Chowderhead Down East

maine1July 5. Freeport, Maine. We quit one beantown for another, driving to L.L. Bean Headquarters in Freeport, Maine. It’s a spectacular day after last night’s tropical rains. The humidity has been blown back out to sea with the storm’s tailwinds, and the sky glows brighter than colored beach glass this morning. We head out onto the highway to discover our first real rush hour traffic. Everyone from the city on the hill has packed up the ca-h for a Maine beach get-away it seems. We sit pah-ked on Interstate 95 for a good long while. So I crack open the slim biography of Henry David Thoreau penned for the youth market, and our family slips into Walden Pond with the young pencil maker and his freethinking family for the next two hours without ever leaving our carriage.

maine3We cross into New Hampshire and stretch our legs at the welcome center. I ask about the traffic and request suggestions on where to find good clam chowder. Our Granite State interpreter just grins and makes wry comments about the summer weekend visitors, but he does know where all the good clams are. So we make our way to Kittery and Bob’s Clam Hut to gulp down David’s first four-star soup of the trip. I’m not sure if admiring a naked crustacean bathed in butter and rinsed with cream qualifies as a transcendental experience, but I know that my soul mate has found his true north on the shores of the deep Maine woods.

maine4We make our way to the coastline and take our first Maine walk in Rachel Carson’s old woods at the National Wildlife Refuge created at her instigation. The marshes are lovely, and small treasures are hidden beneath the bright green canopy of bordering trees.

maine8Later we drive into Freeport expecting fireworks and a free jazz concert on the lawn. Eventually we find the parking lot reserved for overnight recreational vehicles in this mega-outlet town and hastily pack lawn chairs and a picnic hamper to go. I hike up the hill and follow the crowd. The postage stamp green space is neatly tucked in between the outcropping of various L.L. Bean emporiums. I spread my blanket and think better of unpacking my wine glass after observing dozens of nursing mothers with gaggles of young children nearby. Well, it’s not a jazz evening after all but a circus. Okay, we can do this.

dance partner

dance partner

The fireworks have been postponed for a second night due to suspect winds, but the circus does go off without a hitch. A small troupe of recent graduates from Montreal’s famed National Circus School tumbles, tight rope walks, juggles, mimes, clowns, and spins about the outdoor stage as a postcard sunset paints the sky behind them. A lithe young dancer in form-fitting black spandex with a red bucket over her head pulls Nathan from my lap to dance with him in the grassy aisle. Two Avant garde jesters shriek in mock horror to discover the small mouse in his lap. Yes. It’s true. We are our own small circus.

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