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If you live “in town,” as we used to call it when we were growing up, it’s easy to get buried in the pandemic doldrums that have gripped many of us. Many businesses are still closed or running at partial capacities, or offering only curbside service. Masks are everywhere (or, at least, they should be).
For more than three months, we’ve all been trying to find our way through this new reality, and the news this week hasn’t been very good: Florida, Texas and California have each set records this week for the most new cases of COVID-19 in one day.
News like that just makes the weight seem harder to bear, and can make us all wonder when, if ever, things will get back to normal.
I don’t have an answer for that. But after talking to my editor earlier this week, and brainstorming stories that could provide BDN readers what they need in this odd time, I think I do have something to offer.
Something that might make you and yours smile. Something that might make life seem next-to-normal. Something that might just put the pandemic out of your mind for a little while.
There are special places out there where life can seem just like it always has, believe it or not. All you have to do is head into the woods.
After several straight days of 90-degree temps last week, I gave up on “city life” (if you can really call my 9,000-citizen burgh a “city”) and headed for a place I knew might offer just the kind of pick-me-up I needed.
I headed to camp.
In other places, Maine camps might be referred to as “cabins,” or “cottages.” Here, they’re just camps, and we love ’em.
And as the mercury in the old loon-shaped thermometer reached 96 degrees (in the shade, no less), it seemed like just another day at camp.
Down on the dock, the littlest relatives swam and splashed and stayed in the water until their lips turned blue and they were coaxed to shore.
Out on the pond, the jet skis sped past, and water skiers and tube-riders shrieked with glee. An occasional fishing boat putted past, headed for deeper water. A steady parade of boaters dropped off swimmers eager to leap off our pond’s most famous rock .
And for a while, the pandemic disappeared.
Whether you’ve got a camp to retreat to or not, nature is always an option, I figure.
Maine is covered with dirt roads that lead to next-to-nowhere, and there’s adventure to be had on all of them. There are brooks to tromp along, and ponds you can fish from shore, and paths that lead into places where you’ll never have to wear a mask, because you’ll have the place all to yourself.
You can take your mountain bike and your kids, hop on, and pedal for a few miles. You can stop and pick wild strawberries, or take photos of the woodpecker you see on the side of the road.
You can pack a lunch and stop along the way, enjoying the solitude and silence of the woods, even if you’re only a mile or two off the main drag.
Me? On that glorious day at camp, I had few concrete plans, and my wife and I exceeded all of our goals for the day. I contented myself with a few well-timed dips in the pond, then found a nice shady spot to sit and read a book. We had a nice lunch by the lake, and enjoyed conversation with my brother and his wife — always at a safe social distance, of course.
It seemed that everywhere we looked, camp-owners were doing the same thing. A few doors down, a boater approached shore and had a socially-distant conversation with a friend who owned the camp.
The normal sounds of camp life — boats humming, wood being cut, laughter and music — floated across the water from all points of the compass.
For a time, everything was normal. Everything was fine. And anything was possible.
That, I figure, is what we all need more of right now. A positive mindset. A place to escape. A few simple, enjoyable activities that don’t rely on us getting close to others, nor forgetting that we’ve got a responsibility to each other.
Our safety depends upon us — all of us — remaining steadfast in our response to the virus.
Luckily, there are plenty of spots where we can do just that, and have a great time, too.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.