Hot summer days and cool nights are upon us. The sun shines down across the wooded landscape and in the sides of the roads the berries start to ripen, grouse can be found partaking, along with many bear, rabbits, and other larger four footed mammals as nature’s bounty rises suddenly in a crescendo of might.
Walking in the woods with young children, they are alive with a treasure trove of a secret and often bypassed world to be discovered. I think because they are closer to the earth physically, and their spirits are not dampened with worldly concerns, children are able to open a whole new door to natural discovery that as adults we often miss as we look up or through the trees for mightier fare. My girls see spiders I would have missed, webs hung perfectly between the branches of trees, salamanders, frogs, and a plethora of beetles. The beetles themselves are so interesting you could spend a lifetime of study and not really touch the
surface, some with iridescent neon skins, others with long fuzzy legs, and
others with antenna that stick out and sticky feet that tickle if you allow
them to run along your arms. Caterpillars are also equally interesting as are
the many butterflies and moths that spring forth across the summer skies.
Lightning bugs dot the landscape and flicker over the pond and across the lawn
in the July evening, while the whir of the mosquitoes can be heard. Dragonflies
and Bats swoop to catch their evening prey, as the first stars pick forth in an
unpolluted night sky. The crescent moon has been seen several times over the
last few weeks, peeking out in perfect form, one can almost imagine the man on
the moon, sitting in his curvy chair suspended in the sky.
This week has been a week of colors, images, and gentle
breezes. I have seen so many things to paint, from the flickering evening light
as it casts its glow on the opposite shore, to a bouquet of fushia peonies
perfuming the room, cast against the backdrop of a handmade wooden cupboard. The wind gently blowing some tall amber brown grass with light set to one side admidst a field of green. The sight of an antique kerosene light, perched on a crocheted doily, with a lace curtain hanging in front of a multi-paned window beside an old victrola has inspired my brush, alas the time to complete these masterpieces in my mind’s eye eludes me.
The camp has been busy, family, friends, guests have
stoked up the campfire, toasted s’mores, the smell of barbecue wafts through
the air on each sunny evening. Giggles and peals of laughter rise from the
children on the swing and delighted proclamations from the fisherman on the
docks. The Maine Lodge has been host to several large families and the old cabin swings into life, hosting memories and idyllic summer days, and most importantly quality time well spent with the family. The kayaks have dotted the pond, as children and adults alike have jumped in and ventured across the pond. The other night my nephew was treated to an excursion to hallowed fishing grounds in the company of his great grandfather the voyage complete as they sallied forth in the legendary canoe “Big Red”(now green) that my grandmother once retrieved guests from the opposite shore with (long before roads encircled Spencer Pond.) I hear the trout were made fun of, and jokes abounded as they cast their fly rods into the cool clear waters of the pond for their quarry. My nephew has become a professional fisherman over the last few weeks, pulling not just trout, but record perch, and fall fish from the pond, and each evening he is rewarded with at least not one if not two, “Hornpout” more commonly known as Brown Bullhead. I have learned how to cook almost every kind
of fish in this period, from frying, to baking different recipes have been
tried, but I am told my recipe for Baked SquareTails exceeds all.
My uncle has been here and between his knowledge and that of my grandmother who has been enjoying her days here, I am beginning to learn a little mushroom identification, most of my education has consisted of “don’t
bother with anything that resembles a little brown mushroom” I have begun to
search for the start of the the elusive chanterelles, with tidbits of knowledge
that have been bestowed, although I am told my best “mushroom finds” will come when I least expect it and am not looking. This is an interesting pursuit and one I do not take lightly, and only take under the advisement of sage
professionals who have been doing this safely for years. But my thirst for
knowledge consumes me. I am told field trips will begin upon my uncle’s return
to the area in the late summer and fall. I plan to hold him to this. My
grandparents have generously gifted me with probably the most extensive natural reference library in the state, and I am proud to say that many old favorites have now returned to the shelves of the office. I now can find and lookup almost anything concerning the natural world of the North Maine Woods. From Native American medicines, to the fossils we stumble upon, the library awaits. I find myself almost hoping for a rainy day (I said ALMOST) so that I can peruse and absorb just a fraction of the knowledge that is stored there. I cannot wait to share this with guests, we have expanded the cabins libraries of field guides, but this master library stored in the office leaves no subject to
chance, all answers can be found within.
