Maine and Florida are connected by a 1,920-mile asphalt umbilical cord called Interstate 95. The 14 in-between states (counting the District of Columbia) exist merely to pass through as quickly as possible (with stops at overpriced gas stations, Cracker Barrel and Pedro’s South of the Border) on the two-day drive. But the northernmost Pine Tree State and the southernmost Sunshine State have a deep psychic connection that transcends interstate transportation.

It’s easy to think it’s all about weather and the seasons. We know about spring vacation and snowbirds, college kids and retirees. But the connection runs deeper and spans generations. There’s something in the blood or the brain that pulls us back and forth, back and forth, like migrating birds. Perhaps the two-state attraction is woven into the fabric of our universe.

To borrow an analogy from physics, if Maine is matter, then Florida is antimatter. Maine has long, miserable winters; Florida, hot, unbearable summers. Maine has too few people; Florida, too many. Maine has mountains; Florida is flat. Maine’s principal ethnic group speaks French; Florida’s, Spanish. If the two states were to physically touch, they’d annihilate one another.

One the positive side, Maine has great physical beauty, delightful summers and spectacular fall foliage. Florida has miles and miles of gorgeous beaches, warm ocean water, a real spring and cool places to visit, like the Keys, South Beach and the Orlando-area attractions.

There is one major similarity between these two wildly different states: old people. Both states have a lot of them. Florida attracts them with the lure of sun-drenched retirement living replete with endless golf courses and no state income tax. It’s a matter of addition. In Maine, young people desert the state for better weather and jobs, leaving the senior citizens behind. A matter of subtraction.

I’ve seen this powerful connection manifest in my own family. My wife is a Floridian, raised in Coral Gables, a tony Mediterranean-style suburb south of Miami and one of the first planned cities in the U.S., hawked by William Jennings Bryan.

Her father, a Boston lawyer turned University of Miami professor, acquired the family summer cottage in Kennebunkport. She spent all her early summers in Maine, exploring Turbat’s Creek. Back at school, she’d daydream about the sound her feet made walking on the beach stones. After college, her mother gave her the old Maine house she and I live in today.

My two sons, born in New England, also grew up and stayed in Florida – the central part, near Disney World and horse country. The land of palmettos, scrub pine, live oak and Spanish moss.

They, too, feel pulled north and south. Their real lives are in Florida, but their fantasy lives are in Maine. We all travel back and forth as often as we can. A yo-yo family existence.

As retirement nears, I think about how I might leverage this best-of-both-worlds situation. But now, as a harsh Maine winter recedes, I merely dream of Florida sun and sand and sanctuary.

 

— Special to the Telegram