Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Different Year, Same Result.

The weather has finally turned on us. After ten days of perfect conditions, the past couple of days have been overcast, foggy, and filled with drizzle. It was bound to happen. Yesterday was a lazy day. Pam took Russ and Vi to the airport in Portland. While they were gone, I caught a beautiful bass off the end of my dock with a fancy lure that my buddy Alan had loaned me. 

I took a quick picture of it because if I hadn't, he would never have believed me. 

So, today will feature a leasurely trip into Camden for breakfast and some shopping. I need a new book to read. I've read three novels on this trip, only have one more left on my iPad, and need another to reach my goal of five books read on vacation. So, I will browse through a couple of the great bookshops in Camden until I find something that intrigues me. Then we will come back to the cabin to check on Lucy. If the weather is still cloudy and gross, we will spend the afternoon exploring the town of Belfast, around 15 minutes away. 

Last night, after dinner, my wife and I renewed our Rummikub competition from last year. Alert readers will recall the beatdown she laid on me on last year's Maine adventure. Well, so far this year, nothing has changed. A few nights ago, we played probably ten hands of Gin...she won seven. Last night, she won two out of the three games we played. It's the same thing every year...the woman is a cold blooded killer. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Come...Walk With Me.

I've taken a thousand photographs in Maine, probably a hundred or more of this place alone. It begs to have its picture taken. But, I'm so often disappointed in how they turn out, not because they are blurry or ill-centered, but rather because they never seem to capture the magic. 

Except for a special few, when you say, Ahh, that's it!

This is the one.

It doesn't matter where I took it. This shot doesn't need context. This photograph captures everything I love about Maine. It's an invitation. It stands before you like a great mystery. Where does it lead? How far? Is it dangerous or tranquil, treacherous or benign? It's impossible to tell. Still, it beckons you with the invitation...Come, walk with me.

But, I don't know where it will take me.

We will find out together. Come, walk with me.

I'm tired. This is not a good day for such an uncertain walk.

All of life is uncertain. Come, walk with me.

But, I've too much on my mind right now. My kids, I'm just too worried about my kids to enjoy a walk.

Come, walk with me and I'll show you the reason you wanted to have kids in the first place.

How can I take such a walk when I'm so worried about my job? I don't even know if I'll ever be able to retire.

If you will walk with me, you'll be better at your job.

You don't understand. Have you read a newspaper lately? Trump is in the White House. They're tearing down statues, and driving cars into crowds of young people!

There is no racial hatred where I will take you, and nobody here knows who the president is...come walk with me.

But, there might be ticks.

Hush...when did you get so fragile? Come, walk with me.

I want to, I really do...

There was once a time when you would have run down this path without even thinking. What happened to that guy?

I don't know. I grew up.

No, you grew inward. Come, walk with me and I will reintroduce you to the person you used to be.

How long will it take?

As long as you like. 

Come...walk with me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Apparently, There Was an Awards Show Last Night

One of the biggest advantages to staying at a lake house in Maine is the fact that you never watch television. Sure, there's one here and the satellite connection is quite good. I know this because, Saturday a week ago, I turned it on to watch part of a college football game. It hasn't been on since. In its place, I have read three novels. I already feel smarter.

So, I cannot offer an opinion on the EMMY's show last night, since I didn't watch. Apparently, it was a three hour Trash Trump Fest. The fact that anyone would be surprised is baffling to me. Who cares, people? It's Hollywood, and they have First Amendment rights too, so chill out!

Meanwhile, a much more important bit of news is the fact that we are finally supposed to get a cloudy day, all day. If so, it will be the first since we arrived eleven days ago. We are at the half way point of our vacation. Tomorrow, Russ and Vi fly back to Richmond. That means that today we will be heading to Hazel's for a lobster roll lunch. Then we might do some sightseeing along the coast. Only supposed to be in the 60's. Perfect weather for a sweater and some ocean scenery. If I stumble upon any permanent damage done by any of those Trump-trashing one liners from last night's EMMY broadcast, I'll take pictures!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cry, The Beloved Country...

A quiet day at the lake, foggy at dawn, then brilliant sun in the afternoon. I drove into Belfast to play a round of golf at a course I had picked out online. When I got there, there was a tournament being played which wasn't disclosed on their website. The guy in the Prop Shop acted like he didn't even know they had a website. But, he was kind enough to inform me that there was another course north of town that I could get on problem. He was right. I pulled up into the Searsport Pines Golf Club and my vehicle doubled the number of cars in the parking lot...not a good sign.

