Lakeside thoughts and times of solitude

I sit and look out the door to my screened in porch. I can see vivid purple and orange flowers. I know if I would slide open the doors and walk out on the porch, I’d see more flowers under a tree. But I haven’t done that. I’ve tunneled in for most of July and August, avoiding the Florida heat. I gaze out the windows and think about living lakeside in Minnesota. I’m not sure if I’m longing to be back there in that two bedroom cabin or if my hunger is for the peace, the solitude, the quiet that went with living there. I remember the stillness of long, cold, snowy winters when the only people I’d see would be ice fisher folk out on the frozen lake. I could see the lights in their ice houses late at night; their pick-ups pulled up next to their shacks. Silly people, I would think, hunkering under a blanket and reading late at night. My only daily companions were Elliot, my old soul dog, my music and my books. I didn’t even have a television for much of the time I lived there. When spring came, the seasonal crowd would return. The first weeks of my first summer there, I would turn my back to my nearest neighbors when out on my deck but then the neighbors on the other side might spy me. I couldn’t imagine what I would say to strangers with no common bond other than a Minnesota lake. These neighbors were not to be ignored. One next door neighbor called me “The Hermitess of the Lake.” He’d bang on my door and order me out, announcing drinks up on their deck or a shared supper. I’d try to resist but these summer types were insistent. So I learned to be seasonally social. I celebrated the arrival of late autumn cooler temperatures, the sound of cars leaving, the promises to see me next spring or summer. Then the only people left on my dirt road would be a retired couple a few houses away and one retired nurse in the other direction. When I got too lonely, I’d go to the store not too many miles away. I’d wander the aisles and make a few purchases, enjoy the small talk, mostly about weather, when I paid the smiling cashier. Somehow there were always more men in that store than women. The store catered to hunters, fishermen, and locals in the off season. The atmosphere changed in the busy season. I liked the late fall to late spring season myself.

I was taking classes for my Masters in Liberal Arts courses. That provided a built-in time of interaction with others and I was always comfortable in a classroom from the first grade until even now, at 75. And sometimes I stayed overnight with my daughter and husband, getting a refill of family time. Or I’d bring my toddler granddaughter for a stay. I survived financially on public relations and editing contracts, only taking enough to provide the basics. I was content to live on little money and controlled interaction with others. People and relationships can clutter up life. Life lakeside was simpler.

I had this private agreement with myself that if the rent increased, I’d leave. But the thought of leaving caused feelings of overwhelming loss. Then my mom offered to help me with a small down payment to buy a much larger home that had been foreclosed. It was a hard time for farmers and this home was for sale because a farm family lost their summer getaway. Their loss was my gain or so I thought.

But life got complicated not long after I moved into that lake home. It was more expensive to live there. Other people and their needs seemed to move in with my boxes of stuff. My work world shifted and I needed to either go with the change or lose opportunities. I moved off the lake as fast as I’d moved lakeside. I tucked the memories of that quieter time in that small cabin into my once upon a time corner of my brain and my heart. I haven’t thought much about it for over 25 years until recently.

I’m not sure why I am dwelling back lakeside part of every day; why I fall asleep thinking about the look of the lake, the curve of the dirt road, the tilt of the mailbox, the kennel for Elliot, my deck, the rickety dock. Here’s the odd thing. I am also back to reading poetry, to reading challenging non-fiction books, to having to pry myself out of my mental retreat to engage with people I love. I’m in some kind of phase and I’m being patient with myself. And I’m talking and listening to God a lot. I’m not sure where I’m going with this mood, this study of the process of grieving, the losses people experience in life, deep diving into a variety of new authors and thoughtful books. This reflective time has continued for months. I find it hard to reengage with a busier life, yet I miss joining in shared laughter with friends. I don’t really understand what is going on but I’m not worrying. I have faith that I’ll know when I’ve arrived wherever it is God is leading me. And I know it will have something to do with writing and with what I write. I remain alert.

Proverbs 6: 3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

LORD God, my Heavenly Father. I am in a waiting place, not certain what path to follow as I read, ponder, pray for weeks now. But I am confident that you will not leave me in this place of uncertainty. And when I know what it is I am to do, how I am to use my new understanding of loss and grieving, I will commit what I do to you and I am confident you will establish my plan.

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