On a recent visit to Belfast, Maine, I recognized the heart of a place that I had already decided that I loved. Belfast, once a rough coastal town due to its devastation by the loss of local manufacturing businesses, is now a beautifully restored town with antique architecture and a prospering historic downtown district. With the loss of its manufacturing businesses, artists and young people filled in the empty downtown district that centers around Main St., located directly in view of the blue ocean waters of Penobscot Bay. Although the new businesses do not exclusively promote an eco-friendly lifestyle, I consider the rejuvenation of buildings and available space to be one of the most environmentally conscious efforts possible.
Browsing the the local businesses and talking to their owners, I realized that each establishment was created from a passion. After a delicious lunch in quite possibly my favorite co-op of all time, the Bellfast Co-op, my friend and I began our stroll through the restored downtown district. In one of the first boutiques we stopped in, Beyond The Sea, we discovered a new skincare line that is 100 percent organic, starting with organic plants and soils from which the products are made. While testing the products and speaking with the owner about the line and her personal experience with it, my friend and the boutique owner came to a funny but appropriate conclusion that "you should be able to eat any product that you put on your skin."
Feeling rejuvenated by this new approach to skincare and beauty, we continued down Main St. and decided to check out Belfast's Africa Art Gallery. The gallery sells both local art as well as art made in Africa. The African art directly supports the financial status of its creators, mostly women and children who otherwise do not have any source of income. The owner of the gallery travels to Africa and buys the art herself, with the intention of establishing relationships with her contributing artists.
Leaving, we decided to end our day in Belfast at Three Tides, a bar opened by its owners, David and Sarah Carlson, in hopes of creating "a place we would want to go out to." On the menu are local beers and an eclectic list of appetizers.
Taking my last, long look at the beautiful, blue ocean, I decided that I understood why Belfast is such a special place; it is inhabited by people who are living their lives based on the principle of seeing and understanding the world the way they want it to be.
Photos: Natalie Deuschle