The home I hope to find in Bangor

“This is the story of a small town tucked away in the great north woods of Maine. Its history — more or less typical of that of scores of other rural towns in this part of the State — carries little of more than local interest, because nothing extraordinary ever occurred in Crystal.”

Mattawamkeag River in Island Falls, Maine, as seen from the bridge on Old Patten Road in September 2015.

Mattawamkeag River in Island Falls, Maine, as seen from the bridge on Old Patten Road in September 2015. Shelby Hartin|BDN

In 1937, Carlton J. Corliss, a Crystal native, published “The Story of Crystal,” describing a place I’ve called home for over 20 years.

Corliss said that nothing extraordinary ever occurred in Crystal, and yet I’ve seen extraordinary things.

At night the sky lights up with stars. I could count them for hours.

A brook down the road babbles by in the spring, and peepers sing their songs at dusk.

Cicadas drone on during the hot summer, and cool, clear fresh air is never in short supply.

Autumn smells like wood smoke and soft apples, and in the winter the whole place is quiet and blanketed in snow.

My home is a beautiful place.

In each of my blog posts, I’ve said something similar to this: “I’m trying to make Bangor feel a bit more like home.”

But I’ve neglected to answer an obvious question: What does home mean to me?

I grew up in Crystal, Maine, population 269. My family moved around to a few different places in the area before settling into a tiny two-bedroom home that sits off the road and is surrounded by forest.

It’s a charming place.

The countertops are far too low for a 5-foot-10 person like me. The ceilings are, as well. The old hardwood is worn, and floral wallpaper covers almost every wall. The rooms are tiny, and yet they hold years of memories.

The little home sits on 15 acres of tall hardwood and conifers, and a sprawling front and back yard offered plenty of room for my sister and me to roam as children.

There are little flower patches meticulously planned and planted by my parents all over the property. Perennial flowers sprout up each year without fail, and the front of the house is lined by lilies.

In the neighboring town of Island Falls there’s one grocery store and a few hundred friendly faces. Most people wave as they drive by, no matter who you are. It’s impossible to come to town without at least a few people asking how you’re doing and what you’re up to.

There’s a community there for support, and there’s always someone who will say “hi.”

“The town lays no claim to greatness. It has never ‘made the headlines’ of the metropolitan dailies … uneventful as its life has been, Crystal has a story well worth telling — a story with which its sons and daughters should be familiar and of which they should be justly proud,” Corliss wrote. “It is a story of sturdy pioneers — real makers of America — struggling to establish homes in the wilderness. It is a story of strong men and courageous women toiling together.”

By exploring Bangor — a new place, a new home — and finding different things to do, I hope to find something like this, or at least something that feels like this. A few friendly faces to say “hello” as I pass by, maybe a couple of people who recognize my car and wave as I drive to work, summers of cicada song and a place where I can see the stars — a community of people, fun things to do and adventures.

A home. That’s what I’m trying to find. That’s what I hope Bangor will become.

Shelby Hartin

About Shelby Hartin

Shelby Hartin was born and raised in southern Aroostook County in a tiny town called Crystal, population 269. After graduating from the University of Maine in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism, she relocated to Bangor. She now works at the Bangor Daily News as a customer service representative slash features reporter and is making a new home for herself by discovering what Bangor has to offer. Every week she will do something new and blog about it. It might be attending an art exhibit or checking out a new restaurant. It might be visiting a local museum or going on a tour offered in the area. She’s going to find things that people settling into their home of greater Bangor might enjoy — and she wants your help.