On a cool summer night, I step away
from the sparkling coals of the bonfire and make my way carefully down to the
dock. There are double the stars: half in the sky, half in the smooth surface
of the water. I dream of stepping out onto the surface with my bare, sap-spotted
feet and dancing across the Milky Way. I’m jealous of the Loons who float across the
water, weaving in and out of the big dipper and circling the moon, with no
noise but their haunting calls out into the cloudless sky.
To me, those birds are the sound of
summer nights. Echoing off the boundaries of Long Lake,
the trilled cries harmonize with the pops and cracks of the fire, the summer
wind drifting through the leaves, and the gentle bump of the canoe on the side
of the dock. This is where I spend my summers. Sitting on the rocky coast of a
lake in Maine, my grandparents’ house behind
me, I need nothing else. It’s a perfect New England
get away. Maine
is known for being “the way life should be.” Sometimes, I believe it.
My grandparents’ house is located
in Harrison, Maine to be exact, and situated on the back
of Cape Monday Cove on Long
Lake. Few know where it
is until I tell them it’s connected to Sebago Lake,
which, for some reason, is a popular camping spot for people in my hometown of Haverhill, Mass.
It’s exactly a two hour drive - over the river and through the woods. Dirt
roads and farmland rule the countryside, but it isn’t all that rural. In the
summer, the population of the town triples in size. It’s a vacation spot – the
water comes alive with boats, swimmers, jet skis, floats, trampolines,
water-skiers, wake boarders, and the ever so popular tubers. I like to listen
to them, the low drone of their engines, and the high pitched screams and
laughter of those being bounced around on the waves. They usually circle down
into the cove, sometimes to sight-see, sometimes to reach calmer water for
wake-boarding tricks. It’s relaxing. I usually can be found on the dock, back
towards the sun, eyes closed and listening to the sounds of the water. Rarely
are we in the house in the summer. If we are it is simply to change, or eat.
is situated on the side
of the rocky banks. But my grandmother, through years and years of work,
made the landscape into gardens worthy of magazines. Everywhere, there
flowers, bright yellows, oranges, pinks and purples: Black Eyed Susan's,
Impatients, Roses, Peonies, Morning Glories, and Zinnia’s. They line
as you come into the yard. They’re on either side of the wooden walkways
has constructed, surrounding the house on all four sides, hugging the
walls of the cellar and flowing outward ten to fifteen feet.
One year, my brother and I made
stepping stones, with our hand prints as the centerpiece. They still sit in the
garden next to the driveway, alongside the birdbath and a wooden bench. Pine
needles are usually sprawled over the surface. Now, when I try to place my hand
in the print, my fingers are twice as long, and my hand too wide. Those little
hands are the same ones that gripped the tattered rope of the wooden swing that
sits in between two pine trees overlooking the water. There are pictures of my
grandmother and I on that swing when I was too young to even walk. One year,
the rope broke and I flew off into the rock wall in front of me, scraping my
legs on the way down. But with a length of new rope and a couple of nails,
everything was back in order.
swing is only one of many constructions my grandparents have made for me.
Across the street, there is a playground hidden in the woods. It has
everything: a tree house – suspended between five or six birch tree saplings, a
seesaw, picnic table, zip line, and a tire swing. It was amazing in the fall
and in the winter. But once the mosquitoes took over, it was almost unbearable.
I’d still venture into my playground in the summer to look for toads - tiny
little toads that I used to collect like bottle caps. My grandmother would take
old soda bottles and make them into little homes for the amphibians. I’d carry
them around until I felt bad, and then let them back out into the woods,
telling them that I’m sorry but I just wanted to look at them for awhile.
love projects. The arrangement of our docks changes drastically
every year, as they are trying to make the perfect set up for our boats.
grandparents own their own fleet consisting of two kayaks, a sunfish, a
paddle boat, a canoe, a small fishing boat, and a powerboat. I like the
and the canoe. Awhile ago we had a dingy, which usually only fit one
but I was small at the time so I could fit with my Dad. And he rowed us
the island at dusk. We watched a Crane take off into the sunset on the
of the lake, only to come back with a fish in its mouth later on.
The cove behind the island is even
quieter than our own. Another time we glided through, I was in the canoe with
my mother and grandmother. The sun was setting, and the water bugs were dancing
on the darkening surface of the water. I sat in the middle, on the floor of the
canoe, dragging one hand in the water, catching the whirlpools my mother’s oar
was making in the surface. Loons called out to us, announcing our entrance into
their homes. And then a soft music was heard. There, in the back of the cove, a
violin was singing a high, slow melody. The lights of the houses behind
illuminated the water just enough to silhouette the canoe with the violinist.
He was alone, playing for all the cove to hear. And the Loons harmonized,
making nature and music come together in an eerily beautiful song that I shall
The island is only accessible by
boat in the summer. In the winter, the ice freezes so thick that they plow a
frozen road to this otherwise inaccessible land. Ice fisherman and snowmobiles
also take advantage of the temporary tundra the Maine winter brings. My grandparents’ house,
what was in the summer an unwanted necessity, is now a comfort. Walking in, the
fireplace is burning brightly, and through the sliders, I can see the lights of
snowmobiles flying across the flattened surface of the lake. The television is
turned on longer, and the beds upstairs have more blankets added to their
has a different feel.
It’s more of comfort, less of fun. The snow is piled high against the
And sometimes I retreat to the cellar to the computer room to sit and
grandfather is usually down there, working on his US Sub Vets website.
Sometimes he tells me stories about living underwater for months at a
time. I couldn’t imagine it. I can barely stay inside the house for a
straight. Walking out onto the ice, the wind whips by, and my face
year, there was no snow, but the ice was three feet thick. It was a
rink ten miles long. I wished I had learned how to do more than simply
forward. At night, just as in the summer, the winter has a magic. Gone
loons, but the ice sings it’s own song. Expanding and contracting, as
if it’s breathing, the ice murmurs under the snow. Low, thundering booms
heard even inside the house. I love to watch the reactions of those who
understand the noise. Many feel my house is haunted. In all seasons, an
sound is present. To me, it is simply a part of my cove.
Some nights, when I walk down to
the dock and wish I could dance among the stars, my grandmother will come down
and stand next to me
“It’s beautiful out tonight,”
she’ll say, gracefully sipping out of her wine glass.
And sometimes I don’t think she understands how much her
home, this place, truly means to me. The loons call out, and she tells me to
come back up to the fire. I can hear my mother laughing in the background. I
smile and follow her back up. In the warmth of the embers, my family is
smiling. I smile too. For the moment, I don’t need to dance among the stars.
Dancing in the firelight is just fine.