Small Town

Downtown Monson ME from the air

As we headed north in our packed car, for our final drive together from our former home in the suburbs of Boston to our summer cabin in Maine, we played a game. We called it, “What I will and won’t miss”. Our final couple of months before leaving had been so intense that mostly we felt only relief. Playing this game was our way of acknowledging things about our life in the ‘burbs that we enjoyed and appreciated as well as what we were happy to be leaving behind us.

Things we would not miss:

  • The sound of lawn care—leaf blowers, lawn mowers, edge trimmers, etc.
  • Traffic through and around town
  • The attitudes and expressions of privilege

Things we thought we would miss:

  • Conveniences and variety of shopping districts
  • Being able to easily find things we need—an oil change, a haircut, our favorite craft beer, etc.
  • Knowing some of our neighbors

There were more, of course, but you get the idea.

Our new (summer) home is in a town with a year-round population of around 600. It has no local school, police department, supermarket, or cellular service. It also has no stop signs, no sense of urgency, and no ambient light obscuring the night sky.

As expected, we don’t miss the traffic. It takes us the same amount of time to drive to the nearest grocery store nearly 15 miles away as it did to get to the market three miles from our former home, and the view is of verdant, rolling hills. There isn’t a single traffic light along the route, although we are warned to keep a look-out for moose. We don’t miss the clanging sirens from our former local fire station. We never hear the teeth-rattling pitch of a leaf-blower, although people do use the short summer season to do home improvement projects sometimes requiring chain saws.

In terms of convenience, we have been pleasantly surprised to discover that in this small cluster of towns most items are available. The local General Store carries baked goods and produce from people in the community, locally sourced meats and cheeses, a great selection of beers, and they make delicious sandwiches to boot. If you are wondering when raspberries might be available, the cheerful owner, Wendy, will call the raspberry farmer, Elvira, who lives just down the road and ask her. Or better yet, you can drive down and get them directly from the farmer.

Our local bottle redemption center is run out of a friendly woman’s barn just around the corner. Just past it lies the town “transfer station” that charges a couple of bucks per bag of trash and has a free “burn pile” for wood. A little further out is a combination goat farm and brewery that sells incredible cheeses and a delicious red ale (but it is such a small enterprise that, sadly,  they don’t brew enough to sell take-home growlers in the busy summer months). They also run a “goat school” for people who want to raise goats! There are people who bake fresh breads and pies out of their home kitchen, sell fresh eggs from their backyard chickens and ducks, and vegetables from their gardens. 

It has been so much fun exploring what resources exist here and meeting new people. We feel really good about engaging in the community by buying locally, attending local events, and supporting the local services.

And in a pinch, the “big city” of Bangor is only an hour away.

13 thoughts on “Small Town

  1. Judy Green says:

    Thank you Rachel and Al. You made me remember how much I loved living in tiny Green Valley Lake for twenty five years. I hope you enjoy your little town as much as I did. Get active in the community. It feels so good and is appreciated. One more thing: We only had 3 or 400 depending on the year.


    1. Rachel says:

      I also loved spending time in Green Valley Lake. Thank you for making that a possibility for me in my life. I am looking at ways to get involved in our summer town.


  2. Sara Azzam says:

    Rachel and Al, this sounds so relaxing! The place that we visit in Maine (Bristol/Damariscotta, etc.) also has a pie lady! Where are you headed next, given that Covid has ruined your Costa Rica plans?


    1. Rachel says:

      The Damariscotta area is so lovely. I wonder how may small towns have their own Pie Lady. At this point Al and I are keeping our eyes on the prospects and excited for whatever comes next. Costa Rica is still a contender.


  3. Ruth Race says:

    What a delightful surprise awaited in my email . Thank you , Rachel, for bringing the feeling and joys of Monson and environs to life. It was all there! May it continue and growl R

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lane Klein says:

    Dear Rachel, Thanks for the wonderful hospitality you and Al provided. We are hooked on Monson and look forward to a quiet paddler on the river, the sound of loons at sunset and a beer on the dock. May you have years of joy and contentment in your home.


  5. Laurie says:

    I love the description of the small-town life. We enjoy something similar (but perhaps not as remote) in Vermont. I am going to use your “what we’ll miss and not miss” game with my husband as a gentle prod to think of our future life which is rapidly approaching (we’re not as well-organized as you two)!


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