Several months ago my husband hung a batik banner next to the mailbox at the bottom of the driveway with the words “bruchim haba’im” – welcome – written in an artsy, flowing Hebrew script.
We live on a rural country road that doesn’t get much traffic, and let’s face it, not too many people in Maine can read Hebrew. But what the heck.
About an hour before the end of Shabbat, we heard cars coming up our driveway, which is unusual by itself. Out clambered 6 young people from Boston, who were vacationing in the area for the Fourth of July weekend. They’d seen the sign, were able to read it, and their curiosity got the best of them. So they decided to check us out.
We invited them inside and they were floored to see my husband and I, along with a friend from our hometown, gathered around the Shabbat table. They joined us for a l’chaim and asked us all sorts of questions about the hows, wheres and whys of what we’re doing in a remote corner of Maine. One was a female rabbinical student; one was a software engineer; one was in social media marketing; one was a grad student majoring in economics; and two were involved in non-profit organizations for social justice for the underprivileged.
Our guest from our hometown couldn’t believe the unfolding scene. Oh, we had regaled her with entertaining stories of all the bizarre situations we’ve found ourselves in, and the many unusual people we’ve met over the years living here in Maine, despite our isolated location, but now she was getting a taste of that delightful Maine mojo first-hand. (Many of these tales can be found in the archives of this blog.)
Really my friend’s visit was somewhat serendipitous to begin with. When I was in my hometown last week to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild, I happened to see her in the street and mentioned that I’d be returning to Maine in a few days, and that if she’d like a ride up with us she’d be welcome to join us.
She had visited us once before during that time of year known as “stick season” in November, when the gorgeous fall colors are long gone but the snow hasn’t yet fallen, so the landscape is quite bare and grey. I happen to like stick season, but my friend wasn’t particularly impressed, especially after hearing my accolades about the beauty of Maine. The bleakness of the landscape appeared foreboding and desolate to her then. Now that we’re at the peak of summer and everywhere it’s a lush green, she feels differently. It’s been fun to expose her to her first-time-ever kayaking and swimming in a lake, and hiking to hidden cascades and moutaintops. But nothing prepared her for the one-in-a-million chance of meeting up with total strangers and inviting them in for a taste of Shabbat.
Shabbat came to an end and we all made havdala (the special blessings chanted over wine, braided candle, and spices to say goodbye to Shabbat and welcome the new week). Contacts were exchanged along with warm wishes and my suggestions and directions for exploring some of the hidden gems in the area.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again, but you never know to what or where something as simple as a “welcome” sign might lead. And now my hometown friend has her own Maine stories to tell.