It had been years since I took a vacation or did anything to relax and get away. I was in need of rejuvenation so I went online searching for a nearby place that I could rent for one night. All I wanted was a nice, hot bath and to escape for just a bit.
When I posted on Facebook that I wanted to do this, a friend sent me a message letting me know that he and his wife had a lake house and he would let me use it for a few days. I was able to plan for a Sunday night through Wednesday and I got my other sisters to come stay with Mama while I enjoyed a getaway.
I headed to the lake house the day before Earth Day. What a great way to spend Earth Day – in a lake house surrounded by wildlife and nature! I packed a lot – but hardly any clothes.
Mostly CDs, workout DVDs, my Britta water pitcher, my sketch pad and pencils and my specialty teas with a few food items. Food wasn’t on my mind at all. In fact, it was after seven before I realized I hadn’t had a bite all day.
When the owner (John) showed me where everything was, he also let me know that some fishermen had just left and they were a bit messy with cleaning fish and disposing of it properly. There was such a rank smell outside, but thankfully, it was not in the cabin. I laughed when I thought about the movie “The Great Outdoors” when John Candy took his family to a lake house and there were fish left from fishermen before them. My life is many movies strung together.
John tried to show me how the fireplace worked and he couldn’t get it to come on. He said he would have someone out the next morning to fix it. That really wasn’t necessary to me at the time – as long as the Jacuzzi worked, I was great! But I am glad that he did get it fixed – the nights and mornings were still a bit chilly and the fireplace made it nice.
There was nothing to play my music on and I had to get a new filter for my Britta water pitcher anyway, so I went to the closest Walmart to get a small CD player as well. I went to the one by Fit One Gym. I had joined there recently because I like the ARC Trainer and the Y didn’t have one. When I saw how far the gym was from the lake house, I knew I would not be going everyday like I had been, but I saw a road where I could run by the lake and that was even better!
When I got back, I unpacked as if it were my own home. I felt very comfortable there. I tried to play the piano, but it had been so long I really had forgotten what little I knew. So I turned on Frank, Billie, Lena and Ella. I always listen to that style of music in my car and decided I would change it up a bit. I got out my Bob Segar CD and played a little air-guitar and then danced.
There was a cute campfire pot that I made tea in and I went outside to do a little sketching on the wrap-around, screened-in porch. Before sitting down, I had to let the four-year-old in me come out to play. You see… there were three twin beds out on the porch and, of course, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” came to mind. I tried the first one… it was too hard. I tried the second one… it was better. I tried the third one and sank down in it – it was too soft. Though it was out of sequence from the way Goldilocks found the three bears’ beds, I knew the middle one was the one that was just right!
It was too chilly to sleep outside that night and I didn’t bring a jacket or long sleeves. I had only brought a silk pajama shirt that was my Papa’s to sleep in. After I sketched a little, I realized it was close to eleven and I still had not eaten. By that time, I didn’t see the point and went to bed looking forward to the next day.
My oldest son lives five minutes from the retreat, and had just dropped my grandchildren off at school so he stopped by to see me. We went to the dock and it was still quiet chilly. After he left, I went back down to the dock. The long plank-walk is sturdy but when you get to the dock part – it is ‘float-y’. I took my shoes off and rolled up my jeans to my knees. The water was cold but it was nice to just dangle my feet in.
In our everyday lives, we turn on the television or radio and catch a morning show to start our day. My morning show at the lake was much better. As I sat on the edge of the dock, two birds were flying and skimming the water. They weren’t big enough to be fishing. I couldn’t figure out why they were coming so close to me except to give me a show. One of them actually flew past me upside down with his belly up! If I were with someone, I would be talking and laughing and giving them all my attention. Though I love spending time with others it was so nice to just be quiet and watch.
A few herons flew over skimming the water while the little birds so beautiful with long wings would glide in the air, low near the water and they were getting pretty close to me. I live my life seeing the positive and I don’t have to know all the answers. When I am not sure of something, I am content with making it up as I go. God knew I would be at the lake house and sitting on the dock at that very moment. I’d like to think He orchestrated the whole scene just for my pleasure. I was amazed at how close the birds were getting to me. They would almost touch my feet that were in the water. I always get along with animals and I feel they trust me. When I am alone with God and seeing Him in what He created, I have a bond with nature. I know that’s when God sees me face to face and I get a glimpse of Him. It’s a really special feeling.
As my friends were fluttering around me and gliding across the water to other docks, a boat sped by from the far side of the lake and stopped at just the right fishing spot. I watched my bird friends on the dock next to me and listened to them chattering. I wondered what the commotion was about and, instead of bonding with me, maybe they were trying to warn me of something. I had recently watched a Youtube video of a person too close to the lake and a crocodile lunged from out of the water at him. As I had heard the fish jumping in the water, I wondered, ‘what if that weren’t fish? What if it were a croc! I wanted to take my feet out of the water after those musings.