The good news...I walked 18 holes in a mere 2 hours and 3 minutes. The bad news...I shot an 88 on what was possibly the worst golf course I have ever set foot on. This place had fairways that owe cow pastures an apology. But, I walked 5.64 miles, got in some practice, and redeemed my trip by stopping at the Hannaford's in Belfast for a bag of marshmallows, and a bunch of other necessities Pam had added to a list she had sent via text. Tonight we are having a shrimp boil or some such thing which involves sausage, so I'm excited.

Tonight, thanks to my buddy Alan Smith, we will be having a campfire with freshly chopped Maine pine from Alan's personal woodpile. It comes with much hype, guaranteed to burn hot and make lots of crackling sounds. I still don't have a decent poker. The one that came with the cabin is an embarrassment, extremely short and dysfunctional for what it's alleged purpose is supposed to be. I will make do until Alan brings something more manly when they come back to visit next weekend.

I finished, the great Alan Paton classic, Cry, The Beloved Country the other day. When I was a sophomore at Uof R I took a survey of western literature class in which I was given the task of picking five novels to read out of a list of ten or so. Cry, was on the list and I didn't pick it as one of my five. I had been meaning to circle back and read it ever since. Now, 39 years later, I find it in the bookcase here at Loon Landing. Time flies...

So, this book was written in 1948 by a nobody reform school principle from South Africa. He had never been published and wrote the thing while traveling in Europe and the US touring other reform schools. Some American friends of his read it and promised to try to get it published, submitting it, unsolicited, to Scribner. That never works, right? Yeah, well, lucky for Scribner...the book was a sensation, the critics loved it, and it sold like hot cakes, allowing Mr. Paton to live well the rest of his life, and turn his full attention to writing and the brewing conflict in his country.

In many ways, the racial history of South Africa is the opposite of ours in that the Afrikaners and Europeans who ruled that land were in the small minority. The great indigenous tribes that far outnumbered these white settlers where kept in second class status during these pre-apartheid days and trouble was brewing when Paton began to write. Throw in several different languages, a thriving gold mining industry, duplicitous politicians, and racial violence and an exploding crime wave and you've got a volatile mess. But, Paton resists the temptation to write a political book, or even a book about revolution or even race. He writes about the human heart and its great capacity for both love and hatred, grace and vengeance. Most of all he writes about a country that he loves, despite the wickedness that is everywhere around him. His story doesn't absolve the white ruling class of their sins, he doesn't pull any punches on who the main villains are, but neither does he lay every South African pathology at their feet. There is a lot of blame to go around in his beautiful, beguiling homeland. He examines the hearts and motives of the labor unions and agitators within the black liberation movements, applauds them where they deserve it and cristicizing them when they don't. The famous line still resonates...I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating.

It was a beautiful read, full of evocative prose that made you at once hopeful and sad. I couldn't help but draw rough parallels to the race conflicts in my country. I only wish that someone would rise up to write something as rich and moving about how we should move forward. 

Great book. Worth the read and then some.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Week One Complete

Wide awake at 5:25 this morning. The lake is shrouded in a blanket of heavy fog. There is a heavy dew. Two loons drift by, less than 50 feet from the dock. My coffee is ready.

I'm told that by mid morning the fog will give way to brilliant sunshine and a high temperature of 78. I'm also told that by 11:00 the noise level of this slice of paradise will be elevated by the arrival of Bill and Nancy Crooker of Livermore Falls, Maine. Later, their daughter Lisa, and her husband, Alan, will pop in for a visit. These are friends of the family from Maine. Nancy is a hoot, and the only person I've ever met who can out-talk my mother-in-law! They have been friends since childhood.

I first met Bill and Nancy around a campfire at Dummer's probably thirty years ago. When I first heard Nancy speak I almost laughed out loud. She has the thickest Maine accent of all time. I've been relentlessly teasing her about it ever since. She'll say something and I'll ask, Wait...what the heck was that word?? She just looks at me and says, You hush!

Of greater importance today is the fact that we are now in Week Two of our vacation. How did that happen? Slow the heck down!

