From the moment the maple trees break bud to begin their crimson lace-making, until the cooling days of autumn when they shed their Technicolor dreamcoats, two competing narratives play in my head. One is welcoming, the other not.

Every summer, Karen Hand Ogg welcomes (more or less) myriad guests to her home along the Presumpscot River in Windham. Photo courtesy of Karen Hand Ogg

To paraphrase Dickens, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Relational to the warming of the inland sea, located on a dammed-up portion of the Presumpscot River, it begins. Chanting in rhythmic silence I replace the F-bomb with the word wizardry of L. Frank Baum – Lions and tigers, and bears, oh my! In the season of guests I swim my way through knowing that there is no place like my home. It is very inviting, and I am too accommodating. The seemingly endless summer – when so many come to ring around the rosy posies of the waterfront yard – is challenging.

Without remorse (mostly), I summon the vow I made to share when I was blessed to drop anchor on this sacred plot of earth. Then, a seemingly endless string of people picked me up. They protected me and mended my broken world. They became the pillars upon which, post-divorce, I could reestablish a home for my children. Mi casa es su casa, I told them. And I meant it. We would not have been here without them. The wonder of it still moves me.

I am supremely aware that I am only another passer-by, living as a guest in the timeline of a place with demolished history. Knowing that I am privileged to live on a beautiful river that holds so many hidden stories is never lost on me. It is all the more reason to share. Sharing feels an atonement for what was taken from Indigenous people. Their land, their resources, their lives. I sense those souls. They help me balance my irritations when I am feeling self-absorbed. They give me the patience to endure the crescendo of commotion related to my guests.

As I bear witness to my people frolicking, I am also worrying about alcohol consumption and water safety infractions. I fret about meteorological events that shift on a dime and potential campfire issues. I host and some days seethe because someone has inevitably forgotten their towel. They need an extra life jacket. My bathroom is busy. There is yet another request for ketchup. I have come to realize that it is just less complicated when I am stocked up on propane, condiments and sunscreen.

Most infuriating, however, are the yatterers. I believe it is obvious when I am lying silent on the shore edge, hushing my heart, pondering the shadows and light of liquid prayers answered, that I am in worship. How can they not intuit my reverence? It is my most upsetting and unanswerable grievance, followed by improperly discarded cigarette butts and dog poop. The near-constant stream of summer company is equal parts exasperation and delight. I never don’t love my guests, but some days I just don’t like them.

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