“The Way Life Ought to Be”

“Maine – The Way Life Ought to Be.”  So proclaims the billboard as one rolls into my home state via I-95 from New Hampshire.  I enjoyed “The Way Life Ought to Be” on Ambajesus Lake in Millinocket, Maine for nearly a week full of solitude.  On Wednesday I left camp for a day of backpacking in Baxter State Park, the home of Mt. Katahdin.  At the suggestion of friend Ian, I took on S. Turner Mountain.  The possibility of meeting moose along the way at Sandy Stream Pond was suggested and spectacular views of Katahdin were promised.  No moose.  But the views were as advertised.  I’d not been in the park since my 1969 climb of Katahdin with a buddy before heading off for my first year of college.  This day’s ascent provided a perspective on where I had been forty-something years ago and also insisted that I “cease and desist” numerous times along the way (that’s for you, Pierre).  It was a glorious day to reflect on an earlier time of life, even as I enjoyed the majesty of the peak that marks the end of the A.T. (or the beginning, according to Tim).

The camp phone rang early Thursday afternoon.  It was Galen Lander.  “Do you like to fly?” “Sure!” “I’ll be out about 3:30 to take you up.” In a short while a red and white 3-passenger Cessna float plane swooped down to a watery landing in front of my lakeside retreat, swirled around, and taxied dockside.  Pilot Galen welcomed me aboard, got me buckled in and we took off.  For the next hour or so we chased up the Penobscot River.  We scouted for moose in the river, lakes and streams and surveyed one of Galen’s big dam projects (he was a hydro-electrical engineer for the paper mill for many years).  It was glorious!  I was a 20 years young again.  In 1972 I spent 2 of my 8 weeks in Chad, Africa flying with a MAF pilot and a doc in a red and white Cessna aircraft.  Two of the strips we landed on were the first time a plane had ever touched down.  An extra-ordinary experience of a lifetime for a young kid from Maine.  Not sure why, but when Galen offered to let me fly the plane I declined even though I’d taken the controls of other planes a few times.  Guess I was just happy to be airborne and snapping pictures.

If you’re thinking I’m waxing nostalgic in my perspective, you’d be right.  God has privileged me with a wonderful variety of adventures and experiences through the years.  But really, I don’t want to retreat to those times – just enjoy their memory and give thanks, even though I may be a bit wistful at times.  Last week’s reading while on retreat included Mark Buchannan’s Spiritual Rhythm – Being with Jesus in Every Season of Life.  He’s right to exhort his readers to take care not to allow nostalgia make us pine for what used to be, but to long for Heaven – “The Way Life Ought to Be.”