Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tranquility Grange

I don't think I've ever been inside a grange before last night. There are still nearly 200 in Maine, and we've seen a number from the outside (including one just down the road in Owls Head), but being from away, we never felt bold enough to attend a meeting of the garden club or a public supper or a monthly meeting of The Grange itself. I suppose there might have been some unremembered occasion in the few years of my youth that Minnesota consumed, but that's very doubtful; Dutch Calvinists had their own places to meet, usually the church or the school, and a grange would have smacked vaguely of unions or other somewhat godless organizations. One couldn't imagine belonging to a group that wasn't religious.

Last night's annual membership meeting of Coastal Mountains Land Trust was held at Tranquility Grange in Lincolnville. I would have attended just for the name. Tranquility Grange conjures up a rural past when community was more meaningful, both more intense and more prosaic. The National Grange originated in 1867 as an agricultural organization and "the Patrons of Husbandry" is still part of its official name. I imagine that it served the political and social needs of secular farmers unattached to any church, and I can only guess at the stalwart Mainers who founded their grange with the word "tranquility."

The building is plain, graced with high ceilings and a simple stage and folding chairs and a couple of old-fashioned cloak rooms, the kind of place where, once industrial America started to broadcast its riches, young people couldn't wait to leave. Still, the allure of a ready-made community, sans special interests, sans holier-than-thou is most appealing, especially in the age of the Internet and the suicide bomber. Perhaps it's more attractive to people from away, from the city.

Ironically, this particular person from away found the tightest community of his life on a dead-end street in a suburb of Boston. To re-create that amid the glories of Maine would be heaven. Perfect tranquility is a goal worth praying for.

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