No Pocket in a Shroud

In Maine they can spot a visitor from a hundred paces and love, with their sarcastic wit, straight face and dry sense of humor, to spoof on them. Especially lost ones. Stop and ask for directions and its likely you'll hear (in a slow drawl) “You caaan't get they-ya from he-ya.” Press the case and you'll be told, “Ayuh … down the rud a piece.” Which could be anywhere from around the bend to miles away. Even in their speech they are austere.

I love Maine. Everything about it. The people, the accent, the land, the dense forests, the rocky coast, the weather-beaten houses, the lobster pots and rough-hewn boats. If you ever have a chance to visit, go- it is unlike any other state and truly in some ways you feel you're in another country.

Maine is not a wealthy state but it is a state of very hearty people who are hard-working, tough-loving and frugal-living and who don't take or make excuses, whine or feel sorry for themselves or pander to others. They are strongly opinionated, fiercely independent, love arguing for arguments sake, aren't impressed by much and are good to their core. They do what ought to be done and are not driven by the need to amass things. True Yankees. In fact, people in Maine pride themselves on their frugality. Nothing goes to waste. Nothing. They can teach the rest of us a thing or two about surviving tough economic times.

There is a saying there that sums up the man and speaks to the fabric of his being: Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or Do without. Don't believe me? Check this out. Little slivers of bath soap are saved and used in a metal net-like contraption to wash dishes. I kid you not. You swish it around in the sink until the water gets soapy. Windows are cleaned with vinegar water and newspaper (yes it works- try it). Clothes are patched and patched again and there is no shame in it. Even today. Of course I am not talking about city transplants but the real Maine-iacs, the stoics, born and bred there for generations. The ones who can point out 5 generations preceding them in the small town cemetery they keep up with pride.

Cod fish is dried by hanging it outside on two lines designed to continually spin to keep the flies off. It hangs and spins for days until the consistency of leather (and yes, flies land on it and it is served anyway.)  When you eat lobster in Maine, every bit is devoured including the meat (if you can call it that) in the antennae. Yes it is unapologetically and publicly sucked out. Nothing goes to waste. Nothing.

Ever look at an L.L. Bean catalog? It never changes. Every year it sells the same wicked good socks and wicked good slippers and wicked good slickers. But develop a hole in those socks no matter how long you wear them or how old they are and they'll be replaced for free. I don't think its ever occurred to them to change the style. It works, they like it, why mess with it? Plus, how can you get a free pair 10 years later if they change the style?

About our materialism and our inability to use it up, wear it out, make do, do with less or do without, they'd probably say we're “soft as custard” and we “don't know more than a goose knows God”. I don't think they'd say it in judgment as much as a statement of fact, cut and dry, no offense intended. After all, “there's no pocket in a shroud,” they'd say. And what can we said to that but, “Ayuh,”? There is no pocket in a shroud so we can take it with us when we die.


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