Yellow birch trees whisper in the cool autumn air, their paper white bark and golden yellow leaves reflecting in crystal clear water with the purpling hues and stony face of the mountain cliffs as a backdrop. Fall is always a time of reflection. The period of the year where one reaches maturity and is awakened to greater wisdom than they possessed within the spring. So it has been with us this fall. When we began this journey, we knew it would bring many gifts to our family. However, mostly we thought about children running free beside the water, exposed on a deep level to nature, and a quieter “simpler life” for us as a family. What we have learned is sometimes, to achieve simplicity life actually becomes more complicated, at least when using words to explain the connections. We have also been surprised that we have embraced the “off –grid” lifestyle and have learned a lot about how little it truly takes for us to be happy, and at the same time the big things that do not include possessions or resource consumption that really bring a sense of fulfillment.
Over the years, fall was often my favorite time to visit Spencer, being somewhat of a loner.. I loved to come when there were not many other guests around (seems ironic now as my position is reversed), when the leaves were falling, and coloring the ridges and mountains with their spectacular hues creating a backdrop that almost seemed too beautiful to freeze into a moments picture. I loved the smell of the wood fire, the cedar kindling scent wafting up through the chimney and cabin, and living in a house devoid of a woodstove, I loved the way the heat went into my bones. Many images from the fall are frozen in my mind’s eye from the past. One of the most beautiful is a half sunken boat in Little Duck with Little Kineo behind it in full foliage and the sun setting. Another is watching a spectacular bull moose come rustling through the forest by the swamp by the Moose cabin and then listening as he quickly disappeared with barely a sound. Or the early November sunrise when I awoke to a mountaintop frosted with snow and ice crystals had glazed the natural landscape into a work of art more beautiful than any Picasso or Monet.
The woods now seem to extend for miles and as the green leafed canopy disappears visibility increases and you can get a better feel for the lay of the land, the hills, hummocks, and ridges that entice one to walk across and explore. The bull moose are still about, and this week we have begun our survivor tally. So far the two bulls around the camp have survived, including our one-horned friend, who is somewhat jumpy and I suspect a little bit of a bruiser when it comes to interactions with other bulls. We continue to try to tally and capture their images on film for our “survivor” fan club on facebook.
What is on my mind the most this fall, is the magic of Spencer itself. I have written and alluded to it many times over the course of the last few months, but am not sure I have been able to capture the essence of the beauty that lies here. Spencer Pond Camps was always my grandparents house. It will always hold a special place in my heart as many can understand . I came here to visit “cookie gram and cookie gramp”(they always had cookies for me – usually Fig Newtons and Tang to wash them down with) I helped build the moose cabin. Many times I shared a kiss with the moose “Bully” that lived here. I fed Bully, and I spent many afternoons playing with him. Wiley was a great buddy growing up and a lovable little fur ball. The bed that my daughter now sleeps on, was built for me by my grandfather and I slept on it at her age. I spent countless hours at Gramp’s side watching him make all sorts of wonderful things, from taking rides in the coot, to trudging through forest paths to some remote lake. Hours were spent in the cabin visiting with Gram. This place was instrumental in building my character as a child. That all changed in 1994 when I learned that Gram and Gramp had owner financed it and it was now to be someone else’s abode. I will never forget that feeling. For the 15 years that I returned as a “guest” to pay to stay at what had always been a second home. I always felt that it was still mine, it always felt “off” that money was a concern, and it was always sad during the years I could not afford to return. Spencer was something to be guarded, protected, and it was still MY home. The swing I felt especially protective of! I will make no allusions, I was not always impressed with the changes I saw, and liked it most when things stayed just as my grandparents had them. I found during those years I clung to the safety and permanence of the mountain. “No one can take my mountain” was my mantra. The mountain was literally my rock, and I clung desperately to it. My perspective has definitely changed. What we have learned since being the new “guardians” of Spencer (as several guests have dubbed us) is Spencer is bigger than us. There is magic here, this is home to many. That includes the young children who love it from the Croce and Martel side, it includes the Dulacs, and it includes my family. It is not our role to make arbitrary decisions and pre-screen clientele about what the “right” kind of guests for Spencer are. As this season has evolved and we have been approached by guests and visitors , our ears and hearts have been saddened and dismayed as we have been told countless stories of many being turned away at the door or covertly discouraged from returning. For those of you that experienced this and persevered I send you hugs, because I know how much you truly must have loved this place. Again a great sadness fills me when I find that this happened. But I thank your for your stories and for sharing, because it has prevented us from being misguided. We have found that our role is to share with ALL the people who find us the beautiful magic and natural wonder that lies within. So you won’t find us screening out individuals, or requiring references before you stay. What you will find us doing is sharing our world that we love with others who find us and maybe perhaps opening their eyes to a new perspective or experience that they would not have seen without a trip here. I would have thought that being here 24 hours a day / seven days a week would make me feel that the place is now truly “mine” but in actuality the opposite has happened. What I have seen is how many people feel just like I did, that Spencer is special, their secret place, a spot to be guarded, protected, revered, and held in reserve to recharge ones batteries and soul. I have found a deeper level of understanding and now realize this place is not about entitlement or ownership, it is a community. It is truly an amazing epiphany, the guests that come to Spencer are truly the most amazing people in the world. We have kept our minds open and learned so much from so many, they have enriched our lives in ways we will never be able to repay, and at the same time we feel humbled that we have been able to share in “their home” , “their place”, and that they have been so gracious and welcoming to us. And this is our first year! Finally after over 35 years of coming to Spencer I have learned how to share. Not just that, but I have learned the joy of sharing. The joy of seeing children clambering and giggling for a ride on the swing. The twinkle in a couples eyes when they walk into one of the cabins for their honeymoon, the peaceful nights and whispers of joyful companionship as old friends reunite. The cautious and critical evaluations of those guests who feel as I once did, this is home & don’t make changes. I’ve even learned how to share “big red” my favorite green canoe that was a part of the camps and gift from my grandparents several years ago. I welcome you friends, it has been a joy to share. To allow for diversity in guests and open ones home up for you to enjoy, that is the magic of Spencer. My heart and soul is here, I know you have seen it when you enter the cabins, and hopefully you can feel it when we interact. We welcome you. You have to truly love Spencer to get Gram’s words “We don’t deal with pocketbooks here, we deal with souls.” That is one of the reasons why we have decided next year that there will be no rental fees for anything other than the motor boats. So people can go experience the pond, enjoy the miles of logging roads perfect for biking, and perhaps get outside into the land. We rejuvenate and refresh, we unwind and de-stress. We have watched as people “lost” on the back roads, seem to take a wrong turn and end up here. We watch their faces as they fall in love with the mountain and these simple rustic cabins. We have listened to old guests talk about being “hit with the magic” from the moment of arrival, a feeling they don’t forget even 40 years later. Spencer is definitely not for everyone, but we find that those that find their way here, whether it be via car or web surfing, have found us for a reason – nature, simplicity, returning to the way life used to be, without modern contrivances. That is what we have here and in today’s world it is a fleeting glimpse and maybe a deeper look into not only the way life used to be, but really the way life should be.