This is our first visit to Maine, the Tall Pine State. Vacationland. Playground for captains of industry and droves of white-collar refugees busy fifty-one weeks of the year scaling the skyscraper cliffs along Manhattan, Boston, and Philadelphia’s gold coasts. The summer invaders call themselves ‘Cottagers;’ these very self-important people who build thirty-room seaside mansions and immense granite sea walls to keep the local riff-raff from spoiling their waterfront views.
I have foolishly come to Bar Harbor expecting to be charmed by the clipped, lyrical sea chant of old Maine accents just like the ones I remember from the old Sunday night TV show set in Cabot Cove, Maine. Ayyyyyy-yup. But no, it’s the broad, flat tones of Philly, the shallow mouth breathing sighs of Brahmins from Boston’s Back Bay, the shrill notes of upstate New York, and the gravelly rumble of the Bronx cheer I hear instead. I comment on this to my niece Hannah who is working building wooden boats in nearby Brooklin, Maine. She hears it too. At the nationally known school where she teaches Vacationland wannabes to paddle their own canoe, folks from across the continent and across the pond gather. Germany, Sweden, China, Japan, and Merry Olde England sit side by side in the cozy dining hall sipping expertly prepared New England clam chowder for supper.
It’s a healthy melting pot of eager visitors, crowing over their great good fortune to discover Maine and her Bold Coast. Their enthusiastic voices fill the air, displacing the burr and cadence of indigenous peoples and earlier settlers, muddying the rich local color with imported inflections as they intone over their iced lattes. In every Bar Harbor gift shop window we pass are souvenir T-shirts with the words, “Got Lobstah?” But the lobstermen themselves are mute here in these parts.
Hannah tells me the only person she has heard with a Maine accent in her international school filled with summer people is the lady who cleans the bathrooms and sweeps the floors. Local visitors seem to be much more interested in swapping tales with other up-and coming out-of-towners than listening with a keen ear to the long time residents who make this place their home for more than a few weeks of the year.
Here beside the crashing waves the silence of the lobstermen in mid-July seems almost deafening. But I reckon if we stuck around long enough for the temperatures to drop the noisy chorus of invasive species would be swept back out on the tide and scattered by chill winds, clearing the air for the song of the fishermen to return. After all there are plenty of rocky hiding places and dark recesses on land and sea where native species can wait out the passing storm, avoiding detection until the time and tides are more favorable. Ayyyy-up.