After a long hiatus from this blog, I thought my comeback post would be all about going to the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. Instead, it will be all about not going to the Whoopie Pie Festival.
The night before, with our bags and even the trunk of the car packed for an early start and excitement running high, I was awakened by my daughter with the by-now tell-tale sign of a cold coming on because, of course, her first week of summer camp, new germs to mingle with. And just like that all of our weekend plans were canceled. Her middle-of-the-night sniffles and energized fever chatter lead into a day of snuggles on the couch, house cleaning, a quiet day to process my feelings more around the snatching away of women’s rights by a government I can no longer believe in (sorry, that was a lot to unpack there, but that’s where we’re at right now), and then an evening reconnecting with my creativity to help me release a particularly horrendous bedtime at the end of a long solo-parenting day (my husband happened to be off doing unrelated chores elsewhere).
But because talking about mopping my floor is not very interesting, and because I know I won’t have time to write about every adventure in discrete posts, nor are the events themselves discrete from one another, since the solo artist date I took myself on last week probably allowed me the patience I needed for the weekend, I will tell you a bit about my day trip to Rockland.
With an open day on my calendar and a story deadline I could push (and was procrastinating on anyway), I took myself to Rockland, an iconic Maine town, dubbed the state’s arts capital (though Waterville will soon be giving it a run for its money, more on that later). I am almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never visited Rockland before, at least not that I have a memory of.
That got me thinking about how there is still so much I haven’t seen of the state I’ve called home for most of my life. Even so much of my own near surroundings I haven’t experienced (though the pandemic is a good excuse for a lot of that, since we moved to our new town a month before it began). Earlier in the week I found a trail on the way home from summer camp drop-off, along the river, shaded by alternating pines and deciduous forest, and it was such a luscious trail run. I marveled at the fact that it was less than 20 minutes from my house and I never knew about it.
That got me thinking even more about what it means to be a travel writer. The phrase to me conjures up exotic locales, luxury hotels, extravagant comped meals, or off-the-beaten path rugged adventures discovering hidden gems to share with readers (some of which I’ve written about)– but how can one be a true travel writer if you haven’t properly explored your own surroundings? Your own state, town, even the foreign nooks and crannies of your own backyard? I discovered the remains of a trillium bloom in the far corner of our tiny lot earlier this summer and I thought, how did I miss that these past three summers? But I’ve now mapped that corner of the yard in my mind and look forward to welcoming it next year along with some spring bulbs I planted nearby because for the first time in a long time I know I will be in this backyard next year and the year after that and the year after that. That changes travel.
My twenties and thirties were for flying away, escaping, exploring the unfamiliar places far afield and I see now my forties, motherhood still sitting fresh and fragile on my shoulders, is the time to better explore the unfamiliar places right under my nose, perhaps, even, within myself.
This is all part of being a traveler, the maybe less sexy, less talked about part — the coming home, the canceled plans, the living in between the big trips.
Instead of judging whoopie pies among a crowd of thousands on a scorching summer day, we created art in our cool basement from the flowers we’d pressed two weeks ago during another bout of mild illness and canceled plans, made prints from a celery stock that looked like roses, and rocked in the hammock and looked at the sky.
I hope traveling will be a larger part of this year and the years ahead — both solo and with my family, both distant and nearby, but life comes up and I want to come up to meet it. Going wherever it leads is sometimes running down a dream, and sometimes catching boogers running down an energetic preschooler’s nose in the backyard of a little yellow house you bought on Valentine’s Day to be closer to the family that raised you to help raise her. Both a grand adventure in their own right.