This is a water scene in disguise in small-town America. What you see in the photo is the old bench down at the Cathance River in Bowdoinham. It’s a wonderful place to sit in summer if you don’t mind the sunshine (personally, it’s too much for me). From here, you can watch the comings and goings of the river people. Life won’t pass you by too quickly here. There’s a rhythm to the river, and even the great currents of life respect it.
|The hub-bub of small-town America.|
Just to your left, if you sit on this bench on a sunny summer day, you’ll see a public dock to launch your boat. There are a few separate platforms, and you will find children diving from them all day long into the river. Just behind the docks on land are picnic tables, and the mothers are busy yelling at their kids to be careful and not drown one another -- and don’t dive so much! -- and stop screaming! -- and give your brother a turn! -- and why don’t you have something to eat?
Just off to your right is a bridge over the river. Every year in September, the Great KenDucky Derby Race takes place. At this event, you buy a ticket for a rubber ducky. The ducks are all launched at the same time, not far from this very bench. The first duck to make it under the bridge wins $400, and the last duck to get under the bridge wins $100. Small-town America is my kind of place. It’s where people bet on rubber duckies.
But it’s winter now, and these activities will have to wait. For now, just on the other side of the bridge, the ice shanty towns have gone up. Crude little shacks form their own little town right on top of the frozen river, complete with a hierarchy, unspoken rules, and a lively nightlife. The ice fishermen are all having a blast in those little shacks. When they’re not catching fish, they’re enjoying little wood stoves in the shacks (which keep them quite warm) and are drinking beer with their friends. It’s not a bad job if you can get it, but again, that’s all part of small-town America.
You can still sit on the bench in the winter, and whenever I’m in town, I usually do so if I have the time. It’s considerably quieter in the snow, and it gives me a chance to think and reminisce. Half the fun of memories is creating them. The other half is enjoying them from a distance created by time, reliving them. You need both--creating and reminiscing--to make a whole. And aren’t we so very lucky that the seasons oblige us so willingly?