As a research project for my historical novel, I decided to read one of my character's real life book of poems published in 1884 - Ella Durant's - Pine Needles or Sonnets and Songs. I read a poem titled Raquette and found a phrase that struck me as odd and had me running to the online dictionary where I discovered the connection to Dante and the Divine Comedy as well as Greek mythology.
The phrase in the poem -
Here in thy depths, O Lethean Lake! We drop our griefs, our vain regrets;
struck me as an interesting use of words as I didn't recognize the term lethean. When I realized she was referring to the River Lethe from Greek mythology, it did seem apropos to describe Raquette as lethean.
According to ancient myth, the River Lethe is one of five that runs through Hades and when one drinks from its waters one forgets all earthly troubles. It is also known as the river of oblivion - probably helpful if you are passing through hell.
How appropriate then, when my family members were debating a few weeks ago whether we could take the time to stay at Camp Kirby this summer, I insisted that it would be good for us to 'escape' for a bit.
A mile hike from the main Camp Huntington on Raquette Lake (formerly Pine Knot), Kirby is shut off from modern conveniences. There is no wifi, no cell phone service, and no electricity at Camp Kirby. This did not make my son happy when he realized we will not be able to watch the World Cup. Perhaps, I told him, we can take a day trip to a local pub in Old Forge. I told him it would be a great chance to catch up on his summer reading, especially since his High School English teachers just sent a list of about 100 books to choose from.
I can just imagine, while sitting on the porch overlooking Raquette, that Camp Kirby is the same as it was when it was first built years ago by the Durants. As I look out over the lake, I will be wondering what Ella was escaping when she wrote the poem? Her family life of financial uncertainty? Her father's overbearing presence? Her own uncertain future as a spinster? Or an unrequited love?
Everyone deserves a chance to escape haunting thoughts. It would be nice if there was a real River Lethe we could all just dip a cup in, drink from its waters and forget our troubles. Since it only exists in myth, we have instead, a vacation in the Adirondacks. As William H. Murray wrote about the Adirondacks in his book Adventures in the Wilderness: ..."the wilderness provides the perfect relaxation which all jaded minds require."