Chamber Made Column-June 2, 2012

Summers of Beautiful and Lasting Memories

It was almost two weeks ago today that I found myself in the South Street Seaport District of New York City. It was a brilliant sunny day, sturdy tugboats soundly moored in their slips, the sound of seagulls ever present in the background. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine the merchant ships of yesteryear easing into the harbor, its noisy sailors rambling over to the nearby Paris Restaurant for a foamy brew.

The problem with that scenario is that you have to open your eyes at some point. Off in the distance, I could see the elegant Statue of Liberty obscured by a thick haze. You could barely move a step without being jostled by the crowds, all clamoring to take in the view. And when I approached the Helen McAllister tugboat to take a picture, I happened to take a look down at the water, and it was a murky and muddy brown. I could not help but compare the waters of the harbor to the lakes and streams back home, where you can tell the side of a dropped coin from your kayak. Heck, on an especially clear day, you might even be able to determine the year the copper penny was minted.

As I drove over a bridge on the last leg of my drive to work today, I just had this sense of gratitude of how many clear and clean waterways we have in our backyard. We may be a landlocked state, the ocean hours away, but we can barely take a walk in the woods or by a busy thoroughfare without a creek or river greeting us. I got to thinking of how many of my childhood memories involved water, and it gave me another reason why I think this region is so special.

My siblings and I learned to fish on Miles Pond, my dad patiently threading worms through hooks on shore, gently lobbing our lines into the brink. I can vividly remember being mesmerized by the little red-and-white bobbers, tempting and torturing us by dropping below the water’s surface for a nanosecond. You would have thought that the scant five-inch sunfish we caught were prize ocean marlins by our reactions. It was also at this pond that we watched astronauts walking on the moon, on a black-and-white television smaller than my computer monitor at work.

I have tried to encourage this same love of water to my own children, who more times than I could count were in the lake before the dew even dried on the grass. I have great memories of my son and I greeting the arrival of spring each year by running at breakneck speed and hurling ourselves off the dock and into a frigid Maidstone Lake, clothes and all. There were also many a summer night that we donned bathing suits and drove to Pageant Park in Barton to dip our toes into the sparkling Crystal Lake before night fell.

As much as I love water, I must confess to not getting out nearly enough to enjoy the waterways of our region, and it is something I would like to change. I feel a sense of calm looking out on Great Averill Lake in Essex County, often seeing a moose in my travels. I revel at seeing little ones cautiously easing themselves into the water at the beach of Joe’s Pond. I cannot tell you how many times I have parked myself on a bench near the Gateway Center in Newport, just to watch the sailboats glide across Lake Memphremagog. Water is as much of our culture than any distant seaport district or any western shore. Our water just happens to be fresher.

The official start of summer has not even arrived and already I am making promises that I hope to keep, to take more trips to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the waterways of our region. I need to go no further than my own chamber’s website, www.nekchamber.com, and the Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism’s site, www.travelthekingdom.com, to find new adventures this summer. I want at life’s end to recount more memories of summer days of wonderment than who won the latest edition of American Idol. It is something I used to do as a younger woman and something I vow to change now as gray hairs grace my temple.

I have been told many times in the past week that life is too short to regret actions not taken, adventures not attempted and friendships and relationships not reconnected. I cannot put into words how much I would treasure just one last trip to the lake with my dear parents, the two of them approaching the start of each summer day with the sense of it being an endless vacation.

Turn off the television, pack a bag, throw on some sunscreen and head out the door. There is no time to waste. Summer is precious in these parts, with just a few short, hot months to sustain us for the rest of the year. It will not be long until a chill fills the air, the leaves start to fall and we will have regretted the loss of yet another lost summer. Not me, not this summer, not again.

(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber.)

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