Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Final week at camp

Here it is. Our final week at our camp on Little Sebago Lake for summer of 2011. It is bittersweet---the last boat ride, the last lobster dinner, the last walk on the dirt road with Oliver. It makes me sad.

I have put together a photo album of lake memories over the years. You can view it here

Farewell to summer. Soon, I hope to retire. Then summer will stretch on into October.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Recently my publisher decided to forego the publishing of print books for eBooks. It is cheaper I suppose, and technology enables readers to download reading material instantly. My last book was published as an eBook, in fact. All of my print books are now available as eBooks. It makes me a little sad to think that I will never be able to hold one of my books in my hands again.
Although I own a Kindle and an iPad on which I have downloaded many books, I do prefer to hold a paper book in my hands. I like the smell of the ink and the way the pages feel. I like the sound of those pages when I turn them. I like to organize them on my bookshelves at camp, and I like the way the colors of the covers brighten the room.
You can see my Little Sebago Lake camp bookshelf here.
When I am visiting others folks’ homes, I like to explore their bookshelves to see what they like to read. That’s why I was delighted to find a website called Breathing Books devoted to showcasing photographs of other readers’ bookshelves. Call me old fashioned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Uncle Henry's

When I am at the corner store near my camp on Little Sebago Lake in Maine, I often purchase a copy of Uncle Henry’s Weekly Swap it or Sell it Guide. It’s digest sized and costs two bucks. When I get back to my deck, I read it as I would a magazine. Uncle Henry’s lists 30-word private party ads at no cost from folks in my area who want to sell or buy stuff, or in some cases, give stuff away. The digests lists everything from appliances to yard sales. I
I’ve seen listings for everything and anything you’d want to buy or sell, including the kitchen sink (pg 45: “Kitchen sink. Dbl bowl American Standard white, Mohen telescope faucet, exc. Cond. $100”). Now why would anyone want to sell her kitchen sink?

I peruse “Uncle Henry’s” for the unusual. I guess I have too much time on my hands when I am at camp. This week’s oddity I found under Firearms, p. 159: “Moose hunt swap zones. Looking to swap my Zone 23 either bull or cow for the whole mo. of Nov. for your Zone 4. Week of Sept. 26. Let’s talk.” A phone number follows this. In Maine, there is a moose hunt lottery every year, so this listing makes some sense. Unless you’re a moose in Zone 4.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer guests

I get a little panicky when guests are coming. This week we we will have nine guests, all family, most of whom will be with us at camp for an extended stay. Oh, yes, and another dog too. I have so many lists, I can't find them all. I have written extensively about my guest preparations in this blog. One story was published in the Portland Press Herald and you can read that here.

My grandson Ben will celebrate his first birthday this week with us here at camp. I can't wait to get him in the water and on the boat (in the new life jacket I bought for him at L.L. Bean). He is walking now. So, another list: things to do to baby proof camp! Today my husband and I will run forty yards of netting around the perimeter of our deck, transforming it into a giant playpen. We will close off the steps with gates. We tried to remove all the splinters from the dock. I kid you not. We Velcroed the shaky book case to the wall and took the heavy tv off the top of the high chest of drawers. The glass knick knacks have been moved to high places, and we plugged up the unused electrical outlets. Welcome to Maine, baby Ben! And everyone else too, of course.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gardening project for camp, 2011

My friend Mary is a master gardener. Her yard makes my yard look pitiful. But every summer I try to beautify the sand pit that surrounds my camp on Little Sebago Lake. Here is this summer's beautification project, with instructions in case you want to do it yourself. I'll bet you do.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunsets on Little Sebago Lake

The deck of my camp faces west, and quite often, we enjoy beautiful sunsets as we relax there in the evening in our Adirondack chairs. The most beautiful sunsets are red, and I can never seem to capture them in photographs. Why is that?

