Ah vacation, a time to clear the mind, a time to reflect, and often a time to travel. After a quick week away, driving back into my Aroostook County home felt wonderful. On the way from Houlton through the forty-five miles to my hometown, I thought about all of the many sights and experiences that make Aroostook so special. Here are my top five!
Five ways I know I’m in Aroostook County.
1. Many lawnmowers are bigger than our cars. There is lots and lots of land in Aroostook. Admittedly much of that land is used for crops, but most houses have at least small yards to contend with. Living in the “country” is quite popular here in Aroostook, and that brings with it large lawns that require mowing and upkeep. Bring in the monster mowers. Every time I see one of these machines, I’m awed at how big it is…and at how much grass it can cut all at once! It would sure make quick work of my small in town yard.
2. People smile and say hello, even if they may not know you. In Aroostook, we say good morning. We smile, we say hello, and we wave to perfect strangers. My parents own a camp on Little Madawaska. On that small road, everyone waves. Perfect strangers will smile and wave to each other. It is a neat feeling; we are all neighbors. In grocery stores, gas stations, and at community events, people smile and say hello. In most of my travels, this is a rare experience. Even in other parts of Maine, the common smile is often missed. People look at the ground and keep walking. In Aroostook, maybe because there is always so much to see, we are always looking forward. There is so much blue sky, we are always looking up. So, we smile and we say hello.
3. Trees. Okay, so this one may seem rather obvious, but what really says Aroostook County to me is the never ending expanse of trees. There are loads and loads of nothing but birches, pines, and maples as far as the eye can see. We are famous for our changing leaves and our fresh air, both brought to us by the tree lines. One of my favorite smells in the universe is fresh pine, and although it is often a smell associated with Christmas, for me, it just brings me back to my childhood on my grandparent’s tree farm in Easton. I loved walking the rows of trees, smelling that incredible scent, and enjoying the warmth of the sun.
4. Festivals. Aroostook County is the king of festivals. Every community from Fort Kent to Katahdin has some sort of hometown celebration. These events often give us a sense of closeness and community, an excuse to visit, to walk, and time to reflect on just what makes our little spots so amazing. The Potato Blossom Festival is of course the largest hometown celebration in Aroostook, bringing visitors from far and wide to the tiny town of Fort Fairfield. I love community festivals. I love the heritage, the closeness, and the sense of unity that comes from them. I encourage you to seek out different festivals than the ones you might be accustomed to this year. You can learn a lot about a town during these events, meet lots of new people, and see many familiar faces!
5. We care. That is the one thing that I know separates us from the everyday places; we care. We care about each other, about family, about friendship; we care. When someone is sick, the community comes together to support him. When there is a death, we mourn with the family, and when tragedy strikes, we are there to pick each other up. That is what makes Aroostook such an incredible place. The people here truly care about each other. We may have our differences, but when push comes to shove, we always stand behind each other…and sometimes we stand beside each other.
What makes Aroostook County special for you? What are some signs that prove you have crossed the County line? Share them with me…and you might see them in my next blog!
Have a few extra minutes? Take a peek at our website www.gauvinfund.org. Take a quick second and do a quick donation, become a part of what we do at AAI. This isn’t just about the 32 Gauvin Scholars we work with, it’s about the communities we live in, the County, the businesses, the way Aroostook comes back into the light. Donate today. Help us do the work we do. Giving is truly the best of all feelings, and you can be assured that your money is put right back to work here in Aroostook County.