In the novel Out of Africa, Karin Blitzen suggested that part of what drew her to fall in love with Denys was because he showed her her beloved Africa from his plane. Conversely, I suspect I fell in love with Lake Champlain partly because Tom showed her to me. Fresh out of college we had no funds for a honeymoon. Tom took me to his special place, the camp on Lake Champlain, on the edge of the land of forever wild in the Adirondacks.
Now, my ancestors were Gloucester fishermen, builders of the Montminny Cats, fast sailing catamarans. I grew up spending summers on the ocean beaches of Massachusetts with my Mom and Aunt, natural born swimmers as if the DNA of water creatures ran in their blood. Weekends we fished on my Uncle’s boat, dropped fished for flounder or ventured further out into the ocean for mackerel to bring home for a fine feast at my grandparents’ home on the saltwater Danvers River.
There is no way a mere lake could compare to the ocean, no tang in the air; no salt on your skin to cure and clear any irritation. Lakes smell swampy, have leeches and are unrefreshingly luke warm. But on June 10, 1980, Tom and I drove north to reach this lake he claimed to be so extraordinary. Up and up we drove, over mountains of green, then swooped down and around where the highway sliced through the mountains, the sharp rocky remnants still standing in the meridian, evidence of how man had cut to the bone. Down, down into green valleys that seemed to threaten to swallow us into the earth, car and all. Green! Until that car ride I had no idea there were so many shades of green. Verdant!
Tom pointed to a mountain peak peering over lesser points. It appeared then disappeared, appeared again larger, beckoning, showing us the way, the sun hitting her top as a good omen. Off the highway on a crest of a hill Tom pointed again. I caught a long stretch of open shiny grayness—my first glimpse of the lake.
Now, thirty-four years later I have made this area my home and never tire of waking to see the Lake each morning. I am certain that many other transplants, who fell in love with Willsboro and Essex share the feelings. And they too, probably hear visitors say, “You are so lucky to live here.”
Luck? I don’t think that is quite a fair statement. Maybe there is a little luck, but mostly it is choice, hard work and some sacrifice. We learn the realities of living here, of protecting the land, the character of our towns and the well being of the residents. Those born and raised here, watch with patience as newcomers learn and grow to see deeper—below the surface appearances of a place that might have been their summer vacation spot. It is not always summer, not everyone is comfortably retired. Bring your experiences and knowledge, but listen and learn. And most of all love this blessing of the Adirondack Coast with all her moods and passions.
Note: The first section is an excerpt from my essay, “Grace a Love Story,” published by Adirondack Life some years back as “A Whaler of a Tale.”
- American Eels in the Lake Champlain Basin (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Cougar Watch Update from Protect the Adirondacks! (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- The Eddy Foundation Protects Adirondacks (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Champlain Valley Peace (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Up North Yoga Conference (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)