Here’s included just enough of the hermit’s story to tantalize you. He lived, solitary, within sound of the occasional lawnmower and motorboats plying waters on the pond below his camp. The author of The Stranger in the Woods, Mr. Finkel, called Christopher Knight’s meeting with people “collisions”— as Anne Morrow Lindbergh used this word, I noticed while reading her journals. Collision.
We went biking uphill and downhill through woods, over sand deposits on trails — sands left by the glaciers. It’s the trail I think of as my free will trail. Sometimes on the trail I think about free will.
Next week I hope to blog about a book on the Maine hermit. And I’ve blogged about Patricia’s novel, Necessary Places, elsewhere:
Anna will meet the necessary place in all its refreshed physicality, its familiar and friendly relations. But she is caring for her father—seven years stricken with Parkinson’s disease—as they travel. Yet there’s much more than a caregiving journey in this book. Here are relations with disconcerting surprises, and surprising resolutions to apparent betrayals. I find in this novel the ways we are all taken off guard, amazed, and caught red-handed—the clichés coming alive as we live them. . . and vicariously experience them here anew as our own. Necessary Places is the book for it. And it is an extended often funny showing of what suffering, pain, and other unpleasant trials are for.
Continuing from last week’s post, here’s more on my nontraditional undergrad experience with the author of Waiting to Begin, who now holds the BFA chair at UMF. Unbeknownst to either of us at that time, she was helping me begin the MAINE METAPHOR series.
I was not meeting with other creative writers. I was designing my own major around Maine studies, topics of which abounded among course offerings, but formalizing such a degree was not an option at that time. So I asked my mentor to work with me, saying I wanted to study and write mythic literature in an independent study. Neither O’Donnell nor the chair of the English department would sign onto the project. If I had waited perhaps a semester they might have been more receptive because by that time Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking studies in the power of myth were popularized. Public television had begun doing this series with Bill Moyers and Campbell. (Recently Pat told me she would not have felt qualified to work on this type of writing.)
Patricia O’Donnell, author of Waiting to Begin, is five years younger than I am. We met at the University of Maine at Farmington where I was a nontraditional student. When it was learned that I was a prose writer I was granted the opportunity to have her as my mentor. I did not want to enter the creative writing program, however. At that time it offered no degree, and I had been writing professionally for a decade since my first fiction story was published in a national magazine, Horse Illustrated.*
So I wanted to learn about other things, particularly about Maine. I thought it wise to study with knowledgeable professors in order to have something to write about. I had been living in Maine for a few years, living an interesting life, but writing from life did not interest my pen. I needed knowledge, details, history, understanding. Supporting and integrating insight into the work—this is what makes a journal interesting to work with. Research comes after the living is written down.
We’d be rich if we were all to receive a pickle whenever anyone said, The first time I saw Stephen King he was reading a book.
In the memoir of her childhood Monica Wood tells us the heroic, founding industrialist story of Mr. Hugh Chisholm and his surreptitious study—or scoping out as rurals say here—of the great falls and surrounding land. The lens is her schoolroom instruction by Sister Ernestine. Chisholm’s borrowed horse and sleigh took him down-river through icy fog where the thundering of the waterfall in rime-frosted landscape excited this man as he approached. He then climbed out to pat his St. Jude, and reward the horse with a cube of sugar.
Monica Wood’s memoir centers around the sudden death of her father on his way to work in Mexico, Maine as his children are readying for school. In When We Were the Kennedys experiences of a literary child in 1963 assume imaginative life in the reader. By literary child I mean one who loves reading. For unwitting consolation Monica turns to Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and then discovers Nancy Drew. Writing mysteries herself, she becomes Nancy Drew. She is mystified by her own story, The mystery of the missing man. After closing the book, I was reluctant to leave this child Monica behind.
Another Maine Metaphor is coming out, this one with a new geographic focus, Maine’s eastern uplands, a construct from my Maine undergraduate studies, in the late 1980s as a nontraditional student. But today I’m posting about a neighboring town and author, in part because of personal connections with the town. The town is Mexico, Maine.
You read that right. Mexico, Maine. Maine is more than half the geographic area of New England, and so far there is only a beginning immigrant quantity of Mexican-Americans in the White- Anglo-Saxon Protestant-founding of New England, USA. I’m seeing none at all in this part of the Western Mountains of Maine.
So, Mexico Maine? —White Maine? But the mill towns of Mexico and Rumford (over the river) had been home to immigrants from early days of the mill’s founding by Hugh Chisholm in the late 1800s. In those days it was woodland/farmland but possessed of the greatest national waterfalls east of Niagara — where Hugh Chisholm came from on hearing of these remote woodlands and the great unharnessed falls.
When we first drove into Mexico in our secondhand patched together 12-year-old gas hogging Buick, we saw the mill right off, of course. It was almost the whole reason we’d come.
Posting here in honor of his recent passing over the dark river.
One of my heroes was lost on a mountain in Maine. Not just any mountain, but The Greatest Mountain—Katahdin, it was named of the Abenaki. Highest mountain in the state and sharing with downeast coastal Quoddy Head first light each day in the continental U.S.. The mountain has a distinctive profile, standing lone and long. Its two often cloud swathed peaks are connected by a narrow path of eroding stone called the Knife Edge, some places 2-3 ft. wide, some places dropping off almost sheer to the valley below.