THE HUSH OF NOVEMBER
“How do you get to the Bush compound?” “Where’s the nearest lighthouse?” “Is the Wedding Cake House on this road?” “Can I get a ride in one of those lobster boats out there?” I can’t tell you how many times I’m flagged down and peppered with these questions while walking along Kennebunk Beach during July and August.
Tourists flock to Vacationland in the summer months to sample the Maine lifestyle at quaint ocean-front B&Bs and gracious white-clapboard inns. They come to eat the world’s tastiest lobster. And let’s be honest, they’re hoping to snap a discreet selfie with Barbara Bush in the background as she walks her dog along Gooch’s Beach every morning.
Then fall arrives and so do the leaf-peepers, along with bus after bus loaded with touring daytrippers from cruise ships berthed overnight in Portland. The area can be as hectic in October as it is in June.
But one November morning you wake up and notice that something’s different. I drive along the big beach and spot only two people and a dog. At Colonial Pharmacy in Dock Square I get a parking spot directly in front — nearly impossible on a midsummer afternoon. I pop into the post office to buy stamps and mention to Chris, who’s been at the window since I moved here more than two decades ago, “Hey, no line!” “It’s November!” he reminds me. But perhaps the best indication of that is when my friend Joann points out: “You can make a left turn!”
This special area of the world relies on tourism. Our restaurants, inns and shops thrive on summer and fall visitors, and residents respect that. Those visitors come for the same reasons we choose to live here — to savor the invigorating climate and to experience a less-complicated way of life than in cities and fancy suburbs. It’s also spectacularly beautiful.
Like us, they enjoy walking along Maine’s signature rocky coast, kayaking up the Kennebunk River to Picnic Rocks, sailing the crescent shoreline in the three-masted schooner Eleanor, or just plunking down at Mothers Beach and watching their grandkids boogie-board.
But it's also nice having our town back to normal, even when it’s dark at 4:30 in the afternoon and there are absolutely no leaves left on the maples. We miss our summer friends and their festive dinner parties, but it’s equally enjoyable spending a quiet evening at home by the fire, just Mr. Wonderful and me.
There’s a satisfying lull here now. It won’t last long. Thanksgiving and Christmas Prelude are weeks away. They are magnetic times, when the sidewalks will be crowded with holiday visitors, Hurricane and Alisson’s Restaurants will be packed and the gift shops teeming with customers. But for this especially quiescent and lovely moment in time: carpe diem.
The term “wicked good” doesn’t apply to other states. Nor does the slogan that greets visitors when they cross the big bridge from New Hampshire: Welcome to Maine — The Way Life Should Be. Especially in November.
My friend Ken Janes takes beautiful photographs (as seen above and on prior blogs) and I will be using them in many upcoming blogs. If you'd like to know more about his special skill with a Canon, go to Maine Writings (above) and you'll see an article I wrote about Ken this past summer: Snapshot of a Surgeon's Retirement.