Everything I knew about Maine I learned from Stephen King

A little something missing

I was saving this post title for when I finally got around to posting about Acadia National Park and Maine.  However, it’s not often that the Muse of Post Titles not only throws me a good title, but she gives me an idea to go with it.  I’m not going to look that gift horse in the mouth.

There is some truth to my post title.  Prior to researching our trip, I really didn’t know much about Maine other than what I’d read in Stephen King‘s books over the years.  (If you’re unfamiliar with Stephen King, he often places his stories and characters in Maine.  He is from Maine, and you know what they say about writing what you know.)

One of the books I took with me on our trip to the Canadian Maritimes and Maine, and I’m still reading now, is Just After Sunset: Stories, a collection of thirteen tales by Stephen King.  I started reading it just as we were making our way to Maine, not really as a homage to Stephen King but because short stories are good to read while traveling, I had this book handy when we were packing, and I thought, “When in Maine…”  So, maybe it was a small homage to Stephen King.

I usually get in a lot of reading on car trips.  That was not the case this time around as we were covering new territory.  As the not-driver, it is my job to navigate.  I am not only good at reading a map, I can fold one with the greatest of ease.  I’ve had lots of practice.  There were, of course, long stretches of highway that did not require navigation (“just stay on the Trans-Canada Highway for 200 miles”), but I didn’t want to miss a moment of the scenery so I didn’t do a lot of reading.  This is my way of explaining why I’m still working my way through a book I started while on vacation.  (It occurs to me that I should also explain that neither M nor I have smart phones of any kind, and our GPS system continues to be maps and Trip Tiks from the AAA.  They charge extra for GPS in a rental car, and the maps are free.  A map does not insist you make turns when you already know you’re going the right way, and it doesn’t continually nag at you about how it is recalculating.)

The other night I read N., the tale of an accountant, N, with a photography hobby (“an accountant by trade, a photographer by inclination”) who develops OCD for the usual macabre reasons.  (You didn’t expect normal reasons, did you?  It IS a Stephen King book.)  In the story N talks about how he has taken photos all over Maine and New Hampshire, but he likes to stick close to home because the pictures he takes close to home look more real to him.

After finishing the story, I found myself thinking about this part of what N. had to say about photography:

Want my opinion, just as an amateur?  I think photography’s a much artier art than most people believe.  It’s logical to think that, if you’re got an eye for composition — plus a few technical skills you can learn in any photography class — one pretty place should photograph as well as any other, especially if you’re into landscapes.  Harlow, Maine or Sarasota, Florida, just make sure you’ve got the right filter, then point and shoot.  Only it’s not like that.  Place matters in photography just like it does in painting or writing stories or poetry.  I don’t know why it does, but …

… Actually I do.  Because an artist, even an amateur one like me, puts his soul into the things he creates.  For some people — ones with vagabond spirit, I imagine — the soul is portable.

I nodded right along because I think I know what the character (and the writer) means.  At the very least, I know what my interpretation of it means.

It’s a scorcher outside today.  Not my kind of weather at all.  Nonetheless, I forced myself outside for the usual daily walk, grabbing the camera at the last minute.  As I slowly, slowly walked around the pond (it’s too hot for speed), taking pictures of whatever caught my eye, I understood immediately the idea of photography (or any art) being about place.  Place may well be the reason I am not always happy with my vacation photos.  As much as I love to travel, here by the pond is my place, and it’s where my heart and soul usually go into my photography practice.

An arc of bones

The walk was good, albeit hot and sweaty.  There are all sorts of things going on around the pond.  The dragonflies and damselflies are out in full force.  I saw a couple of monarchs.  A buzzard landed on the stump of the maple tree at the back of the pond.  I thought he might be seeking shade.  But as I made my way to the back of the pond, the distinct odor of death was in the air, and the flies were gathered in large numbers, buzzing like a scene out of The Amityville Horror.  The buzzard was there for lunch rather than shade.  The bones pictured above are not what the buzzard was after.  I didn’t get a chance to find out what had died because I spotted a very large snake in the same vicinity and decided we should part ways.  Since the snake wasn’t moving, I did.

Today’s view of the pond. (The cattails on the western edge.)

