You’ve all undoubtedly faced the flat sadness that comes from a lull in my blogging, as I have been on vacation on the Belgrade Lakes in Maine. While the vacation persists, the blogging must resume.
I’m raising two young outdoorsmen, and we’ve been fishing, kayaking, and hiking for more than a week now. My older son’s stamina for fishing is impressive at this point, and he can now paddle his own kayak for a moderate distance. Hiking, however, remains an area where we are years away from the day-long treks I once did. That will require many years of breeding and careful grooming, and to get there, I must strike the delicate balance of finding hikes that are ever more challenging, yet do not break down, defeat, or bore my young men.
This part of Maine is good for that. The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance has blazed several trails of varying duration, from quick roadside vistas to rather substantial multi-mile hikes. Today, we headed to the Sander’s Hill Loop trail. It’s manageable, a modest grade with some fair views from the low summit. It’s a four snacker, requiring 2.5 hours for our troop to complete, and that with only two brief stints of carrying the boys on our shoulders.
Most importantly, there are trailside oddities and diversions:
a log ladder to a boulder overlooking Watson Pond,
rock ledges and a warren of small caves and tunnels,
and some small scale wildlife, like two snakelings, a copper colored frog, and a caterpillar thick as a thumb undulating luxuriantly across the trail.
All these break up the journey into manageable bits. With young kids, there is no sustained attention, nor can uninterrupted hours be devoted to anything.
Last week, at the carnival of unnecessary items that is the Marden’s discount store in Waterville, their book section was stacked with publishers remainders of poetry. I was an English major, and I spent three good years mooning around reading Yeats, drinking coffee and scouring The Montague Book Mill (“Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”). I got nostalgic, standing in the Marden’s aisle across from the suede-look recliners and bins of clothesline and vinyl sandals. For six dollars, I got three books of poetry and carted them back to our cabin on Long Pond.
Most of my days here are spent stealing a bit of time to read or knit between botherings by my kids, listening to Simon say, again and again, “Mum? Wanna see this?” [crashes a misshapen paper airplane into the floor] “Wanna see that again?”
Sometimes I dart off and read a depressing poem by Philip Larkin. Then one of the boys calls again. I can only read a poem or two at a time. At first, I was feeling sorry for myself about that. Then I realized, that’s exactly how I ought to take these poems: one at a time, to carry with me while I watch the airplane crash again. One poem to roll around in my mouth like a stone for the next few hours.
Besides, there’s only so much Larkin a person can take before she loses the will to live entirely.