Sunday, June 30, 1996
The kitchen has been garbaged. The trash can is on its side. Paper towels, melon rinds, coffee grounds are scattered over the floor. A cardboard barrel of pretzels has been opened, nibbled, and excreted upon. In a basket, every single apple and peach has been sampled, gnawed.
I was gone just a few hours, a drive to the Burlington airport to meet a midnight flight. I've done a week of rehab work at a house called the Blue Heron. Now my family has come to join me for a few days. At 1:30 a.m. this kitchen full of garbage and pellets of poop is their welcome to the Adirondacks.
As I sweep the floor, two chipmunks brazenly enter the kitchen through a gap beneath the door. Seeing me, they stop, rear on their hind legs for a moment as if to get a better look, then flick their tails and run back out.
I feel like I'm the chump in some Chip 'n' Dale cartoon.
In the bedrooms, tiny bugs are swarming. I light citronella candles. In my daughter's room a giant pale green moth thumps its wings against the window glass, smitten by the candlelight or perhaps by my daughter, who at age 17 is lovely to the eyes of moth or man. We are a family of four on this trip: myself, my wife, my 17-year-old daughter and my 14-year-old son. Our oldest son is spending the summer at college.
In the days that follow, we climb mountains.
Chip 'n' Dale continue their relentless siege of the kitchen. They break open the cookie can and gorge on peanut butter cups.
A hundred years of scuffling feet have worn a deep groove in the wooden threshold under the kitchen door, allowing entry to any manner of vermin including cute little chipmunks. There are no power tools here, but with a hand saw I cut a piece of 1x4 pine for an extension to the door bottom. To match the irregular trough of the threshold, I'll have to shape it somehow. I have a pocket knife. I have time.
Every morning, I clean up the mess that the chipmunks have made overnight. Occasionally in an Adirondack chair on the porch or at the dock, I'm whittling, watching little brown toads hopping in the dirt or a pileated woodpecker grooming the trees. I'm easily entertained.
The lake is becoming populated with motorboats as the summerfolk arrive. Canoes pass. Everybody waves. We don't know them; we just wave. Frisky lads and comely lasses are sunning on docks all along the shore.
Now it's Sunday, June 30. All day it threatens to rain but never does. The air is warm and muggy. My wife starts her day with a cup of real coffee which then energizes her to sweep and mop floors and do laundry - all because we’re out of decaf.
My whittling is complete. I install an elegant chipmunk barrier at the base of the kitchen door.
After dinner we walk down the paved road to Union Falls accompanied by a cloud of mosquitoes and swooping swallows who appreciate the bugs. Coming back, the fireflies are rising, frogs chirping, bats dipping. My daughter tries to recall the song “I Swallowed a Fly;” then, to her disgust - she swallows a fly. We hear what sounds like human voices from the bog. Swamp ghosts? Or frogs?
Back at the Blue Heron, in the kitchen I hear a scuffling. When I switch on the light, two chipmunks dive through a small hole in the floor. I plug the opening with the neck of a beer bottle, upside down. The natural world that surrounds this lodge is the ultimate owner and will take it back over time. Relentlessly it probes. Chipmunks and giant pale green moths are only the most visible of scouts.
Late in the evening we go to the dock and watch the full moon rising over Silver Lake Mountain. After a choppy day, the lake is calm. Two big hairy spiders - wolf spiders - cling to the concrete just above water line at the boathouse.
It's the sort of night when babies are conceived. There's a magic by the lake in the warm air, voices floating over still water, children playing, teens flirting, grownups drinking and laughing.
We launch two canoes and silently glide. Trout jump for flies. Nobody is fishing. A meteor crosses without a sound. A yellow streak of shimmer from the moon seems to follow us like a spotlight over the water. The woods are black. Lights of cabins go out one by one. Each stroke of the paddle makes a gurgle, a swirl of lunar glitter.
A loon calls. Another loon answers from the opposite shore. The song is wild and wonderful, a duet of call-and-response that echoes and amplifies. The water is cool as it splashes our hands. The scent is wet and evergreen. The lake is dark, mysterious, alive. It's the second full moon in the month of June. By some definitions, that's a Blue Moon. I want to tie it to the song of the loons, but rhyming seems facile in the presence of such a magnificent cathedral of night. We are rich with life in all its messy glory. Warm love, cool water, dark woods, glowing sky.