Category Archives: New England Summer

Sunapee Summer

I spent a lot of time at Sunapee this summer. . .

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

. . . not as much as David and I did in 2014 during our grand adventure, but several weeks beyond the usual. (Thanks, Helen, for your gracious hospitality!)

It was the summer of weddings, so there were lots of opportunities to spend time with family, both at weddings and at the lake . . .

Felicity, Courtney, Bailey
Brian, Brittany, Chelsea on what they dubbed the “Chill Station 3000”

. . . but also some good quiet alone time to process this first summer at Sunapee without David. Not easy. Here are two of my favorite David pictures from the stairway wall . . .

I’m back in a new writing workshop at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, and here’s something I wrote for it that seems appropriate to include here:

*****

Tube for One?

There’s no one on the dock when I go down there, and the bay is quiet, but the paddle board is gone, so I walk carefully through the boathouse, watching for dock spiders and rotting boards, out the other door and around back to where the old inner tubes are stacked. I slide one out from under the collection of random inflatables, gingerly wipe off the webs, and roll it back through and out onto the broad side of the dock, shucking my flip-flops at the top of the steps leading into the water. The lake is cold and clear as vodka. Making sure the long inflation stem is facing down, I ease myself into the tube, bracing for the shock of cold, and push off and away from the shallows, only then realizing how enormous it is, really better for two people than one. It must have been an inner tube just like this that David and I used forty years ago when we’d float together out into the bay, newly engaged, planning our future. And suddenly, I have to decide. Can I do this? Or do I get out? Go back up to the house. It was only that first summer that we floated together in a shared inner tube. Decades of summers followed where I’d laze in a tube on the rippling, undulating water, watching the clouds drifting overhead, the water-bugs skittering across the surface, the dragonflies tickling my knees, while David hauled brush from the woods or stacked firewood or tamed Virginia Creeper, both of us doing what we loved most. So why is the memory of that first summer so sharp?

I’d already been clothes-lined a few days before by the hot, musty, woodsy scent of the family room and the sight of Ebenezer, the retired carousel horse, his proud head thrown back, on his rockers in the corner, awaiting the next generation of children. David had told me about him before I ever saw Sunapee. And that smell. The balsa pine of the long drive, the unfinished wood of the interior walls and that unforgettable scent of an ancient lake house slowly rotting in unsuspected corners. Soon there were other Sunapee scents for me, like fresh-cut lime for my gin and tonic, but that one doesn’t have the power to wound. I’ve long-since adopted it for other places and other times. But the family room, closed as it usually is, holds the purest essence of Sunapee and it rocked me. I delivered what I’d come up to put away, turned and reached a hand out to caress the snout of Ebenezer, although I didn’t get on him this time. He’s big enough for an adult, and I’ve been on him before, for a laugh, but it wasn’t laughter I was feeling. I turned and went back down the stairs to the kitchen, suddenly disoriented by the hubbub of the family at cocktail hour. My brother-in-law sensed something and ask if I was okay, and the tears came. He put an arm around me and my mother-in-law, watching from the next room, blew me a kiss. I am loved here, and I belong, even without David, but this is the first summer without him, and oh, how he is missed.

There is no safe-haven from grief I’m discovering. No place where it cannot touch you. In this year of firsts, I’m just trying to get through them all, experimenting with doing things the same as always, or maybe with a slight twist, something a little new, like music on the radio on the drive to the lake-house from the airport. It worked for a while, but the stations kept fading away. The woods are too dense. Which is probably why we never bothered with the radio before.  Maybe the way we’ve always done things is the best way, but surely there are new possibilities. Which hurts less, I wonder? Which helps most? The old way or something new? The only answer I’ve found so far is there is no one right answer.

*****

It’s been nine months today, since he’s been gone, and he is still so deeply missed.

Wishing you grace and peace like this moon-rise in the midst of whatever challenge you may be facing. I know I’m not the only one.

Moon over Lake Sunapee

God be with you.

Wipeout!

David and I are recently back from a couple of weeks at Sunapee, the family lake house in New Hampshire . . .

Sunset with Loon
Sunset with Loon

Dark and Light Sunapee. . . where the sunset light on the lake tends to be breathtaking.

