“In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria dinanzi a la quale poco si potrebbe leggere, si trova una rubrica la quale dice: Incipit vita nova.
—Dante, La Vita Nuova

For Dante, it was meeting Beatrice; for me, it was these people.  This is my group of friends at Ferry Beach, a Unitarian youth camp in Saco on the Maine coast, summer of 1965.   Standing from left to right are: Bruce, Rick, me (trying to look like I was on more intimate terms with Cammy than was the case), Cammy (bearing up under this indignity with a grace and style beyond her years), Bob (in his character as the secret agent Simon Flash), Lisa (demonstrating the meaning of the word “contrapposto”), and Greg.  Kneeling: Betsy, Kitty, and Erik.

For the first time in my life I found myself accepted by a group of friends.  Some of these remained my friends after that summer.  Bruce and Lisa I kept in touch with and saw at youth events during the next four years.  But Bob, Cammy, and Betsy were the most important.  Bob became my best friend from this time through high school, even though we lived in different towns.  We liked the same books, and even for a time tried to collaborate on writing an imitation of The Lord of the Rings. It was Bob who five years later first introduced me to the Gospel and brought me to prayer meetings and to Mass.  Cammy and Betsy attended Abbot Academy, just down the street from Phillips Academy in Andover (the two have since merged), and it was hearing about Andover from Cammy that first inspired me to think of going there myself.   We met again at school, became friends again, and worked together in theater projects.

I cannot express how much I owe to these people.  They were the first great lifeline God threw to me to rescue me from the darkness of a despair so great I shudder even now to recall it.  Without knowing it, they broke in upon my shell of self-imposed loneliness and set me on an upward road.

At the place in the book of my memory before which little can be read, there is a heading that says: The new life begins here: Ferry Beach, 1965.