I will have more vacation photos for you soon.  Today I desired to be in the present, to be at home, even in weather I don’t much like (I am a winter person, as many of you know).  Thank you so much for joining me on my walk with the dragonflies today.  I would have taken you down into the woods, but the deerflies and mosquitoes are pretty bad.  There is also a big patch of poison ivy at the beginning of one of the pathways into the woods.  I’ll have to remember to get out there and do something about it.

Stay cool, be well, and watch for poison ivy around the edges.  Better yet, take the boat and go out to the swim platform.  It’s a good day to hang out there under the umbrella, read a book, and go for a swim to cool off.

The wild prairies roses are in bloom.

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42 Comments on “Everything I knew about Maine I learned from Stephen King”

  1. Deborah Lee says:

    I was fortunate enough to learn about Maine by going each summer as a kid. My family still gets together for a week in Maine each summer, although I haven’t been for many years. Stephen King also has a place on Casey Key, FL, which is near where I live. I enjoyed his early writing, but stopped reading him after Pet Cemetery (and that’s a long time ago). I thought his books were getting too overblown and not the tight writing he had been doing before. Where was his editor? Anyways, my fav story of his that I have read is “Word Processor of the Gods”. I’d like one of those!

    • Robin says:

      I know what you mean, Deborah. I temporarily gave up on King’s books a while back although I don’t remember which book it was that felt forced (as if someone had put a gun to his head). But I gave him another try later, including for The Dark Tower series (which I loved) and The Green Mile when it was a serial (also loved). I admire the fact that he’s a good storyteller. I realized a long time ago that I don’t have it in me to write fiction because I don’t have the ability (imagination?) to make things up. Mr. King’s books have always kept me entertained, and often enough to keep me reading throughout the night when I should be in bed. Anyone who can do that, even with some loose writing, is impressive to me.

      Besides, I’m not very good at brevity so who am I to judge? lol!

      I spent my summers at the New Jersey shore so that’s the place on the Atlantic that I know and love. Maine was certainly a lot different. Beautiful. But different. :)

  2. These are all gorgeous , wow Robin I’m impressed!

  3. mobius faith says:

    Really stunning damselfly images. Great work.

  4. Map reading is a dying art! Kudos! Also – I was expecting fog and cemeteries! :)

  5. Love your quote from Stephen King’s story! I can’t read Stephen King any more; gave him up after watching Carrie and reading a story called The Lawnmower Man ~ just too disturbing. Though I did like The Shining & The Dead Zone.

    Love your dragonfly photos. I’m sure you’re happy to be home. The heat of summer is a bummer though, as the heat here in Oman is. Like you, I’m a fall/winter person. That’s why only one more year in Oman is in the cards for me. Can’t wait to return to colder climes!! :-)

    • Robin says:

      I have to read him during the day, for the most part, Cathy. I used to love horror novels and movies, but I don’t seem to need to be scared anymore. Or maybe it’s that life offers up other scary things now. Including hot weather! lol!

      Thank you. :)

      • Yes, hot weather is pretty scary, Robin! I’m just staying hunkered down in my flat or in the pool nowadays in Oman.

        Back to Stephen King and horror stories, I can never understand why people are so enamored of them. Even my two sons love horror movies and I am really surprised by my Omani students. Boys and girls alike LOVE them! I guess it must be the thrill that they love, sort of like riding a roller coaster??

  6. ladyfi says:

    Oh goodness! Your dragonfly shots are exquisite!

  7. Chloe says:

    i lovvvvvvve the dragonfly photos, they’re awesome!!

  8. Love your title! Everything I know about Illinois, I learned from Ray Bradbury… ;)
    Bravo for getting out in the heat. It reached us yesterday, and it was 74F when I got up at 5 this morning. No cooling breezes, either. The damsel flies are everywhere, but the camera is out of reach when you’re teaching a three-year-old how to run through the sprinkler!
    Stay cool, and drink lots of water!