My quest for the perfect loon photo continues (and will never stop, I’m pretty sure). Although I’m finally realizing I’d need a longer lens and a tripod to get an excellent shot, I got a few decent shots this year.↓

Two loons right in Gardner Bay!

Loon in the GreenLoon in the Pink

As peaceful as the above photos look, in fact the potential for mess and drama is always rather high in a big house with a lot of people. And in a vacation home, someone or other is always arriving or departing, or moving bedrooms, which are sort of first come, first served, with occasionally some midweek shifting about if needed. Plus, the house is 90 years old, so there’s almost always a new maintenance issue or two (or three) to manage or work around. This year was no exception. And although Chelsea and Will could not join us this year, of course there’s family . . . lots of family.

IMG_9644It’s a little like summer camp (only a little), with all the possible activities . . .Bailey. . . (and the spiders), but no “Reveille”, thank God, and the only hard and fast scheduled agenda item is cocktail hour at five o’clock . . .

Brother-in-law Doug and Brittany
Brother-in-law Doug and Brittany
Courtney (and David, of course)
Courtney (and David, of course)

David

In an effort to minimize the chaos of so many people sharing one house, over the years certain expectations have become . . . let’s call it, firmly establishedThere’s a definite Approved Way to do most things, from folding dock towels to washing dishes to how many seconds you can vacate a chair without pushing it in to the table (not many). It works reasonably well for someone with a personality like mine, since I tend to be the instruction-reading-and-following kind of person. (Sorry–I know you thought I was more exciting than that.)

But although I’m usually relatively on-board with the Approved Way at Sunapee and elsewhere, I’ve finally figured out it doesn’t work as well in creative endeavors . . . ↓

Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport

. . . Seriously. This is NOT what a roof is SUPPOSED to look like, but how cool is it? (David and I spent the night before our flight at the new Westin Hotel and this was our view.)

Remember my previous attempt at watercolor back on Folly Beach? I’m ecstatic to report I finally found an excellent class for beginners here in Fort Collins. Woohoo! I happened upon the glorious paintings of Sibyl Stork during an artists’ studio tour a few weeks ago. Sibyl’s work is vibrant, color-rich, sometimes a bit mysterious or whimsical, and all-around fabulous, so I immediately signed up for a class, which started the day after we got back from Sunapee. I was still in “trying to do it right” mode, since that’s my default, but what a revelation the first class was. I wasn’t anywhere NEAR “getting it right” but it was just SO MUCH FUN. Sibyl is such a gentle, encouraging soul, all you want to do is keep painting and trying new things. In the midst of all the tragic news and the wrenching struggles of many we know and love♥, what a joy to have this little respite. Thanks, Sibyl!

I read a wonderful article recently, “The Days of Reveille and Taps” by Dominique Browning*, in which the author writes of summer camp and the joys of discovering water skiing: . . . nothing could dim the pleasure of wiping out  — being allowed to wipe out, being urged not to be careful, being pushed to the edge of what I could do . . . .

Doesn’t that make your heart sing? “. . . allowed . . . urged . . . pushed to the edge of what I could do . . . . ”

Wishing you all the freedom of discovery and the joy of the wipeout!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ∼ Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert cartoons**

*New York Times Travel Section, 17 July 2016 — And be sure to check out Browning’s book Slow Love: How I Lost my Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness. Loved it.

**Yes, I’ve used this one before, but it’s too apt not to give it another appearance.

♥ Our little buddy, Sam, is still in the fight of his life against cancer, so please continue to remember him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Where the Wild Things Are

We’re back in the land of loons . . . Loon 3Loon 2

. . . and mergansers . . .

Mergansers on Parade

. . . and new this year, a white-tailed deer . . . Deer

Back for another visit, adorable, only slightly wild, granddaughters. ↓

Granddaughters Bailey and Felicity
Bailey and Felicity

All this amidst the beauty of the wild ferns . . .Ferns

The irony is I can best appreciate and photograph these wild things when I’m not at all wild, but rather when I’m completely still and quiet. If I’m frantic for a shot, the wild things startle and scatter, the children get cranky or goofy, and the photos get blurry.

Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance. ∼Morgan Freeman

With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. ∼William Wordsworth
Stone Wall

Wishing you peace and stillness like a New England stone wall.

There is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. ∼Thomas Merton

Be still and know that I am God. ∼Psalm 46:10

And They’re Off!

