We’ve been here four days now, traveling and exploring, and since we’ve been traveling around, exploring, and engaging the locals of northern Maine and New Brunswick, we seem to get two questions, the second inevitably right on the tail of the first (that first question being “Where are you from?”) This is the natural question, the one that we expect. It is part of the exchange when you meet your hosts or bond with other travelers of the trails. It is what comes up as you learn a place and it learns you. It is normal, expected. It is the next question that has surprised us, although I suppose it shouldn’t- “Why are you here? I mean why now?”
You see, we are from California, which people always think of as warm and sunny, a land of beaches and bathing suits- like on Baywatch, and we’ve just arrived in a world that is cold and gray, with large storms on the way (“Sandy” has been the watchword for the last few days). Hotels and restaurants are closing up for the season (in California we didn’t even realize that there were still places that shut down for the season), and everyone here is dreaming of a warm, sunny place, where it never rains, kind of like… California. (Or how they picture it. My part of California is often cold, grey, and beautiful, with some nice weather occasionally thrown in.) They can’t imagine why anyone would leave their imagined paradise for cold and blah, where even the garbage cans have to be winterized in the parks.
Well, what can I say… I’m a photographer. I like the moodiness of storm clouds, the mystery of fog. Cold and frost bring color to the leaves, before they drop to the ground. Endless sunshine without any clouds gets boring, especially in photographs. While winter days are coldest, when the sun shines they have some of the best and warmest light to give life to photos. I like to explore and learn places, and not just when they are at their ideal. I like character.
And so we tell them that we are there, because it is a beautiful land, and we like adventure. We explain to them that we prefer this quiet time without crowds. And they agree that it is beautiful, and you can see in their eyes, that even though they might temporarily trade where they are for a place in the sun, they wouldn’t give it up, that they know and appreciate the area’s charm and grace better than we do, even as winter is bearing down. They are there because it is a place worth being, and we are there for the same reason. They might still look at us a little funny, but a bond has been made, even if just for a moment.
And so we ride on ferries through storm tossed seas, just us and the locals… or sometimes just us, as we explore and learn their part of the world, when it really is theirs and not just the tourists’.