Experience Bearnstow

by Ruth Grauert

Listen to the loons. Composition by Shamou Mou.

One crosses the Bridge and enters an unchanged world.

The Trees are tall and tossed. The Path is rugged. One hears the whispers, scents the odors, and feels the air of Earth. And then beyond the speaking forest and the silent rocks are Lake and Sky, forever.

The buildings hold a quietness in them.

Here is harmony, a place where one feels again the who one truly is.

There is age here. The clay under the brook was laid by a drying sea. The erratic boulders were brought us by a glacier. Horsetail (Equisetum), among the oldest plants on earth, grows beside the clearing. The Lodge was built in 1866 and the Hall in 1922. And youth is here, too—a litter of mink playing under the bridge, a cluster of spruce seedlings beside the path, blueberries ripening on the point. The youngest building, the Stable, was built in 1957, carefully patterned after the hunting lodge of Kaiserin Maria Theresa of Austria.

That same careful mix goes indoors. The modern fluorescent lamps are shaded, and oil lamps and candles light our meals. Army cots from WWI and II are refurbished with foam mattresses and are supplemented by those made from native cedar. Cretonne curtains cover the closet coves. Hand-cut blocks hold the windows open. The cabins are open to the rafters so that one hears rain and acorns and critters scurrying. Two antique rockers guard the fieldstone fireplace in the Main Hall. Shakers made the dining chairs, while the chests and tables are an eclectic mix. One Adirondack chair is ancient—its back is one solid board.

The mist rises from the cove as morning sunlight breaks across the trees and the water. Watch and listen! Video by Dana Crowe.

Here is time/space/motion, as the granite ledges tumble into clear water and reach deep into the Earth, and beyond the lake the full Moon sets behind the hills, which the rising Sun paints first rose, then gold. One can hear a twenty-minute cantata of three rafts of loons answering one an­other, and follow the steam as it rises from the warm coves in morning and rides out onto the lake on imperceptible current.

All this has been preserved by sentient nourishment for more than a century—the Stevens who stepped around the seedlings sprouting on the forest floor; Webster Chester who bade all to “stick to the paths” so that the arbutus, mosses, orchids, and goldthread could flourish; all the guests who brought awareness and respect; and we who are Bearnstow, who have sensed this care and nourished it for seventy years.

Caress the lichen-covered rock, hug the King’s pine, revel in the wind, curl into the curve of the brook, tread softly on the sphagnum, dive deep, reach high.

Know that here you are alive.

For more images of Bearnstow, see the photography of Richard Bird.

For a snapshot of a dancer’s summer experience at Bearnstow, read Stories from Camp by Susan Douglas Roberts.

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