Saratoga Springs, New York, 17 August 2014
Saratoga Springs, New York, 17 August 2014

. . .  and we are, too . . . almost! We’ve left Vermont and are spending a final couple of days at Sunapee to get organized and repacked to return to France on Thursday. I’m feeling a bit frazzled with loose ends to tie up and decisions to be made, so at the moment life feels a lot like this:

Saratoga Springs, New York
Saratoga Springs, New York

I could tell you about our afternoon at the Saratoga Race Course, where we were by turns confused, abused and amused, but let’s not get me started on that. Major lack of clear, accessible, non-conflicting information for newcomers to the track. Sheesh.

Instead, I think I’ll take a deep breath and reminisce about Vermont. As we begin this next leg of our adventure, I wish for you:

Serenity like Jim grazing in the peace of a Vermont afternoon:

Jim at Four-Legged Farm, Vermont
Jim at Four-Legged Farm, Vermont

Beauty like Skyler, pretty much whatever she’s doing:

Skyler, Four-Legged Farm, Vermont
Skyler, Four-Legged Farm, Vermont

Skyler in Barn Cropped

Joy like Diana the morning hay for the winter was delivered:

Diana being Farm-Girl -- Preparing the barn for hay storage
Diana being Farm-Girl — Preparing the barn for hay storage

Harmony like Diana with her biggest four-legged family members:

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Adventure like me, finally back up on a horse, fifteen years after my last lesson:

Photo by Diana
Photo by Diana

Jim and I will both be slimming down a bit in the weeks to come, I sincerely hope, after a summer of indulgence. David and I are off to France, where we walk ALL THE TIME, and Diana has a brand new arena, which means a bit more exercise for Jim.  He makes a grumpy face occasionally about it, and I have been known to whine about how heavy the bags get, but of course it’s all for the best and I’m grateful (I can’t speak for Jim).

And finally I wish for you:

Inspiration, like I’ve received from these wise souls:

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses. ∼Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden (1845)

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough. ∼Meister Eckhart

It’s a little bittersweet, though, this moving on to the next stage of our journey, especially when some we know and love are currently facing daunting challenges. I don’t think we realized how many goodbyes would be involved in this nomadic year.

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ∼Marcel Proust

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
∼Maya Angelou 

So thank you, dear friends, and thank you, dear family. You make us very happy. We remember all you have cheerfully given to us and we feel blessed. I’ll end with a couple more quotes from Frederick Buechner, since he’s a Vermonter from way back:

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.

Much as we wish, not one of us can bring back yesterday or shape tomorrow. Only today is ours . . . . the chance to speak the truth, to show mercy, to ease another’s burden. The chance to resist evil, to remember all the good times and good people of our past, to be brave, to be strong, to be glad. ∼Frederick Buechner

The next post will be from France, if all goes well. The OED says “good-bye” originated as “God be with you” (or “ye”), but why not say both? Good-bye–for now. God be with you.

Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. ∼The Carpenters (Song by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols)

Yes, I used to listen to the Carpenters. And I’ll bet now you’ve got this song stuck in your head, too. Sorry about that, but Monday was challenging, Tuesday not much better, and Wednesday it rained all day long, so this song did rather spring to mind.

Once we had dealt with every issue as far as possible yesterday, David suggested we go for a drive and see a bit more of Vermont while we had the chance. Grafton had been recommended to us, and it’s not far from here, but it was too rainy for photos and too early to eat. There was only one thing we could do–head north to Simon Pearce in Quechee, one of our favorite rainy-day places.

Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont
Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont

Warm fires in the basement (okay raging furnaces, but kind of cozy from a distance) . . .

Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont
Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont

. . . friendly glassblowers answering unlimited questions . . .

Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont
Simon Pearce, Quechee, Vermont

. . . gorgeous artistic housewares (glass, wood, pottery, textiles) in the shop . . .

Some the more free-form glasswork at Simon Pearce
Some of the more free-form glasswork at Simon Pearce

. . . and last but not least, Vermont cheddar soup and other delights in the restaurant. Yum.

IMG_4810

And on the way home . . . a random zebra sighting. I know. What?!?

Vermont Zebra in Field, NOT a Zoo
Zebra in a Vermont field, NOT a zoo

Seriously. How cool is that? I made David turn around and drive back so I could get a photo.

