Thirty-two years ago, the summer before I got married, I worked at a camp on Long Lake, here in Maine. One afternoon, during the camper’s mandatory rest period, I slipped away to the lake to stretch out on the dock in the sunshine. It was a perfect afternoon. The lake was tranquil but for little ripples slapping against and enveloping the dock pilings. I was completely alone. The air held that unique fragrance found only around lakes in the summer. It was as if pine and sand and sunshine where blended and released into the air just to satisfy the frontal lobes of this then twenty-three year old. It was at that moment, eyes closed, sun on my youthful chest, that I realized life would never again be so simple and so satisfyingly basic. That is exactly as I understood it. That moment of insight, the simplicity of everything, of my life awaiting my serious attention and my remarkable knowledge of it being so, still affords me solace and comfort. I sometimes envision that on my deathbed that stripped-down vision of life will come to me, just as it did that afternoon in Maine, and I will die in simple peace because of that singular memory. I knew then too at that moment my youth was a former thing.
The notion of regaining the magic of youth is inviting, and has informed many a motive. Magic is a loaded word and many of us experienced less youthful magic than others. The so-called magic of youth is the window through which we peer when we are no longer young. There is no magic to youth. Only our present look back makes it seem so–and even that is troublesome if one takes up residence there. The posture of permanent reflection will turn a person to stone.
All these years later and I have returned to Maine. Magic be damned, I confess to still seeking my sunny youth on an afternoon pier jutting out over a tranquil lake.