At the beginning of each summer, right about the time when the midday sun is highest and the days start getting shorter, I start thinking about Maine’s famously long, still, frigid, weary, dead winters again. They’re so evil they read like the opening line of a Faulkner novel.

Late June stirs the worst kind of deep-seated feelings in me, a kind of seasonal affective disorder that urges me to make hay while the sun still shines.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

At this point in the calendar, I’ve usually frittered away the first two warmish months of May and June and am realizing I should carpe diem the remaining warmth. It’s a kind of last act of desperation before the second act has even started. The longer I’ve lived in Maine – 20 summers now – the more desperate I’ve become in late June.

Yes, there are news events to follow and daily toil to be performed, but summer is here and life is fleeting. And, right now, it’s still not too late.

It’s a metaphor for life, of course. The summer of life – adulthood – will soon be gone so use your peak of energy, dexterity and acumen to fully enjoy it. The present will soon be past and your future, if it comes at all, will be bleak as winter. So enjoy what you have before the cold weather kills it and snow, like the dirt we return to, covers it up.

This Maine summertime, we can’t forget, is occurring during a pandemic and lockdowns, making it all the more difficult to enjoy the summer of our lives.

While we can’t as easily travel to foreign countries, we can visit the roads less traveled in our own state. And we still have access to most everything that Maine has to offer. (Just don’t forget the mask and be prepared to dine at a table with a gutter-side view.)

The good thing about traveling within the confines of Maine is that you can hobnob with famous names without crossing an international border, thanks to the people who named many of our towns.

You may have had plans to visit famous foreign capitals this summer and thought you were out of luck but – surprise, surprise – you can have Paris without ever leaving the state.

Just drive down the road apiece to the town of Paris in Oxford County. There’s no Louvre or Eiffel Tower or Champs-Elysees, but there’s a race track and a New Balance outlet and a beautiful outdoor scene at McLaughlin Garden & Homestead.

Or try any of the other towns named after foreign countries and capitals. Many of these towns – such as Norway, New Sweden, Peru, Mexico, Moscow, to name a few – were so titled because their founders hailed from these regions of the world or they were incorporated when those places were in the news and settlers wanted to show solidarity.

You probably can’t visit the original Athens in Greece, Lisbon in Portugal or Bath in England this summer but you can explore their eponymous Maine kin. Take a photo of the family next to the town limits sign. Visit the local shops and eateries. Walk their streets and trails. Venture beyond the cliché Maine beaches and shopping districts and instead visit the intriguing hamlets named for foreign locales.

Hey, it’s not as grand as visiting the real deal but it’ll have to suffice. Plus, your visit to these far-afield Maine places helps the local economy, saves you money and helps you further appreciate your own state.

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