I Googled “red sunsets” once. This is what I found out. Sunlight is made up of different colors of light, each with a different wavelength. At sunset, more red light is scattered to us because of something in the lower atmosphere. It’s a little too scientific to explain fully. My enjoyment of our sunsets might be diminished if I really understood why they are red, but I sure wish I could capture that essence in a photograph so I could enjoy Little Sebago Lake sunsets all year round, not just in the summer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Historic Home Visit

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I had “discovered” the Manning house in Casco, Maine, former boyhood home of Nathaniel Hawthorne (he spelled it Hathorne then) and his uncle and aunt, Richard and Susan Dingley Manning. The house was for sale, I reported. Since then, I have toured the house with its owner, Patricia MacVane. She and her husband have lived in the house for 50 years, and most of it is lovingly preserved as it was when the Mannings lived there. It’s a beauty. You can take a virtual tour of the house at this link. Richard Manning eventually built another home across the street for Nathaniel, his widowed mother and Nathaniel’s two sisters. It’s still there also, but no one lives in it.

Two years ago, I did a lot of research on the Mannings and Hawthornes for a book I was writing that included Nat’s boyhood diary (No Ordinary Lives: Four 19th Century Teenage Diaries. Boston: Branden Books, 2009. Print and eBook). My research uncovered that young Nat stood at an upstairs window in the Manning house and watched the burial of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Tarbox, who had frozen to death when they got caught in a late spring Maine blizzard. The Tarboxes left behind several children, and the youngest, a girl, was eventually adopted by the Mannings—a cousin for Nathaniel and his two sisters.

When I stood looking out that same window a few days ago, I could see the old Manning cemetery behind the house. I decided to explore it, with permission of course. It is on private property. I looked for the Tarbox graves, but they either aren't buried there or the graves are unmarked. Richard and Susan Manning are buried there, however. They are waiting for someone to buy their beautiful house.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Walking in the Woods

Once not long ago, I got disoriented while on a walk in the woods behind my camp. I was on a quest to find the old Prince family farmhouse that I was told was at the end of a path that led away from the lake. When I realized that I was lost, silence descended and I felt swallowed by the trees. My heart pounded in my panic. My fear heightened all my senses, and I looked around for something familiar, something I might recognize in the landscape that would set me on track once again. It was the lake that saved me. Suddenly I could hear a boat or maybe a jet ski on the lake in the distance. I followed the sound. When I got home, I felt ridiculous. But I vowed never again to venture into the woods alone. For a while, fear kept me from that which I once enjoyed.
Then one day I left the dirt road and once again walked into the woods. Every day since then, I walked deeper into the woods until I was no longer afraid. Each day I went a bit farther, using the lake sounds as my guide. I never got lost again. All women need to go bravely into the woods. Getting lost can sometimes help you find yourself, and being lost is not the same as not knowing where you are.

From my reading:
“There is nothing to be afraid of in the woods, except yourself. If you’ve got sense, you can keep out of trouble. If you haven’t got sense, you’ll get into trouble, here or anywhere else.”
-–Louise Dickenson Rich 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writer's block

This summer I am trying to finish a book about Marie Peary, the daughter of the Arctic explorer. I may have mentioned this in an earlier post. Fact is, I’m not making very much progress. Too many distractions. First, there is lake living itself. There are lots of things to do here here—listen to the loons, watch the hummingbirds, paddle the kayak, feed and entertain guests, and on and on. The biggest distraction of all, though, is the technology I brought here to help me finish researching and writing the damn book. Yesterday went like this:

I woke up and decided to devote the entire morning to writing chapter 4 (I told you I hadn’t got very far). I sat down at the computer, opened up a new file, and titled it Chapter 4. Hmmmm. How to begin? I reread the draft of Chapter 3 and fiddled with a few sentences there. This all took about 20 minutes and I still couldn’t think of how to begin Chapter 4.
So, I decided to check in on my email. Three messages---all from students (this summer, I have 20 writing students from my university in Ohio). It only took five minutes to read the messages, but one student gave a link to website she wanted me to review as a possible source for her project. That took another 10 minutes. Oh yes, and while I was on the internet, I decided to check my Face book posts. Oops, someone posted something controversial on my wall—I then needed to post and upload a video and link in order to make a rebuttal. First, I had to find the link. Another fifteen minutes.

