ESSAY – JUNE 2007
By Joshua Bodwell
“Some other places were not so good but maybe we were not so good when we were in them.” Ernest Hemingway
The arrival of June carries with it that slow swing toward summer. The yellow school buses are huffing and puffing through their final rounds. Charcoal grills, spotted with rust, are being pulled from musty garages, and lawn chairs rescued from clammy basements or dank sheds. Every day, every weekend, we are quickly sliding a little further along the arch of seasonal transition.
Each day dusk lingers longer than usual and wrings every ounce of warmth from the air until, at last, the coming night feels thick with potential. This is June.
I’ve been reflecting lately on some of the places where I’ve lived in Maine when summer’s rolled in. For instance, I can remember the June I was twenty and living in a loft apartment on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port. I was poor and happy and still in love with the newfound freedoms of adulthood. I used to wander down from my apartment to the little café where I served coffee for little pay but good tips. I can still envision how shafts of morning light would cascade across the rippled brick sidewalks and fill the street with an energy that only encouraged my romantic notions of the little city.
In the early afternoon I’d sit out on my granite apartment stoop, my skin saturated by the smell of coffee, and I’d read or write a bit, but mostly I’d watch the people of Portland pass by. I was hungry to know their stories. I believed then that I could write something that would bind all our hearts together; some days I still believe that.
A couple years later I left the city and spent two consecutive Junes living in my family’s tiny summer cottage on Cape Porpoise Harbor. It was a little ramshackle affair that sat perched on the edge of the marsh; it sighed and creaked when hard winds would gust off the ocean. In the night, Goat Island Lighthouse sent a beam of light that arched continually across the bedroom wall. Salt-tinged air blew ceaselessly through the open windows.
As each of the two Junes I spent in the cottage arrived, I planted lettuces, herbs, and tomatoes in rich garden soil that my grandfather had cultivated decades before. I kept the garden beds meticulously weeded and watered; I found any reason I could to spend time outside. Whenever my skin grew tight from the sun’s heat, I’d dive into the harbor, then retreat to the shade of the porch to read or write.
Whether it was a walk down to the water’s edge with my morning coffee, or a swim after work, every summer day in that cottage seemed to blossom with the mystery of possibility.
I spent several June’s in a 200-year-old farmhouse in Kennebunkport. Even though it was located just around the corner from the house I grew up in, and only one mile from the center of town, the farm felt secluded. Along its back side lay a rolling field where a large herd of cows once grazed; sun-bleached fence posts marked the outline of the old pasture like tall, skinny tombstones. Behind the three-story tall post-and-beam barn, there was an old farmer’s road cutting into the woods. It narrowed quickly into just a path and then simply gave up to the aggressive growth of maple saplings and scrub pine. In the summer I would walk into the woods with a chainsaw to cut and split wood under the dense canopy of trees; when the nights turned cold in the autumn, I fed my woodstove logs I’d harvested just beyond the farmhouse walls.
I have spent every June of my life somewhere in Maine; I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because the topography of our hearts is so complex, I love knowing so well the physical landscape of this state.
For now, my thoughts have turned toward time outdoors with friends and family. I’m ready for beach days, sunscreen and flip-flops, bright, gaudy towels, and picnics. I’m ready for dinners on the deck with a steak from the grill and a quick salad tossed together with greens from the garden. And I can’t wait to run the skiff out along the river and feel the salt air on my face, or cast a fly across a swift, shallow stream and hold my breath as I wait for the strike of a trout.
I am making a case for all the sunrises and sunsets one can behold in a single summer, for red wine and friendship, for late night talks that never falter for a lack of something to say—I am for doing anything that holds together all the tiny, precariously-stacked moments of our lives.