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[dropcap letter=”W”]hen my daughter was in her last year at a Peopleplace Cooperative Preschool, I took a photo of a chalkboard that showed what each kid wanted to be when he or she grew up. Next to their names and pictures, they wrote about being a vet, a soccer player, a party planner. My daughter said she wanted to be a teacher, just like her grandmother. This preschool is a wonderful place, with teachers who espouse play-based learning and a playground with a wooded corner and whimsical play structures. Sometimes, after a particularly grueling meeting or day, I would sit and watch her little friends play or draw or paint or dance, and the world felt lighter. Our family developed deep friendships with other preschool families that still give us great joy even now, after my daughter is in kindergarten. In short, we became invested.
That’s the thing when you establish roots — you put your time, your hopes, and your emotions into the place you call home. Whether it’s by walking a dog every morning or owning a small business, stopping in for coffee at the general store or fundraising for a local charity, you become invested in your community, and it shapes your life.
At Down East, we’re living proof. Our community is made up of locals and “from aways.” One of us was raised in Poland behind the Iron Curtain. Another is a die-hard Packers fan (better luck next season!). We’re from California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Massachusetts. We’re from Houlton, Palermo, Falmouth, Portland, Farmington, and Ellsworth. We have wanderlust for far-off places or more urban experiences from time to time, but we have in common a sense of belonging here in Maine.
This year’s “Best Places to Live in Maine” feature represents a collection of towns large and small, coastal and inland, well known and up-and-coming. This list is always controversial, and that’s a good thing: It means our readers are passionate about their favorite places and hometowns. It means they’re invested. The point is not to find the best place to live, but rather your best place to live. For me, that means someday seeing those same beaming faces from preschool graduating from high school, ready to follow their chalkboard dreams. – Kathleen Fleury
Once again this year, our editors seeded an online tournament bracket with 16 of our favorite towns. You took it from there. Read up on Maine’s loveliest and most welcoming cities, towns, and villages. (Can you guess #1?)
Few living artists rival the legacy of painter David Driskell — for six decades, a vibrant and vital force in contemporary art. And since his humble beginnings, Maine has been vital for him. By Charlotte Wilder