Highlights of Week One include:

- Seven consecutive meals taken outside on the deck

- Blueberry pancake breakfast at the Camden Deli

- Fried clams at Marriner's

- Taking Russ and Vi to the top of Mount Battie and to the ocean views at Camden Hills State Park

- Watching Lucy dive into the lake to fetch her frisbee

- Exploring this lake via kayak

- Watching Pam master the paddle board in about two minutes

- Getting a FaceTime call from Patrick and Sarah announcing their engagement 

- Finding a copy of and finally reading Cry, The Beloved Country (more on this later)

- Learning how to take a shower in a 3' x 3' shower stall

Friday, September 15, 2017

An Angry Aside

 Our beautiful lake house is exactly .6 of a mile from the closest state maintained road, route 131. The road that leads here from the state road services Loon Landing and five other lake houses on this corner of the lake. It is a lovely path wide enough for only one vehicle at a time. Since I've been here I have mapped out a three mile trail to run each morning which includes the .6 mile track I am describing. Each day I have done so, I have been increasingly annoyed by the sight of several discarded beer cans along the way. So, this morning, I decided to carry a trash bag with me to pick them up and dispose of them properly. Here are the results:

If I had been willing to walk more than ten feet into the Maine woods on my walk, I could have filled another bag. 

It is difficult to describe my feelings about this, it's somewhere between baffled and furious. The only people who would be driving on this tiny little path through the woods are one of the owners of these 5 properties, their guests, or renters like us. Question: under what circumstances would it enter one's mind to throw an empty can of beer out of a vehicle window when you are literally less than a minute from your house? What kind of human being does this sort of thing?  The people who would be using Brierley Road are people who have been blessed beyond all measure with one of the most beautiful places in America. This is the way they treat it? In Genesis when God gave man dominion over the Earth, I'm reasonably sure he didn't mean, Feel free to chuck your empty beer cans out of the window whenever you feel like it! 

My guess is that this outrage has not been committed by Maine people. They would know, for example, that empty drink bottles can be turned in for cash. No, I'm thinking that this is the work of people from away who are renting for a week. If so, shame on them. What the heck is wrong with people? 

The Magic of a Camp Fire

We finally got around to having a fire last night. This house comes with a portable, light weight fire pit which you see above. This particular fire pit was perfect for my teetotaler inlaws! I set it up around 30 feet from our little beach, and the lake sucked all of the smoke away from the house like a champ. 

In the 30 plus years I have been coming to Maine, these late night campfires have been a staple. In the old Dummer's Beach days, all of the White family, along with their guests and campground friends would gather around, sometimes as many as 15 in the circle. Every night it was the same conversation, and the same routine. There would be Russ, with his broomstick fire poker, complaining about what a lousy fire his son-in-law had made. There was Vi, getting all of us up to speed on every physical ailment that had afflicted anyone and everyone at Dummer's. Then the tall tales of years past would begin...the time Pam got the worst sun burn of her life because she spent the entire day flirting with a pack of boys out on the swim float...the one about the high pitch scream that my Mother had let loose the first time she tried to go in the water, heard all the way up in Weld, they said. When we were younger, whenever it was time for the kids to go to bed, they would go around the circle in their footie pajamas and give everyone hugs and kisses. Once they were down, the topics of conversation would get more serious, and even more salacious...Apparently Bob and Lois are going through a hard time right now due to Bob's drinking problem!!...wait, maybe it's Lois who has the drinking problem, either way, all is not well over on PT 7.

Eventually, the fire would die down, and everyone would draw closer in the circle. The talk would fall away and we would all listen to the sizzle and pop of the flames. Someone would say, It's probably time to go to bed. A moment of silence...then, What do yau'll want for breakfast? Someone would say, fried bread...then someone else would suggest, blueberry pancakes. Vi would eventually say, We can do that. Then, one by one, we would stand up, stretch, and go to bed, smelling of smoke, thoroughly relaxed without a care in the world. It was my favorite part of the day.

Last night was exactly the same as the Dummer's Beach days, only a smaller circle, and no fat man in a truck coming around and grunting, Now, you folks be sure to put that fire good and out before you retire! After I made sure the fire was out, I walked out onto the dock and looked up at the sky. It was splashed with a million stars. The only sound was the steady buzz of the crickets.

I slept like a baby...