, Newburyport, MA


March 21, 2014

Loving Lake Attitash

Reader's letter inspires look forward to warmer weather

It has sat on my writing desk for the past few days: a handwritten letter from a reader here in Amesbury.

Betty Goodwin introduced herself as an 88-year resident of Lake Attitash who was delighted to read an article I wrote back in November of canoeing Meadowbrook Pond with my family.

With elegant handwriting, she shared with me her love of the lake and its tributary, Back River, of growing up here and rowing out to the river with her sister, “Teenie,” to pick blueberries along the shoreline — something they did together well into their 80s.

“It would be a wonderful trip for you and your boys,” she wrote to me.

Named by John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem “The Maids of Attitash,” the lake sits in the northwest corner of Amesbury and creates a border with neighboring Merrimac. There has been some confusion regarding its name due to local vernacular, but “Attitash” means “blueberry” in Abenaki.

In Whittier’s poem, he refers to huckleberries, which was a common name for blueberries in his day. As Betty and I can both attest, it truly is a “blueberry lake.”

Season after season, year after year, Lake Attitash offers more wildlife and more opportunities to get outdoors than most anywhere else on the North Shore.

As I sit at my desk on the east side of the lake, looking out at snow-covered boats and still-thick ice, Betty’s letter has me thinking about seasonal blueberries and warm thoughts of all this special lake has to offer.

Starting in a week or two, the ice fishermen will leave, and more than a dozen bald eagles will swoop in from tall pines along the Merrimack River. The eagles will hop, dance and screech atop the breaking ice, while scooping perch and bass bigger than the fisherman catch. They’ll usher in the first wave of spring birds — mergansers, coots, loons and swans, before the orioles, mallards and herons settle in. Soon, cygnets and ducklings will trail behind their parents in little lake parades.

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