I’ve been living on the coast of Maine for 10 days now, and I’m utterly useless at functioning at sea level.
First, I can’t bake at 20 feet altitude. In the ten years that I’ve lived in the mountain west, I’ve redone all my recipes for altitudes of about 4700 feet.
Here’s my fantastic, greatest brownies at sea level:
Yes, the butter is boiling. And they are “done.”
My daughter’s 8-year-old friend, born and bred in Maine, peered at the pan as I pulled it out of the oven and said innocently, “Why don’t you just make regular brownies?”
Thought I did, sweety.
My brain doesn’t know how to function this close to the ocean. Like a dull blanket tossed over my head, I’m heavy-brained and slow. It’s not the scenery, which is beautiful. In fact, it looks a great deal like my favorite place on earth: Yellowstone.
The photos above are from West Quoddy, Maine. (Which is actually east?)
But Yellowstone is about 8,000 feet above sea level. I’m a genius in Yellowstone! If I could live there for three months, I could solve every major world problem AND write the greatest American novel. I can THINK there!
But in Maine, I stare at the fridge trying to understand where the milk went until a child (a child under 10, mind you) points out that the gallons are in the door.
Heaven help me.
There have been studies that show people who move to high elevations, like Denver or Salt Lake City, often struggle. Lab rats demonstrate hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, which leads to depression.
I think a reverse happens for me, that my mind can’t handle this thick oxygen so it slogs aimlessly, trying to understand Maine.
For example, they make hot dogs this bright red . . . on purpose.
I checked the label, and there’s not one but two red food dyes, so this is intentional. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I can’t grasp it.
Another example: there are no screens in the windows in this house (or in most houses—yes, I’ve been peering at other people’s windows; I’m already getting a reputation around here). Insects here are very determined. Three evenings ago, I cracked opened a window in bathroom to vent it (no exhaust fan, which may have gone the route of the screens) and found in the morning a massive gathering of moths and bugs hovering around the bathroom light, plotting their new government.
In the mornings, I come at them with paper towels to reduce the invasion force before my kids see them massing and panic.
Tonight I’m sure they’ll have a caucus about how to combat the Evil Hand of Wiping that reduces their forces every morning.
Wait—maybe tonight I’ll remember to close that crack in the window before I go to bed.
Took me three days to realize that may be a viable solution.
I can’t function at sea level.
We’ve been blessed to have friends who tell us each day how life is like in Maine (see, Kim Smith? I mentioned you and Mike) and have kindly said, “Um, but this is how it is in Maine. You have to adjust.”
It’s not like it’s bad; it’s just not what I expect. For example, these flowers, lupines, grow everywhere wild in fantastic displays. I can’t fathom that. There are also very few dandelions. The lupines have eaten them. Brilliant.
There are wild Labradors in the waters of Maine. Or maybe this was someone’s pet, I’m not sure.
I’m not sure of anything here.
The town doesn’t pick up trash, but Tony will, once a week, if you call him. He pulls up on Thursdays with his truck and tosses our bags in the back for what destination, I don’t know. I’m just grateful. The stove runs on a propane tank, but the water heater is electric, and the toilet flushes upward to a septic tank and leach field about 20 feet up the hill above our house.
I can’t fathom physics here.
Depending upon the time of day, the water in the tidal river either flows up or down in front of my windows. My head spins trying to keep track of the tides. Sometimes the water is dead flat, reflecting everything perfectly like a lake.
I can’t figure out why.
People are very friendly, even though they drop their “r”s and remind me of Mr. Quint and his siblings on “Curious George,” which is comforting.
This meme will also work here. Replace Boston with Maine:
The small town parade on the Fourth of July, however, was just like our small town parades back in the west, with balloons and streamers on ATVs, and fire engines honking, and random pieces of candy tossed out of vehicles to friends along the roadside. A few hit us. Chocolate. Because it’s not 98 degrees outside, but only 73, they can throw chocolate. Brilliant. Some things have felt like home, I just need to keep finding those.
This, below, didn’t feel like home, but it was exciting: Eastport, Maine, on the Fourth of July with a navy destroyer behind us.
I told my kids that while standing on that pier, we were further east than anyone else in the United States. That’s when my 17-year-old son, who didn’t even want to leave the van and stood in protest behind my husband taking the picture, said, “But Mom, there are about a dozen more people further east than us on this pier. They win.”
That’s my ray-of-sunshine child, my builder of confidence. He was absolutely right. And since it was overcast, I’m not even sure if we were east or not. I’m just making things up as I go along, as I’ve been doing ever since I got to Maine.
I didn’t get lost getting to the post office or the recycling center yesterday, so I take those as small victories.
And seeing as how I didn’t even realize it was Wednesday, the day I usually write my blog, until the day was nearly over (and why this posting is coming on Thursday), I’m gonna take every victory I can get until I figure out how to function at sea level.
It’s still June, right?