Summer’s heat has found its way to Spencer Pond. Thankfully, on Thursday so did the cool pond breezes. The whir of the windmill has been steady and the cool breeze has been a delight to those sitting near the water’s edge. It truly is nature’s air conditioning. Whitecaps abound across the pond, and the ospreys and eagles frequently fly over on their way to search for fish in the pond. Guests have enjoyed outdoor cribbage games sitting peacefully next to the side of the pond, the breeze knocking any persistent insects firmly away and chasing the heat off one’s brow. The soft whisper of the wind through the large pines sings a peaceful lullaby as the rhythmic rocking of the waves against the boats and docks whisks one off to sleep.
The other night on a trip out of the camps, we were rewarded with the biggest rack on a bull moose that I have ever seen in my lifetime. This time of year the rack was impressive and I can only imagine what this gentle giant will look like in the fall. His soft nose flickering he was not timid around us at all. He also knew just how impressive he was, and taking full advantage of the fact that I had neglected to bring my camera he posed several times, giving us full side profiles, lowered head, and even a few sniffs with his soft furry nose into the air. Never again will I leave without my camera. However, that being said, the memory of those fleeting moments as he strutted and declared his magnificence to us will be emblazoned into my mind and heart forever. Much longer than anything caught and shared, and oft forgotten in a digital image.
This is the spirit and the magic at the camps. Often the things that are not caught on film or recorded on paper are the things that bring the memories back and that we carry inside for years. Guests have remarked on the smell as they enter the cabins, eyes glossed over, caught away in far off memories of their youth and other camps. How does one capture that on film or on paper? Yet I challenge anyone who has spent any time in a cabin in the woods to forget the peaceful mood that smell conveys and the memories of happy times it evokes. Other guests young and old gravitate towards the swing, children of all ages jump up on the rugged seat and swing themselves out over the pond, launching smiles from both inside their hearts and from observers watching from afar. How does one describe the feel of the rope or the gentle action of the swing as it lopes out across huge roots and over the water. The sunshine and breeze whistling through ones hair, caressing the face and whispering across one’s eyes. Many children have learned a gleeful respect for the swing, having gotten overly ambitious and anxious for higher altitudes they often learn exactly how unforgiving the old calloused bark of the pine tree can be. But despite a few scratches they always return, eager for the next ride, and anxious to go higher.
Wild Strawberries are on, flecking the roadsides and open meadows with their sweet gentle smell, and delicate berries. There are so many different kinds of wild strawberries. Moss berries I find personally to be the most coveted, growing deep in the moss, cushioned from harsh rains and allowed to ripen gently in the daily sun, they are round and deeply indented with the smallest of seeds and ripen to a rich burgundy color. Like a fine wine, they age in their moss laden cushion, and timing is the key to success in finding the best vintage. Then there are the long narrow lane berries that grow beside the road amongst the witch grass. These have a bright fire engine red color and oblong shape when perfectly harvested. Other berries to be found include the deep shade berries, open lawn berries, small fairy berries, and the woods berries growing in the smallest opening next to a evergreen thicket. This next week will be dedicated to berry picking, the berries are definitely early this year, and many have gone by, and a novice might be dismayed by the tired berries they find in the fields they frequent, but if one has true dedication and a lifetime of observation, wild strawberries can be found for most of the month of July. The other berries are ripening, blueberries and raspberries will soon be ready, and I like the bears and birds are impatiently awaiting their arrival.
Our guests this summer have had diverse interests, and we have enjoyed meeting and talking with them. Almost every guest has grabbed a canoe and gone on a foray out on the pond, it is delightful to see them take up paddles and strike off, and their adventures are not lost on us when they return most anxious to recount the journey. We have watched guests slowly unwind over the course of their stay, arriving tense and harried, and leaving full of smiles and sun soaked glee. We have met many who we know will leave a mark on us and we will carry their friendship for years into the future. We have enjoyed watching one group adopt a pet spider whose web is under their picnic table. They delight in catching and feeding him ants daily and have named him “goldsteam.” Other guests have returned from the woods full of questions about the flora and fauna they have found. We have had guests share with us inventories of birds they have seen, rabbits, moose, and bear. They have enjoyed their visit.
As I watch the guests I realize the gift the camps are, they allow guests to unwind, to reconnect to a deeper sense of themselves, and to be at peace removed from their electronic worlds. Some guests never get that far, their stay is too short, their itineraries too busy, their blackberries and phones vibrate furiously. For those that have even a few minutes to soak their feet and stare up across the pond at the mountain, perhaps it clicked for a fleeting moment what makes a north woods camp a special place to be. Deep conversations and good company abound. We have enjoyed sharing the history of these camps and are heartened that guests listen to us patiently as we explain the story behind the old telephone hanging from the gas shed, or the green canoe that sits on the rack that is named “Big Red.” We have enjoyed finding tools and historical artifacts that may be lost on an unappreciative eye, and bringing those items out to areas where they can be appreciated, rather than thrown into the greasy or dusty corner of some outbuilding. We have also enjoyed the guests that are willing to share with us their history at the camps and the memories that they have that make this place special to them, we cannot wait for future tales and different perspectives that add to the plethora of past history we have found.
Dana’s work on the Main Lodge has continued, he has replaced every sill, jacked the camp up, and replaced several rotten logs, and sometimes whole walls and floors at a time. Soon the lodge will be adorned with a new roof, and from this centerpiece the spirit, enthusiasm, and love of the work that we have committed ourselves to will radiate into the camps. Our work is endless, his outside fixing almost everything that has not yet already been fixed this season, mine mostly inside, changing cabins, procuring supplies, identifying items that need replacement, organizing, and keeping up with the business correspondence. We couldn’t have assembled a better team if we had tried. Our spirits are not dampened as the season progresses, rather we find ourselves falling deeper in love with the place that we are investing ourselves into. The girls run barefoot and peals of gleeful giggles ring out as they run in bathing suits down the hill to fish, to swing, to hike, to pick flowers, or to plant the garden. They are learning so much on a daily basis about nature and life that it is exciting to watch and wonder what kind of adults they will become. Their aunt spent the day making hollyhock fairies with the children, peeling back multi-hued faces. These gentle and delicate sprites danced through our livingroom and into the campyard for most of the afternoon. These are the memories that will build the character of our young minds and hearts. Evenings chasing lady bugs, watching campfires and toasting marshmallows will not long be forgotten as they move forward in life.
Lucky, one of our cats, has become our mascot, he is not mindful that he does not own each cabin, and most disobedient and aloof to his owners when we try to amend his plans. He has learned how to open most of the doors, coming and going as he pleases, loving the guests, charming the youngsters, and providing an occasional double take to the unsuspecting guests who encounter him out of the corner of their eye unannounced and unexpected. What a paradise, for people, pets, and families, this is definitely the place to be.