  9. aFrankAngle says:

    I just love your dragonfly pics. Awesome! Meanwhile, I’m with you on this heat stuff. FYI: But it is a good reason for a mid-afternoon shot of limoncello.
    http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/on-a-joyous-zest/

  10. Karma says:

    Robin you have some amazingly sharp photos in this post – WOW! Thanks for sharing that bit about “N” – I can understand the feeling that goes with that quote. For me, however, having vacationed in Maine as a child, and now returning to the same area with my family as an adult, Maine has become part of my soul, and I think my photos of the area are some of my favorites. I have a “coming home” feeling each time I return there. I’d love to retire there someday if at all possible.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, Karma. :)

      I can understand that. I feel that way about the New Jersey shore to some degree. It’s where I spent a few weeks every summer when I was growing up, and it reminds me of childhood and home and all those good things.

  11. I read a bunch of Stephen King novels a number of years ago (don’t have much time to read right now), I’ve always enjoyed a good King horror/suspense story! I’ve never been to Maine, but that is definitely one of the places I would like to visit someday.

    Too hot today here, too – a little warmer than the past couple of days, but still too hot for my liking. Good day to stay inside and practice your indoor shooting!! ;)

    • Robin says:

      Maine is definitely worth the trip, Holly. :)

      The weather has turned. It’s quite pleasant today. Feels more like June for a change.

  12. love the title of today’s post, made me smile. And dragonflies, oh those magical, mysterious dragon flies.

  13. jane tims says:

    Hi Robin. I am reading Stephen King now too, my first attempt at his ‘Gunslinger’. He is a wonderful writer. There are passages that withstand any amount of tearing apart. When we were in Bangor, we went to see his house… the metal fence is embellished with spiders and all sorts of weird stuff. Jane

    • Robin says:

      I really enjoyed Stephen King’s Dark Tower (Gunslinger) series, Jane. I think those were some of my favorites. I see he has a prequel to the series out now. I’m looking forward to when it comes out in paperback so I can read it. I thought about seeing his house while we were so close (we had to go through Bangor twice), but our drive times were already ridiculous so we were unable to make the detour. Sounds like a cool fence. :)

  14. Fabulous dragonfly images!

  15. Cmsmith says:

    I never knew that about Stephen King, but then I’m not a Stephen King officionado. We have a lot of poison ivy around here. We’ve both gotten our fair share of it in the few years we’ve been here. Mark looks like he’s wearing a hazmat suit when he goes out to the woods.

    • Robin says:

      I usually end up doing the pulling of the poison ivy around here, Christine. I’m not very allergic to it (wasn’t allergic to it at all until I was pregnant with our youngest son). My husband, on the other hand, is HIGHLY allergic so he has to practically suit up too when he goes out to deal with it (he sprays it with Roundup).

      • Cmsmith says:

        I like the effect you used on your header photo. I need to get back into playing with Photoshop again.

        My husband is highly allergic too. We’ve had some ugly episodes of seeping poison ivy with him over the years. I got it relatively bad last year and now won’t go near it.

  16. Sallyann says:

    Great opinion from the Stephen King character.
    Photography is a bit like baking a cake. Anyone can follow a recipe but not everyone can make the perfect sponge. :-)

  17. Dana says:

    Interesting thoughts on art and place today, Robin. You’re right– the old saying goes beyond just “writing” about what you know. Any art form is linked to place; sometimes obviously and other times, subtly. Your comments on travel photos vs. pond/home photos will have me thinking for quite a while, I’m sure…

    • Robin says:

      It’s something I’d never really considered before, Dana, and I’ve been pondering it ever since reading and writing about it. I find the idea of vagabond spirits fascinating.

  18. Karen says:

    Love your dragonfly photos. I have a summer home on Long Lake in Maine and went on a garden tour of one of Stephen King’s homes on the lake. I was surprised how ordinary the home was. There was a dead tree in the yard that he wrote about in one of his books. He had a large lobby built on the Bridgeton hospital as a thank you when he had his bad accident.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, Karen. And thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it. :)

      Long Lake sounds like a lovely place, even if it is the place where The Mist originated. The ordinariness of Maine was something of a surprise to me, almost as if I expected Maine to be haunted or something. I know that’s silliness (and probably a result of reading too many Stephen King books).

  19. Bo Mackison says:

    Love the Steven King quote from N. Totally identify with his feelings about place.


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