Squam Lake, New Hampshire

Quintessential Squam

Quintessential Squam

One of my favorite spots on planet earth is Squam Lake, New Hampshire.  Our family had a beautiful spot in Squaw Cove, way out in the quietest end of this already marvelously untouched lake.  Many of my childhood summer days were spent up at the lake.  Far from the drum beat of the rat race life, there were only three types of days at Squam: lake days (if it was hot and muggy), mountain days (if it was cooler and clear), and cabin days (if it was raining).  We cooked on a large, wood-fired, cast iron stove, played games around the huge dining table, read books in the alcoves by the fireplace, made “forts” in the loft, slept safely from the “wood bumpies” in our individual cabins, always swam before breakfast, sat wrapped in our towels in the warmth of the morning sun while Grandma brought wild blueberry pancakes down the path for breakfast on the dock, paddled the canoe out to Yard Islands, sailed out to the main lake, jumped off the diving rock in Rattlesnake Cove, played with cousins and friends in the woods, bicycled on the dirt roads, played on the deck til our hair turned blonde and our backs turned brown, earned our right to shed our life vests by swimming unaided across the cove, engaged in forever fascinating conversations with well-traveled, well-read family, listened to the hauntingly beautiful cries of the loon, and found ourselves all-too-quickly passing from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.

You could hardly ask for a better setting to romp as a child, yet I found my appreciation for this magical place only matured as I saw it slip away. Many things changed for me as I left home for college.  Most of these were normal for a teen entering higher education.  Life in a dorm, far from home.  Increased responsibilities, freedoms, and opportunities.  I capitalized on as much as I could, spending my summers and spring breaks traveling, abandoning sleep during the rigors of the school year.  But while I was away filling my head and trotting around the globe, my roots in New Hampshire quietly slipped away.  During my senior year, my parents sold their house and moved to Connecticut.  The Brooks family lost their property on Squam when our property tax bill quintupled after a reassessment.  Nobody wanted to pay the equivalent of a brand-new luxury car each year for something that was only being used a few weeks each summer.  I was learning that the right to own private property is really a subtle myth.  You never actually “own” property.  You must continue to rent it from the government.

Fortunately, my grandfather’s sister was able to keep their spot around the point.  She married Oliver Butterworth who was best friends with my grandfather.  The Butterworth camp is a very similar setup with a main cabin that serves as the kitchen/living area and then several other cabins for sleeping.  Money raised in selling the Brooks camp to a land trust was used to create a fund that pays the property taxes on the Butterworth side.  So while we lost all the cabins that my dad, uncles, and grandparents built, I usually make it over to the Butterworth camp for a few days each summer.

As a guy who runs my own business, my life has become increasingly connected.  Computers, e-mail, laptop, iPhone… I’m never far from reach.  Squam, however, is just far enough off the beaten path.  No cell signals.  No e-mail, voice mail, or text messages.  It’s my one place to be completely unplugged.

Last week, my dad and I drove up to spend a few days with one of my uncles and a couple of my cousins.  Since returning from Europe, I’ve been engaged in a losing battle to catch up on work and life.  A busy trip to Oklahoma that resulted in a significant amount of new work has only added to the worries.  A big part of me knew that I had no business stopping now to take a few days off, but another part of me knew I really needed it.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of travel so far this year (6 trips in the last 7 months, 3 of those overseas), but none of my trips have been very relaxing.  The times in between have only been that much busier as I’ve had to make up for the time I’ve been away.  I needed a day or two to exhale.

And Squam is just the place for that.

7 Responses to “Squam Lake, New Hampshire”

  1. Dad Says:

    Great starry night – how long was the exposure? These pictures really bring back the memories.

  2. Ken Says:

    It was a 30 second exposure. I took this around 9:30; should have waited until closer to 11 so there would be zero remaining light on the horizon. Probably would have seen more stars.

  3. Betsy Says:

    Your writing is wonderful! I can just imagine it all…
    What a joy and a blessing to grow up with such a treasure of a family that took the time for the simple peaceful pleasures of God’s creation.
    I’m glad you got to go back to the place of your childhood. It is hard to see things change as we grow older, especially those childhood memories and treasures. …(realizing you were shorter and smaller then, more energetic… that always gets me! : )
    This too has a reason from above we shall only understand later.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs of France and more, thanks for sharing.

    May you be blessed!

    ~Betsy

  4. Ken Says:

    Betsy,

    Sorry it took me so long to reply. I’ve obviously been neglecting my blog for a while, eh? Yes, Squam is a special place for me and my family, and it epitomizes the peaceful beauty of God’s creation.

    Thanks for your very kind comments. In many ways, I’ve written my blog posts for myself, a journal of sorts to help trigger memories in years to come. That it also brings some enjoyment to other readers is truly satisfying.

    Cheers,

    –Ken

  5. Joe Says:

    I keep a Rhodes 19 at SLA and have camped at SLA campsites.

    At the last minute I took the day off yesterday from my busy
    schedule to take my 6 year old son, Gus and his friend sailing.

    Seems Squam moves us in the same way. Reading about your
    aging taking you away from time on Squam has made me realize
    how soon that will happen to my son and how truly valuable
    times like yesterday for me and the ones you describe are.

    Thanks! Joe

  6. Ken Says:

    Thanks, Joe! Yes, Squam is a special place for me and my family. I don’t get up there as often as I used to, but I’m looking forward to a week at our cabins later in August. Sounds like you had a lovely day to be on the water. Sometimes it’s a better choice to leave our responsibilities behind for a day and take the time to forge bonds with those we love. Work will always be there, but I’m sure you and your son will long remember your day out on the water.

  7. Eloise Watt Says:

    Thanks, Ken. I’m struggling to write a small tribute for my cousin David Lockwood’s 60th birthday (shh, secret), doing some Googprocrastination to get myself around childhood visits to Squaw Cove. You describe it all so well and I feel refocused. Grateful.

    ~Eloïse

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