I shouldn’t have mentioned it to D’wayne, that’s not his real name, but it’s what I call him. There’s and old Key & Peele sketch that I like very much, D’wayne has never seen it. He humors me by accepting the moniker.
“At least we’ve had a pretty decent dry spell. Your camp road is probably passable at this point.”
I looked out the window to subliminally will him to do the same. It was a sunny afternoon overlooking nothing in particular.
Fifteen years ago, before they tossed windows into the walls, the architectural staff did not discuss my office view with any concern about the future occupant. I watch some police cars, and fire trucks go by from time to time; the cars are silent, the fire trucks not so much.
“Possibly,” D’wayne said.
Of course, both of us knew that the weekend was going to bring the type of rain that makes camp roads impassible for a few days at a time.
D’wayne is the keeper of cleanliness on the third deck of the BPD. He is a man of few words, but he tells me good stories; I think he trusts me. Not all the way; Mainers rarely trust you all the way. I like that trait. Too much trust sometimes betrays a person.
I’m a Mainer, so I don’t pry. People will tell you as much as they want to tell you. There’s no need to dig. Digging can cause scrapes and scars, and those tend to bleed.
I only dig when something needs to be solved. It was my trade, and I think I made my mark. Your mark fades as other people make their own. They stamp over yours like a kid carving his initials into a Hemlock. If you look close, you’ll still find mine, but you are better off just walking by to find a tree of your own.
D’wayne is unsolvable. He’s a cold case.
He is retiring soon. Actually, he already retired once, but I think he got bored and came over to help us out. He’s not a janitor by trade; he did other cool things at a world-famous Maine canoe factory. Most of our conversations center around going to camp. Now and then he tells me a story from his days making canoes; we love canoe stories where I come from. He has a great spot in a beautiful place somewhere north of Bangor. He speaks about it with the same reverence I have for my place, further east from here.
He still calls his parents “Mumma and Daddy.” They built his cabin, but they don’t go any longer for obvious reasons. When someone respectfully speaks of their parents as Mumma and Daddy, the listener should do a mindful and silent count from one to three. No need to talk. It allows their spirit to visit for time without interruption.
I know that D’wayne’s second retirement will happen before I exit, but Mainers like to remain mysterious even if you know them well. We only talk about retirement when he brings it up. Sometimes he stands silently and smirks. We then talk about leaking roofs, getting water from a pump, and people from other places who pull in and try to buy your cottage just as soon as you crawl under it to fix a broken pipe.
Still, those visitors don’t always understand why it makes you a bit cranky. They’ve more than likely never had the opportunity to repair camp/cottage plumbing, so it stands to reason that—at that moment— they are happier than you are.
One of the things that should be pointed out to the rest of the world is this; most Mainers only have camps (cottages) because someone in their family built them between 1947 and 1985. I pick those years arbitrarily as sometime after WWII and the year I recall that lake-front property was becoming too expensive for many Mainers. Buying what once was cheap is no longer possible. Suddenly, a given becomes a dream, which makes many of us very sad.
Our place was first planted on cedar post footers in the early twenties. My Significant One’s family bought it from a fellow who landed there in the mid-1800s. His first name was Cyrus; it’s a name not all that popular in current baby books.
Maine has six-thousand lakes and great ponds. Thousands of miles of rivers and streams are available, but people from away often find it offputting that ‘everyone’ has a place on the water. They envision gorgeous homes and palatial oligarch-style housing options; nothing is further from the truth.
These camps we speak of were made from repurposed lumber, leftover metal roofing, and huge stones rolled out of the pathway—later— to be used for foundation material. They took their families to the lake or pond on hot summer Saturday nights to dip in frigid water. They patched the roof while kids played, and they axe split windfallen wood so they could warm the place up during ice fishing or ice collecting seasons.
This is why Mainers who are retiring speak of going to camp. Sure, some go to Florida, and we understand. But the resilient among us will just go more often to camp.
My conversation about the roads being dry was merely a precursor to a conversation about what this man will be doing in retirement. I already knew, so there was no reason to talk about the gift of a gold watch or sleeping in more regularly. That’s not happening.
He will just go to camp. Maybe he will have a quick visit with Mumma and Daddy. Gold watches can’t hold a candle to that.
*Thanks so much for reading my scribblings here at the website. We are in the midst of a cleansing, and you will see new photos, styles, and other things in the coming month. Bear with us. Since it won’t be a long time before I “go to camp” I am trying to make this a more regular part of my writing regimen. Book three is in the bag, as I call it. I met with my editor yesterday. It looks like the new one will be out in early November. I plan on micro-touring a bit to do signings and readings, but also plan of going to some Maine and New England libraries this summer. My July retirement date has been confirmed. Thanks for all the support for the site in both time spent, and donations to the BMAC fund. It keeps us running, and allows me to avoid looking for full-time work in the coming year. I am gonna settle into finishing that fiction book that I’ve dreamed of completing. Be well.