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Summer days on a lake in Maine are something to treasure

When the big decisions involve paddling to a blueberry bush, relaxation is working its magic.

It is August, and the Bancrofts are happily in residence at our camp on Long Pond in the Belgrades. Our annual month at camp is one of the things that makes those long winters and wet springs bearable. The days of August are usually glorious, with lots of sun, a nice breeze off the water and that warm, slanting evening light across the lake.

Our camp routine is so, well, routine compared with our "city" life that I sometimes wonder how it could be so therapeutic. We greet each morning with a walk down past the Narrows and the venerable Castle Island Camps, one of the lovelier spots in Maine. The walk is followed by a refreshing swim – all before breakfast.

Usually Sally and I linger after breakfast for a game of Rummy 500 while we discuss the activities of the day. These activities involve lots of reading and puzzling, but often we venture forth in canoe or kayaks to do some blueberry picking.

After a disappointing year in 2010, I am happy to report that the blueberries along the shores of Long Pond have been great. We consume lots of them on morning cereal, of course, but we also freeze many bags to help get us through the winter.

In fact, it was a recent canoe trip to pick blueberries in the Narrows that led to our most unusual sighting of the season. Just before entering the channel, we noticed something large submerging ahead of us. I thought it might be a loon, but several seconds later we saw what seemed to be a significant breaching just ahead of us. It was way too big for a loon, a muskrat or beaver – all of which we have seen fairly regularly here.

We couldn't see the body of the creature, but by this time we were following its regular breaching, trying to get a sighting. It was a little scary.

We thought we might be on the track of a mini Loch Ness creature. Then, all of a sudden, it was right under us. I looked down and was shocked to see a diver, complete with oxygen tank. What we had been seeing as breaching were his air bubbles. In all our time at Long Pond, we have never seen a diver. Of course, he should have been marking his diving area with a buoy and the "Oscar" flag.

Shortly after we saw him, he narrowly avoided an outboard-powered boat coming down the channel. Apparently the diver survived, but his origin and current whereabouts are unknown.

Often a boat trip down to Day's Store in Belgrade Lakes Village also is a must to get newspapers, chicken or steak for the barbecue, and the latest on the Red Sox from Carey Oliver, who owns the store with his wife, Diane Day Oliver. The Olivers provide lots of color on what is happening in the community.

Diane has been very active in the "Docks to Doorways" project that led to the construction on a prominent village site of the new Maine Lakes Resource Center. The center is based in a handsome 3,500-square-foot building that backs on the canal to Great Pond. The center will house the organizations dedicated to the study and improvement of the Belgrade watershed. It will be a center for education about how to protect and preserve the lakes resource.

This last Saturday was one of "battening down" the hatches in preparation for Tropical Storm Irene. We took our boat out of the water, secured all our kayaks and canoes in protected places on shore, tied down the outdoor furniture, and stocked up on food and ice – in case we lost electricity. Neighbors were all doing the same thing, and we gave each other a hand, along with discussing the latest on the storm track.

Sunday brought lots of rain, but not very much wind. It also seems to have brought a temporary end to summer.

Few boats are left on the lake, and many camps look as if they have been closed for the season. All of this has created the effect of an early fall.

Nonetheless, I am sure that by the midweek, with summer weather restored, boats and campers will reappear. Sally and I will be here, holding to wonderful lake rhythms for the last few days before Labor Day.