My first time voting in the small Maine town we moved to exemplified the lifestyle we had just bought into. The town hall itself is a treat to visit. Old, with wide, creaking floorboards, the air still smells of chalk from when it was originally a school in the early 1900’s. The lady at the table knew who I was before I gave her my name to seek out in her ledger. “I know right where you live,” she said, smiling warmly, and handing me my ballot. After voting and sliding the paper into an ancient looking wooden box with a hefty brass padlock on the front, I followed a sign directing to me to exit through the back. There, in the hallway, were two tables laden with plates of homemade baked goods. Kind women were there, selling blueberry muffins and cheese biscuits to raise money for the library across the street. People gathered in the small space to chat and buy treats to take back to their families. I almost floated out of the building, so elated from the uplifting small-town experience. Not to mention the buttery lemon square melting in my mouth. Voting had never been such a treat.
But really, my first clue was the lawyer’s office where we met the sellers of our new home and had our real estate closing. Our broker had brought us a jug of maple syrup, and our lender had given us a handmade wooden birdhouse. We signed all the paperwork and then asked the sellers for house keys. “Oh. There are some in the kitchen drawer. We think they fit the doors, but we’ve never tried them.” I felt the burden of city life begin to slide off my shoulders.
As we were unpacking, one new neighbor brought by a loaf of bread she’d baked, and another stopped by with some special plastic bags that people in this area use to haul trash to the transfer station. She added in a slip of paper with their hours of operation. “The guys there are really nice,” she told us, “You’ll love them.” And we do. Each week we dutifully take our trash, in the above-mentioned bags, and bins full of items to recycle, and drive down the road to the transfer station. It’s neat and organized, and the men that work there are friendly and helpful. We dutifully place our recyclables in the correct windows, each marked with a hand-labeled sign, “Glass,” “#2 Plastic,” “Milk Jugs.” The guys there display whimsical objects they’ve found in the refuse, a dog statue with a broken nose, a funky bench with a hand-painted crow on the back. They know our names and hand a biscuit in the window to our dog.
As our first Maine summer unfurled, we discovered something else that delighted us. Farm stands scattered about, with beautiful produce nicely displayed. Dozens of eggs lined up, the obvious fruit of happy hens scratching about in the well-tended gardens. There were seldom people manning the stands, they were off at work or weeding the green beans, but there would be a can or a little box, with a slot on top, “Honor Jar,” a sign might say, or, “Make Change as Needed, Thank You.” We’d take a cucumber and two summer squash, a jar of honey and some eggs, and stuff our bills in the container. And smile, wondering just how long that money would have lasted where we used to live. It’s simpler here, in the nicest ways.