For many years in my youth I lived in the St. John River Valley, a place visited by The New York Times in an interesting piece that ran this weekend. In the Valley, the U.S. and Canada are one land, bound together by a shared heritage and linked by two common languages. It is a place both divided and stitched together by a river border that was always psychologically invisible to me, never part of my consciousness.
By virtue of its isolation, the region has managed to preserve much of its Acadian heritage and its French language and culture. This is the land where, 150 years ago, my great-great-great-great grandfather triggered the Aroostook War (my best claim to fame!), the border dispute that created the current boundary between the U.S. and Canada. The place is just about the least exciting of anywhere, but it is rather attractive in summer (or so I hear, since we’d always escape to the Maine coast as soon as summer hit). Still, the best fried rice anywhere can be found at Bel-Air, my high school haunt in Edmundston, N.B. I yearn for it all the time.