A love letter to Lincolnville, and farewell
It was nearly a year ago when I signed on with the newly formed Courier Publications LLC. I recall my job interview in the bowels of the former Rockland VillageSoup office, which I was familiar with only from a few meetings and a stint with a previous incarnation of The Camden Herald.
“Pretend I’m the fire chief in Warren,” said newly-christened news editor Dan Dunkle as he administered an interview and writing test.
Composing that test story at an unfamiliar computer was all at once foreign and wholly familiar. I hadn’t even made it past the Rockland city limits when my cell phone rang.
“I figured I wouldn’t keep you in suspense, the job is yours if you want it,” Dunkle said.
Within days the staff — a mix of veterans and new hires — gathered to meet, strategize and begin the business of reincarnating three legacy weekly newspapers. From the fourth floor of Rockland’s Breakwater Building — the mothership — I began the business of making inroads on my assigned beat, the towns of Camden and Lincolnville.
By June, my father was elected selectman in Camden and my beat was a bit disjointed, aside from Lincolnville, but there was no shortage of news coming from The Camden Herald’s sole Waldo County town.
Perhaps circumstances conspired to ignite my love of Lincolnville, perhaps it was my oft referenced adoration of Waldo County, where my dad was a farmer, and a selectman in Montville years before I was born, or perhaps it was just the community at face value.
My grandfather, a Korean War veteran, passed away shortly before Memorial Day last May. I was charged with covering the parade in Lincolnville and the speeches afterward. Andy O’Brien, a Lincolnville native and the Dist. 44 State Representative at the time, read aloud from a series of letters that a soldier had written home many years ago. I met an older woman who had recently lost her father and we deduced that he would have served at the same time as my own late grandfather. She beckoned me to her car and unwrapped a framed, aged military photo of her father to show me. Having not mourned my own loss quite yet, her sympathy lent more comfort than I can describe. I found that these moments of candor are not far between in Lincolnville.
During town meeting last June I watched in awe as Lincolnville residents took hours out of a balmy Saturday morning to congregate in the Walsh Common at Lincolnville Central School. For better or worse, the meeting extended until early afternoon and merited several written votes. By the time I emerged into the sunlight the townspeople had eliminated funding for a part-time police force and made several other efforts to curtail the budget. Questions were asked, answered and I learned that participatory democracy is, indeed, alive and well. At least it is in Lincolnville.
The planning and completion of the Lets Move It! initiative was one of the most inspiring stories I had the privilege of covering during my year with The Camden Herald. I never once balked at rising early on a Saturday and journeying to Lincolnville for a story, and moving day was no exception. As a light, October mist lingered over the road, eventually perforated by dappled sunlight, the community gathered to help. By late morning a relegated schoolhouse had been towed across the road by the power of the human hand (and quite possibly the human spirit) and families lingered to talk, eat and buy provisions from the farmer’s market vendors who had specially re-located for the occasion.
At the end of February I found myself again in Dan Dunkle’s office. As I tried to disguise my trembling hands, I informed him that I had been offered a position at Owls Head Transportation Museum, and with a mix of melancholy and understanding, we agreed the opportunity was impossible to pass up. This time, I found myself blinking back tears in that very same spot on Route 1 where I had — the previous year — agreed to join the Courier Publications team.
For a while now many of my friends have asked me — half teasing — about my fondness for Lincolnville despite never having lived there. I haven’t ever found a way to quite articulate the answer, suffice to say that the tone of the community has found a way into my heart. A way to make this reporter feel like some peripheral part of it’s unique fabric. Like folks in any Maine community, Lincolnville residents are both welcoming and insular, but always, always kind.
Today, I drove through Lincolnville and I stopped at the town office to say goodbye. I drove across beautiful High Street gazing out over undisturbed fields blanketed in snow, thinking of all the people who have allowed me to share their stories during the course of the last 12 months.
The lump deep in my chest didn’t go away and I struggled to identify it’s true origin. While I don’t second guess my decision to move forward with my new challenge, I feel as though I’m forsaking my connection to a place that feels so much like home.
Mostly I am thankful, and humbled, by Lincolnville, by all of the communities I’ve covered and all who have shared their stories with me. Those who have trusted me to give a voice to their triumphs and tribulations.
Really, I was just a visitor and the experience of reporting brought me home.