Saturday, November 03, 2018

Waiting in the woods: in between the words

Adventures outside, between the light & the shadows: trees and so much more to see.
Photo by M. Souliere (c)2018
[The photo above is from a recent fieldtrip with a Maine Guide friend into wild pockets in Androscoggin County.  Click on the photo to see a larger version.]

This post is not so much about the reporting I do, and more about the philosophy and feeling behind it. I don't often say much about this, beyond talking to friends and family about it -- but it seems important that some of these thoughts should find their way here onto my blog.

I've been working on my second book for so long that it astonishes even me sometimes. Fitting it in around a grueling work schedule has been challenging, but this past year or so I feel like I've come much closer to figuring out a solution to fitting those pieces together. There are some more abstract elements that have become clearly very important as part of writing this book.

While my goal is to have Bigfoot in Maine done by the end of this year, the funny thing about it is that it will probably remain a lifelong pursuit even when the book is done.

"Why?!" -- You may well ask.

Why?  First, the truest reasons -- Because it draws me outside, into Maine's woods and hills and waterways.  I crave more outdoors.  In my everyday work life, the outdoors is so close, yet so far away.  I cannot live without it.  I live much better with more of it.  We all need to not only look out, but also to go outside more often.  There is nothing more real than walking into the wind and sun with the growing ground underneath your feet.

Why? Secondly, the draw of curiosity on a growing mind -- Because there are more encounters out there that have never been told outside the small circle of family and friends. I can feel the truth of that in my very bones.

Why? Thirdly, the bigger picture -- Because each link that appears in the chain of Maine oral history strengthens everyone who is part of it.

Why? Fourth, the driving force behind it all -- Because I see myself as having a job -- a vocation. I am here to record these experiences that people have had, even if there is no acceptable "explanation" for them. Perhaps an explanation is not needed.

Why? Fifth, the hoped-for outcome -- Because the record of any experiences given to me in the course of my work stands for those who come after, for those who have not told their own history yet, for those who might think that "no one wants to hear this," that "they're just going to think I'm crazy or an idiot."

I've heard a lot of reasons from people as to why they don't want to come forward.

It's okay to keep things to yourself.   But if you have an encounter that defies all your prior life experience, something that doesn't fit into your known universe, I want to tell you that there are those of us who will listen.

AND --- almost more importantly --- If we are honorable, ethical journalists (or even friends), we will listen off the record -- we won't tell anyone else anything you don't want known. The information is still useful. I am constantly piecing together the massive puzzle that is Maine in all its complexity, and you would be surprised to hear some of the tiny clues that have led to huge breakthroughs and realizations further on down the road.

We will listen, whether you want the details repeated to help others who may be in the same boat, or whether you require us to never tell another soul. We will not assign you derogatory labels just because of something we haven't experienced ourselves happening to you. And those of us who are looking at the bigger picture will be grateful, and remember what you shared when you didn't have to.

You might not hear from us again for years -- or ever -- but know that your piece of the puzzle is percolating through a repository of history where we are all Mainers together, each with our own unique experience of the state and all that is in it.  Without each other, we are made less. Don't think your shot in the dark has been ignored, because these things take time.

In those moments where your piece of the puzzle comes to light and fills in a blank, connecting other pieces together, it helps create an amazing picture of Maine history, rich enough for all of us to give forward as a treasure to those who come after us, asking questions in their own time that only we can answer now.

All this work is done with no promise of glory, no promise of any tangible results.  Those of us who listen, who dig deep when everyone else is doing something they think is more fun -- we are looking long.  We are looking ahead as well as looking behind.

We are also trying to get as close as we can to a 360-degree view, because we know things only become clear when they are given perspective.  We never know what to expect, and that's a good thing.  We make no predictions - we lay our cards out and hope to be given a chance to pay attention enough to see things unfold.

And for those who shy away from telling because of ways they have seen others' stories being exploited by those who take them and don't care about anything but profit and personal gain -- I am sorry that this behavior exists in this world. It is unnecessary and violates everything I stand for. I respect your decision to back away from opening up because you have seen others injured in doing so.

To those who have trusted me with their experiences, thank you.  I came to you a stranger, and you were willing to take a chance that I could help other people with what I could glean from your accounts.  This means a tremendous amount to me, and I try to never let out of my mind for long the reality of how lucky I am that you all looked at me, or heard my voice, or saw my greeting on the screen, and said, "Okay.  I will give you a try."

Thank you all -- those who contribute tales, and those who are eager to see the work when it is done -- all of you.  And thank you for reading what is probably my longest update ever.

The seasons turn, and the daylight shifts.  When I'm not in my bookshop or at home, you'll find me in the woods and out in the air, looking around at the huge world that is encompassed within Maine. Life is short, and I know I'll likely not see all the Maine places I hope to breathe in, but you can be darn sure I'm going to experience as many as I can, whenever I can.

I hope you all get this chance too!

With all my heart,
Your scribe and stumbling fool,
Me visiting with my old friend & neighbor, the Crookston Bigfoot, at the International Cryptozoology Museum.