Once upon a time before I became a human being of sorts there was a maybe/maybe not fiancé who was in charge of a pond. This pond was a popular destination with hikers on account of its being inaccessible and roadless to the mere civilian, and for its wild aspect and clear waters inviting of swimming and frolic after a long summer day of carrying a heavy pack up a mountain for no other reason than doing so.
Because roadless, the pond was also boat-less. But the fiancé, who did have a way of getting much closer by vehicle on a forestry service road (such is our American “wilderness”) had carried in a lightweight canoe. In the evenings he paddled around the pond collecting fees from the frolicking campers once they had their clothes back on and were making dinner. At 6’6” (1.98 m) he cut a striking figure paddling around in the tiny canoe and, even if they had to pay a fee, the hikers loved this canoe-emperor of a landlocked principality.
The pond came to mind when the Carpenter and I lately removed to the Maine North Woods for a sojourn among blueberries, loons, and moose. There we found ourselves on a pond similar in size and aspect to that of the fiancé so many years ago, before I crawled out of the mud. This pond was a bit larger, bordering on “lake,” and less populated; it had a far better campsite. Like the caretaker’s campsite so many years ago, it did, however, sport a decrepit and leaning outhouse.
The fiancé’s outhouse had no door and leaned precariously backwards over its pit. One needed to go there with a newspaper, not to read of the doings of men in the not-all-that-distance civilized world one was trying to escape, but to slap it on the seat with a decisive “thwack!” to chase the flies away, before carefully lowering oneself down so as to not tip the edifice any further.
What made it a superior sort of outhouse was the view. Situated somewhat higher than the camp and concealed by branches of cedar and white pine, one might, like Whitman’s “twenty-ninth bather,” survey not only the length of pond and the mountains beyond, but also the frolicking on the common beach nearby — swimming hole of the adventurous seeking solace and solitude in nature. (Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, section xi)
There, even without the aid of the New York Times, one had ample opportunity to consider one’s achievements or perhaps more realistically shortcomings, as we both had ample reason to do. And to plan the future, which both of us also needed to do, tho’ independently of each other.
The future thus planned was as usual way above my ability to implement. I was then and still am now wont to be distracted by the demands of the present, which, I was shortly to find out, included the immanent near-demise of my mother.
It was nip and tuck but she lived, and when I returned from her bedside some weeks later I went to seek relief at the bosom of the same pond, and there did find it. But not at the bosom of the former fiancé, whose capacity for friendship unfortunately did not include former lovers.
Sojourns at that pond, however, kindled a lifelong search for the perfect campsite and the wildest pond or lake, there to gain ample time to contemplate the loon’s haunting cry, observe the moose splashing by in the morning, and indulge in the pleasure of a daily paddle. But to try to avoid at all cost making up accounts about my shortcomings or making too many plans for the future.
We’ll try that very last bit next year at the next perfect pond. After all, this one was perfect, but its leaning outhouse not only had a door, but left a lot to be desired in terms of a view.
No outhouse pics. Pond pics complemented by a few from past years. Click on a thumbnail to get the album. As usual, these may take a moment to load.