I always thought that my home was my castle, but recent events have shaken my belief.

Maine has one of the higher rates of home ownership in the country, and also has the top percentage of seasonal homes. We are happy in our little castles. I am no different.

The year was 1995. I had moved back to the Maine of my childhood. It was time for me to settle. Living in cities is just fine when you are starting your career, seeing the world and going from place to place. But I wanted to put down roots, know my neighbors and become part of a community. My goals were to find a place that had privacy, greenspace, stillness, enough room for (perhaps) a small family, affordability, comfort and no major maintenance headaches. I took my time.

The Realtors kept trying to convince me that I “could afford more,” and in return I kept telling them how much I wanted to spend. My goal was a house I could pay off in less than 15 years. I was patient and eventually found the perfect little place in a quiet wooded area of Gray not far from Little Sebago Lake near the Raymond town line. I was as happy as a Casco Bay bivalve.

Fast forward to 2016. The intervening decades have seen my joy multiplied by every little improvement, replacement, enhancement, decoration, addition, demolition, raising, flattening, straightening, strengthening, overhaul, filling, drilling and touch-up. It is still just a modest little house, but there is “me” all over it. I’m not the only person who has done this. Perhaps you have, too.

A home brings happiness and safety. Indeed, the “castle” idea is quite old, and stems from late 16th century England. But that’s not my story today.

What recently disturbed me so much was an unexpected, and rather scary, letter from Central Maine Power. Now I have experienced the emotional turmoil that is aroused by reading the phrase “eminent domain.”

CMP is building a power line, to be completed by 2020, and my property is on one of the proposed routes.

CMP is a business that, from one perspective, works for the greater good of Mainers. From another perspective, it is a small part of a multinational energy firm, Iberdrola, headquartered in Spain and majority-owned by a Qatar wealth fund. It’s easy to feel small in such a situation.

So I did what any rational grownup would do under these circumstances. I panicked.

No, actually, those of you who know me understand that I generally make an effort to stay calm, almost phlegmatic. But let’s say that I became tense.

The right thing to do when facing difficulties is first to gather facts. Upon research, and communication with CMP, it became clear that this is a modest-sized single-pole line that requires 100 feet of cleared right of way. The primary route is across six miles of mostly unoccupied land, along the Gray-Raymond town line from Little Sebago to Webbs Mills Road. Affected landowners have been notified by now. Recently, CMP has been investigating alternate routes around wetlands, and so it became interested in my property. CMP is asking, politely, to send surveyors to count salamander eggs during the vernal pool season. I probably should have pointed out that due to our unusually warm winter, there was very little runoff, leading to a drier spring than normal.

It turns out that only a small piece of my property is of interest to them. I also feel protected by local zoning laws, which CMP is supposed to follow. First, there are minimum lot sizes, which would require CMP to find a neighbor to trade some land to me for compensation. Secondly, the piece of land in question is zoned as Resource Protection, which prohibits further development. My neighbors, however, are right smack in the way.

The result of my research was to alleviate my own apprehension and to begin to sympathize with my neighbors.

As is typical for me, I then started thinking about the more general question of life’s uncertainties.

I am at the point in my life where I have pretty much gotten used to things the way they are. Yes, novelty is still a pleasure. And, as an engineer, I naturally look for ways to improve the world around me. Yet I am also happy to sit in a comfortable chair and read quietly for hours.

The truth is that, aside from death, nothing seems certain. A measure of one’s maturity is the ability to accept uncertainty without fear.

There are many ways to cope with uncertainty. Many people, including myself, turn to our faith to bring peace.

An additional approach, which also works for me, is to focus our concern only on that which we can control. For example, I don’t worry much about a house fire, but there are certain actions I can take that are under my control. I can keep my heating system serviced. I can place a few fire extinguishers around. I can make sure my insurance is up to date. I can have working smoke detectors and even an alarm system. But I am not going to lose sleep worrying about it.

Indeed, there are healthy alternatives to anxiety. Have a positive mindset. Buy some flowers, and smell them. Kiss someone. Embrace newness.

Relax. Enjoy the spark that accompanies change.

Mark D. Grover is a resident of Gray. Your comments may be sent to  [email protected]


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