Portrait of a New Englander: She-Wolf
Story and photos by Foxfire Buck
I am four years old, and I’m lying on a pile of old, damp life jackets. I’m half asleep, lulled by the smell of the salt and the rocking of the ocean beneath my mother’s wooden skiff – the She-Wolf, it’s called. Equipped with nothing more than an old Johnson 8 horsepower outboard motor and a set of questionable emergency oars, this boat is my second home. Every morning at four o’clock, my mom gently picks me up and carries me to the black beat-up Ford pickup that serves as our transportation to and from the shore, the grocery store, my dad’s house. She smells like herring. Her white boots and her orange Grundens bibs are her work uniform, and we are on our way to the office. Her office is the ocean, my daycare.
These formative mornings on the sea with my mother, a native Maine lobsterwoman, have shaped me in intangible ways. My mother, really, has shaped me. Strong, independent, well-educated…different. She named me Foxfire – an action indicative of her nonconformist tendencies, I would say. People would judge our alternative way of life – running barefoot through the small town of South Bristol, Maine, or playing in a secondhand pink dress on the turquoise painted, plywood, living room floor, content with nothing more than a live lobster as my baby doll. This life I come from, this rugged, Maine life, has never left me. When my mom moved from South Bristol to a small island off the coast of Portland – Cliff Island, the farthest out that Casco Bay Lines services – I left my childhood in that small house on the gut, on that insular peninsula in Maine, but found growth and expansion in a new island life.
I didn’t leave all that I had learned from those early stages of my childhood – my independent ideals, my unique upbringing, my strong mother, my resilience. There has been a gentle tug, pulling at me, ever since I left Maine. After six long years away from my home, I could no longer ignore what has turned from a tug in a gentle breeze into a full-blown Nor’easter. Roots are funny that way, always pulling you home.