I’ve come to Maine to visit my family. Another summer burial because the ground is too hard when friends and family pass in the winter. I’ve already told you about my Aunt Fran. Tonight, we had dinner in her honor and tomorrow the family will gather again to lay her to rest in Monson. Lucky for Aunt Fran, it has not been raining. When we buried her sister, Aunt Louise, the ground was saturated and the hole for her box of ashes was filled with water. We all looked down into the deep rectangular hole and Meme said, “Well, she always did like to go swimming.”
We laughed. We’ve never really learned that it is bad form to laugh at a funeral. But it is hard not to. We are there to remember the one who has gone before us. And in remembering, we usually remember the good times. And we’ve been fortunate to have years and years of good times. So as much as I am sad that Aunt Fran has passed, I can still hear her voice echoing off the lake. Her booming laughter and broad smile brightens my mind.
The lake. It is so dark tonight. And eerily silent. A few waves lash the rocks gently when a boat passes. The only other sound is the occasional black fly buzzing in my ear. I’m staying at camp alone tonight. Most people would call it a cabin or a cottage, but we’ve always called it camp. Not to be confused with the canvas and cabin camps filled with campers and derelict counselors that line the shore of many a Maine lake.
Camp is a small building that now has a bathroom, a kitchen, running water and electricity, thanks to summers of hard work by various family members. The bathroom is its own room, but the kitchen is open with the rest of the room. A small mesh lined porch overhangs the water. It is the best place to view thunderstorms as they travel miles from the big lake to exit down the river at the far end of the small lake.
I’m alone in camp tonight. Meme loaned me an adorable lantern that I swung like a five year old while walking down the deserted road. My shadow had an awkward gate as my legs crossed and the light moved direction. I imagined small children looking out their windows seeing these monster legs with a strange limp hobble by as they ran for the safety that lies beneath their bedcovers.
Walking to camp alone scares me. There is no reason it should, but I am alone in the dark with no cell phone, no houses for anyone to hear me shout for help. Just me and my imagination set free among the pine trees. I kept it in check tonight. No cars that came out of the fog to run me down. No fog for that matter. No kids hiding in the woods shooting me with bb guns and no hunters with rifles.
What did follow me to camp were millions of stars. I had a friend from college come home with me one weekend. As we sat outside on the dock like I am tonight, he exclaimed, “You have cable-access stars!” I had to explain that it was because we have no cable. There is satellite tv in the big house now, but camp has no tv, no phone, no internet. I am alone.
Not quite alone. No people, but there are fish sleeping below where I sit, and the bugs are crawling. I hear a loon’s haunting call from up the lake. I saw his friends go in the opposite direction earlier today and I’m wondering if he is separated.
I’m watching the stars from an Adirondak chair and thinking that my view of the evening sky is a million times better than the view from an Omni Theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Omni Theatre, but a video will never fully capture real life. There are so many stars! I recall bringing another friend out here once who said that the view would be perfect if it weren’t for that string of light clouds. I explained that those aren’t clouds, those are stars. That is the Milky Way. He was astonished that there are places in the world from which you can actually see the Milky Way. I’m still astonished there are people who have never seen it with their own eyes. Stargazing was just a part of growing up before the internet.
As I watch the sky, I see two shooting stars. There was a meteor shower yesterday that I missed. Maybe these were leftovers from last night. I don’t remember seeing many shooting stars as a kid and I wonder why. Probably because I didn’t appreciate then that I would live now in a place that replaces stars with street lamps and silence with the constant hum of motorized vehicles rushing people to their very important rendezvous.
I’d heard it has been warm here in the Northeast, but it seems that I have brought colder weather. It only hit the mid seventies today, which was perfect for swimming, but means that the temperature will drop into the fifties tonight. I was hoping to sleep with all the windows open, covered lightly in a sheet in the hot humid air. The kind of stickiness that can only be broken by a morning thunderstorm that signals relief. However, I’ve shuttered camp and will instead wrap myself in numerous blankets to try and stay warm.
I miss sleeping with my windows open and not worrying that someone will break into my house. I miss the naivete that comes from living in a place where, for the most part, people don’t think that shooting each other is a valid solution to problems. Where townsfolk say good morning when passing on the street. Where the word community means something to more than just politicians. I do love where I live in California, it is one of the safest cities of its size, there are tons of things to do and see, and I love where I work and I learn so much from the people there. But it will never feel as much like home as sitting in silence on the lake, watching for shooting stars.