An alternate universe emerges in Rangeley once the summer throngs disappear and school is back in session. The entire region is reclaimed by local laborers and retirees. They can be seen coming and going at the local library and post office, smiling knowingly to one another, and driving leisurely along Main Street. There’s a collective sigh from the tourist-related businesses signifying, “We survived another onslaught.” A deep cleansing and tinkering takes place inside and outside, much like when the fleet returns to port after a long time at sea.

There are summer stragglers, those seeking to enjoy the final whiff of summer at a lower price and minus the masses. The weather is still agreeable in this alternate universe. With the kids cooped up in school there’s a definite shift in the median age on the street. Meetings are being held by volunteer-supported organizations, where they reflect on the preceding summer months and prepare for the next high season. The work never ends in a tourist-dependent area.

It is quieter in this alternate universe. The beach is empty and the playful laughter of children is decidedly missed. The seagulls circle in search of abandoned scraps of human food. The lake’s ripples come mostly from the light wind rather than light water craft. There’s a repairing going on in this universe, a returning to a state of grace, if even but for a moment. Smiles still cover the faces here and people stop and share personal war stories about visiting relatives. The sun still shines and the rain still falls in this alternate universe. There is a slower pace in the pedestrians’ gait. Most have nowhere in particular that they have to be. In the moment is where you live in this universe, and with whomever you’re with is whom you have always been meant to be with.

There’s a section of the population you’re unfamiliar with because they mostly lay low out in the woods. That’s the way they like it. And there are plenty of new residents that washed up on the shores of this alternate universe when Covid was cresting. They’re the summer visitors that decided not to leave thinking summer would never end, and then it did, just as The Pine Tree Frosty served its final Moose Tracks ice cream cone. It’s at that precise moment when one universe flips and gives way to the alternate, when docks and boats are put away, when seasonal garb is switched and summer menus give way to more hearty meals, when summer homes are shut and prepped for the stabbing icy knives of winter.

And then there’s bird and deer and moose hunting seasons, and snowmobile and ski season, then mud season, and, eventually, the first ice cream cone will be served at Frosty again, flipping the switch and returning us to the summer universe we love so much here in Vacationland.


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