The Star-Herald

Some thoughts while driving through life

I drove past the array of tiny dwellings this morning, as I do every morning on my way to work, and once again compared them to pastel colored Monopoly houses scattered here and there on the game board. Each house has a story to tell, etched beneath ragged shingles and cloudy windows.

I find solace in these familiar little buildings, sitting just below the concrete embankment to my right. On unbearably cold mornings, straight chimney smoke reaches for the pale blue sky in its attempt to bring some order to an otherwise crooked and imperfect neighborhood. I smile downward from my ivy green automobile and continue to Presque Isle, the city of my birth some 62 years ago. How many times have I traveled this same path over the years? I can probably close my eyes and drive; never missing a curve or a turn in the road.  

How many of us choose to stay in this “Other Maine?” If we are not enticed to join the military, or swept away in a romantic haze, we are encouraged to go where there is more money, less snow, and an unfamiliar sophistication that is both appealing and foreboding. “I guess I have chosen to stay,” I whispered to the jet black dashboard of my car. My thoughts are usually deep and impractical when commuting to and from work.  

I have never been to Europe. I have never ventured south of the border. The only foreign country I have ever visited is Canada, though I certainly would not call our beloved northern neighbors “foreign.”  I have been to most of the southern states, all of the New England states, and of course, I have been to New York City, where I saw three Broadway plays in two days and was asked several times if I just happened to be Scandinavian. I have walked the full length of Pennsylvania Avenue, and stood upon the soil of Gettysburg. (As a side note, all of the photos I took in Gettysburg turned out dim and blurry. Is this area truly haunted? That is a question I would never attempt, or even dare, to answer.) I yearn to see the West Coast, and one day I will.

Every day I come across a word I do not understand or a news story I cannot believe. I know there is such a thing as true love and the most precious gift of all is our children. I still call my aunts and uncles Aunt Dee and Uncle Max and I refer to those older than me as Mr. or Mrs. I think dogs are most definitely God spelled backward and I know that angels walk among us.  

Traveling home each day is a much different experience. The remaining snow completely blocks the miniscule Monopoly houses, which are now on my left. I know each one is now aglow with light and most inside are preparing for the evening meal. Not every one of my sweet little houses is filled with harmony. Some of those tiny doors hold in anger and broken hearts, while others harbor peace. Some of us will fly away forever, while some of us have clipped wings and will never leave. And, some of us decide to make our escape, only to find ourselves wandering back home to those tiny houses, benign small town gossip, and protected culture.  

As I maneuver my car toward Route 1, I ask myself once again if I have somehow unknowingly deprived myself of a rich and multi-faceted life. Am I content simply because I choose the familiar above the unknown? When I reach the end of my life, will I berate myself for choosing to stay?   

Perhaps a compromise is needed here. Regardless of whether or not I stay, it is not too late to take that Route 66 road trip or tour Alcatraz! When I come to the end of this journey, I pray I am not filled with second thoughts. I don’t want to fret about the things I didn’t do; the words I didn’t speak; the smiles that came too late; the kisses that ended too soon; that dress I didn’t buy; the dance I was too shy to try; the midnight cruises I never took; the songs I never sang; the “I love you’s” I buried in my heart; the cheesecake I didn’t eat; the car I didn’t drive; or the tales I never wrote.

In the end, I want my soul to overflow with the million dreams I decided to chase, the risks I dared to take, and the people I chose to love. Because you see, my dear friends, in the end, this is all that really matters.  

Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney. You may email her at:

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