Saturday, July 14, 2012

Peace in the Valley

Published March, 1984.

If there is a tension in the St. John Valley, it is not the tension of a lack of trust.  People for the most part exhibit no sign of  that fear which in other regions becomes prudence. The towns of neighbors and friends provide little soil for the  growth of alienation, aloneness and lack of sympathy. In other places, strangers live next door to strangers for years, never passing more than a hello in the hallway.
Just south of Madawaska, Maine
In the Valley, people don’t worry about muggings, burglaries, murders and rapes.  In other places, people always lock the door, don’t go out at night, carry knives for self-protection, and always look straight ahead.  If you are frightened of someone on the street in the  city, another self-protective device is to feign madness.  Even muggers avoid the mad.
Yet the beauty of the St. John Valley is storybook-like, its quiet and peace, its international flavor and Acadian heritage. The  river, the lakes, the hills and forests are no less than majestic.
This is not to denigrate the life of the city. This is to contrast the worst aspects of the metropolis with the best aspects of another very different life.

International Bridge linking Madawaska, Maine with Edmundston, New Brunswick
 The bedlam of honking horns amid heavy traffic, ghetto blasters, rushing streetcars, loud records played by inconsiderate neighbors, jackhammers, buses and lovers’ quarrels insures a perpetual market for wax earplugs in the urban jungle.
The commutes on the municipal railway stretch the patience and tolerance of several thousand riders daily who must endure at times interminably long waits in elbow-room-only cars for constantly reoccurring malfunctions to be fixed. The patience one must have to wait in line at the grocery stores and banks is leviathan.
Here in the St. John Valley, the noise is of the wind perhaps or a single passing car. And one doesn’t have to wait in any lines at all in the banks or at the grocery store. You can just walk right up to the teller, without a 20 minute wait.

Office of the St. John Valley Times (1984)
In the city, the street-people beg the pedestrians for spare change on the downtown streets, but this human litter of society is as ignored by most as the litter of candy wrappers and empty packs of cigarettes. 

Where I lived, St. David, Maine
Though no one is perhaps as wretched as the person who must sleep in the streets of a big city, he belongs to the society of the homeless.
In the St. John Valley, everyone must sleep indoors or they would freeze to death.