I decided to knock off for lunch at 11 a.m. and after that I had to watch the news and after that, I was a little sleepy so I took a walk to wake myself up. The walk made me tired, so I decided to take a little nap, and when I woke up, I didn’t feel like writing anymore. Therefore, I decided to devote today to working on Chapter 4 and here I am writing this blog post. Now that it’s done, I think I’ll have lunch because it is 11 a.m. After that, I’ll work on Chapter 4.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lobster at the Lake

If you look at my Face book page for July 4, you’ll see that my family had a lobster feast to celebrate the holiday. I let technology lend a helping hand for that.

There’s an app for everything. Who said that, anyway? They weren’t kidding! I have always been an early adopter of technology gadgets. I am not necessarily proud of that. It is quite addictive, after all.

Last week I downloaded iLobster (lite version is free from the iTunes store; pay .99 for the full feature version that I purchased). This fun app teaches you how to get the most out of your lobster dinner. As if I didn’t already know that, but still, I just had to get it.

The app includes a restaurant locator so you can find the nearest place to buy fresh lobster or order it delivered to your door. The full featured version includes cooking instructions and a video on how to crack and extract the most lobster meat from your Maine dinner.

So how will I use this app? Admittedly, I already know most of the info provided, but it is a fun app to share with guests who want to know (or are unsure about) how to efficiently attack a lobster. If you live in Maine, you’re going to want this app. And if you’re not from Maine but you like to eat lobster, you definitely need it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lake Sounds

In this blog post, I decided to write about lake sounds, so that is why I've recorded it instead of posting text.

Here is a link for those of you using mobile devices.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living in the moment--lessons from the dog

This morning my dog Oliver and I took our usual walk along the dirt camp road. Oliver is an old dog (15!), and he no longer bounds ahead of me as he once did, but he still enjoys his excursions. I want to get in a good brisk walk and then get back to camp to do some work, but no. We walk a few feet and then Oliver stops to smell something on the side of the road. We walk a few more feet and then he stops to pee on a rock. It goes on like this for a half mile or so. This is definitely not the aerobic workout I need. However, it occurs to me that Oliver has much to teach me about slowing down to enjoy the sights and smells around me.

Here are a few other lessons from Oliver that remind me how best to live:

• Walk every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

• Live life in the moment rather than in planning what to do next. Do this on the deck.

• Skip the caffeine in the morning and feel better the rest of the day.

• Don’t snack between meals.

• Get in a good eight to ten hours sleep every night.

• Take a good long nap every afternoon. Do this on the deck.

• Ignore jumping up to check email every time you hear it chime.

• Spend at least three hours each day gazing at the lake. Do this on the deck.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dirt roads

My camp is on a private dirt road. A road association maintains it and residents, year round and seasonal, pay annual dues for its upkeep. Volunteers work hard to keep the road smooth, but it is still rough and narrow in spots. There are lots of hills and curves. It is so dusty in midsummer that I have to keep my windows closed on the roadside of the camp or a layer of dust covers everything inside.

In early July, the road association folks post a sign at the beginning of the road announcing the date for the annual meeting. “Bring a lawn chair,” it advises. These meetings are held outside on a Saturday morning—or if it rains, inside someone’s garage or barn. I have been to a few of these meetings, and I was surprised to discover that most of the folks on my road are year round residents, not seasonal camp folks like me. The year round residents have to travel the road in the winter when it is covered with snow and ice. I’ve only once been on the road in the winter.

