Today, the weather is perfect in San Francisco. The air is cool, the sun is out, and yesterday’s rain seemed to wash away the city grime.
It’s strange to be back in my home state, and yet so clearly recognize that I’m not from here anymore. Even our Uber driver, originally from Sudan, recognized that I was from away immediately. Is it my clothes? My disheveled hair? The way I talk? People used to take one look at me, and know that I was a Californian. Have I really changed that much?
I wish I knew. But it made me realize that this feeling of not having a place of origin is familiar. I’ve been feeling like that for the better part of 8 months.
Last January, after returning from the Good Food Awards in San Francisco, we began construction on our new 4200 square foot production facility in Westbrook. Until the project was done in June, Steve stayed with friends in Freeport, while I continued to run production on Isle au Haut. On June 13th, with the help of over a hundred friends and supporters from near and far, we opened the new facility by way of a big-ass party. And then, the next day, we got back to work.
Our year could easily be charted as a steep learning curve. The kind that starts at ground zero and goes straight up, and doesn’t stop. I suppose it doesn’t take a psychic to predict that running a business in the south part of the state is going to be very different than running a business on an un-bridged island 7 miles out to sea. Of course, we were counting on that. Easier shipping, better access to resources, the luxury of not having to get up a 4 am to dig ourselves out of the house and to the kitchen after an overnight blizzard.
But what I didn’t anticipate was the hard part: Navigating production in such a different space (keep in mind, that everything—production, shipping, packing, and my office—was crammed into little more than 500 square feet on the island). Hiring from a larger and unknown labor pool (let’s face it: on an island of 40 residents, we knew who not to hire). The lovely distractions of being in the city. All of the sudden, and without anticipating it, I had a life outside of work. And so did everyone else. Healthy? YES! Convenient? No.
Steve and I rented a tiny basement apartment on Munjoy Hill, and we moved in on June 3rd. I spent the summer and fall going back and forth weekly between Portland and Isle au Haut. The schedule was a little grueling, but every Friday evening, as the mailboat steamed west down the thoroughfare—and the town dock, and then the lighthouse, came into sight—I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home.
But not really. While it was great to sleep in my own bed, and walk in familiar woods, and visit with my neighbors and friends, it was very clear that it was just a visit.
Well, it was clear to everyone else, anyway. That particular revelation didn’t actually hit me until sometime in the beginning of November. We were on our way home from work, after a particularly exhausting and stressful day, and I looked at Steve and said, “I just realized, just now, that I’ve moved.” And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a piano dropped from the third story. I looked around at Portland, and realized it was my new home. Not just the cool town that I was visiting every week. But the place I lived. And it felt suddenly cold and unfamiliar and scary.
We’ve cut our teeth on the company’s busiest holiday season to date in our new space, and with a healthy increase in sales, and an enthusiastic and motivated team in place, 2016 looks bright. It’s a new year. And while I haven’t made any formal resolutions, I am looking forward to embracing my surroundings—whatever, and wherever, they are. Is Portland really my new home? I don’t know. What I do know, is that I want to make space for it next to the part of my heart where Isle au Haut lives. Like any natural gypsy, that part of my heart—the home part—is big. And I’m realizing that we don’t go home; we welcome home in.
Change is never easy, but most of the time—well, nearly all of the time—it’s good. And even in my new surroundings, I can recognize one thing that hasn’t changed: I still love my job. I love making chocolate. I love being a boss. I love being a small business owner. And I love doing it in Maine. And, if I have to be really honest, all this change has me falling in love with these things all over again.