Summer Wanes

This morning’s swim was extra wet, Hurricane Danny’s peripheral rain plopping on the lake’s still surface.  The lake was 20 degrees or more warmer than the 52 degree air temperature and especially quiet, the rain and chill keeping inside the occasional fisherman I see during my just-out-of-bed ritual.  I don’t know how many more morning swims this season holds.  Likely they could be counted on one hand, and certainly no more than two.  Classes start in five days and life swings back to the city.  Judy and I have been in Maine seven of the past eight weekends, missing one for my bike trip around Lake Champlain and her family visit to the Garden State.  We had Maine guests every weekend save one, and loved it all–which does not mean we won’t enjoy time off from being hosts.  This weekend’s guests are long-time friends with whom we used to own a house.  They require little hosting, and we can dial back the relentless attention to detail required to make the weekend run smoothly.  Relaxing, but with the first taste of fall weather the past few days–and with Hurricane Danny dropping buckets of rain outside–this weekend is a transition.

I felt this keenly while I swam.  Rather than don a post-swim rain-soaked robe I left it in the house, walking to the dock wrapped in a towel.  Diving in was a relief, the lake so much warmer than the air and rain above.  I started fast to shake off the chill from the walk and swam to the rock ledge off the south end of our cove, standing in neck-deep water to adjust the goggles. Mist pockets drifted at the cove’s far edge and here and there across the lake.  The gray sky and water set off the dark green trees climbing the hills around the lake.  The boat and swim raft floated motionless in the cove, no wind disturbing the lake’s glassy rain-pocked glassy.  I tried to brand the image into memory, then swam 500 feet to the submerged rock off the cove’s northern point.  I swam fast, pushing myself, enjoying the rhythm–inhale on the breath stroke, water rushing past head and arms, loud burbling exhale.  This summer I swam anywhere from a half- to one and a half-miles each day at the lake and slip easily into good rhythm.  I never sprint, though, and almost out of breath was relieved to spot the large algae-slicked rock looming a few yards ahead.  It sits two feet below the surface 20 yards off the point, in six feet of water–a lurking hazard for an inattentive boater with a outboard motor.  After catching my breath on the rock I slowly swam back to the dock.  Each breath stroke brought a view of familiar water, rocky bank, mottled green foliage, gray-brown trees, and gray sky, a rolling series of snapshots skewed right 90 degrees.  I peeled the goggles off at the dock and floated on my back.  Not for long–the rain was falling too hard on my face for comfort.  Wrapping the towel around my waist–I left it in a tight roll so it was soaked on top–I walked back to the house for my morning coffee.

Summer Begins

Today it all came together.  The beginning of a long weekend in Maine; a temperature near 90 degrees; the annual boat- and car-registrations at Otisfield Town Hall; buying plants–tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, melons, sage–for the vegetable garden; putting out deck furniture; and an evening swim that rinsed off the day’s sweat and grime.  The lake was . . . let’s call it refreshing.  Cold but not heart-attack cold, clean, clear.  Cleo and Chelsey retrieved, swam, and rolled in the dirt and are curled up on the floor, asleep.  The Sox are up on Toronto 4-0 in the 4th.  I’m pleasently tired.  Life is good.

Everyone Loves a Parade

Every summer morning in Maine I swim immediately after waking. Toweling off following the swim on the 4th I saw nine ducks round South Point and paddle into the cove. I expected them to swim outside the dock. Instead, they swam past the moored boat between the dock and the bank into what I thought to be a dead-end. Undeterred four ducks swam alongside the bank and passed beneath the ramp between dock and shore. The other five swam in straight line to the edge of the dock. One hopped out of the water onto the dock and the rest followed, as I watched from five feet away. Ignoring me when I stepped towards them the five ducks waddled single file down the length of the dock, turned right, marched to the far edge, and hopped back into the lake to rejoin their companions swimming up the lake. Before re-entering the lake one duck looked at me, as if to say “what are you looking at? We do this every morning.”

After my swim and morning coffee I biked around the lake. Riding south on 121 toward Bolster’s Mill Road four vintage cars passed me, heading in the same direction. Approaching the fire station spectators lined both sides of the road, fire trucks from South Paris, Poland, Norway, and Casco assembled in lines, more vintage cars organized themselves, and I realized I was riding into parade staging preparatikons. I got stuck behind a long line of fire trucks, vintage cars, and locals waving, stopping, and starting, and joined the pre-parade parade. I kept my place, nodded and gave the two-finger cowboy wave (perfected while riding out west) to spectators, and then chatted with drivers as I passed them. “Nice day . . . great car! . . . enjoy the parade . . .” Past the staging area I was free of parade traffic and rode the rest of the way to Casco without seeing another car.