At the road association meetings I attended, some of the discussion—and it was sometimes contentious—was about whether to continue to maintain the road as a dirt one, or to pave it and turn it over to the town for maintenance. I am not sure why the paving option isn’t preferable to ALL of the year round residents, but I know why I want my road to stay as a dirt one. Here are a few reasons:

On a bumpy old dirt road like mine, cars have to go slower, making walkers like myself feel safer. First off, you can hear them coming before they get to you. Same thing for the dogs and cats that occasionally stray out into the road. Other than an occasional frog or chipmunk, I’ve never seen any road kill on our dirt road.

There’s also more to see on a dirt road than a paved one. In the sunshine, the mica in the dirt sparkles in like stars in a night sky. Some of the mica flakes are bigger than jigsaw puzzle pieces. I also like to look for animal tracks in the soft spots—I find them too—deer, raccoons and once, moose tracks. Big ones. Won’t see any tracks on a paved road.

I like the way the dirt smells after a rainstorm. And I like the way my footsteps sound when I walk in the loose gravel at the road’s edge. The dirt road reminds me of the camp where I spent childhood summers with my parents and sister. It too was a dusty old dirt road. Walking my dirt road is a trip down memory lane.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Camp stuff!

I’ve just finished reading Kimberly Collins Kalicky’s new book, Away at a Camp in Maine. Like me, she has fond memories of her childhood camp vacations (Unity Pond for me, Crescent Lake for Kalicky), and as an adult she has continued the tradition with her husband and children. Anyone who has vacationed at a camp in Maine will identify with Kalicky’s book. One of the chapters is titled “I don’t like spiders and snakes.” Well, me either, but those of us who love camp often have to share our space with these critters. Camp life, mind you, is definitely not for the squeamish.

When our children were teenagers, I reminded them that if they wanted to continue to spend summer vacations at camp when they were adults, they had better choose mates who were not finicky about what we call “camp stuff.” Leeches (in Maine, we call them blood suckers) on your feet? That’s just camp stuff. Dock spiders as big as chipmunks? Camp stuff. Water snakes and snapping turtles. Ants in the sugar bowl and mice in the attic-----camp stuff, all.

Our children are grown and married now, with families of their own. They join us at the lake for at least a week every July. In fact, they travel long distances just to be here. If their spouses are squeamish, I would know it by now. Everybody here seems to deal well with camp stuff after all.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Exploring the Lakes Region

As I said in my last post, this summer I have decided to thoroughly explore the lakes region. Not because I get antsy at the lake, mind you, but because when visitors come, they always ask me “what there is to do” in the area. Really! As if sitting on the deck gazing at the lake is not enough. So last week I set aside a day (Wednesday) for exploring. I’d like to say I went on foot with a rifle over my shoulder and the dog at my heels, but I actually went by car armed with a GPS. I did take the dog (Oliver).

We lunched at the Good Life Market (more about this place in an upcoming post) and then headed to South Casco on Rt. 302 to visit the Raymond-Casco Historical Museum, which is only open on weekends and on Wednesdays from 1-3. Like many small town historical museums, it is staffed by volunteers who are passionate about their hometown history.

Here is some of what I learned at the museum while Oliver slept in the backseat of the car:

• Children’s summer camps starting in the early 19th century greatly influenced economic growth of the lakes region.

• Richard Manning, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle, lived in South Casco and his home is still standing on Raymond Cape Road.

• A canal once connected nearby Sebago Lake to Stroudwater and Portland.

• Sebago is a Native American word for “big stretch of water.”

Information is powerful, so I decided to explore the area a little more based on what I learned at the museum. Here is what happened while Oliver slept in the back seat of the car:

• I drove to one of the oldest children’s summer camps to get a closer look, but got kicked out by the security staff even though the children have not yet arrived at camp. Geez.

• I located and drove by the Manning homestead. It is for sale.

• I followed signs to Songo Lock, and it appears to be maintained and operating. Can that be?

• I drove back home to my camp on Little Sebago Lake (“little big stretch of water”).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What to do when it rains?

