Once More to the Lake

Once More to the Lake

Thanks to E.B. White for the title, which comes from an essay that I love. But this post isn’t really about White or his essay. I’m just stealing it because it’s what’s in my head. I’m slow to get this post from my head to the blog. I guess I’ve been enjoying the last of summer and trying to get ready for school to resume in earnest.

Last month, August, we went on vacation… y’all can hate me now. A nice socially distanced, quarantined vacation at a lake in Maine, just a hop skip and jump from the New Hampshire border.

So it’s like this. Maine won’t let people from Massachusetts visit unless they quarantine for 14 days or have a negative test. But New Hampshire has no problem with visitors from Massachusetts. The house is in Maine, but while we were there we didn’t leave the house except to either take a spin about the lake on a boat or to drive to the store… in New Hampshire. So we were quarantined in Maine, staying at the house, not interacting with anyone, but not quarantined in New Hampshire. All perfectly legal. And in New Hampshire stores were requiring masks (Hannaford was even handing them out) so no more risk than the grocery store at home.

And it was a lovely, tranquil vacation, so very much needed. I needed– we all needed– a break, a change of pace and of place. And we love the lake house where we’ve stayed twice before. It is a haven of peace.

And yet I feel almost guilty that we got this break when so many of my friends have no such opportunities. Ah well, I suppose I should focus on gratitude. And there was so much to be grateful for. 

And yet I feel almost guilty that we got this break when so many of my friends have no such opportunities. Ah well, I suppose I should focus on gratitude. And there was so much to be grateful for. 

The kids swam every day except the last when it rained. Ben, Bella, and Lucy learned to paddle a kayak. Ben snorkeled. Sophie and Bella swam out to the floating dock and jumped off. They all played chess and Uno and Go Fish, worked on a 3,000 piece puzzle, even spent the rainy afternoon playing D&D with Dom. Bella and Sophie started writing a science fiction story. I read and drew and wrote and relaxed and listened to loons and watched warblers and squirrels and chipmunks. And somehow none of that list of what we did captures the extreme of peace I found there.

First, the house is beautiful. And beautifully furnished. So much bigger than our house. And so uncluttered. Just that alone is a vacation. 

Then, there is the lake. Look out the window, step onto the balcony, run down the stairs and it’s right there. We had our own dock, our own little swimming area. The lake waters lapped the shore. The sun sparkled on the water, always changing, moving. My eyes drink it in and it tastes like a draught of serenity. 

And the loons. I love the loons. Their call is like nothing else and how it tugs at my heart, I can’t even explain why. We’d see them about once a day swimming low across the lake, black and white and low down close to the water. We’d hear them crying, wailing, lamenting, singing at night. 

And the stars. Far away from light pollution we could see so many stars. We could see the Milky Way. Bella completed her astronomy merit badge this spring and was out on the dock most nights pointing out all her favorite stars. And often I’d linger long after the children were asleep, sitting alone on the dock, water below me, endless depths of night stretching overhead. One night I watched Mars rise, thinking at first it was a red light on the distant hilltop and then gradually realizing it wasn’t a manmade light at all. We were there for the peak of the Perseids and oh boy did I see shooting stars. One night I think I saw at least ten certain ones and a bunch more of the ‘was that a shooting star or my eyes playing tricks on me?‘ variety. A handful of them were glorious streaks blazing silently across the sky leaving trails. One night we spotted some satellites moving across the star field. 

I’m not a morning person but one morning I woke up early and went out to the dock to watch the sun rise. I stood there for nearly an hour watching the sky and hearing the birds and seeing ducks swimming past as they woke up. Sophie joined me after a while and then Ben eventually came out too. At about 6: 30 I gave up and went back to bed for a little longer. But memories like that linger and send out tendrils like roots deep in your soul, taking root and transforming you from the inside, pushing through the hard places, breaking up fears and anxieties and worries and bringing peace. 

Bella and I identified Blackburnian warblers flitting in the hemlocks and spruces. We saw a hummingbird. We saw a cormorant. We saw chipmunks and frogs and fish and gulls and of course the beloved loons. 

We had a bonfire one night and roasted marshmallows. We made Bella and Sophie wash the dinner dishes every night and they discovered that it was fun, laughing together as they worked. 

Yeats and Wordsworth and Coleridge are right. Some places, some experience, live in your soul and the memories of them are transformative, bringing deep peace and joy when recollected in tranquility. 

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