Posted by: stacylynn12 | November 1, 2011

My Primal Landscape

It’s snowing here at JFK. The plane that is supposed to be here to take us to the warm, tropical Dominican Republic is currently grounded in Connecticut. A historic October nor’easter appears to be shutting down the eastern seaboard.

I’m cracking jokes about this mess cutting into my late afternoon poolside cocktail hour. Randy is staking out a row of seats in a quiet corner of the airport for us to spend the night…. only partially in jest.

I’d rather we were landing in the DR right now as we would be if mother nature were cooperating…but we’ll be here until she says so. Interestingly, it’s all familiar; all part of my Primal Landscape.

I came across this term when doing some research on “Sense of Place” for my last post. It refers to the special connection between children and the environments in which they mature and the importance of childhood experiences. (1)

These childhood landscapes form part of people’s identity and constitute a key point of comparison for considering subsequent places later in life. As people move around as adults, they tend to consider new places in relation to this baseline landscape experienced during childhood. (2)

My Primal Landscape is New England. Maine to be exact. Winter weather, snow storms and east coast travel woes are all familiar to me. Though as a child I hardly had to deal with their wrath and instead enjoyed winter’s playful offerings.

Coming to New England was like coming home. I knew it immediately. As we drove through the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire I was surrounded by a comforting familiarity…like the feeling you get when wrapping a warm blanket around yourself on a chilly winter day and snuggling in front of a crackling fire.

Coming into one’s Primal Landscape, there is an subtle exhale that occurs; a settling in of sorts. As the freeways gave way to the two lane blacktop roads that wind their way through the countryside connecting small towns to even smaller towns, I felt at ease. The brilliant fall colors in Vermont were a welcome home sign waving in the breeze.

Fall colors in Vermont

My Primal Landscape is… Majestic whitewashed church steeples beckoning visitors in every town. Turn of the century homes with wrap around porches adorned with welcoming adirondack rockers. Decrepit old cemeteries where headstones covered with moss are falling over and a white picket fence keeps the ghosts contained. Loons singing their haunting melodies to the night. Hiking steeply up mountains where rocky outcroppings dominate the terrain above tree line and hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding hills. Grand old barns in need of a paint job.

Classic New England Barn

I grew up on Fire Road 29 on China Lake in Maine. It was a gravel road back then and I remember how the potholes would fill with water during a downpour and I’d delight in stomping through them just like my kids do now. During the summer I whiled away the days swimming, frolicking on giant inner tubes with friends. After dark we’d catch fireflies and revel in their magic. We would have stayed out all night I think, if our parents would have allowed it but inevitably I’d hear my father’s voice echoing through the night… “Staaaaaacccyyyyy”… and I’d have to go home. I’d run through the dark like Godzilla was chasing me until I stumbled down our driveway to the safety of the porch light. When I got older and my parents granted me the privilege of driving the speed boat, my friends and I would head down to The Landing at the end of the lake where we’d fill up on all the ice cream would could buy. We’d return home to waterski in the late afternoon calm and to climb the old oak tree – the secret realm of kids.

“My” oak tree

One memory triggers another and I’m taken back to Popham Beach where my family would spend a week or two every summer. We’d rent a camp (as they are called in Maine) at Kenebec Cottages and load up the trailer with all manner of stuff…bikes, beach umbrellas, pails and shovels, the dog and more. The image of those brown cabins painted with red trim is vivid in my mind. Every night we’d make the trek along the beach to Percy’s General Store where we’d get rainbow sherbet ice cream. The walk back was harder and we’d distract ourselves looking for sand dollars.

When I was very little, before we moved to the lake, we’d go for walks in our “back woods”. We’d bring bread to feed the birds and pick tea berry leaves to chew. I had forgotten all about tea berry leaves until recently on this trip. We were walking in the woods at Smalls Falls after a trip to my cousin’s new ski cabin near Saddleback Mountain. All of a sudden I thought of those aromatic, tasty leaves and asked if they still grew in the area. As if on cue, my cousin reached down and picked a tea berry leaf. I tore it open and smelled the sweet, unique aroma. As I chewed it tasted just as I had remembered. A taste of Maine.

Tastes are a big part of ones Primal Landscape. All of my foodie tendencies go out the window in Maine. I like to have a hamburg pizza for starters. In Maine, it’s hamburg not hamburger and yes, we do put it on pizza. This must come from the corner store at the head of the lake. This kind of store is to Maine what Starbucks is to Seattle. There’s one on every corner. It’s more about the store than the food inside really. Don’t ask me to explain. It’s something about how the screen door thuds shut as you enter or exit and other ethereal qualities that defy description.

I also like to have an Italian sandwich. In other parts of the country this would be called a grinder or a sub. It’s the same, but different. In all it’s white bread glory it’s something I usually wouldn’t indulge in but in Maine, it’s oh so good.

I love the dairy bars or ice cream shops with walk up windows that in the summer months are just as ubiquitous as the corner stores. I love the whoopie pies, giant flying saucer like desserts that are decidedly and deliciously Maine-ish.

