Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the ghost trees of lily bay

A lake is a landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh, Lily Bay State Park, on the shores of the beast of a lake that is Moosehead.  We returned to the campground we had loved so much last year and spent another visit here, a year older, walked the same trails, swam in the lake, visited some of the same spots we had found when here last year.  We walked along with our year younger selves, our own ghosts, and old challenges, snafus, and activities were replaced with new ones this year. 

And we know, too, we will be back again.

As I did when we were in Acadia a few weeks ago, I focused again on the small. Or rather on one thing.  The trees.  They are so gorgeously unique here, evergreens running right down to the rocky shores of the lake.

The spruce and cedar on its shores, hung with gray lichens, looked at a distance like the ghosts of trees.
Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

And I made a note to myself.  I want to learn how to take better pictures of spider webs.

This is a place of such texture.  Miniature trees, bright green, shiny, and fuzzy popping up through the forest floor.  And paths through the woods head off beyond where you can see.  And if you follow the paths, they bring you down to the shore of the lake, ending abruptly, with no beach below you, just a step over a fallen log and then three feet down into the cool and moving waters of the lake.  From there, it is just 20 feet through waist high water until you come to an island upon which the path continues.  It bisects the tiny landmass, a rock covered in trees bigger than the forest on the shore and dotted with wild blueberries full of fruit.  Then you again reach the end of the path, looking out into the vast lake, Mount Kineo rising alone behind the shore across the water.

The scratchy scrub trees out there, the ghost trees along the island's edge, can be climbed and visitors before us had helped the lake fill their crevices with stones from the bottom of the lake.

I wasn't the only one taken with the trees and the woods.  As we were driving the park road on our second day, the kids noticed how densely and thickly a young area of the woods had grown.  Julia noticed how closely the tree trunks were growing to one other, one trunk atop the supporting main roots of another with less than an inch between them.  Nicholas commented on how, if you were trying to pass through the woods as the early explorers might have done -- like Thoreau with his guide -- and you came to such a patch, you would not be able to walk through and would have needed to circle the area until you found a place in which the trees grew thinner and you could fit between the trunks.  We all imagined what traveling in a place in which there were no paths, just landscape, might have been like.

At the campsite, Jonathan and Elliott became very interested in making walking sticks similar to ones we had seen people using at Mount Blue State Park.  After their hikes, the sticks were often left behind leaning against the map at the trail head for the next person to wrap their hands around, perhaps smoothing it more as that new hiker climbed.  Jonathan and Elliott found the perfect branches lying in the woods near our site.  And spent hours smoothing and debarking them with rocks.

Soon we unpacked our new favorite camping accessory: a badminton set that was the perfect width to install across the driveway of our site.  We played and played under the cedar canopy, learning how to hit just right so the birdie did not get caught in the lower branches.  And when we over shot, and it did get caught, endless silliness ensued.  Soon retrieving our birdie became part of the game.  Red squirrels sat on branches just above the shuttlecock and they noisily chirped and chattered at us.  Elliott announced that it was just like the monkeys in Caps for Sale.


When pebbles did not bring the birdie down, larger items began to be used.  So the sturdy walking sticks took on a whole new purpose.

But the birdie was not the only thing that the branches would catch.

As I made dinner, the whole family became involved in throwing things into the branches, things that frequently did not come back down, in order the retrieve the original birdie.  After the walking sticks got lodged, we tried a rope.

And pretty soon we were all laughing about this being more like Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers.

Eventually, what went up finally came down.  But the trees of Lily Bay.  We touched and climbed and tested their strength, played under them, moving beside our past selves and the many who had explored these woods before us.

The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings. 

Henry David Thoreau

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