Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Minnesota Seashells

Last evening one of my lake neighbors showed me some rocks he had 'tumbled' for his grandchildren.  He's a gentleman of many interests and abilities.  He's also a great grandpa. He let each child pick a few rocks from the lake.  After he polishes them in the tumbler, he will give them back.  Minnesota seashells, I call them. Before he has finished, he will teach the kids a little geology and heaven knows what else.

Since he offered to polish a few for me, I took some time to go lay, belly down, on the dock next to the shallow water.  The rocky bottom on our side of the lake makes it a good idea to learn to jump off the end of the dock at an early age.  It also makes it fun to walk (carefully) along the edge and pick up whatever rock catches your eye.  For years, our kids would bring rocks up to the cabin to be displayed during our vacation.  By the next year, they usually dumped the pile back because they had found 'better' ones.  When the water is so clear that you can see all the rocks or take a photograph through it, you know you have found a great spot.

Funny though, I think one of our vacation treasures are our good lake neighbors.  We always make time for dinner together and our kids have grown up enjoying the conversation of several generations of folks.  It replaces those Sunday dinners no one has anymore.  The ones where you both squirmed to leave but also listened to the family stories that were repeated over and over.  Those stories are a little like the rocks that get polished until they become small treasures you can put in your pocket and carry around to remind you of your summers long ago.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life On The Edges

We made a trip to the back woods dump today.  Although my lake neighbor said we now all it the 'compost recycling station.'  It's just a spot on some land jointly owned by the residents along our shore line.  We put pine needles and small sticks back there.  Since Mark had done all the work, I rode along.  It's actually a wonderful, private place to hike on a cool fall day.

While Mark used a pitch fork to unload all the brush, I wandered at the edge of a nearby meadow.  Just in the few minutes we were there, I saw an amazing variety of little insects, butterflies and plants.  It occurred to me that so much of the good stuff happens around the edges of life.

We are taught to face things 'straight on'.  It's a very American quality to barge right in, full speed ahead, take no prisoners.  But sometimes, if you just pause a moment and look at life from a slightly different angle, look at the edges of things, it all takes on a different appearance.   Poets know that. "Tell The Truth but Tell It Slant" says Dickinson.

I think Emily D. would have loved the meadow and the 'compost recycling station.'  I plan to walk back there this fall and sit, all alone on the edge of that meadow.  I'll bet it will be an experience worth remembering.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Folding Towels

This morning, as I folded and stacked beach towels in the cupboard, I thought of my mom.  I remember her sitting in the living room, folding towels fresh from the laundry. She was not a precise folder.  The corners seldom matched.  I think she just wanted to get the job done and get on to something more interesting like reading a book or walking her dog.  She tossed them in the drawer and got on with life.

Mark's mom was more of a corner-matcher.  When I first came to the lake I was amazed and slightly intimidated by the standing casket case that contained all the linens, very neatly folded and stacked.  Each shelf was labeled so you knew exactly where to put the hand towels and pillow cases.

The coffin case became the stuff of legends as the kids were growing up.  It's still with us, in the old garage.  Now we have lovely cabinets for all our towels and sheets.  Mark has once or twice mentioned the word 'label'.

I understand the logic behind it.  Different people tend to use a cabin and things don't always get put back in the same place.  I kind of like that little bit of 'travel' that happens.  It's like your sheets and towels have a little vacation from their drawer or shelf as well.  Mark doesn't always share my sense of whimsy in this department but we have reached a compromise.  His things definitely stay where he puts them.

In the meantime, he had the cabinet maker use the windows from the old cabin, complete with the oak pulls, for doors on the mud room cabinets and suggested putting the beach towels in one.  I guess that's enough whimsy for now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Drew Was Here!

We had a fun few days with the younger generation, although it felt at times like being held captive in a pinball game.  Mark and I start our day in a meditative, early morning way.  By that I mean he knows to leave me alone until I have a cup or so of coffee and a chance to read the paper, even if I do it on line.  But then we are ready to get the day going.

Em and Danny did get up by mid-morning and kayak or head out on the bikes. Drew is not a morning person.  His idea of vacation is to sleep most of the day, get up late and eat as much as he can and then think about what he wants to do.

By evening, when Mark and I are winding down, the young adults were suggesting Cranium or Scrabble, rooting around for pop and snacks and, in general, yukking it up.  We had to adjust our schedule slightly to take advantage of their presence. It did make for some fun moments with Cranium.  I got to act out 'mud wrestling' and Drew did 'riding shot gun.'  I'm proud to say that I did just as well.

One night we all took turns choosing music from the computer and created a very eclectic play list.  Kind of fun to see what everyone picked.

After Em and Danny left, Drew and Mark worked on a little project Mark has in mind for the cabin.  Nothing like a power saw to bring guys together.  I had to stay far away from that but today when we sent Drew back to Chicago he still had all his fingers and toes.  So I guess it was a successful vacation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dream Catcher

One summer when she was little,  Em and I made a dream catcher at the lake.  I had a free kit from the bookstore and we picked up feathers and stones from around the cabin.  She worked carefully to assemble it with the brown paper and small metal hoop provided.  She hung it over the small bed she called her own when we came north.  That dream catcher always made me smile.  It reminded me of Em: her perseverance, the little bit of her that believed in magic.

Suddenly, it seems, Em is all grown up and this summer she brought her friend Danny along to the lake.  He's a great young man and it's clear that the two of them care very much about each other.  We are enjoying this chance to get to know him.  They both begin their senior year in college this year and the world is opening up to them.  It's a new chapter in all of our lives.

You have lots of dreams for your kids when they are little but dreams are hard to catch.  I think in the end it all gets pretty simple.  You want them to be healthy, find happiness and be good citizens of the earth.  So far, Em has been a dream child.   We will see what lies ahead.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Day For the Birds

I am all alone at the lake today, except for my dogs and a yard filled with birds.  I came up three days ago to spend some time with a friend.  We knit and read and chatted away the days.  Mark arrives later today with Em and a friend of hers.   The beds are made and the groceries are bought and the cabin is as clean as it's going to be.

In the meantime, here I sit, happily drinking coffee and watching the birds fill our yard with swoops of motion. There isn't a human sound anywhere so the birds think they are alone.  I've noticed that poets love birds.  I found this Jane Kenyon poem on the Poetry Foundation web site this morning and was reminded of what a wonderful poet she was. It's just the first of the 'Three Songs'.  The other two are available at the web site.

Three Songs at the End of Summer

A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,   
parting before me like the Red Sea.   
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned   
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.   
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

Summer may be drawing to a close but I plan to celebrate these last days with the birds, the sun sparkling off the lake and the quiet.