summer visitors


22 June, first day of summer; cool with a north wind gusting to nearly 20 knots.   Mosquitoes are out in force now, for the first time truly inside the house if a door is left open for even a moment.  Time to find the bug coils and light one at the entry-way downstairs.  The aroma of smoldering pyrethrins will mark the next few weeks around here. 

11 a.m., homeschool in progress.  Annika finishing a lesson in her electrical assembly course, Liv down to the final few hours of 7th grade with a grammar test emphasising subordinate clauses.  Me trying to help them, but feeling more and more redundant as they charge down the home stretch of a year of kitchen-table schooling.

Piston aircraft engine sound, inbound from the south.  “It’s a white plane on amphibs; it looks like a 185,” proclaims Annika.  The plane passes over the homestead and circles back out over the bay.  The no-nonsense style of flying, and the amphibious floats on a Cessna, mark him in my mind as one of a couple of different pilots, both experienced former airline captains who travel up this way on long tours in summer. 

The girls are excited.   I suppose as much by the break in routine as in the prospect of the visit.  Liv jumps up and runs out onto the balcony.  “Yep, it’s landing.”  Comes back in, puts a kettle on.  “Are you coming down to the beach Dad?”

Odd, my dismay.  Here we go again.  Summer has started now.  “No, I am not going down there.  You can go meet them if you want.”  I feel a sudden weariness, an odd tension and cynicism.   It is the mark of 25 summers of drop-in visitors, arriving on our doorstep day after day, by boat, by plane, by kayak and canoe, all with the same polite and predictable questions – home power, home school, number of dogs in the kennel…  fine people almost every one of them, day after day, month after month through summer after summer. 

Many years ago, a newcomer to the country, I would arrive in my boat at Trophy Lodge in Reliance.  I was always somewhat surprised that my two friends there, Lance and Richard, did not come down to the dock to greet me and walk back up to their quarters with me.  It was always the same – unless they happened to be out doing something, they would not come down to meet me.  Once I came up to their house, though, they would greet me and make coffee and we would visit.  Sometimes they would walk with me back to the dock. 

Now I have come to understand.  Today I wait in the house, and the girls go down.  On another day in the days that stretch out now for two solid months here, I may even go so far as to drift silently back into the edge of the woods and just wait until the people go away.  It has happened, strange as it may sound. 

They come up the path with the girls and into the house.  They are pleasant.  It is nice to see them.  We have met before.  He is, as I thought, the retired airline captain from Salt Lake, this year travelling and camping with his wife.  She is a lawyer, and runs a firm, and has checked in by satellite phone that morning from their camp to see that everything is humming along in her absence.   I warm to the occasion, make them tea and myself a strong cup of coffee, hear about their mechanical woes with a Continental 0-550 which he has decided to run past its 1700-hour TBO.  Questions about homeschool; a quick perusal of Liv’s spelling word list – “elasticity – wow, those are some hard words…” 

Out to the dog yard, the usual questions.  We stroll down to the dock and they say good-bye and board the plane…  A long slow taxi south into the bay, to turn and take off directly back toward shore into the  north wind.  A low pass, propeller snarling at full power, and gone. 

Summer has begun. 

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