The lady’s name is Lisa, and if you could scoot back a year you would find her greeting spring from the comfort of her hammock hanging beneath a weeping willow in the backyard.

You would find her feeding the birds while the flickering light of fireflies dotted the dusk and cows bellowed in a nearby pasture.

“My daughter and I would go in our backyard and feed ducks that would always come to visit a stream under the weeping willow tree,” Lisa said. “They were friendly and would come over to our porch – just open up the back door and they would come running over.”

Occasionally, moose would wander by. Or deer or a family of foxes. When darkness came along, night creatures would sing their twilight songs, adding their voices to the country chorus.

“At night we would go in our backyard and throw small pebbles or sticks up in the sky and watch the bats come swooping down to check out what it was,” Lisa said. “The lightning bugs would light up the yard all over. It was so beautiful to sit on our porch and watch them while listening to the many crickets and tree frogs all around.”

Almost every night, Lisa and her family would have a fire in the backyard pit. Neighbors would wander over for drinks around the fire, and in the warm glow of the crackling flames, they’d talk over the news of the day or just sit in the comfortable country quiet.


It was an idyllic way of life back in the woods of Berwick, and Lisa, 43, describes it with a kind of super-sharp memory reserved for those who harbor nostalgia for a time or place so intense it is almost painful.

When she recalls the day her ex-husband had to stop mowing the lawn to allow half a dozen turkeys to cross the yard, she recollects it with that same hyperfocused clarity. It’s the same when she talks about the porcupine who used to occupy her willow tree and when she remembers the strangely soothing thumpa-thumpa-thumpa sound of woodpeckers drilling their holes on hot afternoons.

Lisa’s memories of that time are ablaze with bright summer sunlight in which butterflies and hummingbirds forever dot the bright blue sky.

But that was then and this is now. For Lisa, circumstances changed and her quiet country life was something she could not hang on to. Where before there had been the reliable peace of hammocks and lightning bugs, suddenly there was upheaval and uncertainty about where she would end up.

As it happened, her next stop was downtown Lewiston and, brother, I mean Lisa landed smack dab in the middle of it. By the time her bags were unpacked and her faithful dog Lucy was taken out of her carrier, Lisa found herself in a place that was so vastly different than the bucolic splendor of Berwick, she might as well have been on another planet.

“I wasn’t happy at all,” she said. “I didn’t want to move to a city and definitely not Lewiston.”


Lisa had done her research, you see, and what she found was a lot of talk about rampant crime, drug use and violence, much of it centered on Kennedy Park, which is right outside her door.

Which is where I come in, in case you were wondering.

Instead of cowering behind unpacked boxes in her living room, Lisa took a different approach to dealing with her louder, more chaotic surroundings. She began taking notes on the various things that she’d see, hear or even smell without ever stepping foot in her dooryard.

Her introduction to downtown Lewiston was predictable.

“I was here maybe a week and a guy walks by and asks me if I know where the working girls are,” Lisa recalled. “I told my neighbor and he said the guy was asking where the hookers are and seeing if you — as in me — was a hooker.”

Lisa declined that job offer, but she did continue to monitor her surroundings and to report back with her findings. For me it was a bonanza — emails rolling in all day long with drama that sometimes starts right in the subject line.


“A guy with a machete on Pine Street,” begins one of the very first emails I got from my new friend.

“Just watched a guy threaten another guy with a machete,” she wrote. “The cops tased the guy — he wouldn’t drop it.”

A short time after that, she witnessed downtown Lewiston’s version of winter athletics when she spotted one man chasing another through the streets.

“He had a long weapon in his hand,” she wrote. “He was chasing this guy up the small snow banks and through the snow yelling, ‘you gonna bitch slap me like that, then come back over here!'”

A few days later and Lisa was reporting on some kind of domestic brouhaha as it happened a couple doors up from her own.

“Girl was outside screaming to come in,” she wrote. “No one let her in so she smashed two of the front windows. She’s back outside. Three police cars just pulled up now. No, four police cars. No, five!”


In Berwick, she’d sit in one spot and wait for nature to entertain her. In Lewiston, it’s much the same, although the nature of the wildlife has changed.

Where it might have been fireflies or a family foxes a year ago, now it’s just random oddities brought to you by the 24-hour entertainment channel that is downtown Lewiston.

“My neighbor and I were out on the porch about when we hear this loud noise from a car, like its dragging something,” Lisa wrote. “Sure enough it was! It had a traffic cone stuffed under the front bumper. My neighbor yells to him, ‘you are dragging a traffic cone under your bumper! The driver looks confused and gets out goes to front of his car and says, oh yeah. He tugs on it, gets it unstuck, sets it on the sidewalk and yells up thanks. My God, really? How do you not know you are dragging something? And why the hell didn’t he see this big orange cone with reflective tape on it?”

Who needs the sweet songs of crickets and birds when at all hours you’re serenaded by wailing sirens, honking horns, screeching brakes and screams of all varieties?

Those are obvious differences. She experiences subtler ones, as well.

“Not many squirrels,” she wrote of her new neighborhood. “And the one I’ve seen is actually street smart — it dodges cars so much better than the country squirrels. Living in the country, animals and people are more relaxed and are not in a rush as much as the city folk.”


In the country, if Lisa needed to cross a street, she’d simply wait until there were no cars going by – which was pretty much always, because come on. It’s the country.

“I’m not used to crosswalks,” she says, “where you have to push the button before you can cross the street.”

If her life in Berwick was “Green Acres,” downtown Lewiston has proven to be more of a round-the-clock marathon of “Cops,” with a few episodes of “Jerry Springer” thrown in as a bonus.

“I hear the daytime drama of people on their phones yelling about something,” Lisa said. “People walk by my window and the weird stuff you hear them say is crazy. Lots of angry people; mostly mad and yelling at their girlfriends over some issue they have.”

Not that it’s all misery. Lisa found a Chinese food restaurant downtown that she’s come to love and she doesn’t need to jump on a tractor to get there. Step outside, walk a couple blocks and bam! You’re knee deep in moo shu pork.

“I like the convenience of everything within walking distance,” she said. “That’s a plus to living in the city. You have convenience stores so close by, the town hall, hospital, post office and more. A lot of nice places to eat. Lots of choices. I’ve been here just about eight months and still finding new things out.”

She’s thinking about launching a blog to chronicle the goofy stuff she sees outside her window day after day. Add video capability to that plan and she might have a hit on her hands. After all, spring is just around the corner, and while spring might be a time for butterflies and hummingbirds back in the countryside, it’s the season of nakedness here in downtown Lewiston — it’ll still be “Jerry Springer” out there on Lisa’s block, only now with less clothing.

I think that’s something we can all look forward to.

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