From away

By Bill Roesing | Jul 07, 2010

I once saw a Florida license plate outside the library that read "FROM AWAY."

We all know who we are in Maine, although a few of us debate whether the designation is permanent.

I am from away, arriving permanently, I hope, last year. My sister Diane, who shares my Midwestern roots, is also from away, although she permanently settled on the Midcoast in 1967. Her husband was born here.

Recently Diane and I discussed two common characteristics of Mainers who live here a long time, regardless of their origins. I have neither trait -- a point Diane was clearly labeling as a deficiency.

First, I do not regularly use my hands for any useful purpose other than to type. I do not knit or weave or dig or build.

Second, I do not garden. I used a landscaper to put in a hedge and some perennial beds. Ignoring that I am not doing anything myself, except watering, the family speaks pleasantly of this initiative. Yet I noticed quickly how often they add a word that I consistently omit. The word is "vegetable." I am not planning to eat what I am growing.

OK, I should plant some tomatoes. But it is the case for using one's hands that is getting to me. Do people really sharpen their brains when they build or dig or sew or knit?

Diane thinks repetitive hand activities engage the brain without occupying it, freeing it to just think. She said this pattern, of course, is not indigenous to Maine. Indeed, she suggests, the source of the problem of disengaged hands may be modernity itself. But it strikes me as a Maine kind of thought. And I am learning to like it.



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