Mary Strain, the dock diving diva


By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

When it comes to personal quests, some people climb mountains. Others jump from planes. For Mary Strain of Casco, it is diving off docks in the Lake Region — as many as she can — that inspires her personal quest to practice the fine art of friendship.

She reached #47 on Monday, diving off a dock on Thomas Pond. This was after a woman she works with at Migis Lodge was getting ready to leave, and mentioned looking forward to going swimming.

“I said, ‘Oh, you have a dock,?’” said Strain, whose dock-diving exploits began in June, and has earned her the title as “The Dock Diving Diva” by her friend, Kathleen Stevens.

Sometimes she invites herself, other times she is invited — as word of her willingness to take the plunge has spread among summer residents living on the lakes.

She has dived into the waters of over a dozen lakes in Casco, Naples, Bridgton, Raymond, Windham and other Lake Region towns. “I just counted 16 bodies of water, more than I thought,” Strain said, after browsing her Facebook page, where she tracks all her dives. She ticked them off: Sebago, Panther, Coffee, Pleasant, Cobbosseecontee, Thomas Pond, Brandy Pond, Crescent Lake, Sag Harbor Cove, Kettle Cove, Long Lake, Moose Pond, Woodbury Pond, Crystal Lake, Parker Pond, Highland Lake.

She couldn’t resist the urge to dive off Long Wharf during a recent vacation to Sags Harbor in Long Island, N.Y. She refers to that dive, #41, as a “coup,” since it took some daring to dive off an urban dock, into salt water, no less.

But “daring” herself is what this summer is all about for Strain, who came up with the idea after attending a retreat in January. Even though she grew up in South Florida, she’s not a particularly good swimmer, and since moving to Maine, marrying and having three children, her life has been rather “kid-centered.” At the retreat, she was asked to draw an item from within a circle. She drew a rock on which the word “Friendship” had been etched.

“I took that as a sign to improve my relationships with my contemporaries, to open up to people I don’t really know, to put myself out there” and “reach out beyond my work life and my kid life,” said Strain, who has worked at Migis Lodge since 1988. On her Facebook page, she adds, “The ultimate goal is to enjoy the summer, one day at a time. ‘Collecting’ docks is icing on the cake. And now people keep saying, well, come on over! Any time! Fun.”

Strain, who is 58, said her 13-year-old daughter initially was embarrassed by her mother’s willingness to dive off other people’s docks, thinking it was a bit of “middle-age craziness.” Now, however, her daughter has embraced the cause. “It’s about turning something that’s kind of frivolous into something more meaningful,” said Strain.

At the Coffee Pond dock of an older couple from her church, for example, she learned of their love of the land and each other (they married late in life), and “about stewardship and preserving God’s creations.” At Sag Harbor, her dive off Long Wharf opened up a conversation with the firefighter about polar dip events, and the importance of supporting charitable causes.

Asked if her dock diving has changed her in any fundamental way, she said, “Doesn’t everything, really? All I can say is I’m glad to take a little risk, and to be more brave.”

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