Is there a better way to end a summer night?
One of my birthday gifts back in January was a three day mini personal writing retreat up at the Grand Traverse Resort — alone time for me to revise my WIP, eat room service BBQ pizza, and ramble in the great outdoors a while.
My room was lovely…
My work space was comfortable…
And I did get a phenomenal amount of research and revision done. I even got to have breakfast with my sister while I was there.
After checking out on Friday, I swung by Hartwick Pines near Grayling to take a walk through old growth white pines.
I was the only one there, following someone else’s cross country ski tracks from earlier in the day, listening to the birds and the squirrels and the swooshing of my snow pants.
It was beautiful.
And it was exactly what I needed after two straight days of sitting, sitting, sitting.
Being out in the woods alone, with no sound even of distant traffic, is something I really wish I could do more often. It’s as necessary to my mental and emotional well-being as good food and exercise are to my physical well-being.
When it comes to gifts, nothing beats a little alone time in God’s country. Do my guys know me or what?
I can hardly believe my good fortune, but I am headed back Up North this weekend for a few more days at Lake Louise, this time with just the boy in tow. He’s old enough for Kinder Camp (K-2), which is just for a weekend with at least one parent or grandparent staying on. I’ve never been to this particular program before, but I hear there are nice afternoon nap times (this is for me — the boy hasn’t napped in four years) and earlier bedtimes than what has become standard at the junior high camp (I think I heard 8:30 rather than 11:00). I do believe I shall have time in the evenings to finish a book I’m reading and who knows what activities we’ll be doing during the day.
On a very happy note, I’ll be going up eight pounds lighter than I was last time and I’m hoping to continue losing while I’m there. For someone who was pleasantly surprised to have no to-do list just a month or so ago, I’ve suddenly turned into someone with many little goals — weight loss, house purging & sprucing, novel reading, writing, etc. — and a few new responsibilities at work that I’m still getting my mind around. It’s been a stressful week, so I’m happy to be leaving it all behind for one last little bit.
On the purging front, Zach and I went through a bookshelf last night and actually found things we could part with. I’m hoping for further sifting tonight with a couple other shelves, then possibly moving the emptied shelves up a narrow and twisting set of stairs to the upstairs landing. Our potential realtor advised us to open up a doorway to the bathroom we never use, which we had blocked with bookshelves in the office, in order to stage the house correctly when the time comes. And there’s no time like the present to get some stuff out of the office, which is wall-to-wall furniture right now. I’ve already cleaned out a cupboard for the boy’s overflow of art supplies and gotten rid of a small shelving unit. What I need now (desperately) are some big empty Rubbermaid bins for extra fabric and yarn of mine. And then I think, maybe I should just get rid of the lot of it! Or at least a lot more of it.
You ever watch shows like Love It or List It and think to yourself, yes, there have been many real improvements in this house, but the biggest one is that there’s not so much CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE! It seems like it is rare that a house is truly too small — we all just have too much STUFF. Sometimes I just want someone to back a garbage truck up to the front door so I can commence tossing. But . . . it’s not all my stuff. And I live with two of the sweetest little pack rats there are. So, storage solutions is the name of the game.
Time to get on it!
Saturday afternoon we returned to sticky Lower Michigan after a perfect weather week Up North at Camp Lake Louise.
As always, we were up there during the 7th and 8th grade week, with my husband serving as camp pastor (copastor, actually, with one of his former campers who is now a pastor and attending seminary). We also brought with us a new friend and recent transplant from Zimbabwe.
My responsibilities amounted this year to being the Fire Guy — building and lighting the campfires each night — and the occasional odd job that needed doing.
The rest of the week, the boy and I were free to enjoy participating in the games, the morning and evening sessions of worship and teaching, and various lakeside activities, such as sandcastle building, kayaking, collecting rocks, taking photos, sunbathing, and speedboat riding.
We were blessed with incredible weather, sunny and breezy and absolutely gorgeous.
The lake was so high with all the snow and rain from the last year that in order to get to my secret rock harvesting spot we had to wade most of the way there. And the peninsula I normally spend some time on in order to get more varied angles of the lake and surrounding woods was practically submerged. Trees and bushes that had been tiny in years past are beginning to block views.
