August at Camp

Labor Day has come and gone. Kids are back at school.  Dads and Moms are back at work. Another summer in Maine, another glorious summer has passed.

If one were to pay attention to the national news or even the state of Maine news, there was much to be concerned about. We are in a Presidential election that threatens to lower the level of political dialogue to levels heretofore unseen and unimagined. Were he still with us, Beaver Cleaver would be forbidden to watch television and probably be confined to his room. It is that bad. Even in our peaceful state which we like to characterize as 'The way life should be" our Governor's obscenity laced rants have become the talk of the land. One national magazine went so far as to say "If you want to see what a Trump Presidency would be like, simply track the latest from Maine's Governor, Paul LePage."

No matter. Up at Camp Campy Camp on Long Pond in the Belgrades we hear none of this fierce cacophony. We read none of the accounts of such things. To us the only connection to the outside world in the lovely month of August is to tune in each night to Joe Castiglione bringing the latest to Red Sox Nation over WEEI radio.

Joe is not troubled with the latest from the campaign trail, and he certainly cares not a whit what the governor of Maine might say or do - unless, of course, it has to do with State of Maine Day at Fenway Park.

This is not to say we are cut off from most of the world at Camp Campy Camp. (See below for a note on the origins of the name.) Almost daily we journey to Day's Store in Belgrade Lakes Village for provisions and to get the latest local news from owners Diane and Cary Oliver. Once a week or so we even venture south to our home in Cumberland.

Most of the time we sit out on our deck, or take a swim from our dock, or perhaps an afternoon break in our two hammocks. There is lots of reading, Sally always does a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle or two (without looking at the picture),  there are many games of Rummy 500, the occasional game of Qwirkle (a colorful version of dominoes) and very occasionally (if it is raining hard) the Scrabble board may come out. Sally is such a master of this game that Ron is tough to get to the table, though if daughter Carrie is around, she and Sally have lively battles.

Sally and I continue to delight in how these gentle rhythms of camp life captivate us. The days simply roll on - relaxed and relaxing. This spell is broken instantly if we go home for a day or two - at home all of the burdens of our many responsibilities and "to do's" seem to loom large. Not so at camp.

Sally and I do try to read at least one "serious" book while we are at camp. This year I took on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Sally took on Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Both books run more than 1,200 pages. Sally may want to add her own comments about Les Miserables. Revisiting War and Peace was a highlight of my summer. Thirty years ago I listened to War and Peace on books on tape. At the time I had a commute of over an hour to work. Over a 2 - 3 month period I managed all 36 or 40 tapes involved.

A few months ago I read an essay in the Weekend Financial Times on why this author rereads War and Peaceabout every ten years. His description was compelling. I wanted to give it a go.

It is a wonderful book. The story line is compelling for one, like myself, who enjoys 19th century European history. Tolstoy weaves his story of life in the aristocratic society of Petersburg and Moscow around Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Tolstoy's description of the military campaign is surprisingly insightful and quite true to the history. One of his gifts are the way he brings to life the events of the gentry. For example, his almost chapter length description of a wolf hunt is like nothing I have read. The detail is rich, the prose comes alive, one is left with an appreciation of the way such events were a vital part of the fabric of life on the country estates.

Then there are Tolstoy's characters. There are many, also richly drawn. Tolstoy has a Dickens-like way of bringing one into the middle of life as it was just then, just there. War and Peace is all of this - a rip-roaring story and an authentic period piece. It is also a moral statement. Tolstoy seems to be trying to work out why man is here. What does one's life mean? In particular, Tolstoy examines these questions through the eyes of his three principal characters: the noble, ascetic Prince Andrei, the bumbling intellectual, Pierre Bezukhov, and the passionate Natasha Rostov. Each of these characters is well and truly tested. Through it all Tolstoy shows his unshakable optimism in the triumph of the good. Now that summer is done and I have mastered all 1,237 pages I am buoyed by Tolstoy's message. It gives me hope - hope that in spite of the politics that envelops us the better angels of our nature will prevail.

Note: "Camp Campy Camp" emerged from a contest to name our camp. Many more conventional names were submitted: The Pines of Long Pond, Bancroft Point and the like. We could not agree! Then one day my wife Sally and I came up to camp and found a large sign with elegant red lettering on a white background that proclaimed the spot "Camp Campy Camp" and so it has become.