Monday, September 16, 2019

Return to Maine

I’ve been a westerner for a whole lot of years now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the state of Maine. When I was 16, my dad changed jobs and dragged the family, kicking and screaming, from Seattle to Philadelphia. By August of that year, when my dad’s vacation time came up, we had a single plan—to drive north to escape the heat and humidity. We didn’t stop until we got to Maine. And every year thereafter, we looked forward to the trek north in August.

After a long absence, I just returned from a magic week on Orrs Island, Maine where my son-in-law’s family has been summering since 1910. Charles Henry Arndt, an Episcopal priest in Philadelphia, must have been feeling the heat way back then when he established a summer chapel on the island and built a house there for his wife and three sons. It is still in the family, owned and managed by some of his descendants. Other family members have migrated there as well. There are Arndts all over the place.

In the early 1900s, the trip from Philadelphia took two days beginning with a trolley ride to the train station, a train to New York, a taxi to the dock, an overnight boat to Boston, then a steamer to Orrs Island and a carriage ride to the house. 

The Arndts have become a family of sailors, some of them skilled enough to sail across oceans. There are fish to be caught, beaches to comb, trails to explore, and for those gutsy enough, there’s a unique bridge to jump from into the bay and distinctly refreshing water to swim in. This year I only got wet once when three of us managed to capsize a small rowboat, making for a good story to tell.

There’s a fireplace in the living room that has big windows facing the water, a quiet room to escape to for a solitary read, an impossibly difficult jigsaw puzzle challenge and all the time in the world to sit around and talk.

Dinners can start off with a table set for eight and end up with an extra four people. The food always seemed to stretch as needed. Of course, we had to have a traditional lobster dinner.

Wandering the side roads and villages in Maine is like walking through a picture post card.

For me, the place is full of memories: cool nights, boat rides, long walks and good fellowship.