Mama Goes To Camp

Inspired by a poet's life, she joins an old friend on a rustic adventure to the Canadian bush.

by anne goodwin • Member { View Profile }

I knew the minute the door shut on the 1952 DeHaviland Float Plane that I was in for the adventure I had hoped for. Just hours earlier I kissed and hugged my husband and safety net goodbye as I started on a journey that most would fine unusual if not down right strange. Waiting for me at the end of my second flight and next to me on that float plane was the man, who, as a boy, at 8, hit endless tennis balls with me, and at 12, gave me my first kiss, then my second “lay” at 17 combined with 40 years of laughter, heartbreak, joy, frustration, and all the other twists that accompany an unconditional lifetime friendship. "Come to the Island," he'd beckon throughout the years. "Bring Matthew, bring the boys, bring yourself. Just come."

When I finally said “yes,” I credited the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. After reading the story of her experimental bohemian life (where she left her husband on their New York country estate for a solo sojourn to Paris intended to last a week, which ultimately turned into a year and a half adventure, during which she continually wired her friends to “please send money!”), I decided, after tucking our boys into a two-week camp session, that four solo days in the Canadian Bush reconnecting with Peter sounded completely reasonable. (And if you’re my mother, please do not read any further.)

As Jim, the bush pilot, and Scotty (unknown to me, our 30-something, “just in case we have trouble on the island” third person) spoke perfect Fargoease, we skimmed the edges of the lake gaining speed for the last leg of my journey to the infamous Island. Peter, his traveling companion who happens to be a black lab/shepherd mix named Sophie, and I, all breathed a collective sigh of relief. We were enjoying the breeze from the open windows after squeezing ourselves, drenched and glowing with heat, amongst our carefully placed provisions into the back seat of the plane known affectionately as The Beaver.

As we rose above the treetops, I began to shed layers of my day/night job otherwise known as my life and allowed myself to ease ever so lightly into Peter's casual and familiar hand gently massaging my shoulder. Guilt was not part of the setting. My husband Matthew provided the ticket and the overall blessing. "Do what feels right, Anne," he encouraged. "He knew you first, and I never want your life to be less being married to me." I almost laughed out loud as the magnitude of complete freedom washed over me. I slowly glanced sideways to start to take in the friendship tincture known all my life, simply as Peter. As the "oh yeah you know hey" and  "ya don't say eh's" bantered on in front of us, I watched with awe as civilization fell away into pristine green forests surrounded by deep blue waterways as far as we could see. Not knowing what was ahead, I revisited conversations in the past regarding the island. The words “lodge,” “separate cabins,” “Hudson Bay blankets,” “new pier” all came to mind, and I relished the idea of an idyllic Ralph Lauren setting nestled in the wilderness below me.

The anticipation shifted a tiny bit after Peter mentioned the "camp" had yet to be open for the season. Owning two Wisconsin rustic lake cottages with Matthew, I had just finished the annual chore of cleaning out all the four legged, eight legged, and other foreign ecosystems that make themselves perfectly at home in the off season. I hoped for holding on to “favored guest” not “worker bee” status.

Bouncing along our lake landing, I stretched to see where “home” would be for the next few days. We propelled toward a shoreline that was mostly tree and rock lined except for a teeny, ramshackle building perched on a small clearing at the end of the island. Peter explained that I was looking at “the sauna,” once abandoned by some Finns elsewhere, then ultimately moved to its current perch. As we puttered in for our docking, my focus sharpened on all that surrounded the little shack. Sanford and Son is what first came to mind. Scattered lake accessories in all states of disrepair: buckets, ropes, overturned row boats, canoes, paddles, tools and barrels peppered the shoreline.

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