There’s more to our vacation in up-state Wisconsin than Scrabble and visiting with family. It’s a chance to appreciate nature. We’re lucky, as the resort is at the end of a long road from town, and there’s no traffic noise. The area is sparsely populated with no large cities nearby, so there’s no airplane noise either.
It’s a quiet morning. The sun is shining, the sky a crisp blue, and I can see dragonflies in brilliant green and blue flitting over the blue lake. Two sizes of water-bugs skate on the surface (parents and babies?), leaving tiny wakes behind them. Looking up, I see a heron suddenly take off from marshy point that creates this small bay. One year we saw an eagle drag a huge fish out of the water and barely get it to shore over there. We watched it feed all day, tearing large chunks and taking them to her babies that we knew were in the nest further along the shore.
I bring my attention back to the present, and hear something buzzing in the distance, perhaps an electric line. It’s too regular to be cicada. I shut my eyes to hear better, and instantly bird, cricket and bullfrog music emerges as I tune my mental antenna. A motor boat pulls into a nearby dock with a disappointed crew of fishermen, the drone of their small motor preceding them. When they close their cottage door behind them, I can hear their boat knock against the dock as other wakes rolled in. Every now and then I hear the splash of a fish jumping to catch insects, and the loons in the next bay begin a series of calls to one another.
The air is cool despite the sun. It was 60°F this morning when I awoke, and I was glad I had two quilts last night. But cool doesn’t last long. Sitting in the sun on the dock, I feel the sun’s warmth on my back, and shift to allow it to fall on my face. Umm, I’m toasty for the first time this week. That doesn’t last long either. In Wisconsin we say if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes. Systems roll in fast and roll on out again. A cloud covers the sun, and suddenly it’s raining. So I sprint to the cottage, hoping the towels are in from the line. It’s a good time to eat lunch.
The rain ends and I go back to the dock. The humidity in the cool air hangs as a mist over the lake, fed by the warmth of the water from last week’s heat wave. I can only discern vague shapes on the far shore, the usually-familiar shape of trees half-fallen in the water now seeming out of place. I shut my eyes again, and pick up a whiff of marine fuel and the lake’s seaweed piled up on the far shore. Hearing a clatter nearby I smell lighter fluid, then listen as charcoal whooshes to life. Soon I smell the tempting aroma of brats and burgers frying on the grill and I’m glad I’m already full of salad. A flexitarian diet is difficult to follow here.
I get tempted away from my musings by an offer to play Scrabble, but return to my observations later in the day.
Tonight as the sun sets, the lake is so still that the sun’s long rays don’t catch much texture on it at all. Then a solitary dark cloud that hangs above our little bay starts spitting fat raindrops. Each one makes the surface of the lake dance, and soon the water is full of sparkles. I hear the bullfrogs croaking in the little marsh across the bay.
Much later, we huddle in the cottage, startled by brilliant flashes of lightning followed by loud booming cracks of thunder. It goes on for 40 minutes, the time between lightning and thunder shortening rapidly, and I prepare to lose electricity by getting my candles out and filling all of the kitchen pots with water. But tonight we are lucky: we’re dry inside the cottage, witnessing a spectacular light and sound show with no adverse consequences.
Each event passes, regardless of whether I catch and savor it or not. If I’m not paying attention, if I’m not present, I miss it. That’s my loss. But I don’t need the lake to enjoy an exploration of what’s around me. It works just as well sitting out on my lanai back home, day or night.
Can I entice you to sit outside with your eyes closed today or this evening? What will you hear and smell? Maybe you will feel something, like a light breeze teasing your hair across your cheek, or your cat leaning into your leg.
What will you see if you sit still and wait quietly for something to happen? What if you look at something ordinary up close? Far away? What do you see when you turn around and look behind you? I invite you to ponder and relish all of it, and thank God for the performance.
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