maples so close to the house. At first I wrote “too close,” but deleted it. Who am I to say. Adrenaline did not course through me as it often does when the winds howl, the lack of which I attribute to not having read or watched a single news report predicting the night’s turmoil. I didn’t get the memo, so I forgot to feel afraid.

Now it is 4am, Adam just took a drive and discovered plenty of closed roads and trees across power lines. Schools are cancelled. Guess it was quite a storm. They say power will be out for a while. 

The room is lit by the golden warmth of candlelight and the harsh blue glare of this computer screen. I wonder if anyone out there would find the blue light prettier than the soft glow of beeswax. I don’t think so. For some reason, I think of our president, and wonder if he’s up yet, if he’s tweeted the day’s diplomacy. I wonder what it would be like if he was here. I’d close the computer and we’d sit in amiable silence, watching the beauty of a single beeswax flame. I wonder if he would enjoy the lingering scent of honey. How could he not.

Fifteen Minutes at the Grocery Store

Mom and I headed to the market in Fort Kent for a couple of items to round out her lunch plans. While standing in line at the deli, mom said hello to the woman standing beside us, then introduced her as dad’s oncology nurse, Brenda. Even though dad’s treatment hospital is one and a half hours away, there we all were, at Paradis on a Sunday afternoon. To Brenda and mom, this meeting did not feel out of place. Nothing is ten minutes away here. All of that aside, it was a pleasure to put a face with the name I’ve heard so much about over the last five years. 

To our right, a fully uniformed Fort Kent police officer ladled soup from the self-serve pot. I’d thought that he resembled my cousin Tim (a state police officer who works about ninety miles south of here), but didn’t feel it worth mentioning. Mom on the other hand, she saw the resemblance too, only she thought it worth mentioning. 

“Excuse me, do you happen to know Tim Saucier?” 

“Yes ma'am, as a matter of fact I do.”

“You look a lot like him.”

The officer smiled. “I am told that often; he’s a good guy.”

Past the officer, a burly man who smiled easily and seemed to know everyone. A woman of his acquaintance asked if he was spending much time in the shop these days, to which he replied that he is not, most of his time is spent in the woods. “Good, that’s where your heart is.” He agreed. His cart was filled with brightly frosted cakes and cookies, indicating a young person’s birthday. He shared that his daughter’s birthday party was that day and he was about to pick up a dozen pink balloons for the family to decorate with. There was an eye roll and some exaggerated words about how ridiculous he’s about to look walking around the store with a bunch of pink balloons. 

Leaving the deli, it didn’t take long for mom to trail behind. When I stopped to look back for her, she was standing next to another person’s cart, not budging. After a few moments the cart’s person returned and mom pointed to the wallet resting in the seat: “You’re so trusting!” The woman smiled but you could tell not trusting wasn’t something she’d considered. After all, this is Fort Kent, Maine. But mom? You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl. 


We wove through the remaining aisles as mom checked items from her list, and I kept an eye on the logger with a bouquet of pink balloons. He was sure to tell each person he passed that these frilly things were not his, that he was sent to pick them up for his daughter’s party, and that he was very concerned about his manhood. Each encounter offered a big smile as he explained himself, and a quick roll of the eyes as he pointed to the pink bouquet. After a few minutes I began to sense his fixation had little to do with machismo, and much to do with being a proud father in love with a little girl who is growing up too fast. 

Ran Through the Woods Towards Home


My parents describe me as being a pretty laid back child, maybe too laid back. Trusting, kind, social butterfly. I remember bolting onto the school bus the first day of kindergarten without a glimpse of concern for the great unknown. Probably because I was so preoccupied with showing off my Dorothy Hamill haircut and my brand new (empty) school bag. Looking back, I feel bad for my mom. I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded an extra tight hug or a breath of hesitation on my part. I offered neither. 

I fell out of a treehouse once and aside from having the wind knocked straight out of me, I don’t remember crying or being too concerned. This was a little odd because it was a actually quite a bad fall and could have ended much worse than it did. All of the adults swooped in and insisted I lay down for the remainder of the day. I do recall my tailbone feeling pretty clobbered so the insistence of rest was wise, but overall, I didn’t feel phased by the accident. 

