For many people, there are certain places that are so special and meaningful that they almost seem magical. For my family, Bridgton, Maine has become that place. It is far enough away from our home and so different that it feels a lot like stumbling through the back of a wardrobe and arriving in Narnia when we get there. (That is after a not so magical nine hour car ride). The beauty of the woods, hills, mountains, streams, ponds and lakes is breathtaking. When we get to the house where we are staying we almost expect to be greeted by a fawn or a talking beaver. For goodness sake, we actually stay in a house on Beaver Pond.
This year was even more special than last (last year was our first time to vacation in Maine). We were able to take my parents and one of our boys’ friends to enjoy the experience with us. Candidly, I am not normally an “outdoorsy” kind of person and like cousin Eustace, I was quite skeptical last year about how much I would enjoy a place that was so remote and different than my every day experience. Like a boy having his dragon skin ripped off, I had to go through some pretty transformational moments to really “get” how magical Maine can be.
Last year, that involved learning to fish for the first time and then teaching my teenage son to do so even when I had no clue what I was doing. For those who read my blog last year at about this time, you will remember that my most transformational experience was also the hardest. Based on the advice of our dear friends who let us use their house on the pond, we hiked two and a half miles up a mountain. Once the path was no longer wide enough for a vehicle to travel and suspiciously seemed to get steeper and more treacherous to walk on, I knew I was in trouble. Not knowing how far two and a half miles in one direction up a mountain really was, I pushed on. For many people, the view at the top made the trip all worth it. For me, making it to the top at all was a staggering accomplishment.
This year, I had the joy of watching my son catch more fish that he knew what to do with, to see my father use his new fishing equipment for the first time and to see my dad teach my son how to gut and cook the fish. They actually tasted really good. The hike was not quite as strenuous this year as I knew what I was getting myself into and had actually worked out a little more this past year in preparation. Interestingly, the climbing conditions were actually much worse as it had rained so much that the path had become a stream over very slippery rocks in many places. Getting to the top was still a significant accomplishment, and the spectacular views really did make it worth doing.
My greatest joy this year, however, was discovering a magical place called Bridgton Books. We visited briefly last year, but spent more time this year really exploring what made this place so special. In an age when independent bookstores are nearly an extinct species, this store was a delight to behold. Each time that we went it was bustling with people and seemed to be a real hub for the community. Who knew that a bookstore could be the busiest place on Main Street? It provided a wonderful experience to discover new books and authors that I would have never known or considered reading in the past.
Like all magical experiences, they normally come to an end. For our family, the trip home was a bit like feeling our way through the fur coats and then tumbling out of the wardrobe back into reality again. The journey involved losing two hours in traffic, discovering that the air conditioner (in our “new” used car) only worked intermittently and having a flat tire. Despite that, we also chose a new way around New York City to come home and really enjoyed the beauty of the Hudson Valley for the first time. I know that we are all looking forward to our trip to Narnia (or Bridgton) next year. Everyone needs a little magic in their lives at least once a year.