Thoughts on Home

harbor with small islands

How I Live Here

Thoughts on Home

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


12 Comments

  1. Jay D. Scribner

    Grew up in Maine. Worked on the west coast; on the east coast; retired in Texas. Whether it’s California, Pennsylvania or Texas, it was every summer and now in retirement, it’s every spring, summer and fall in Seal Harbor, Maine. My entire family loves this place!!!

  2. We are hoping to move to Maine next year! My goals is to have my paintings supplement my income. We are building a small place and I can’ t wait until we can move here full time!

  3. Mari

    Hi. My name is Mari (pronounced “Mary”) I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland until the age of 24. I still consider myself a northerner, very proud of my Yankee accent. From Maryland I moved to Florida, hoping to find a safer area to raise my ( then age 3) daughter. As you may have heard Baltimore can be a great place to live, but as any big city, it can also be dangerous. I moved to the west coast of Florida Fort Myers, Sanibel Island. It’s so beautiful but I realized I don’t like the heat. It’s funny it took a move to Southern Florida to realize how much I despise the long summer months. I ended up moving around Florida for thirteen years. I spent one year in Ft Lauderdale and decided I needed to find my true home. I currently live in Arkansas. Why would I move to Arkansas? Yes, I know, odd place to move. In two weeks time I had decided on a whim to move to somewhere”new”. I thought perhaps I could buy a little land and raise my children on a farm. I’ve now been here for two years. And I still don’t completely understand the words that exit the mouths of Southerners. I just don’t fit in. But hey, I tried something new and don’t regret it at all. After all, it snows maybe once a year here which is better than Florida’s hot winter’s. Last year I met a Man who was raised in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Imagine that?! I had to move South to find the Yankee Man of my dreams. We are engaged. We have recently agreed on moving far North. Alaska or Maine? Well, I began researching Maine homes daily,& picking up books in the library about Maine. But discovering your magazine has been a real special treat! I’ve been absolutely obsessed, every moment my eyes are open, I’m thinking of Maine. However, I’ve decided I’d feel more secure if I had a real career (as opposed to managing gas stations for next to min wage). I’ve signed up for nursing school, once completed, Here we come beautiful Maine!!! In the meantime, I’ll continue squealing with joy Everytime I receive an email sharing the secrets of Maine living. Thank you!

  4. Brien

    My wife would love to move to Maine but I have family in Florida. We currently live in Connecticut and can’t wait to move from here but we just don’t know when that will happen. Being older we’re just not sure if we could deal with the cold winters, plus family pulls us south. So, for now I love receiving my Down East magazine and wonder what it would be like to retire in Maine. We plan to visit Maine as soon as spring arrives. I just can’t wait!

    • Dan Collins

      My wife and I moved here from Texas after we retired. After two years I can tell you it is not difficult at all to “cope” with the winter. It is beautiful, peaceful and the seasonal changes are just when you are a little tired of the present one. If you buy a house in Portland the city does a terrific job of clearing the snow on the streets. Get a good snow thrower and it is almost effortless to clear your property whenever it is needed. I think it is fun to do it! A nice house can be bought in a good neighborhood for around $330K and taxes, utilities, etc… are very affordable. Much less than in Texas. The people are wonderful. You will be welcomed and fit right in. If you don’t want to drive a car the bus system is as good as any in the country and you probably can walk to much of what you need. Our retirement is much more than we expected and we have never been happier.

  5. See you there

    Thanks to photos in Down East magazine, I’ve been smitten with the idea of living in Maine since my teenage years — and that was in the 1960s! Good friends of my parents who lived in Maryland had a subscription, and whenever we visited their house for a weekend I would round up several months’ worth of issues and savor the all the pictures, especially those in the real estate ads. (Can’t say that I ever actually read an article, however.)

