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

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.