Wind at our backs, we find woodland traditions

The perfumed scent of the jewelweed laced through the leaves and carried us forward on our march down fern lined paths and past mossy hummocks in the forest floor.  Large earthy fungus jut outward as extensions of old stumps and rotten logs, they bring new life and wonder to summer hikes.  Madelyn and I made our way across the winter wren trail and down the trail to Little Spencer Pond. One thing is certain when hiking with young kids, you are not apt to meet much wildlife, for their delightful exuberance makes your presence known across the land. But who could ever trade the joyful squeals of a toddler as she grabs leaves and learns her trees or crouches down to examine a small tree frog or toad and giggles gloriously as it skips forward upon the path. We were explorers, me and my little papoose out for a hike through the Maine woods. We reveled at the beauty of the forest and the many yellow birches that rose up on each side of the trail. I have always loved yellow birches, and luckily they are  prolific here, it is always a joy to share the sweet smell of wintergreen with a child who as of yet does not know of that woodland secret.  We trudged past the stream and the beaver dam, both dry from such a wonderful sunshine filled summer and we caught the sounds of nuthatches and juncos flitting amongst us as we went down the trail. We were able to coax some friendly nuthatches, a flicker, and a downy woodpecker down to us, much to Madelyn’s delight. We were able to skirt around some large size moose tracks and avoid several piles of bear scat as we grew closer to the pond. As we made our way to the overlook to the pond we were greeted with the sight of a large bull moose feeding across the pond. It was hot and he was hungry, he absolutely refused to lift his head as I snapped a myriad of pictures, in hopes I would get just one. Soon Madelyn, became impatient with this camera freeze and began pulling my hair and giggling as she loosened my barrette to bring my attention back to more important things – such as MOVEMENT forward. Madelyn likes to be moving forward at all times, so off again we struck, picking our way off the path and along the edge of the pond, ducking under trees and branches, Momma carefully trying to move limbs out of the way so baby would not get impaled or snapped with a careless twig. We enjoyed this “off trail” adventure immensely and found lots of animal sign on our journey, we were pleased with the results and finally when the walking became too thick for comfort, I decided to cut back to the road. As I plodded down the road it struck me what a long long dull walk back it was, funny thing, the walk through the woods had seemed so short, with so much to see and amuse ourselves with. We found some coyote scat in the road, and we found some odd pink fungi reminiscent of british soldiers (I’m not completely certain they were not, and maybe had lost color from being so dry) along the road, but it certainly was not the abundance of scents, sounds, and sights that we had met under the canopy of the woods.

Moving forward has certainly been the theme this year. Dana has completed the roof on the Main Lodge (the Sabotowan) extended the overhangs, replaced rotten logs, jacked it up and installed new sills. Along with this he has cedar shingled the dormers and leveled the camp.  We were thankful to have a member of  the Spencer Pond Group enthusiastically take charge and repaint the old “Spencer Pond Camps” sign following the old lettering which captured my Gram’s distinctive writing style. The old lodge is coming to life, and of this fact I am sure Mose would be proud. My initial hesitation and doubts about a steel roof were immediately assuaged after the first rainstorm and guests came out informing us it was no louder or different than the roof of old, in fact some guests believe it might be quieter and softer sounding. While expressing my concern about what “Old Mose” would think about such contrivance, another long time guest, reminded me Mose would have been the first to jump on the steel roof band wagon lured by sheer practicality and durability in this northern clime. That probably is true as I found the “old-time Mainers” are all about common sense and durability.   Mose hasn’t sent any demons down upon us to  scare  us away and he continues to “open” doors for me when my arms are laden with wood, bags, and children, so I think at the risk of sounding a little woods crazy that he must be pleased. We have made other much needed repairs and finally after a summer of trying have cleaned up most of the unsightly mess hidden in the woods behind our camp. Progress has been made and we are surely glad of it, the season has been kind to us, and the winds of change have blown graciously down upon us. We were prepared for a hurricane, but instead got surprised with a gentle caress, and though the season is not yet over, for that we are grateful.

Dana has taken to making bean hole beans. Inspired by the tales of another long time guest who actually started the fourth of July bean hole bake, we revived the bean hole pit and have made several successful batches. Bringing back to life the tradition my grandparents started close to 40 years ago. it appears the camps are indeed coming full circle. In his enthusiasm, Dana made two batches the first week. My four year old was finally able to reign her father in with her dry comment “Dada when are we going to be done eating beans?” It is such a spirit of adventure and camaraderie each time the pot is lifted from the pit, we now know why the lumber camps and Native Americans delighted in this tradition. We make our beans with “trout beans” also known as Jacob’s cattle beans. We like our beans big, and laden with salt pork and molasses. Usually at home we add venison, but our freezer space up here is small, and this bean making venture has just begun, so perhaps future fall versions will have this added ingredient if we manage to remember it on our next trip back to the coast. With the beans have come yeast rolls, cornbread, biscuits, and pies. I have also begun cooking, as the hot weather departs I have enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. I have playfully experimented with new recipes. At one juncture having an overabundance of farm fresh eggs I whipped up a cheesy quiche- like breakfast casserole for my Aunties which received rave reviews. I also have become quite a fan of Eggs Benedict, with my own special flair, which usually involves some sautéed spinach, lambkill, or other garden green. Also new this year has been my mastering of scones. Inspired by the bounty of nature, blueberry and raspberry scones emerged, delighting my husband, daughters and several guests along the way. Most of this is breakfast because alas the days are still too warm to convince me that much cooking is needed inside. Rather I enjoy spending my evenings out along the shore of the pond, away from the sounds and listening quietly to the wind.

The other night I spent the evening alone on the shore, watching the herons fly home to roost, the beaver swimming patiently around, and hopeful for the reward of the moose. But instead, nature had other plans for me. Above me the sky swirled into a magnificent array of clouds at each second they shifted and changed in hue from grays to blues to green to pink, as the sun went down and the moon rose they took on new shapes and colors. It was an amazing transformation and whisked me away into the shores of tranquility far from any other concerns. I was transported back to age seven when I could lay on the grass for hours and watch the clouds sail by and let my imagination color in their different shapes. At the same time  “old mother west wind” was whispering low and hard ringing  the pond, it was literally a symphony of sounds to my untrained ear. The mountain was her stage and the tree lined forest edge her auditorium, I was simply a spectator in a front row seat. At first she went around the pond and then she  caught herself carrying a lower tone in the pines above, whistling higher octaves as she sailed through the firs and between the birches that line the shore. Never before had I appreciated the musical quality of wind, and let it inspire me so. As the evening progressed and nighttime fell, the evening sky draped down upon my shoulders like a warm peaceful blanket. I was in the lap of luxury on the stone filled beach beside the bog and lily pads, I had found time to be still, to just be.


One response to “Wind at our backs, we find woodland traditions

  1. Pink Earth Lichen (or Pink Mushroom Lichen) Dibaeis Bacomyces Rosea is the name of your pretty pink stuff…not related to British Soldiers.
    After a rain they seem to sprout roadside…for they “eat” rocks.