Every year, we have guests who visit us at our camp—sometimes when we are not there. Although my husband and I enjoy just sitting around the deck or soaking in the lake, we often find our guests get antsy after two or three days of this “relaxation.” We have a repertoire of spots we like to visit on rainy days when we cannot sit out on our deck or cruise in our boat or just look at the lake. Now mind you, these are spots we visit when it is dismal and gray outside, but we send our guests off when the sun is shining, so these visits are glorious to them.

This summer, I will try to highlight a new destination each week or so—my aim is to showcase destinations or drives within a 100-mile radius of my camp—perfect for day trips for anyone staying at Little Sebago Lake, Sebago Lake, Thomas Pond, Crescent Lake, and Panther Pond.

Now mind you, these are just places we like to visit, and if you have a place you like to visit that you think I should visit and write about, I hope you will tell me in the comments section of this blog. Or you can email me at mseguin@kent.edu.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Early mornings at the lake

I get up pretty early when I’m at the lake. I like to begin the day by sitting in an Adirondack chair on my deck, cup of coffee in hand. For a half hour or so, I observe the lake. In the very early morning, the lake water is glassy and reflective. The lake water is so still, I sometimes feel as though I’m looking at a painting or a photograph. I’ve noticed that by midmorning, 9 a.m. or so, the lake breezes wrinkle the water so that the reflections disappear. There are other things to catch one’s attention by then though—kayakers, ducks, human activity on the far shore.
But it is early morning when the lake is at its most beautiful, and the trees and boulders on the shore are reflected mirror like at the water’s edge. The great New England poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about this phenomenon in a poem published in 1756. Here’s what he said:

Around Sebago’s lonely lake

There lingers not a breeze to break

The mirror which its waters make.

The solemn pines along its shore,

The firs which hang its gray rocks o’er,

Are painted on the glassy floor.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Back in my favorite place!

It is June 1 and I am back in my favorite place—my tiny camp on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine. I feel lucky to be here.

This morning as I sipped my morning cup of coffee on the deck, I watched a bald eagle swoop low over the lake in pursuit of its own breakfast. In the next moment, a tiny hummingbird buzzed in front of me on its way to the feeder hanging outside the kitchen window. Juxtaposition, huh? No wonder this is my favorite place.

I’m not the only one who loves this place. On a blog devoted to lists of folks’ favorite places, Little Sebago Lake appears on one anonymous contributor’s list ahead of Maui, and just after Bali and Nice, France. Doesn’t surprise me.

A week ago, I was in Sweden (the country, not the town) and was surprised to learn that many Swedes have summer cabins, much like mine here in Maine. Swedes call a summer cabin en sommarstuga. It is a favorite place for a Swede who is lucky enough to have one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Almost time to head to Maine!

Well, it’s late April and we’ve turned the corner heading towards summer, and I’m setting my sights for my camp on Little Sebago Lake in Maine. Last month we turned the clocks ahead an hour so now the days seem longer. The tulips are poking up through the leaves we didn’t rake last fall before the first snow fell. But that’s outside. Inside my house, there are also signs that we are heading toward summer. The biggest clue is the pile of “stuff” in the basement packed into boat bags ready to make the trip to camp in next month. There are the towels with the embroidered moose that someone gave me for Christmas, the ant cups I found on sale at the local hardware store, and a new corkscrew, even though I’ve been known to drink mostly box wine in the summer.

Then there is the bag of books. Although I recently purchased an eBook reader, I still collect print titles that I want to read and then add to my camp bookshelves to share with others. Sometimes, I just want to feel the paper and smell the ink when I turn the pages. Call me old fashioned. So, into the book bag I’ve tossed Old Maine Woman by Glenna Johnson Smith and Ardeanna Hamlin’s new book, Abbott’s Reach.

This summer our new grandson Ben will celebrate his first birthday at camp with us, so we’ll need a high chair, a crib, and a couple of baby gates to seal off our deck. Oh yes, then there’s the stroller and the new life preserver. Uh oh. Are we going to have room in our trunk to carry all this stuff to Maine?