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What it means to live in The County

Many of us County residents have heard this question a lot over the years:  Why do you live up there, anyway? 

Our answers vary, depending sometimes on the season or our situations, but they usually come down to a few elements: Family. Beauty. Quality of life. Or the more witty “Don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Many of us, I suspect, are very thankful to live where we live.

The idea of gratitude is a popular way to take stock of what matters. It’s an important element, and as Thanksgiving nears I find myself contemplating why I live here.

Family is a huge reason. My roots are as firmly planted here as the old maple tree that stood at my dad’s family farm in Crouseville. My great-great-grandfather planted that tree and I had many swings from its branches as a child. Though it no longer stands, it waves tall in my memory. 

From my other grandfather’s Danish and Canadian heritage to both of my French Acadian grandmothers, I’m grateful for all my roots and the family who surround me.

We are surrounded by nature’s grandeur. Who can describe the beauty of stepping outside at 20 below, seeing evergreens swathed in fine, frosty ice, each individual needle bathed in fragile white? Or the first few crocus shoots glistening pale yellow-green under March snow? Or the rich brilliant hues of red, orange and gold bursting forth on September trees?

Then there’s the wildlife. It’s difficult not to feel blessed when you see a fox with its full, silvery tail tear across new snow, or when a doe and her fawn pause on top of a nearby ridge, or when a huge bald eagle holds court in a tree over your backyard. 

For many of us, it’s the sheer quality of life that we wouldn’t trade for anything. We breathe clear air. We live life at a more peaceful pace. We can enjoy either a trip to town or into unspoiled wilderness in an hour’s time from most places. And more than anything, we are neighbors who help take care of one another.

As winter comes, the latter is evident.

I have never gone off an icy road into a ditch but what someone hasn’t come along, whether a State Police trooper or a kind soul with a shovel. My neighborhood is filled with folks helping clear each other’s driveways, or shoveling off someone else’s steps. Residents call or knock on doors to check on elderly neighbors. 

This isn’t just my own neighborhood; it’s everywhere here.  It’s our way of life.   

And over all of this is the icing on the cake: humor. From family foibles to practical jokes to heritage-based barbs, we embrace it all with laughter and shrugs. Everybody’s got skeletons in their closet; we might as well laugh. 

Like the wife of my grandfather’s eldest nephew’s second cousin [you get the idea] who visited the farm and got herself laced with laudanum, then tore around the house wielding a knife. In trademark County wit, my grandfather held a [mostly] straight face as he told about them holing her up in a room until the morphine wore off. “She decided she was going to kill us all,” he’d say, looking up over his glasses, then offer a one-syllable chuckle and grin. “She didn’t.”

Whether we face weather issues, hard times, health challenges or just want to share a laugh and some conversation, County people are all about keeping it real and shoring one another up.  We are all in this crazy, amazing life together.

This is why we live here. This is what it means to be from The County. 

I saw a little sign somewhere years ago that said it so well: “If you are lucky enough to live in The County, you are lucky enough.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Paula Brewer is assistant editor for The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times and St. John Valley Times, plus websites TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com. She can be reached at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com or 207-764-4471.

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