The Golden Summer: Giving Myself Permission to Just Be

This summer, we arrived at the lake in sorry shape. Paul had been in a biking accident where he broke his sternum. Scrapes and bruises covered his body. In fact, his entire butt was black and blue. His psyche took a hit. My eldest sister had been found in a diabetic coma and there was the family scramble of how to get her proper care. My bruises were internal: the worry over two people I love.

We headed to the lake, two Sunday drivers–what with our 4Runner, top-heavy with 2 kayaks, towing our old Corolla and changing over as drivers every hour.

Once at the cabin we were met with the workings of a critter, a critter that chewed through my couch cushions and sprayed them in a circular pattern with something smelly and black. The critter also gnawed the edge off a windowsill, scattering wood chips onto the floor. The plumbing did not work at the kitchen sink. Inside the cabin the air was cold and damp. Outside it was cold and it often rained. We did a lot of huddling under heaps of blankets, coming out to light the Franklin stove and then sit in our chairs under blankets…and sort of stare at the fire.

This state of being–like the weather–lasted about two weeks. Finally the plumber came and soldered pipes. The cabin’s pipes are the age of the cabin–forty-six–and often leak. With water in the cabin flowing, we began to move. One day Paul gingerly sat on his bike seat and rode a few miles. Material and thread came in the mail and I began to measure and sew. For a week, our kitchen table was covered with fabric, measuring tape, needles, iron. The sewing machine whirred in our little study. The light and warmth of the spring sun came to Wisconsin in mid-June. Step outside and there is the iris that usually makes its appearance at the end of May. Same for the lilies of the valley that run along the cabin’s side. And trillium, both white and pink, spreads sporadically through the ferns on the downward slope of the hill to the lake.

I transported two carefully wrapped little flower-shaped silver vases from my Norwegian grandmother–Mormor–to Wisconsin this year in order to snip a few of these lilies of the valley for the vessels and thereby bring my worlds together through a small offering of sight and smell.

Couch cushions washed, repaired, or thrown out; new curtains for the living room and bedroom up and working, it felt like I was ready for outdoor fun. What should I do today? A walk? A bike ride? A kayak ride? A swim? Friends coming soon. Let’s get going.

I notice Paul is smiling a lot–even beginning to glow. He’s now biking for 25 miles. I can sense the lightness in my own expression, an expression that comes from my insides to the outside. As I walk, I am not afraid of bears; I breathe in long whiffs of sweet light early summer air. As I kayak, I watch: the yellow water lilies opening up, the turtles sliding into the water after sunning on a log, the loon’s webbed feet disappearing from the surface water’s light-filled transparency. On my bike, I am free. I am young. Swimming, I am a girl.

Sets of friends come and play. Then, go.

Paul is now up to fifty miles a day. In a week he will join some high school guys pals to bike 400 miles across Iowa.

And I am back to me. It’s a golden place to be.

Communicating Effervescence

When I think of the word effervescence, I am skimming on top of the water in my aqua kayak on the lake, remembering the wide, flat female loon I saw more than three weeks ago still sitting loyally on her eggs, beak down on the sand…waiting.

A few minutes ago, I paddled in silent, slow motion towards the mother and her two babies. They let me get quite near before they skirted away from me. But as one of the little ones took off, he doused one webbed foot and shook it off, spraying tiny beads of light-filled water into the air. “Hello, goodbye,” the baby loon seemed to be saying to me.

I blinked, took in a deep breath, and moved on.

As a kid, I was lucky to have summers on the water–some years the icy North Sea waters of the Skaggerak in the south of Norway. One of five, we would clamber down the cliff over the rocks after our long-legged Norwegian mother. Mom would scout the water for jellyfish, the kind with long, colorful, poisonous stingers. Coast clear, she jumped in, let out a high pitched “Eeeeeeeeee,” turned immediately on her back and kicked furiously at the water till a halo of white froth spurted the sky behind her. “Come in, come in,” she teased.

Courage to own a scintillating moment, I leapt in holding my nose, screamed “Eee,” and kicked up a little foam.

A kiss between my husbands’ lips and mine sets my heart to rumble–a train racing backwards towards the fresh smelling boy I knew once, and forwards to the man distinct to me now. The train traverses time blazing a track over low sagebrush, sparking twigs to fire in the dry heat of night, a constellation of glowing embers panning out to a geometric pattern against the dark.