East of Eden

The word real has become about as secondhand as, well, reality. Blake’s doors of perception cleansed to within an inch of myopia. Even the role of the genuine rock ’n’ roller is now inflated to resemble a talentless blow-up doll. Is there no refuge from the namby-pamby intrusion of reality and its soft henchmen?

I thought perhaps Maine was the terra firma of unfeigned. But from time to time I keep coming across a slogan that addles the brain. It’s the one about the “Real Maine.” I immediately envision Graustark, an imaginary land of high romance. Or a Wonderland where every Aldous and Alice has swallowed an hallucinogenic.

Isn’t it bad enough that we have to tolerate the adjective? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but now I have to be told that the place I live is not real! As though I’ve been living in a make-believe region for the last couple of years, passed into it through a wardrobe thick with fur coats, or crossed over a stone wall into the land of faerie.

The whole idea of qualifying the spirit of place galls me. If this other Maine is so “real,” then why must it act as a default for the other Maine that so pales in comparison? It’s such an ad hominem argument, anyway, laying claim to an emotional territory rather than a reasoning one, by purposefully raising people’s hackles.

And I feel cheated that this “Real Maine” is being withheld from me. The duplicity that such a statement carries makes me wonder if the Pine Tree State is simply a Vacationland until I or anybody else can find a more suitable and veritable home.

And then the hot ashes that got stirred settle and I realize the catchphrase is pushed because the places in question, these genuine Maine locales, are likely depopulated and need some way to lure new blood. A bit like the allure of romance novels with narratives of real lovers making the beast with two backs.

So as I stroll out of my house, my feet on as firm as ground as I can imagine, I look around at a neighbor busily working to finish his year-round house before the snow flies again or another taking a walk with her young daughter, the snow banks a joy to the young child’s sudden delight in sliding down their white backs. Or I look out over the sea, hear the faint rattle of stones in the sea’s surf and its rippled surface hazed with a deep, bedazzling blue. Or I glance at the dark pines creaking in the wind. Or I think about a hot cup of tea and a scone at the Belfast Coop, the locales inspecting the produce, turning ripe tomatoes over in their hands or deciding upon a squash by its shape and not its size.

This must be a dream, I think. And I’m suddenly glad that I don’t live in the “Real Maine.” How could it even compare to this imaginary one?

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