One of the many things that brought the world back into focus in August was a visit with my friend, Ahna Skop. Ahna was my house sitting client in Wisconsin and we hit it off right away. She invited me to stay with her in Blue Hill with old friends and in Bar Harbor at the MDI Biological Laboratory, where she was giving a talk.
The trip was a tiny, much-needed adventure to my former stomping ground. I graduated from College of the Atlantic in 1996, and like many things in my life, I moved on without much looking back after I left. I returned about a year before my trip to meet with my advisor, the inestimable Karen Waldron. That visit to campus gave me a case of emotional vertigo, but it was fruitful.
This visit with Ahna was quite different; it allowed me to introduce my old world to someone who had never seen it before. I showed her my favorite parts of the place, introduced her to just one of the people I was longing to see, and we experienced the park in an easy way, meandering, luxuriating in the sun, in good company, time well spent.
On the first night, I met Ahna's friends, sitting around the kitchen table drinking tea and chatting about my trip, showing them some of my photos, and watching the happy jumble of family, friends, and pets swirl in and out of the room, tasting cheeses that Ahna and her friend Christina brought back from Islesboro, an island off the coast. I felt grounded there, slowing the invisible and untethered roller coaster of my return.
At dinner that evening, I discovered that Andrea, a designer (the brains and talent behind Shop & Apparel) and coincidentally the wife of the scientist hosting Ahna at the Bio Lab, was none other than a woman I've been friends with on Facebook for several months, but had never had a chance to meet, despite the fact that we both attended Alt Summit in California. The world continues to be a small place. We talked about photography, color, clothing design, and business. I felt my mind open up to a whole new world as we sat and watched the river wind its way by.
The next morning, Ahna and I met Karen for breakfast at Cafe This Way (I love a place that has real hollandaise) and then went to tour some of the college grounds. Sitting and listening to two smart, engaging women discuss everything under the sun made me glad yet again that I have a habit of collecting interesting people.
After basking in the sun for an hour or so and watching kayakers navigate the bay from the college's pier, Ahna and I embarked upon a full-bore tourist highlights tour of Acadia. We managed the whole park loop road, stopping frequently to breathe in the salt air and admire the rocky, red coastline and determined, craggy pines clinging to the edge of the world.
We stopped at Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea on the lawn, where dozens of bees rolled around in the tiny pots of strawberry jam on every table. I managed to down an entire bowl of blueberry ice cream that was nearly as big as my head; it was really quite amazingly beautiful and delicious. We wound our way to the top of Cadillac and took in the view, then went back down and past Jackson Lab so that Ahna could take a photo of the sign (major science nerd bucket list item) before heading out to Schoodic Point for a last look around.
As the sun started to sink we made our way toward MDI Bio Lab, where Ahna had a small cabin for a couple of nights. It turned out to be a quintessential Maine camp, perched high above the gravel beach, nestled among pines and hardwoods, and a stone's throw from the labs where Ahna was speaking the following day.
We walked down to the pier, stopping to peer into windows of tiny clapboard-clad labs that ringed the small rocky pathway, the perfect place to study sea creatures both large and small. Ahna exclaimed with pure delight over and over, overwhelmed at being near the workspaces of some of her scientific heroes. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself getting excited at rubbing shoulders with the ghosts and discoveries of the past.
After watching the sun go down over the cove we made our way to a late dinner down the road, snuggling under blankets at an outdoor table. The food was fresh and delicious, and the perfect end to a long day.
In the morning I made coffee and watched it steam the picture window as the sun came up, sending fingers of pink and pale yellow out onto the quiet water. Ahna saw me off with a hug and a smile. My heart was significantly lighter, equilibrium restored.
As I made my way home, the huge bag of peaches from Christina's garden nearly glowed from the backseat of my car. I reflected on how lucky I am to have so many good friends in my life. I seem to have the right person for every conceivable situation and they appear when I need them most. Ahna's visit reminded me of so many of the things I love about my home state and allowed me to see it with a traveler's eye, a good reminder as I settle back into the rhythms of daily life.