FORT KENT, MAINE
GREEN light, red light.We stopped by the road often, looking for the unconventional in the common, drawn by what Mario Rossi calls "the voluptuousness of looking." I would add "listening," too: * At the Bad Little Falls Park and Overlook in Machias, Maine, the water of the Machias River pouring over the rocks is the color of root beer. Seated on the grass in this little park next to Route 1, artist Diane Young is using both bright and neutral watercolors to paint the watery scene. Her paintings are delightful swirls and clusters clearly depicting water, rocks, and sky, but without a horizon. She stops painting and explains her vision. "The horizon is dogmatic," she says. "Once you decide it doesn't matter, you can do just about anything." * At 4 in the morning we stand in the legendary but right now nearly empty L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine. Open 24 hours a day, the store attracts thousands during the day to shop for outdoor clothing and equipment. We rattle around in the store. A half hour goes by. Steve Morse and Michael Hall walk in, puffy-eyed from driving back to Orono, Maine, after a Grateful Dead concert in Boston. "We're taking a break," says Steve, "and looking for Christmas gifts." Jeff Laverdiere, a clerk, wanders over in a green apron. He says the night shopper is no fool. "The smart shopper shops at night," he says with some authority, since he's a veteran of six years on the night shift here. "There's less stress, you can try things on, ask questions, and not get hassled by crowds." * We are seated at the kitchen table of Margaret Nicholas, a 95-year-old Passamaquoddy Indian who lives alone in a small house on the Pleasant Point Reservation in Maine, just off Route 1. She is whisper thin, but energetically up and down from the table in her dark-blue bathrobe, getting photos of her family. "There are so many now, I've lost count," she says of the five living generations of her family. As a young girl she remembers going by birch-bark canoe with her grandfather each winter to Oak Bay, New Brunswick, to live. "As we went, I remember he put up a small sail," she says in a clear, strong voice that sends a chill in the air. She has lived in a time and culture when travel by canoe was traditional and logical. From that time to the morning around her kitchen table is nearly 100 years of dazzling change. "We came back to the reservation in summer," she says. Her grandmother taught her to weave baskets from strips of ash wood. Later she worked as a kitchen girl in a hotel for $3 a week. Now she loves to read newspapers and play bingo at the reservation community center. In the photos on the table she points to a tall, handsome man with a graceful face and big hands. "My husband," she says, smoothing the old photo. "We were married in 1915." On the back of the photo are the words "Died in 1948."