OLD TOWN, Maine — During the deepest part of last winter, a van pulled off the highway and followed the two-lane road that skims along the Penobscot River, coming to rest beside the hulk of a shuttered pulp mill. The van’s door slid open and passengers climbed out: seven Buddhist monks from China.
Andrew Edwards, a mill superintendent from the nearby town of Lincoln, led them to a room where he had stockpiled the things they had requested for the ceremony: oranges, limes, apples and seven shovels, one for each monk. Snow lay deep on the ground, two feet of gritty, frozen crust, and he remembers worrying a little about the visitors. “They were in their, I don’t know what they’re called, their Tibetan outfit,” he said. “With the sandals and whatnot.” He stepped back and watched as the monks wandered from the boiler houses to the limekiln to the pulp mill, chanting, burning candles and gently tapping a gong.