Slowly, ever so slowly, I’m learning how to sit within contradictions and opposing views. As someone who’s the product of a world that reveres the comfort of black & white, right & wrong, I’m learning that our world, our nation is immensely imperfect, filled with flawed people. If we are to gain more acceptance, compassion, and unity, we need to be willing to sit in the discomfort of the mess that is humanity. Only then can we begin to hear how we can move forward, hopefully with some common ground.
In cities, we have the luxury of being surrounded by people — of late we even have gone as far to proclaim them as our tribe — who think like us, believe like us, and vote like us. The more I travel into rural communities, I am struck by the realization of how ‘protected’ city life is. My hope with this project is to reveal the shadow and the light, to see with clear eyes the challenges rural communities face and perhaps building understanding and compassion for all that they have endured and are still facing to reclaim the towns they love so dear.
Vinalhaven is my favorite town thus far. As I watched the strength of these ‘everyday women’ to take on an epidemic that is destroying too many young lives across our nation, I wanted to know them better. I wanted to understand how they kept their own spirit safe as they endured the hardships of being the parent of an addict. I was so taken by the independence of so many women, and couldn’t wait to see what Sarah, the new owner of The Tidewater Inn, would create to build more community in her town.
I should have left days before I did, but each day, there was something more to learn. I was taken by the explicitness of both the independent spirit and the innate need for each other.
But, time was ticking and I had many more cities to travel to.
As the ferry pulled away, I made sure I was at the front. I needed to see look forward to avoid the sadness of leaving such a compelling place. I pulled out my computer and started typing about the similarities between Maine and Mississppi. As I typed, I found myself drawn into the conversation of the couple behind. I kept hearing Mississippi, then the Delta, Civil Rights, our trip.
I couldn’t help myself. I turned around and asked them, “I’m sorry for eavesdropping,” I said, “but I couldn’t help but listen. Are you going to Mississippi?” “Yes,” he said. “We’re looking forward to following the civil rights trail.”
We talked for a bit and I said, “As you do, make sure you look for the ‘new’ Mississippi as well, the one we rarely see in the movies.” For the remainder of the ride we talked about the communities to visit and how in some small ways, our world is changing — but we have to sometimes pull back the veil of the past to see it.
And then the ferry stopped. I climbed back in my van, not knowing where I would be heading next. Yet again in limbo land. Limbo time – the time between the destinations I end up at – is the hardest time for me. In one minute I feel rooted (however shallowly). The next minute, not feeling connected to anything, or anyone, I feel the alone on the road. I feel untethered and lost. My anxiety rears up and I feel adrift in the sea of asphalt and the seemingly endless miles ahead of me.
I called a friend hoping for a consoling ear but as a southern man in the midst of swamp like heat, he had little tolerance for my first world insecurities of directionless freedom. “No one’s putting a gun to your head,” was his reassurance.
“I’m just wondering where to go next,” I said. “No one’s given me any clear sense of direction.”
“If it were me, I’d go to Newfoundland.”
I looked it up. It would take two days but much of that would be by ferry. In fact, the ferry ride was long enough that I could sleep and never lose a minute of time.
It was the furthest east I could go and still be in America.
The small fishing villages that are at the heart of the fishing crisis.
I had my next destination.