Never thought it would happen.
Every winter for 20 years, our informal Reading Week has taken place in February at Surfside on the Texas coast. Thirty or so friends. Open beach. Lots of books, meals, games and such. Bliss.
Every summer for almost 10 years, we’ve indulged in another Reading Week, this one a moveable feast. France, Colorado, Minnesota, anywhere without everlasting triple-digit temps.
That has changed. We recently returned from Maine, where we held a Summer Reading Week for third year in a row. We are committed to returning for a fourth. A new tradition is born.
Why? The magic of Maine. Heard about it all my life. Mostly from people who stuck close to the coast and the islands. Didn’t quite buy into the mania.
Until now. Yes, Maine is an extension of centuries-old New England culture — picturesque farms that have lasted forever — but the state also feels like a lost bit of the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The true Maine wilderness is far to the north of our lake about 90 minutes drive from the coast.
Our little slice of heaven is Black Pond, up into the green hills beyond Augusta. The small lake is almost private and this year we found out why. Our landlords, whom we have embraced heartily as part of our group, told us the far side of the lake — with its beavers and trails and towering trees — is part of a conservation easement.
It can never be developed. Made me think of our friends at Hill Country Conservancy, Texas Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy of Texas. Win, win, win.
It also helps that our summer group — packing in from San Francisco, Boston, Houston and Austin this year — get along so well. Minor stresses here and there, of course, which you must expect from 10 adults who’ve known each other forever housed in close quarters. But otherwise, more and more bliss.
My books were Bee Wilson’s instructive kitchen history "Consider the Fork" and Hilary Mantel’s second of three novels on Thomas Cromwell, "Bring Up the Bodies." I highly recommend both.
Note: Picture of neighboring Parker Pond by Joe Starr.