I’ve just come back from two weeks at Sylvia Lake, a lovely spring-fed lake north of the Adirondacks. My grandmother had the foresight to buy a cottage there the year I was born, and I’ve visited almost every summer of my life. In some ways, this is my true home, the one place of my childhood that still exists unchanged and familiar. Because my stepfather was a teacher, my family had the unappreciated luxury of long, unstructured summers – we left our suburban New York house at dawn the morning after school let out in June for ten long weeks of playing on the beach, swimming in the the clear, cold water no matter what the weather, running through the pine woods, coming home only for meals or to dry off in front of the fireplace.
Now that we’re grown, my siblings and cousins share the cottage, each of us getting our two week chunk of heaven. There’s no television, no computer, no need for a calendar. My daily spiritual practice falls apart in the looseness of time, but it doesn’t matter because everything feels spiritual there. The lake itself holds the water that my grandmother and mother and father and stepfather and children and grandchildren have swum in. Being in the water or riding on the surface of the water in my kayak, I sense their presence, my connection with the holy, with love, with family. Early mornings, the lake is often perfectly calm, totally quiet, sometimes misty, and I paddle out and sit in the middle, surrounded by the peace of this place, the sense of being loved and surrounded by love. If I’m lucky, I’ll see the pair of loons that inhabit the lake, hear them calling in their weird sound, see them diving in tandem and emerging many yards away, always together in their pair. Yesterday, my last morning, I saw a heron flapping its great gray wings to land on the rocky shore. As soon as it noticed me, it flapped off again, flying low across the calm into the fog on the other side of the lake.
I love this place. I love the connection with my past, the sense of being present in the now, the calm in my soul when I’m there. Paddling becomes my meditation – breathing in, stroke, breathing out, stroke. The water supports my kayak and my soul, the sun warms my heart as it rises and burns off the mist on the lake, my body rests in the calm at the center of this world. I am blessed.