So my fear of fire in the night was a little unusual for a kid of typically chill nature, but as Myriam reminded me in the comments of my last post, it was those elementary school fire prevention lectures that put the fear in me. To my mind, we couldn’t have enough cans of baking soda scattered around. (I thought I was the only kid traumatized by those lectures, so it was good to hear from you, Myriam.) This fear of fire - which I’m happy to say is no longer part of my psyche - came up one other time as a kid. I was cat-sitting for a neighbor when I accidentally locked myself in their garage. The only doors to the outside were the garage doors themselves, and they would not open manually. Being a garage-less kid, I was clueless. I figured there had to be some way to get out of there, and I did find a couple of benign looking buttons on the wall, but there were wires connected to them and when I traced those wires to their source, they led to a big metal box on the ceiling that had all sorts of “warning! high voltage!” stickers on it. In fairness, I felt confident those buttons were not actual bomb detonators as my imagination had me believe, but at age nine, my imagination was still winning out most days, and the prospect of burning down my friend’s house with her cat inside did not feel very appealing. Plus, I didn’t have my life saving can of baking soda with me, which meant the cat and I would definitely die if this went wrong. (Don’t think baking soda works on electrical fires anyway. Details...) So after some time spent pacing and working myself into a tizzy, I did the next logical thing: I found a heavy tool and smashed one of the small square windows out of the garage door, then climbed my tiny adrenaline-filled body through the shard-edged opening, gaining a few gashes along the way. I ran through the woods towards home, and collapsed in a tearful heap as I retold what had happened to my father. For sure I’d be grounded after smashing the neighbors' window. Instead, he just smiled, handed me a box of bandaids, and suggested we head to the hardware store for supplies so we could replace the glass later that afternoon. On the way to the store, I learned all there was to know about how automatic garage doors work. And I haven’t smashed my way out of a garage since. 

A Brilliant Idea


It’s quiet here. They say you should not wrap yourself in too much quiet for fear of becoming reclusive, but I’ve not found that threshold yet. The air is sweetly scented with fir, reminding me of the balsam pillow sewing that mom and I used to do. Gosh, it’s one of the best scents. 

I abandoned the last tomatoes on the vine in Connecticut and came to Vermont for a couple of weeks. We’ve still got a few rows of potatoes to dig, beets, carrots and butternut to harvest, Brussels sprouts and leeks too. Oh, and those fall peas that I planted are doing great - ready to harvest actually - and I’m not there. Shoot. Now that I write it all down, I guess it’s more than a few tomatoes I’ve left behind.

About half way through my time here I’ll head over to Maine to visit my parents for a few days. Adam will join me and we’ll get the firewood stacked, chimney cleaned, and whatever else mom and dad need help with. We’re looking forward to the drive over. We’ll take RT 2 through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, dropping us onto 95 in Bangor, which is just far enough north in Maine where the highway becomes sparsely populated, just the way I like it. 

I am reminded of a time as a kid when we were making a trip to Eagle Lake in our boat of a Mercury station wagon. It was the nicest vehicle we’d owned to date, had heat plus air conditioning and those big comfy seats that made you feel like you were floating on a cruise ship down the highway. To me, its true measure of luxury was experienced in not needing to keep warm under dad’s old Navy-issued scratchy wool blankets, which was pretty standard for us prior to the Mercury. Back in those days, whenever word got out that a car was heading north, a distant friend or relative of some sort would usually hop in with their own desire to visit the homeland. On this particular trip we had a cousin join us - though I can’t recall her name and don’t think I’ve seen her since, so maybe not a cousin - and she was a smoker. Remember when adults smoked in homes and cars with children present? At some point in the drive, she flicked her cigarette out the window and the wind caught it just so that it blew back into the car. This would be a good time to point out that being the littlest in the group, I was riding it out in the rear cargo area. Just me, sans seatblet, tucked into my sleeping bag with a jug of water nearby that mom had given me as we were leaving. She literally said, “In case of fire.” (Mom has a reputation for intuitive/physic tendencies, but we’ll save that for another day.) Can you see where this is going? So yeah, this cigarette blew back in and landed somewhere directly in my corner of the vehicle. I was about seven or eight at the time and had a particular fear of things catching on fire. (I used to keep a small duffle bag of my favorite things ready to go in my bedroom, in case of fire in the night.) I remember this cousin/friend looking back at panicked me and saying, “It’s fine, I’m pretty sure it blew outside.” Ever the nice girl, I didn’t want to tattle on this adult who also happened to be a guest. Two things little me imagined I should not challenge. So there I was in the way back, scooching around on the down-low, looking for smoke, embers, flames, explosions (did I mention my penchant for envisioning worst case scenarios?), all the while trying to catch dad’s eye through the rearview mirror that in the moment felt fifty feet away. I did grab his attention, but he could not decipher what I needed given my absence of actual words, so he smiled and waved at me, then turned his attention back to the highway. Smoke began to rise between my sleeping bag and the crack where the tailgate and cargo area met. So I did what any young kid who is afraid of tattling would do, I took that jug of water mom had given me and unloaded it in the back of the car. All over me, all over the sleeping bag, all over the cargo area. What a hero. Then I rode the rest of the way to northern Maine in a sopping wet puddle. Later, when I finally told dad what had happened, he said, “You should have told me, we could’ve pulled over and taken care of it.” Right. What a brilliant idea.