During the first year that Mark and I were dating, I used to fly from New York (where I lived) to Portland (where he was) once a month. I would take off on Friday evening after work and return on a 6 a.m. flight Monday morning. (In my uneventful version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I would take a cab from JFK to my apartment to shower, then a subway to my office, where I somehow managed to arrive by 9:30.) During the drive from Mark’s place to the airport, I would see people out for runs and starting their morning commutes — Mainers are generally up and ’em much earlier than New Yorkers — and think, what on earth do these people do here? And then: Whatever it is, how lucky that they get to do it in Maine.
Back then, I thought employment options in this state basically mirrored those in Richard Scarry’s Busytown (barber, doctor, police officer). I couldn’t fathom how I, an English major turned magazine editor, could make a go of it here. But, as you may well know, a hankering to move to Maine can be as persistent as the fog that clings to our precipitous coastline. So I took the proverbial leap, settling in with Mark in an apartment in Portland, where I started my new career in the field writer Irene Yadao calls “the full-time hustle.” For seven years, I juggled the demands, and deadlines, of multiple editors, writing anything they’d assign me — from The Secret Life of Your Dishwasher to a recession-era piece on how to handle getting laid off. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it allowed me to be creative in a place I love and eventually transition to more interesting, local jobs — like this one!
Maine is filled with people making sacrifices, and taking big risks, in order to live in this beautiful, peaceful place. They inhabit quirky old homes, such as the “New Englander,” a structure that has been wrapped in so many additions over the decades that real estate broker Hannah Holmes refers to it as “the architectural version of a turducken.” They work three jobs at once, as Yadao did for years, and launch successful music careers from small towns, like Sanford-based rapper Spose. In a collection of essays titled How We Do It in the March issue of Down East, these writers, and others, answer the eternal question about life in Maine that I had long ago — what on earth do these people do here? — with wit and bracing clarity. I hope you’ll check out their stories here and share your thoughts on the Maine move you made, or hope to make, below.
Cover photo by Ben Williamson