The people of Maine are different: hardier, more outdoorsy, and seemingly closer to the land. Kish has noticed that the women wear less make-up and tend toward a no-frills look, while the men have the kind of ruddy complexion that makes it look like they’ve just stepped off a sailboat.
There’s something about living in a rustic area, near water, that seems to encourage that laissez-faire personal attitude. If you’ve got water and a boat nearby, there would be a lot of incentive to use it — and if make-up tended to run down your face when the fog rolled in, and fancy haircuts frizzed out and became unmanageable in the salt air, then make-up and the high-end ‘dos would likely hit the cutting room floor.
I thought about all of this on our recent mailboat run out to Isle au Haut. At one of our stops we saw a mother rowing her very cute little girl across the harbor to a dock. The Mom was an accomplished rower, and I’d be willing to bet that her daughter ends up as one, too. That’s not a bad skill to pass down from generation to generation.
One morning during our visit to Lake Temagami, the Elder Statesman and I went fishing in a rowboat. The Elder Stateman rowed us out onto a bay in the lake and we drifted along, trying without success to get a nibble.
After a few hours, the sky grew cloudy, the wind had picked up, and we decided it was time to head back to the island. I felt guilty sitting back while a senior citizen manned the oars, so I took over and began to row us back. I’ve never really rowed before, except for trying a rowing machine or two in visits to workout facilities. But, I’ve seen people rowing in perfect precision in sculling competitions, and the Elder Stateman had capably piloted us out into the bay. How hard can it be?
The answer is: a heck of a lot harder than I thought, and frustrating besides. There’s lots of moving parts. You’re trying to achieve uniform strokes, at uniform depth, hitting the water at about the same point and then pulling through. And, you’re doing it all while you have your back to the target. If you don’t know what you’re doing — and I obviously didn’t — it’s very easy to veer far off course. And then you have to figure our which oar moves you back in the right direction. Add in a little wind and chop on the water, and you’ve got a tough challenge for the novice know-it-all. I soon realized that my confidence in my innate rowing ability was sorely misplaced. I was not making much progress and instead was cutting long, looping S curves through the water rather than moving directly toward our destination. It was frustrating and embarrassing.
After a while I got the hang of it — sort of — and made some progress in moving us across the bay, but as we neared the island I gladly yielded the oars to the Elder Statemen to steer us to the dock.
You’d think that a 55-year-old would have realized by now that it is foolish to have mindless confidence that he can do something he’s never done before. Obviously, I’ve still got a lot of life lessons to learn.
Our cottage in Blue Hill has a great front porch, with a fine view of a tidal inlet. The other day I sat on the porch and watched three people in a rowboat traverse the waters. The rower bent to her task, the oar paddles flashed in the sunlight, and the craft skimmed across the surface, all to a marvelous rhythm. It made me want to get into a boat and put my back into some rowing.