Life circles back around

By Dawn De Busk

Seeing certain parts of this region jumpstarts my brain’s memories of Alaska.

Two stretches of scenery along Route 121 do this to me instantly. It is a “commute” every other week as part of my coverage of Casco’s municipal meetings for The Bridgton News.

Many people are probably familiar with the area of Route 121 as one heads toward the village. There is a long curve in the road and a parallel pullout that also curves next to a guardrail. The stop overlooks Pleasant Lake, with its homes on a hilly backdrop. Most would agree the view is idyllic, and it is offered twice with a second pullout.

The other spot that “takes me home” is closer to the Raymond-Casco line. As I head toward Route 11, it is to my right. That terrain reveals an extended family of the ugliest, most mangled trees. The trees are probably being strangled by phosphorous in their swampy home. It reminds me of a section of the Kenai Peninsula, where a forest fire occurred in the 1970s. Actually, the Casco version is prettier. Sometimes, it reminds me of the forests existing near the low-lying brush and bog at the edge of Bishop Creek — a haven for canoes and fishermen. There, a creek echoes in the culvert under a road that connected neighbors to one another.

The Casco scenery has become my eye candy each time I drive past it. The game I play is to name another place in Alaska that reminds me of it, and I haven’t thought of before.

In December, for the first time in a whole year of traveling this road rather regularly, I noticed something I had overlooked. Beyond the beautifully twisted and malnourished stand of trees was a pair of rounded mountains — a lady lying back in repose like so many twinned mountains in Alaska with crazy names and fables to explain their formation.

In conversations, my younger brother has told me that it is pleasant, more present moment, to let go of comparisons. But, I have not yet learned to do this. Five years after my feet hit the East Coast, I am still making those comparisons and connections between Alaska and Maine.

Each June, I get wicked homesick. The summer solstice is Alaskans’ best time of the year. Roll out the red carpet. The sun gives us increased hours of daylight until there is a crescendo — a sunset close on the heels of a sunrise.

As summer solstice grows near, I get super busy so I don’t harbor my homesick heart. I volunteer for stuff to take my mind away from my June 21 malady. During summer 2011, I put in office hours while everyone spent time at Raymond’s public beach. I wrapped up work as the day waned. Later, we arrived at a friend’s home a few hours before sunset; lawn chairs circled an active fire pit. While the company and conversation was fine and familiar, I excused myself to walk the property with my daughter. We followed a trail to the tiniest brook, where I spotted something as familiar as breathing. Thousands of blue forget-me-nots, Alaska’s state flower. I was stunned by the holiest shade of sky blue from the flower whose name I had uttered as I grew up. The dank earth I could smell and fierce mosquitoes I could feel were witnesses as I acknowledged that I had come home to Raymond, Maine.

Besides the fact that forget-me-nots grow wild here, my birth year is the same as two things in the State of Maine: the Maine Turnpike, and the Yarmouth Clam Festival. All three will be 47 years old in 2012.

On the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I called my father. I was excited to share with him that not even 40 miles from me, right here in Maine where I live, ships were shipped out to support the World War II effort in the 1940s. My dad informed me that those Liberty Ships were the ones that arrived in Whittier, Alaska, in the mid-1960s, where he worked as a longshoreman. Ships that originated from the Northeast coast were re-fitted for continued service on the water, he said. I lived in Whittier in a time too early for memories to take hold.

After I hung up, gradually I remembered the rusty ship that was part of Arness Dock. All my life I had known the ship that people said was from the war. The vessel was permanently docked until the sea wore it into time. In my hometown, a Liberty Ship existed, like the ones people would tell me about when I was 46 years old, and walked into the Casco Inn to hear their stories for a newspaper article.

Repeatedly, those moments happen that swing me back to Alaska’s south-central coast and ring a bell of clarity as to why I gravitated to this region of Maine.

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