On Friday, as I drove down Route 96 to the Harbor to begin my morning walk with the OFEB gang, I noticed a woman walking on the roadside.
She was fit, a serious walker. Her bright red shirt, black shorts and a floppy hat said she meant business.
As we passed, I noticed something else. She was carrying a plastic bag. Then she bent over and picked something up and stuffed it inside the bag. Damn, I thought, she is picking up trash.
I thought of stopping to thank and chat with her, but I was running late. I didn't want to disappoint the old dogs who have spent nearly 10 years walking the Land Trust's Penny Lake trails.
As usual, the walkers’ conversation ranged from construction techniques to health concerns and politics. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. But we are pals and laugh a lot. Kidding is the order of the day.
As we trudged through the trail, tip-toeing over nasty roots, I couldn't get the thought of the walking lady out of my head. On my way home, I spotted her again. This time she was carrying three bulging plastic bags. I pulled over to the side of the road, did a U-turn, and followed her to the Chamber of Commerce parking lot.
“Excuse me,” I asked. “I write a column for the local paper. I see you are picking up trash and wondered if you would chat with me?”
She smiled, said yes, and backed away – social distancing, you know.
She said her name was Sue Barker. She lives in Freeport and was here visiting with Jean Barker, her mother, who lives in the St. Andrews Village complex.
She said she usually walked around Freeport and started picking up returnables. That led to her current practice. Now she picks up anything that doesn't grow. When she comes to Boothbay, she does the same thing.
“Did you find anything interesting today,” I asked.
She rooted around in one of the bags, carefully pulling out beer cans, cardboard packaging and a bottle or two.
“I thought this was unusual," she said, yanking on a three-foot-long string attached to a small galvanized tub. “When I am in Freeport, I sometimes find tools that, I guess, fall off pick up trucks.”
She told me she worked for a social service program called Strive U, which helps disabled young adults learn some of the life skills they need to live on their own. “It's a great program,” she said.
We chatted a few more moments. Then the walking lady picked up the bulging bags and headed up Route 27 towards Emery Lane.
I got back in my little blue car and headed home, where I was greeted with a cup of hot coffee and a sweet roll that my bride had just warmed up in the oven. She is good like that, you know.
As I scrolled through the news feed, my mood quickly changed from upbeat to down in the dumps. It was sort of like the air had been let out of my balloon. Our president was in the middle of a flap, this time over a magazine article that criticized him for making disparaging remarks about veterans, the military, military cemeteries and the U.S. Marines. He, of course, said it was fake news and denied ever making these nasty remarks.
Then, I read stories about the West Coast's pro and anti protests that have now taken four lives.
Last night, as we watched “Jeopardy,” we were treated to a gaggle of nasty commercials for and against Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who had been feted at the country club Thursday evening, and Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
As the pollsters predict there is a chance the Democrats could win control of the U.S. Senate, the big money boys and fat cats are bankrolling nasty commercials for and against both Collins and Gideon. If you believed the commercials, Sen. Collins is responsible for the demise of the Republic; and Gideon is a cheat, liar and worse.
The commercials accused both women of doing everything except baking a blueberry pie and garnishing it with ketchup.
Then, I thought of the walking lady.
This lady from away was just visiting her mother. She decided to take an early morning walk, picking up our trash along the way. Nobody asked her to do it. She did it because she thought it was the right thing to do. Me too.
For that good deed, she deserves our thanks.
For distracting our attention from the anger and angst of the daily news, she deserves a major league round of applause.
Thanks, Ms. Barker.
Stay well. Stay safe.