Thoughts for a Late Winter Day

While researching an article this morning, I came across this wonderful quote from the philosopher Lao Tzu (604-531 BC):

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”

Although his words come from a vastly different time and culture,  they  really speak to life in New England and, especially, to life in Maine.  Here we might paraphrase his words  to Live without ostentation and close to nature.  Avoid complicating life unnecessarily.  Be empathetic and kind to all, especially that neighbor you may not particularly like.  Give everyone a chance to show what he or she can accomplish.  Work at something you enjoy, even if it doesn’t bring great material awards, and at the end of the work day, leave your job behind and be there for your loved ones.

Nice words to contemplate in the middle of our busy lives. I hope this quote brightens your day as much as it has brightened mine.


Everyone Gets a Little Moody

Long, gray winters can make even the most cheerful of  us a little cranky.  Here in Maine a good respite is a trip to one of the little cafes or diners that stay open all year round. I like Harborside Cafe in the tiny fishing village of  South Bristol, where you can enjoy breakfast fit for a stalwart fisherman or a lunch of shrimp stew or chicken pot pie — dishes that are just-like-mom-used-to-make delicious.  And of course this somewhat isolated village at the end of a 12-mile peninsula is home to lots of residents whose families have lived  here forever and have retained very cool coastal Maine accents.  Pour your own coffee, flip open a newspaper, and settle in.

And of course there’s the iconic Moody’s Diner on Route 1 in Waldoboro, which celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. In 1927 P.B. Moody built 3 cabins, charging $1 a night for overnight guests. By 1934 he had 18 cabins and a small takeout cart and present-day Moody’s Diner had been launched. Moody’s is open very early for breakfast, one of the best times to be here. But it’s also fun at lunch and supper (and it’s definitely supper, not “dinner”!).  Watch for the  daily specials, with a focus on comfort food like hot turkey sandwiches and pot pies,  and the dessert pies that are deservedly famous.  Thirty-one members of the Moody family still work at the diner. It’s truly a Maine institution and fun to visit at any time of year — especially on a dreary day when you’re feeling a little, um, moody.

What do you do in winter?

When people learn that I live on a small Maine island, the inevitable first question is, “What do you do in winter?”  Um, shovel? Actually this winter, I’ve done very little of that since it’s been so mild.

Seriously, life here is much like life in any small Northeastern town in winter. We work, hang out at the one cafe in town, gossip at the post office, carp about the weather, and keep putting one LL Bean-booted foot in front of the other until April. I’m always amused, though, that the summer people who live here seem to think the town rises, Brigadoon-like, from the mist–or perhaps the snow drifts–every spring. It’s beyond their comprehension that anyone actually lives here all winter–and by choice.

Our little secret is that they don’t know what they’re missing. After the holidays the town settles in on itself and it’s a great time to take on  a major project, whether it’s writing  a new book or cleaning out the attic. Soon enough the summer people will be rumbling across the bridge that connects us to the mainland and a new cycle of life here on the island will begin. For now, though, we’re happy with peace and quiet, a little snowshoeing now and then, and an occasional bean supper at the church — all 100 of us hardy souls.