Just a couple of days after the story of the North Pond Hermit broke, I wrote a song about him. A day or two after that, I was contacted by some documentary filmmakers in New York City. They said they were coming to Maine to start a documentary on Christopher Knight and his amazing story. They wanted to know if I’d be a part of it. Would I talk about my song and what I thought of the Hermit?
As a newspaper man, I’ve been inviting myself into other people’s homes and looking into their business for years. I’ve always felt grateful for the privilege. It’s an honor to be trusted to tell someone’s story to the world. When they asked, I decided it was about time I repaid the trust people had shown me over the years. So, I said sure, come on over.
They arrived right after breakfast this morning. I made them coffee and they set up their camera and sound equipment in my kitchen. The interview lasted a couple of hours, I think. I honestly can’t remember. It was fun and relaxed. Lena Friedrich, the director, asked me questions while Laura Shaw ran the camera and Aitor Mendilibar recorded the sound.
Friedrich asked me why I wrote the song and about my guesses as to why he spent so many years alone. I tried my best to answer honestly and openly. I’m not used to giving my opinions on camera. I’ve spent years trying to sound as neutral as possible. It didn’t matter what I thought, only what my subject thought.
They also had me sing the song with my dog, Hook, nearby. He did his best to look cute and fuzzy.
When it was over, and they were packing up their gear, I asked Friedrich why she chose to come up here and start a project on the North Pond Hermit.
“I thought it was an amazing story,” she said. “The more I read about it, the more mysterious it seemed to me.”
She thought it was really interesting that a guy could spend all those years in the woods, avoiding human contact, and end up having an impact on the imaginations of so may people. They spent most of their week around Waterville and “everyone” had an opinion on him. Some thought he was a hero and others thought him nothing more than a criminal. But, either way, they had a definite opinion.
Myself, I’ve heard from people all over the state because of my song. People have contacted me from as far away as Switzerland and Austria to talk about the Hermit. Not to mention filmmakers from NYC.
“He’s become so connected, for a guy who was so disconnected,” said Friedrich, “in spite of himself.”
They never did get a chance to speak to Christopher Knight, who is currently tucked away in the county slammer. But they wish they could.
“We hope to get access to him,” she said.
But, until he breaks his silence, it’s left to newspaper chroniclers and folk singers to tell the story the North Pond Hermit. Before they left, I asked them if they’d sing it one time with me. They said they would. It was great. Friedrich is originally from France and Mendilibar is Basque, from Spain. The mix of accents sounded really cool.
I guess that’s part of the irony Friedrich was fascinated by. The Hermit never meant to have any effect on anyone, never wanted human contact. Yet, here he was, from miles away, bringing me together with these folks from all over as we sang a song about him.
That’s crazy. I love it.
Before they left, bound for the Big Apple, Friedrich asked me to send along her email address to anyone who wants to air their thoughts on the North Pond Hermit. She’s at NPHermit@gmail.com.