Besides the fun outdoor activities, I found time to revise a manuscript on our cabin’s deck while listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds of (mostly) happy kids running around. And I got the happy news that this very manuscript has reached the final round of judging in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s Rising Star contest.
Now we’re back home, sorting laundry, buying groceries, and facing the reality of getting back to work. But in a couple weeks I’ll be back up there again with the boy for his first time as an actual camper. It may be hard to adjust to not just doing whatever we want while we’re up there.
But I think we’ll manage.
We’ve hiked Pictured Rocks and Grand Sable Dunes. This year my sister Alison and I are headed up to Tahquamenon Falls, the land of Longfellow’s Hiawatha.
“Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gayly,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
And the sun, from sleep awaking,
Started up and said, “Behold me!
Gheezis, the great Sun, behold me!”
And the tree with all its branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying, with a sigh of patience,
“Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!”
I was beyond thrilled to see many maple trees already turning red and orange on my drive to Grand Rapids this morning, and I am hoping for at least a touch of color way up near the fabled shores of Gitche Gumee (that’s Lake Superior, in case you were unaware).
I can’t wait to get there and I can’t wait to share pictures with all of you.
The photos I posted a couple days ago of some of the quieter moments of my time at Lake Louise are not entirely representative of my time there. THIS is what the week is all about:
Summer camp was not an experience I had as a child, but since my late teens I’ve had a connection to this amazing place, one of my top five favorite places on earth. At eighteen, I worked as resident staff for an entire summer, I’ve been a counselor a number of times, and I’ve had the privilege of accompanying my husband/camp pastor in a do-whatever-happens-to-need-to-be-done role since our son was born. I got engaged there, I was baptized as a believer there, my son first laughed there at six weeks old, he took his first steps there the next year. My Lake Louise friends are some of the most satisfying and helpful friendships I enjoy.
To me and so many others for more than seventy-five years, there’s no place like it on earth.
Before I get to the post, just want to make you aware that…
August’s Short Story Is Now Available!
Kayaks, Lake Superior, bad weather, a mysterious woman…this story blends together elements of adventure on the open “seas” and psychological drama to create a time-bending tale that feels to me like the beginning of a much larger story waiting to be written. Hope you enjoy it! Click here to buy it for slightly less than $1 for your Kindle.
Now, to the point…
It is the final day of August and, as I mentioned earlier in the week, I have just begun to develop a bit of a good feeling toward this month.
Since childhood, I have disliked the month of August, which I always thought of as just one more month of hot, humid, numbingly boring days before school finally started up (yeah, I was one of those kids who loved going back to school). Little League was over, the bloom of freedom I felt in June had withered, and I have always disliked very hot weather.
Into adulthood I have maintained this disdain for August. It is a month where you dress for the heat and then freeze inside every business because they set their air conditioning so insanely low. It is a month where wasps and bees, previously seen as happy-go-lucky and dopey, mindlessly buzzing about in the yard, become aggressive and swarmy as they start fretting about the impending winter. It is a month when lots of spiders and bats–BATS–start exploring your house (and your poor husband must get a painful and heart-stoppingly expensive series of eleven rabies shots after a close encounter, eight in just one sitting).
Still, there are a few perks, right?
The farmer’s market is flush with fresh local produce. My backyard vegetable garden is busy working on a bumper crop of tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. Homemade tomato sauce is bubbling on the stove top. There are peaches and apricots and plums to can.
Ah, but the flower garden is in such disarray! It looks terrible! Besides those common little black-eyed susans, nothing at all is blooming! And the weeds! The weeds!
Still, there was that field of nodding sunflowers we saw as we drove home from our hiking trip.
And the sound of cicadas. And the hints of fall. The gold carpet of dying ferns beneath the evergreens. The audacious red display of the sumac along my weekly commute. The precocious tree here and there that simply cannot wait to show off her red and orange autumnal gown.
The rumblings of the thunderstorms that wake me in the wee hours of the morning. The shimmering clouds of blackbirds gathering for their fall migration.
The dreamy quality of the light. The foggy mornings that burn off into brilliantly sunny days.
Yes. Maybe…just maybe…August is getting a hold on me.
But I still hate March.