Driving through New Hampshire we were all getting hungry. Just as things were starting to get desperate… think cranky kids and an even crankier Mama… We drove past Polly’s Pancake Parlor. We almost passed it up but decided to try our chances. Here a native Mainer turned foodie meshed into a culinary bliss. As it turns out, Polly makes her pancakes and waffles from scratch. You have your choice of whole wheat, buckwheat/oatmeal, traditional or (earning Polly perhaps the top food spot of the trip so far) gluten free. Bodhi cannot eat wheat so to find gluten free pancakes and homemade ones at that is quite exciting. They serve you six small pancakes in two sets so they don’t get cold halfway through the meal. You also get a tray with real butter, maple syrup, maple butter and maple sugar tapped from trees on the nearby farm and fresh homemade jam. Exquisite. The screen door even slammed shut.

Polly’s Pancake Parlor

It was good to have a literal and figurative taste of home before diving into the unfamiliar and sometimes disquieting world of international travel. Here are a few more photos of our time in Maine.

Apple picking at Lemieux’s Orchard

Mmmm…tasty goodness!

Preparing Grammies’s garden for winter

Nothing but fun on a trip to Pumpkin Land

Grammie, Pepere, Bodhi, Josh and Stacy

Jack-o-lanterns carved with Pepere

Foggy lake in Vermont

Joshy loses something in Maine

Maine Farmhouse

No trip to Maine is complete without a visit to LL Bean

A foggy day hiking on Mt. Battie in the Camden Hills

Veggies at a market in Rangeley

Note: At the time of posting, we are on day 4 in the Dominican Republic. We arrived tired but happy, 5 hours after our originally scheduled time.


1) Measham TG (2006) Learning about environments: The significance of primal landscapes, Environmental Management 38(3), pp. 426–434
2) Measham, TG (2007) Primal Landscapes: insights for education from empirical research on ways of learning about environments, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 16 (4) pp. 339–350



  1. Aaaahhh….splendid. Am loving these armchair travels with all of you!
    Huge hugs from Seattle,

  2. Really enjoyed this blog – everything so familiar. I liked Josh’s yellow slicker the way it was buttoned. Polly’s Pancake Parlor sounds yummy and inviting. Wishing you well on this leg of your journey.

  3. You have made me excited to return to New England. Thank you. Do miss those business trips to LL Bean. Nice folks there. Seattle was beautiful last week but damp. At one point Pat and I were wearing every piece of outerwear we brought with us. Our first autumn in Florida has been wonderful but we miss the Massachusetts seasons … a bit. Tough to walk on the beach knowing our friends “up home” are struggling through the Halloween Nor’easter. Nothing quite like those northeast general stores. “Everything from soup to nuts”, as the locals say. I’ll be picking up my NH hunting license at the Meriden general store in a couple of weeks. Then walk over to Garfield’s smoke house for a supply of cob smoked bacon and cheese. Oh, and locally made maple syrup. Yum. Hope you are enjoying the DR. Looking forward to the next post.

  4. Stacy, Stacy, Stacy… what a FANTASTIC post. Thank you for sharing this adventure with us and for a great reminder of home. I know you are drinking it all in and I’m so grateful you’re willing to share some sips with us!

    I have a friend in the DR who has a guest house. Please look her up– a fellow redhead named Catherine DeLaura– we went to business school together. Her e-mail addresses are:
    She is also the Exec Director of a nonprofit called The Dream Project. Her guest house is called Casa Dorado Bed & Breakfast. It’s in Las Galeras, Samana.
    We’ll stay tuned….

  5. I love the primal landscapes piece. Girl you have skills!!! (have you seen Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It’s a fav of mine!). I would enjoy reading more about your musings on the Primal Landscape…
    Let’s skype soon. I love the creativity that is flowing from you right now. Must be the tropics! I think I need to get some…

  6. PS I like Randy’s hair! I think he looks very dignified.

  7. Stacy, I think you have found your calling with this whole blogging thing. I’m serious! Your writing is absolutely beautiful to read: thought-provoking, laugh-inducing, peace-inspiring. I love your posts. I agree with Tracy that creativity just seems to be flowing from your heart and mind these days. Lucky Bodhi and Josh, who get to do their schooling with such a teacher!
    Love, Kelly
    p.s. I also like Randy’s hair, though based on previous experience with him in the tropics, I admit I expect it to disappear soon. (o:

  8. Stacy and Randy, sorry we didn’t get to see more of you and the boys but enjoyed seeing you at the football game (another great memory, Friday night lights!) We are in Florida now, looking forward to having your parents here in Jan. Keep up the wonderful blogs.
    Safe travels, love, Aunt Phyllis & Uncle Larry

  9. I also really liked this post and agree with Tracy that you have wonderful talent here!. Love the story about polly’s pancake parlor 😉 I can’t wait to hear about the next chapter in the Dominican Republic!
    Ok – I have to admit, I understand your IPad obsession fully now 😉 having just gotten one myself!
    Miss you all! Xo G

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