YOLO

Also published on MariaShriver.com.

YOLO is my older son’s mantra.

He says it when a story warrants it; he’s taken a photo of a license plate that said it and carries it in his iPhone.

Talking to me by phone from NYC on a hot July night, he said it to me: “You YOLO’d today, Mom. You YOLO’d.”

He was right. I had.

“You only live once.”

A few years ago, my husband and I were looking for camps to rent and found one on the internet located at Bell’s Point in Harrison, Maine on Long Lake. Our friend had a camp on Long Lake so we Googled “Bell’s Point” to see where on the lake this rental might be.

What came up in the Google search was a professional photograph of the most beautiful shingled cottage on a point, surrounded by the lake and trees. I loved it. It was “my” type of cottage – large wrap around porch, varying roof lines, small paned windows. I printed the photo and began using it as a book mark.

If that cottage was a neighbor to the rental, we thought it might be a good spot to check out so we drove to Harrison to look at it. We did like the rental, and when we walked out onto the dock to look at the swimming area, to our left was….that cottage on the point. That cottage was the rental’s next door neighbor and in person, it was even more beautiful than in the photo. To think I could sit sunning, looking at that lovely camp, was a dream, and we called the owner of the rental to book it.

Unfortunately, the weeks we wanted in July were all taken.

It was within a week that we were visiting the book shop at L L Bean to see if my book, Away at a Camp in Maine, was on the shelves yet. There, right in front of me, was the most stunning coffee table book, A Home in Maine, of photography showing Maine dwellings built suitably into their surroundings, as if they belonged in their settings rather than garish or outlandish outcroppings that interrupted and upset the natural flow of the space.

On the cover of the book was the Bell’s Point cottage.

That cottage had presented to me three times in the course of 10 days….so I had to write the owner. The occasion was too serendipitous not to. I sent her a copy of my camp book and all my good wishes and appreciation of her cottage. She wrote back the most lovely letter. I got her. She got me.

And... she invited me to visit her at the point that summer.

YOLO.

I visited on a Friday afternoon, the kick off of my own summer vacation. I had the most wonderful afternoon spending time with her and her partner, sitting in the rocking chairs on that glorious porch, sipping herbal iced tea with mint, munching crisp vegetables and humus they offered, chatting about their lives, their pre-retirement jobs, their painting and photography and piano playing. We swam in the lake late in the afternoon, laughing, and talking like we’d known each other forever.

YOLO.

I took a chance. I wrote someone I didn’t know when moved to do so. She reached out and offered to let me visit, a stranger. And we connected.

I made a new friend under the most unusual of circumstances. I will forever remember her generosity of spirit, the beauty of her cottage, and the feel of the gentle afternoon wind blowing across the lake.

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