Once More to the Lake

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Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade-proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweetfern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end…
Once More to the Lake, E. B. White

The summer holidays have silenced the blog these past weeks. Much of my love of things Luddite comes from childhood summers spent with extended family in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes region. With the house filled to capacity, the cousins would spill out to sleep in tents. No TV (the telephone was on a “party line”) meant games were invented, competitions held and books read and reread. Big screen entertainment was the town’s 4th of July fireworks or, if we were really lucky, the northern lights.

I hadn’t been back in over 15 years and this would be my Kiwi husband’s first encounter with the northern Maine woods. After almost 20 years encompassing a wild real estate boom and technological advances that effected even the most far flung global outposts, how had this empty remote corner of Maine fared? As we left the coastal traffic jams and outlet malls and headed inland through small towns and farms, I wondered what I would recognize and what would only live on in my memory. I was also curious how the back woods would remind the husband of New Zealand (because everything reminds him of New Zealand).

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We stayed in one of the few remaining “camps”—wooden cabins with a central dining hall, not unlike the Kiwi baches of my husband’s childhood. Without Wi-Fi, TV and AC and with just a wood burning stove for heat, the cabins have kept time at bay. The local post office was still a one room log cabin. The IGA had been turned into a coffee shop with Wi-Fi, but neither the baristas nor the Wi-Fi worked, so it didn’t count.

The important things, the smells: balsam, wood smoke, the musty cabin musk of timber walls and wool blankets, and the sounds: loons, screen doors slamming, animals on the roof at night, kids out on the lake making up games, and the wind which sometimes sounded like rain, were just the way I left them. The nights were still pitch black and sweetly silent. The joy of being the first awake as the loons called, easing the screen door closed, and sneaking out to watch the mist rise over the lake remained magical.

The husband felt right at home too; the lakes and the surrounding forest reminded him of the Rotorua Lakes in the North Island—often deserted, with forest coming right down to the edges of the water, and hills rolling off into the green distance.

But it was that the “fade-proof” lake with its changing light and weather that held both of us. We could have watched it all day…and we did.

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