A simple gesture that says a lot about Downeast

There we were, the wife and I, planning our return to mid-coast Maine, when circumstances occurred that shook the very foundation of our annual vacation plans. The two-week rental we had for the past ten years was booked for the season.

Accepting the fact we would not be going to Maine that summer, the first one to be missed since we began coming to this great state in the early 80’s, we settled in for a long summer.

Then it happened.

I saw an ad in our local paper about a home for rent in Jonesboro, Maine. Jonesboro, Maine? With the big blue atlas out and opened, I quickly located the spot. Realizing it was a long way away “from away”; we still decided to give it a try. To keep this story brief, I will simply say we came, we saw, and we stayed. Not long after, we purchased our home in Starboard Cove, which is situated just before reaching the Point of Maine in Machiasport.

Then one day it started, or rather, I finally took notice to it. And, after a very short but deliberate consideration, I began to take part in it too.

It is the wave.

No, not the kind you see during a baseball game. Not the one where in the middle of taking that bite of a dog or sip of beer, you notice from the corner of your eye a mass of arms and hands reaching up and out, gaining speed and drawing closer to where you are seated. Then, realizing it has arrived, you have to get up, balancing that dog or beer, maybe both, to make a feeble effort to join the stadium gang in a giant fan-based wave, no, not that one.

What I am talking about is a wave of greeting with the hand. It is a simple gesture and one I now notice being done along the many roads of Downeast Maine.

A friend who has lived all his life in Maine, and is considered a fixture in these parts, says about the wave, “It’s just something we do. Sort of like that morning cup of coffee, I guess. It is just something that is done.” I, too, have found the very same sentiments even though I have not been here very long. Now, as I drive these roads, I very carefully balance my cup and make sure to always have a few fingers available should I happen by an oncoming vehicle or a person out walking along the road.

After giving more thought to this standard roadside behavior, I realize it is an important thing to be doing today, because quite frankly, there is not enough of it. We don’t talk anymore, nor do we say hello or goodbye enough. The world has gotten a whole lot bigger, and we are slowly losing our connection to each other in that growth.

The hand wave could be part of what makes this area Downeast, a place where hard working and caring people, who live life simply, enjoy saying hello to one another, be that friend, family or stranger. It’s a good thing. It’s a necessary thing and a reality of the environs and one to be cherished, respected and reciprocated as one drives these roads and lives in this part of Maine.

I now embrace this gesture with all my heart and soul. The Downeaster knows something possibly others have forgotten; we are all in this together. If a wave or a hello can bring a smile as one drives the roads, or make someone’s day a little brighter, well, let me ask, “Is that not the way life should be?”

RJ Heller

About RJ Heller

Having arrived here from Pennsylvania over four years ago, there has been plenty to learn and even more to observe. This place is different, but I mean that in a good way. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a college graduate with a teaching degree, a business founder and seller, and a father of two children with my wife Stephanie; life has been full and somewhat adventurous, but finding Maine remains a high watermark in my life.