    Fast-forward to the 1980s, when I enjoyed a few week-long vacations in various places between York and Boothbay, all taken in the month of September … undoubtedly the best time of year to be seduced by coastal Maine. In 1989, after the NYC company I worked for blew up, I seriously looked to continue my career in Portland. I was quite willing to take a pay cut. I wrote, called, visited and interviewed, but it didn’t work out. Executive summary: I already understood that I had a “headquarters” kind of job; what I hadn’t realized was that the HQ-type jobs at the companies where I’d be a good fit had already been consolidated elsewhere, usually in Boston.

    Fast-forward to the aughts and beyond. I’ve had my own Down East subscription for 25+ years. (Proud to announce that I read many articles now, as well as look at the photos.) Between friends and family and elderly family who’ve moved to coastal Maine from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, I’ve had reason to visit several times a year.

    On the one hand, it means your annual “Retiring in Maine” issue seems more and more compelling.

    On the other hand, it also means I’ve had plenty of opportunity to learn that the Maine residents who live in beautiful, ready-for-the-camera settings are often living hardscrabble lives.

    So, folks, do your homework — investigating job opportunities, economic outlook, property taxes, estate taxes, and all those other unromantic and unphotogenic topics — before you make a move.

    That said, there’s a really good chance I may end up there yet. See you there, perhaps?

  6. Karen

    Taking out an Atlas, chose
    Maine, to lay our hats, never had
    been to Maine. We have been here
    almost one year, It is Beautiful
    Untouched Beauty, just trying
    to survive Winter/(s).(Southerner
    Tx, La).

  7. Pari Ravel

    Hi Sarah, I sent you an email yesterday but somehow I think it wasn’t sent . We bought this beautiful lake house on China lake where I spent most my summer and fall. My children and grandchildren have so much good memories of the lake. I have been getting Down East Maine for over 10 years and love it. My request is if you could write about China lake in the Down East Maine which help Maine’s lovers to know about this gorgeous lake . I love every moment when I leave Boston to China Maine.

  8. I grew up in Fairfield next to Waterville and the prospects were always dismal: the worst jobs and lowest wages ever. I left in 1972. While living in California I became involved in the restoration of the Major Reuben Colburn House in Pittston, the home of my mother’s family since 1765. I put it on the national register as a separate listing and wrote a book about the history as headquarters for the Arnold expedition. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been able to do with Maine.

  9. Mindy

    I was born in Southern Vermont and grew up in Southern New Hampshire until I was 9. My family moved to Arizona shortly there after. Even tho the sunsets and sunrises were beautiful I hated the heat. I missed the landscape of the mountains and trees and grass. Mostly the shade!! I moved back to Southern New Hampshire 20 years ago. I love New England! Its defiantly in my blood. I live here with my husband and dog Willow. We finally started exploring Maine 2 years ago. To say the least we both fell in love with the state! We take road trips a lot and always go to Maine! We have plans to hopefully move in the next 2 years or so. We can’t wait!!

  10. Phil

    I moved to Arrowsic seven years ago, rehabilitating a small place, and now live here with a cat. I came up from Massachusetts ten days after I dropped my son off at UVM….live in a timber frame home, on a dirt road close to the Kennebec River, two acres of land, good neighbors, and lots of solitude. Love it here. I had lived in Camden in the mid 80’s for 18 months, and that was great too. I sold some property I had in Florida after realizing that was pretty much the last place in the world I needed to be.
    No regrets…even in the winter.

  11. Michael

    Mid coast Maine is in my sights where I’ve been vacationing and retreating to for decades, now that I’m retired there’s no excuse not to relocate there. People I know say what about the winters how are you going to handle that and I have to laugh having lived in the Adirondacks my whole life. I’m a hobbyist woodworker/woodturner and pretty good at it so I know I can supplement my limited retirement that way and my wife is an accomplished artist. It appears with some due diligence you can find a nice home with land and reasonable taxes compared to NY. Now if I can only convince my wife of 19 years as she has strong family ties here where as I have no one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *