women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Look to This Day

"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it.
There ain't nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill.
But since we're on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride."
-James Taylor

No matter how much time I think I have, no matter how long I stay at the lake, no matter how much I wish it weren't true...

This day always comes.

The last day. The cleaning out the fridge day. The washing all the towels day. The tying up all the loose ends day. The heading back to civilization day.

The day that can be delayed, but never denied.

The day I have to say goodbye.

When I was little, summers at the lake seemed a stately procession of endless days. My brother and I, cheeks bright with the flush of summer days in the sun, eyes a-sparkle with adventure, knew that school days lay far into our September futures. We lazed away our vacation under the watchful eyes and indulgent smiles of our grandparents and parents. And time stood still.

Now, I visit cemetery point to gaze upon my grandparents' final resting place. Their plots look out over the lake, between two birch trees, marked with bright geraniums, lovingly tended by my father, their son.

I remember the first summer we brought our son to the lake. We plopped him into the stroller one bright morning and wheeled our way down to the point, where he sucked his thumb pensively as I related the story of how my grandparents built the lake house. It was important to me that he know where he was, where he came from.

I lie in the hammock and remember a long ago drive up from Indiana with my then new husband. The rolled up hammock took the entire length of his hatchback from back window to front windshield, lying between us over the tops of the seats like a bundling board. It was our small contribution to family life at the lake house.

I am no longer innocent. I have drunk from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. I know that time moves on. That the day you say goodbye is always out there, lurking, whether we like it or not. Whether we are ready for it.

Or not.

I get a similar feeling when knitting a lace shawl or stole. It feels endless (especially if it is a circular - new definition of forever - beats "a turkey and two people" hands down!) You spend days, weeks, months, doing the same thing, knitting the same pattern, progressing inch by agonizing (or rewarding, depending upon your point of view) inch. And then one day you turn around, bind off the last stitch, and realize you're done.

This day always comes (well, most of the time, if you like the project, if you don't get bogged down, or distracted.)

Time runs in a circular fashion here at the lake. Some things never change, which is a comfort to me in the all-too-fast world we call home. And yet, the signs of change are ever present, as one generation gives way to the next, as new faces join the parade of family that passes through these doors.

The doors are flanked by the sign my stepmother Molly had made the year my father was trying to decide if the property needed a name. You know something poetic, like:

  • Journey's End
  • Heart's Rest
  • Blue Water Bay

Rough translation: Funny Farm (I think that tells you everything you need to know about my family.)

The rocks lining the driveway were brought here by my grandfather, picked up (and lugged home) in his travels around the world. If you turn them over, and look hard, you can still read their provenance. You can imagine the deep love of travel and our earth that prompted the man who collected them.

And the pained expression of whoever carried the luggage.

Atop the mantel, sits a wooden replica of a Great Lakes ore boat, crafted in my grandfather's workshop when my brother was just a boy, and loved to play with boats. Come to think of it, my brother still loves to play with boats, enjoying both sailing and other forms of boating. His most recent contribution to the lake house? A canoe.

The upper reaches of the cottage feature flags won and signs hung from the family's past entries into the annual boat parade, (the infamous Bar-b-cruise) which we have won twice and placed in several times.

The sampler over the kitchen counter was completed by me in 1982. It is older than my eldest son.

The woods thin out from year to year, as trees planted in the 1930s when the area was logged over reach the end of their natural life span and give way to young saplings. I wonder how tall these oaks will be, when my grandchildren bring their children to the lake.

My brother and I both sat in this same pint sized lawn chair when we were smallm as did our children. Soon, it will belong to another generation, as my first grandchild takes his or her place among the family.

Time once again comes full circle, as the next generation write their own history, make this place their own, and learn to cherish all that it represents.

This day always comes.


Anonymous said...

You are so blessed to have this refuge to come to! We're going up to Canada in about 10 days to hang out at the lake in Grandpa's dumpy old cabin! In an ever changing world, it's nice to know that some things never change! Good luck on re-entering the real world. Thank God for knitting!

EGunn said...

Sounds like "goodbye" has a bit of "hello" in it, too. Circles are funny like that, aren't they? What a wonderful place to have in the family!

La Cabeza Grande said...

Now I see from whence your gentle humor and lightheartedness come. Great respect for sense of place and family is in your DNA.

Anonymous said...

It is so nice to see such love and beauty shining through your words.