I reasoned with myself that we would have heard on the news any sightings of crocs around here, with as many people who fish. All of a sudden I felt a bump against the dock! My feet came out of the water. I felt another bump and another one. It was the wake from the boat just making it to shore. Whew! I still chose to let my feet dry for a bit.
With the wake making the dock move slightly, I lay back on the dock with my eyes closed, just to feel the motion. All was quiet on the lake except for the birds swooping by. Feeling the sun warming my face and the breeze drying my damp feet, I found myself praying. While getting lost in conversation to my Supreme Host, I heard a thud to the right of me. I looked over to see a heron perched on top of a covered dock beside me.
Just then, he flew off the roof, dove into the water and came back up. He was so close in front of me and I saw a fish in his mouth! What a sight! When he got to the dock on the other side of me, I saw him gulp the whole fish in one swallow. I wondered if it was quivering around inside his tummy.
Some people feel they cannot eat in a restaurant alone or go to a movie or take a vacation alone, but I am not afraid to be by myself. I am not fond of sitting in church alone, but for the most part, I don’t let being by myself keep me from enjoying certain things. I encourage people to enjoy something out of the ordinary, to just try doing it alone. Get over the thoughts of being lonely… there is nothing lonely about it.
To be alone and to be quiet on the dock, I was aware of the gentle thud of the heron landing on the rooftop getting ready to forage the water for his breakfast. I felt the silent wake come in and witnessed the soothing motion as I basked in the sun. I felt the sun warming the earth from what started as a chilly morning. I saw the birds scamper around me getting so close I could feel the wind beneath their wings as they passed over my feet. How can you notice these things if you are always with someone?
I am beginning to see the difference between loneliness and solitude. I praise solitude. There is nothing like it! Yes, I am a people person and a relationship builder, but the ‘Zen of Jen’ is in achieving a wonderful balance and that is what my second half of my life has been about these last few years.
The morning show was not quite over. Though the sun changed the scene around me as it lifted high above the water; I still had my little bird friends swooping right in front of me. I noticed they had pine needles in their beak. A nest. They were building a nest. But where were they taking it?
Still lunging around me, now that my feet were out of the water, I noticed the birds disappearing when they got very close to the dock. They had a nest right under the dock where my feet had been dangling! I watched them go under and now they didn’t seem as alarmed that I was there. My feet had been blocking their home.
After I watched them continue to build their nest, the lake had a different feel. The early morning chill accompanied by the rising sun made the lake serene. After a few hours, far off boats humming and the water rippling changed the scene from serene to ‘alive’. Now more herons and bigger birds were taking over the lake. The sun was more brilliant shining above in all its glory and the water was not as still. It was as if God scattered diamonds across the lake as the sun danced on the ripples of water.
With no cell phone or watch, I knew about what time it was from the sun but I didn’t have anywhere that I had to be. I wanted to get back before the heat of the day and go for a run along the lake. As I started back, I noticed a hook, line and sinker in the crevice of the dock. Someone could have an accident, so I removed it from the crack and planned to dispose of it properly. While crossing the long plank walk, I noticed a white cup floating in some brush in the water.
I knew I couldn’t reach it and it was too far out for me to get it from shore, but… I had a hook line and sinker in my hand! I decided to ‘go fish’! I laid flat on my stomach and leaned over with the fishing line trying to grab the cup. What I thought was a Styrofoam cup was actually a plastic cup and the hook was not hooking. I maneuvered it closer to me and being really careful, I was able to stretch my body down far enough to grab it while holding on to a strong canvas-type cloth nailed to the sides of the dock. The cup said, “Happy 30th Birthday Doug 2011” on it and it looked like it had been swimming around for the last two years after Doug’s big bash. I brought the cup and the hook, line and sinker back to toss in the garbage. My first morning at the lake house and I already felt renewed.
When I went on my run by the lake my serenity was interrupted by two barking dogs protecting their side of the street. They were not satisfied until they ran me off the road with their snarling teeth-bearing growls. I motioned to them and told them to ‘come on’ in the friendliest voice I could; I pretended I wasn’t falling for their threat. They knew they had won because I was on the other side of the road in the grass as I dodged uneven pits in the grass running past them. I called my son to come get me after I knew I ran far enough. I told him I was “run off the road”.
I was able to run for a mile before turning back and having my son and grandkids rescue me from having to face the wolverines. After giving lots of Gramama sugar, I was alone again and enjoyed the rest of my day and ended my evening with that long, hot bath. The next day, I planned to meet a date downtown and spend the day. I had already deleted my profile on the dating site and knew this would be the last person I would meet before giving dating a rest again. He was nice and we remain friends on Facebook.
That evening, I realized that I had had enough solitude and I wanted to share the last day of my retreat with someone special…
To be continued…