3 - 6 July, 2014
It is of my firm opinion that every American should spend at least one Independence Day in New England...preferably in Maine...optimally during a rainy stretch (as I did this year).
A NYC friend of mine invited several friends to her mom's cabin in Maine to spend the 4th of July holiday, and I was fortunate to be among them. The cabin is in Windham, Maine, on Pettinggill Pond (which is rather more like a small lake), and within an hour's drive of Portland.
Portland has the feel of a small big city, historic in tone somehow: brick accents abounding and the smell of sea salt greeting you around most corners. In proper Maine fashion, lobsters advertisements are most everywhere you look. I had only an hour there to explore, but it had all the pleasantries of a beachfront town, the old port area seeming to be the most popular spot for visitors to congregate and stroll about.
Once I was collected in Portland, we drove off to Windham. The road there was a 2-lane highway, dressed in the aesthetic appeal of Midwest-small-town finery. We made a brief stop at an antique store called My Sister's Garage, which felt very much like my grandparents home which had the effect of making me very much want to stay for the evening: crochet items around every corner, bedrooms tucked into nooks and crannies, old books piled in corners, and all housed in an old farmhouse. They bake cookies daily and offer them to patrons for free. True story. So don't miss stopping by.
Then, we were off on a gravel road winding towards the pond and the cabin. Each cabin we passed on the way was charming in its own right, my favorites being those that looked more aged with chipped paint and weathered wood. My friend's mom's place is painted in navy blue with red trimming. It is maybe 30 - 50ft from the pond's edges, raised up on a hill with gently climbing stairs.
The cabin is framed in trees of various kinds, but none of them block the view of the water. Below, there is a tiny wooden dock with a paddle boat and two kayaks. It is so charming to look upon it seems almost like a doll house, as in : "this place cannot possibly be real." It cannot be real life. Simple implausible.
Yet it is.
If you should answer to the siren song to come dwell a cabin in Maine in the woods by a pond, there are several things you prepare yourself for:
First, the water. In July, the water is warm but not hot. When you swim you'll find pockets of shockingly cold water neighboring pockets of soothingly warm water. The temperature is always in flux. Take a tour around the outer edge of the entire pond in a kayak and/or paddle boat and wave to the friendly neighbors as you pass by their docks. Take pause and look up at the trees that border the pond's edge and notice how the leaves of different types dance differently in the breeze. Let yourself simply drift. Bring a book and a cup of coffee. It's best to go at dawn or twilight because the golden light reflects off the water and through the branches of the trees in such a delicious way you might just die of contentment.
Second, rain. We were rained out on the 4th of July. I could not have been happier. It began the night before, ushered in with a heat lighting storm that was better than any firework display could have been. Swimming in the rain is something not to be missed and to be reveled in. I fell asleep several nights with the window open so I could listen to the sound of the downpour. And, if you permit yourself some time for stillness, you'll notice the subtle differences in the symphony of rain falling on leaves and rain falling on water's surface, and find they harmonize together into a song you'll never want to get out of your head. Don't worry: if you aren't keen on rain, it won't last forever. The day after the 4th, there was no rain to be had, and we had a cotton-candy pink sunset and a 3-hour firework show (neighbors periodically setting off their own supply of explosives that went unused when they were rained out on the 4th).
Third, the trees. You'll find northern red oak, loblolly pine, eastern hemlock, white oak, London planetree, American hornbeam...to name a few. Maybe it is because I live somewhere with mostly palm trees (which hardly count as trees), but the variety was splendorous and intoxicating. Within two miles of the cabin there is a loop of trails you can hike or run through that I named "Ferngully" for the abundance of ferns that will kiss your legs as you go along the path: overgrown and lushly green. Try to go during or just after a rain: the forest floor has a springy quality to it and water droplets cling to leaves like gem stones, and the perfume of petrichor is everywhere.
Fourth, the people you share that space with. My friend is a natural gatherer of inspiring, kind, and interesting people. Most are of the creative sort, and every conversation I had throughout the weekend was both soul-soothing and thought provoking. We were all quite different, but yet all spoke a common language, no one feeling out of place, and all of us feeling quite like a family. It was strange how easily we fell into a sort of routine, each having our own little corner to sleep in the living room, each of us naturally filling roles when it was time to cook dinner and clean up afterwards. This cabin was our whole world and only world. And, speaking of meals, the most decadent versions of nourishment was concocted: lobster omelets, Brussels sprouts sauteed in coconut oil, shrimp scampi, and even a s'mores pie (believe it). We ate crowded around an almost-too-small-for-seven-people wooden table with wide windows looking over the lake.
Finally, time. Time has an evasive quality here. It is doesn't exist. Yet, it bleeds on too quickly. It is evening before you know the morning has even gone. A cabin in Maine is the perfect venue to practice presentness. But it all seems so peacefully surreal that you feel it an intangible and make-believe experience.
Was it all a dream?