This is the ‘camp’ that Fred (my dad) built - when he was 18 years old. Each summer I reflect back on my barefoot week of unstructured peace and fresh air, during the three hour drive home.
He purchased two lots with his savings while earning $35/week, and the paperback book “How To Build A Log Cabin”. We found the book and his log of all his costs including every pound of nails he bought along with his guidebook. My dad and a couple buddies who all worked long hours in family businesses Monday through Saturday, would drive up from Boston to Ossipee, NH after work on Saturday evenings. The story is they would all start getting sleepy in Ossipee and couldn’t make it to North Conway so he looked for land there. They knew at 18 years old that they needed balance in their lives and a day of rest was deserved and critical.
First year they dug and built the foundation as well as the well, next year the studs and the third year they closed it in and built the sturdy beds simply made of 2 by 4s. His sister ‘Honey’, a paraplegic from an auto accident at 19 years old, would go up and cook for the guys, paint and swim in the lake. She was an accomplished artist - a housewarming painting of a ‘ski bunny’ she painted for him hangs on the wall to this day.
Growing up we spent winter breaks and Sundays skiing at Mt. Whittier together. Two weeks every summer were spent swimming, boating and waterskiing with our cousins, and our parent’s friends and their children. Adults in the cabin and the kids in a giant canvas tent in the pine grove clearing. Great summer memories with days in the water, s’mores at night with a marshmallow toasted golden on the tip of a twig whittled to a point, then playing Uno or Monopoly and falling asleep in the tent hearing the adults play charades and dancing the night away with a turntable... No radio or television to this day - and no one misses it! Every 4th of July we would set afloat ‘wish boats’ made of a piece of scrap wood with the remains of a candle stub melted and standing on it, make a wish and set it off the shore at sunset. This year we watched others across the lake send off their version of our wish boats with candle-lit lanterns floating into the black night, appearing to join the thousands of twinkling stars.
With only one addition/renovation in 2009, adding a second floor master bedroom, my siblings, our kids and now their grandchildren have spent every summer at this log cabin in the same camp as we did, with different friends and relatives joining us each summer to continue the tradition of sharing the gift he built. Still swimming, paddling and skiing, napping in the hammock and cooking s’mores over the fire pit after dinner, followed by a board game or working on the latest puzzle. Little did my dad know the legacy he built 72 years ago as a teenager, would become the relaxing tradition of barefoot, lake living and togetherness that now spans four generations.
As I reflect on what makes this week so special each summer, I think of ways to bring this piece of heaven home with me, to carry pieces of the behaviors of this legacy into my life for the next year-
* Noticing nature
* Morning coffee on the deck with gratitude
* Time with loved ones
* Moving each day naturally (walking the dog, kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, cycling, waterskiing)
* Socializing in a relaxed manner
* Daily nap
* Sleeping 8+ hours
* Preparing fresh food and eating together
* Games and puzzles
* Technology break
* Walking barefoot
* Unscheduled - period
* Evening dog walk
I look at what I love about 'camp' and realize they are all what put our life in balance. Socialization. Movement. Simple unprocessed food. Rest. We can all fall asleep with the window open, waking to the call of a bird to it’s mate. It may not be a loon’s call echoing across an early morning glass-like lake, but we can still practice presence and lay there quietly, taking deep slow breaths while tuning in to the breeze drifting through the window and unique calls outside our walls for a minute or two before we rise. Maybe we take five minutes (or get up 5 minutes earlier) to slowly sip a cup of hot lemon water, coffee or tea while reading a devotional or writing down our morning thoughts, prayers and gratitudes before beginning our day? How about setting up a puzzle table and see if it doesn’t draw in family or friends - if only for 15 minutes breaks. Why are meals so special on vacation? Is it the family meals? Eating with friends? Simple fresh food? The many hands helping out to cook and clean up? Why don’t we have a pasta night or taco night with another family each week - and use paper plates? It would be a fun social time, inexpensive and easy clean up - a one hour camp moment each week! Why do we convince ourselves that we have to stay up so late working on our computers when half of it is social media? Maybe we can get to bed earlier so that we get those 8 critical hours of sleep each night, and then have energy to actually socialize with humans on the weekend - just like at 'camp'. What about shutting off the television and reading a book with a cup of Bedtime tea instead of gazing at the ‘blue light’ the last hour of our night before bed?
What makes your vacations special and how can you carry little ‘vacation breaks and treasures’ with you throughout the year? Can you find ways to balance your life with mini breaks in your day and week? Share how you find ways to carry the peace of vacations into your weekly schedule?
Organic gardener, whole-food, plant-based cook. Educator and advocate for healthy, toxin-free living. Wife and mom, sister and daughter. Service-minded Rotarian. Photographer. Storyteller.