Many summers we spend a week in Acadia National Park in platform tents, hiking every morning, and swimming in the lake in the afternoons (or before breakfast), taking in the
breathtaking vistas from the porch of the dining hall or from the top of the cliff across the
way. Part of the beauty is in the predictability of the mountains, the majesty of the lake,
and the cry of the Loon as we fall asleep. This year was no exception, and having skipped last year, it feels particularly sweet to be here amongst the trees, the chipmunks, and our friends who come at this same time year after year.
As we pull into the driveway of camp, I feel my shoulders relax as I fill my lungs with fresh clean air. We are greeted with hugs from Mary, who we have known for over 12 years, as we get help lugging our gear to our tents. We breathe deeply, knowing we can
count on the relaxation that comes from physical exertion, eating food someone else has prepared, and sleeping outside. We are conditioned to relax here, and we each prepare for
our unwinding activities. My husband is already prone on the cot, with his book folded across his chest, glasses slightly askew. The girls are changing into swimsuits, and I am walking around, taking in the perimeter, looking for postcards and friends from past years.
The traditions of camp continue, as we find out who has come from the farthest away (6,000 miles!) and who has been the most number of times (upwards of 40). This reassuring persistence of the tide of years is calming, reminding us of the steadfast landscape, and how we can count on the rock and root of the area.
It takes a couple of days before I realize that we have met even more of the families, but I did not at first recognize the changes in their children who were 6 and 8 years old, and are now 16 and 18. Memories of that year surface of taking the boat to the island where the troll houses mysteriously appear. I also realize that some people are missing, and learn of the untimely death of a devoted friend and Scrabble aficionado. It is striking, this combination of familiar and difference. There are small changes and improvements in policy and bathroom soap, but the feeling of being there is the same. The camaraderie and interest that people take in one another, the willingness to look out for one another’s children, and the competitive spirit at the volleyball net generate the feeling of peace, enhanced by the natural beauty.
As the week closes I begin to daydream about the geometric difference that two weeks here would make over a single week, knowing that we will never run out of hikes, popovers or swimming holes to explore. Even hikes we have done before feel different in
sun instead of clouds, or by ourselves instead of with the group. The magic of summer is in all these things, as mercurial as the rainbow that glimmers briefly over the edge of the trees. The rainy mist on the last morning makes it easier to depart, and we lean wistfully out the window, waving and blowing kisses to our friends, to the mountains, and to the
lightness of summer that dances on the sail of the sunfish.
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