The Ghost of Summer Past

…they came unto a land
In which it seeméd always afternoon.

—Tennyson, The Lotos-eaters

honeymoon-cottageOn Sunday, we attended a surprise anniversary party for our friends Craig and Ethel. They own and operate a summer resort known as The Cape on a lake not far from here.

We hadn’t visited the place for a long time. During the 80’s, however, we spent a week or two of nearly every summer at The Cape. In 1983, the year Elizabeth was three, we stayed in the Honeymoon Cottage. That’s where I took this picture on Sunday, and the sight and sound and smell of the place carried me back to that long ago summer.

The Honeymoon Cottage dates from a time when it was possible to build right on the water. The cottage is triangular and its narrow point actually extends over the water. The doorway shown in the picture opens to a small porch. Sitting on the porch is like being in a boat.

In the picture, the late afternoon sun streams through the windows, and that’s how I remember both the lake and the Honeymoon Cottage. No radio, no television, no telephone, no newspaper. We spent our days on the beach, or reading in the shade, walking in the woods or paddling a canoe along the shore.  There were long conversations, afternoon naps, and intimate evening meals with family and friends. At night we fell asleep to the sound of the lake lapping against the dock. In the morning, we lingered on the deck with cups of coffee.

When it was time to go home, we were never ready to leave.

5 Replies to “The Ghost of Summer Past”

  1. This story evokes similar beautiful nostalgic memories for me. I was somewhat startled to see the Moosehead Maple coffee table in the photo. I have one virtually identical to it sitting next to me as I write this. It is part of a set of furniture my parents bought shortly before moving from Maine to New Jersey in the 1970s. Also the spindle legged lamp table by the window looks a lot like (except a lighter color) our ancient, but still working, Kenmore sewing machine we bought as newly weds 40 years ago. We spent a few summer weeks in Maine as well over the years. We even helped my uncle build a “camp” on “Tricky Pond,” and subsequently spent a week living in it.

    Ah yes, I remember the weekend you and I rode in the back of your Dad’s pickup truck to your family camp in Stow. The only electric was from storage batteries from a system your father invented (he was a skilled electrician). Rustic, peaceful, a fond memory.

  2. Jack,

    Frank Bean, the man who originally built most of the cottages at The Cape, was legendary for making do with what he had.

    That is how a bank of metal kitchen cabinets that suddenly fell off the wall in one cabin was repositioned with a single railroad spike!

    That is how a ’47 Chevy, with the windows rolled up and the seats removed, was rolled into a ditch and covered with dirt so that it could serve as a septic tank for another cabin.

    They’ve long since gone legit around the place, of course, but people still like to tell the stories of the old days.

    One of my favorites is a recipe for preparing the land-locked salmon from the lake. The recipe is called “twice-poached salmon” and reads as follows:

    1. Catch out of season.
    2. Steam until done.


    My parents sold the place they had in Stow in 1985. I’ve only been up there a couple of times in the years since. The place where that camp was situated was, I swear, the black fly and mosquito capital of the universe.

  3. My only experience with a weekend in Maine was one spent at Booth Bay Harbor. I ate a bad clam and was sicker than I have ever been in my life.

    I’m glad your memories are better.

  4. Darlene,

    I’m guessing you came to Maine in August during a so-called Red Tide algal bloom. I got sick on clams myself one August when I was a kid. I didn’t eat clams for years and years afterward. There really is more to Maine, however, than nasty clams!

  5. Awesome, Pete! You have a way with words, always. I didn’t know about the truck/septic tank, but I do not doubt what you say. Thanks

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