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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #97: Camp Kabeyun, Alton Bay

Lake life

I was never a camper at this venerable boys' camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, but I do have two distinct relationships with the place, both of which are at least partly Mr. Pratt's fault. The earlier of the two connections dates from high school, when our Student Senate retreat was generously hosted there, arranged by the summer kitchen czar, who also doubled as our intrepid biology teacher, tripled as our senate advisor, and quadrupled as the girls' track coach. I try not to think about the fact that he was much younger then than I am now. Anyway, Mr. Pratt arranged for us to bus up there in the fall for a group bonding experience, and that it was. I have fond if terrifying memories of bombing around the narrow camp roads with Tony Romano in the back of a pickup truck collecting thin mattresses for use in the dining hall/flop house we took over for the weekend. It was chilly, even with the fire going, and we all piled atop one another in a sleeping bag heap like a litter of squirming puppies. I remember learning the polar bears around the ice hole game from Heather Ramsey, engaging in some quality teenage political plotting with Sarah Boddy-Snee, and spending fun times with Eric Aaronian and Ruth-Ann Johnston Cooper while apparently having stern words in the kitchen with Pam Burrow while Nate Oxnard labored diligently with the spray hose. Good times, good times.

Later (much later), I made a few trips up to Kabeyun during my quixotic courting efforts when Jen Strickland Cyr was working there as a scullery maid during college summers. Eventually she unwisely gave in, and during the summer of 1996 we were actually dating when I made my trips up there. I recall helping to set some tables and generally be a nuisance to the kitchen staff as they tried to do their work. It was a weird summer for me - in a lot of ways, it was the demarcation between years of wound-tight ambition and the slow release of tension that left me rudderless and uncertain for quite a while after. I'd invested so much energy into winning the student body presidency at UNH and in chasing down who I thought was the right woman that I wasn't really sure what to do next. I was the greyhound who had caught the rabbit, and getting me to run again with the same fervor and single-mindedness was going to take some doing.

In any event, it was a rare moment of respite in a life that had always been about unending striving. There was an evening, down on the dock in June, when the water was milk-warm and the sky had a tinge of pink at the velvety rim of sunset. I had my feet in the lake, and my eyes on the indigo welkin, and for the first time in my life I was sufficiently at peace to see a shooting star. For a long time after, through some tough times to come, I would return there in my mind as my happy place, as my source of serenity; at the very least, as a reminder that I was capable of relaxation. I've since found other windmills to tilt at, and other places that speak to me of peace. But it's good to remember the early reminders, even amidst the early failures.

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