I've been to Maine before, you know, its not really somewhere new.
But sometimes a place is so beautiful, sometimes the community touches you so much, that you just have to go back.
And also sometimes one of your best friends is going to school there and is feeling a little lonely and homesick and well, you just pack your heaviest sweaters and tramps back up there.
I spent a week in Maine revisiting all the places I loved the first time but also venturing out to some new territory - and Peaks Island was definitely on my list.
For just a few dollars you can jump on the Casco Bay Ferry and visit an number of islands.
Peaks Island is where many Portland employees call home- and I learned that a little grocery store, a post office and a cute little restaurant by the docks are all you really need.
We got off the ferry and hugged the coastline, picking along the pebbled beaches looking for beach glass and other treasures. Eventually we found the cairn garden that we had heard about and we stopped to pay our respects to the ocean and play a little zen jenga.
Pang wanted to show me Battery Steele, an old military fortification from WWII.
"There's a little boardwalk through the swamp," she said.
This was not what I had imagined. The trek out to Battery Steele, which naggingly reminded me of the Dead Marshes that Frodo and Sam had to pass through, avoiding the haunting candles and white faced ghosts just below the surface, did finally lead us to the fortification. The island has grown up around the cement walls now though, its angular edges quickly being swallowed into the soft earth. It felt so foreign and out of place on an island so quiet and calm.
I took some pictures but I prefer to leave it to your imagination.
Take the rickety boardwalk into the swamp for yourself.
The rest of the week was a pleasant mix of revisiting friends made on my previous trip and exploring Portland a bit deeper.
John Eder, former representative for the Portland Green Party and my couch surfing contact for my first trip to Portland invited me to join him for an afternoon of talking politics on the local radio station.
Doug was gracious enough to pick me up in Portland and take me to the Audubon Center for a morning bird walk - this time I was able to capture a bird and not just a bird bottom!
I poked around shops finding all kinds of local goods like these gorgeous cameos and some fancy sauerkraut.
One of my favorite new places was Homegrown Herb and Tea Apothecary. The honey dipper scroll of teas laid lovingly over worn wooden nook tables and the locally crafted teacups, big enough to warm both hands, were really just icing on the cake.
When I entered Sarah's shop she was already a few steps up on her ladder pulling herbs from different wooden drawers. She gossiped with the woman sitting at the counter as she measured out berries and flowers and roots into a little sachet, tying it off and pouring hot water over it before placing it in front of her chatty patron.
As I sifted through her tea options I was amazed with how creative and inspiring they were. Each tea held so many plant allies and had been so well thought out.
Jay's Let-It-Go Tea
Damiana, kava kava, gingko biloba, rosehips and petals, ginger, chamomile, vanilla bean and dried strawberry was crafted to help you move in a new direction without even looking back.
Hair of the Kahn
Snap out of the “Irish Flu” in no time, this ancient hangover remedy of kudzu flowers, milk thistle, sandalwood, cardamom, ginseng and orange peel were the cure for famous warrior (and infamous boozer) Kubilai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Kahn.
El Mexicano Por Favor
A saucy Latino blend of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, sarsaparilla and cacao, El Mexicano, Por Favor is a spicy and flavorful concoction, rich in detoxifying herbs known for encouraging a faster metabolism and increasing blood circulation.
I chose a Peace tea with a blend of kava kava, gotu kola, lavender, lemongrass, chamomile, roses, licorice root and vanilla bean. She brought my tea out to me with a few slices of pear floating in my brew and left me to sunbathe and sip by the window.
Another new spot in town was SALT. My visit to see Pang was necessitated by her acceptance and enrollment to the documentary studies institute SALT, so of course I had to poke around a little and check out the digs.
At the time Angelo Merendin's work "The Battle We Didn't Choose, My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer," was hanging in the SALT gallery, so it was a great honor to be able to see it in person.
Never one to be left out of adventure, Pang suggested we try another new place, the recently opened Empire, for some noodles, dumplings and slippery bok choys.
I left Portland with some treasures - a book about extinct animals, a Maine Vacationland vintage t-shirt, a strip of birch bark, some beach glass and some tea.
Maine hasn't seen the last of me! I still aspire to sail around those islands one summer and travel up to the very tip top of the East Coast!