Hudspeth: The pace of summer on a lake

Stephen Hudspeth

Stephen Hudspeth

Staff / Hearst Connecticut Media

As a 13-year-old, I tried rowing out to the island in the middle of Rangeley Lake, a little north of where we summer here in Maine. A major storm blew up out of nowhere. (There was no Doppler forecasting back then.) So I lay down flat in the bottom of the boat and was finally pushed by the waves to shore near a cabin. The family there saw my plight and helped me get the boat in. Meanwhile, my father had borrowed our neighboring camper’s powerboat to try to rescue me, but he got driven ashore too, on the side of the lake nearest to our rental cabin.

There weren’t many phones up there then, and that very helpful family didn’t have one but said they would load my little boat into the back of their pickup truck and take me back to the other side of the lake once the storm lifted. When I casually strolled into camp later that day, my parents looked like they were seeing a ghost. They were so happily shocked that the scolding I should have gotten never materialized, but that was our last vacation on Rangeley Lake. I swim to an island now on a much smaller lake (called a “pond” up here), and it’s a lot closer to shore, but I still keep my eye out and check the forecasts for lightning, knowing firsthand that the weather can change in only a few minutes up here in northwestern Maine.

But that’s part of what makes life interesting here, and our COVID confinement has extended the time quite a bit longer than our usual summers since I teach via Zoom this semester and location is therefore irrelevant for work. The pace is something I truly enjoy even though after three months I’m really missing the pace of Wilton life. We’ll be back soon and looking forward to it, just as come another nine months we’ll be looking forward to returning to Maine.

One of the joys of retirement from full-time employment that Becky and I have found is the added freedom to go where and when we want and enjoy our time especially with our grandkids without the burden of parental responsibility, but with the joy of seeing young faces light up when they see you first thing in the morning and then receiving heartfelt hugs. We do things together that we all enjoy. Some of it is working around the farm here in Maine — with our oldest grandson and granddaughter reaching ages where their help is significant and much appreciated. And some of it is purely fun.

Maybe the most fun, though, are the parts that are a combination of work and fun. So the five grandkids and I drive together to the town recycling center. It costs nothing to use it, and it takes logs and brush as well as trash and recyclables. So “Big Blue,” the trailer of choice for log and brush loads (though “Little Blue” is also helpful), goes behind my ’88 Jeep Wrangler with its top and doors off, and we tool a mile down the main road to the dump road. It’s a dirt road, and once we turn onto it, the grandkids get really excited. We offload the trash and recyclables at the appropriate spots and then move further off-road to the log and brush dumping area.

There, we unload by hand (often salivating over a nearby rig with automatic dump features), and the younger grandkids brush out the trailer once the two oldest grandkids and I have done the offloading. Then all five sit in the trailer bed holding on to the high sides in front as we slowly exit the dump. At the end of the dirt road, they get back into the Jeep and their seat belts, and we head two miles to the town’s general store for their reward: $1.75 apiece of whatever in the treat department meets their fancy. (We do this only once a week so that the damage to their teeth, and general health, is hopefully minimal.)

The two oldest know how to hitch up the trailers, as they do with me regularly. They also work on brush removal and tree de-limbing and other things that need to be done, and sometimes we drive the Jeep around the fields to check on the birdhouses they’ve built. It’s good to work together and also to have time to talk about things. And that’s a good pace for us all.