I didn’t have a good book lined up to bring with me on our visit to my mother- and sister-in laws’ house in Maine. Everything my eyes rested on just seemed wrong for my current mood. I hate it when that happens. As visits to Maine generally involve a leisurely sprawl with lots of time lounging and reading, I knew I’d need something so I packed a couple of second-choice desperation books. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a reader. I browsed her book shelves and didn’t have too much trouble finding something more appealing than the back-up-plan books I’d brought.
We Took to the Woods, a memoir of life in remote back-country Maine in the late 1930s, by Louise Dickinson Rich was a perfect fit. Just about the only thing my sister-in-law’s house has in common with Dickinson’s is that they are both in Maine; but the book still felt just right. This house has electricity, running water, cable television, high-speed internet access (finally!) and even a swimming pool. Louise Rich’s “cabin” in the woods has none of those things. And yet this house is also on a wooded slope on a dead-end road. Through the trees I can sort of make out the the three nearest neighbors but behind the house is a wooded hill and from the back yard you can imagine you are in a wilderness. And from my cozy vantage on the screened-in front porch I can only see the road and the shape of the house across the street. Because it’s early evening there’s been a bit more traffic on the road as people return from work; but I think I’ve seen a total of six cars all afternoon. I hear the wind in the trees, the buzz of cicadas and chirping of crickets and a distant hum of a mower somewhere. But no sound of traffic as is a constant white noise at our house. The windchimes play quietly, soothingly in the breeze from the oscillating fan. A space to breathe, think, listen, write without wondering who will cry next or when. And no dinner to plan or to cook or dishes to do. Ah bliss!
Anyway, back to Louise… that’s another sort of vacation. The allure of the book is partly the local color, the pleasure of visiting another place and another time and all the little details that sometimes made this book feel a little like a blog: details about clothing and shopping lists, the skunk they adopted, the dog sled team that wasn’t, loggers and lost hunters, blizzards and what it’s like to be in the woods for years on end. But most of all the pleasure of any memoir: getting to know another person. After reading We Took to the Woods I’m eager to find more of Rich’s books.