Guest have delighted in seeing several bears on their
evening excursions and the moose are now feeding along the shore, summer is
definitely here, and we are enjoying the peaceful joys it brings. From
bountiful salads of butter lettuce, spinach, and mesclun, to the small baby
radishes and carrots that are now peeking forth in the garden, our taste buds
rejoice with each forkful of flavorful produce. Soon the peas, beans, and
summer squash will blossom, inspiring summer stir frys and grilled veggie
kabobs. Even the baby chicks are growing at a furious pace. Old mother hen is anxious to raise more, and we have a colorful variety of Ameraucanas, Silkies, Leghorns, and one lone Turkey- Julius who will supplement our older laying hens in a few months and produce an abundance of fresh and colorful eggs for the fall. Rainbow the rooster is quite proud of his flock and spends his days merrily chasing after the ladies, and seeking out ants, ticks, slugs and any other bugs that happen to frequent the lawns or cabin edges. Our guests spend evenings enjoying the antics of the chickens, and some are rewarded with the soft hopping of snowshoe hare who also frequent the lawn. We have been delighted this year to host an array of talented musicians, whose lovely
melodies have wafted into the evening air, enriching our lives and those of our
children with memories of halcyon days when music was one source of commonality that bound people together socially in a joyful spirit of soul-connected sound. From the haunting lyrics of a fiddle, to the sprightly jigs of a harmonica, to the strum of the banjo, and peaceful melody of an acoustic guitar they have uplifted our hearts and those around us. This is the spirit we wish to keep alive at the pond, music freely played by experienced hands has and always will be welcomed here with heartfelt and loving arms. And just as we fade to sleep, the loons remind the human musicians and listeners each and every night, that their song, and noother is truly the song of Spencer Pond.
Dana has begun dropping his lobster traps into the waters
of Blue Hill Bay, and his frequent trips to the coast have allowed several
parties of guests the opportunity to be treated to a lobster feed. We don’t do
this in a planned or methodical fashion, much like the bean-hole beans, fresh wild blueberry scones, and homemade ice cream churn, we find that when the moment is right, and opportunity presents itself, we are glad to share our heart and food with joyful companions. Heeding no schedule may make it unpredictable for guest, but for us, it keeps it genuine, and prevents it from being a chore. We love these old camps, and what we do! My daughters have eaten so many wild strawberries recently their fingers and skin are stained bright pink, my fingernails alas are in need of a manicure as I whip through the
quarts hastily hulling, practicing my shortcake baking skills, until I am
certain they meet perfection. (It requires a LOT of practice.) Soon the wild
raspberries will be on and as one daughter gathers bouquets of daisies, my
other daughter and I will greedily fill quart baskets, in the hopes of making
jam. 19 jars of wild strawberry jam have already been made and shipped home to
share under the Christmas tree with treasured family and friends, and more will
find its way there as I love to make jam.
This is truly a simple life, one that makes you relax and
slow down, one that sheds off material possessions, and in the stark absence of
unneeded disturbances of freshly pressed modern contrivances makes one
equalized with nature. Worldly titles and resumes fall off at the door, what is
important here, is the character and integrity of the people who visit inside. Spencer Pond is certainly not for everyone,and a few do discover that to be true for them. By far the preponderance of what we have seen this summer, is the magic creeping in on a new generation of guests, guests that rediscovered a piece of history and a section of their being that lay hidden inside. They have taken the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of a slowly cooked meal, kept warm on the woodstove,a book in the evening read by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp. They like us have discovered, they do not need a button to push the timer, or
microwave, or coffee maker. That brand new items freshly purchased from Big Box stores can never exceed the love that goes into an handmade quilt or the
delicate hemstitched dresser scarf. That they find more joy in returning to the
basics, to rediscovering old fashioned tools and methodology, to finding inner
strength they had forgotten existed as they challenged themselves to new
adventures. That kindness and simple words sent forth to a stranger brings great joy and uplifts the soul and binds people together. This is the spirit and the magic that connects one to the old rustic wilderness cabins in the North Woods at Spencer Pond.