The whole experience was certainly a nice change of pace, but more than that, the peaceful, meandering drive gave me a chance to think about how I deal with frustrations and challenges, especially when it’s only a rainy day. David used to tell the girls when they were growing up, “Choose your attitude.” And I remember how my attitude toward wind changed in France. So although I trust YOUR attitude is beyond reproach, I’m going to close with a favorite Buechner passage about loving rain. Loving rain. Imagine. But honestly, he’s almost got me convinced. (I recommend reading it slowly, like poetry, to feel the resonance. This man knows how to put words together.)

I loved the rain as a child. I loved the sound of it on
the leaves of trees and roofs and window panes and
umbrellas and the feel of it on my face and bare legs. I
loved the hiss of rubber tires on rainy streets and the
flip-flop of windshield wipers. . . . A rainy day was a special day for me in a sense that no other kind of day was—a day when the ordinariness of things was suspended with ragged skies drifting to the color of pearl and dark streets turning to dark rivers of reflected light and even people transformed somehow as the rain drew them closer by giving them something to think about together, to take common shelter from, to complain of and joke about in ways that made them more like friends than it seemed to me they were on ordinary sunny days. 

But more than anything, I think, I loved rain for the power it had to make indoors seem snugger and safer and a place to find refuge in . . . . I loved rain for making home seem home more deeply . . . ∼Frederick Buechner — A Sacred Journey

Anyone have a quote for Mondays?

On the Water

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. ~William Wordsworth

The last post was all about noticing the moment we’re in while we’re in it, so here are a few of our recent moments. We’ve been heading back over to Sunapee for the weekends, since it’s not much more than an hour on beautiful winding country roads. So picture us here:

Sommerro
Sommerro on Lake Sunapee

Last weekend, while cruising around Herrick Cove, we saw this guy . . .

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. . . who very delicately stepped back behind this boathouse . . .

IMG_4659

. . . apparently to avoid the paparazzi (me), and peeked out at us through the back door. Excusez-moi!

You may be noticing that my favorite Sunapee weekends include being on the water. This past Saturday morning, David and I took the boat out before breakfast to catch a shot of Brittany’s favorite picturesque boathouse while the sun was still on it . . .

Old Wood Boathouse Enhanced. . . and discovered that we really need to institute a new Sunapee tradition: breakfast cruises. It was glassy calm, only occasionally rocking us a bit when the early water skiers went by, and even then with a mesmerizing undulation, the surface of the water like molten silver, the sun warm and easy. Paradise. We puttered home as slowly as possible, and only headed back when we did because David was missing his coffee.

I’m not alone. Yesterday was “Love Your Lake Day” on Lake Sunapee, including the Antique Boat Parade, and all the antique boats gathered here in Gardner Bay to . . .um . . . circle the wagons? . . .  get their ducks in a row? . . . I’m not sure, but they went round and round for a while, not quite close enough for a great shot, but close enough that we could see that some people on Lake Sunapee have some beautiful old Chris-Crafts.

Antique Boat Parade, Lake Sunapee
Antique Boat Parade, Lake Sunapee

And a bit later on Sunday, we had the privilege of witnessing the maiden voyage–post-restoration–of Eb’s old wooden boat:

Eb's Boat LaunchBesides “messing about in boats,” what is it about water? It captivates me in a way few other things do, the changing light and colors, the soothing rhythm of waves and ripples, the peace of mist rising at dawn.

Lake Blues Cloud Bank

I have been overcome by the beauty and richness of our life together, those early mornings setting out, those evenings gleaming with rivers and lakes below us, still holding the last light. ∼Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sunset on Sunapee Cropped

Wherever you are, I wish for you water.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. ∼Psalm 23

 

The Loop

If you’re willing to brave the deer flies, which are truly, maddeningly persistent, there is a lovely three-ish-mile walk up and down country roads, starting and ending . . . well . . . wherever you choose to start and end, hence the moniker “The Loop.” We start, of course, at the end of the drive, making a sharp left up to a fetching, dim little green path through the woods–the domain of a number of very territorial insects, but oh well. Once past that, it widens into a nice unpaved road which spills out into a quirky little hamlet called Westminster West. It has apparently been here a while:

Yes, it does say, "EST. 1784"
Yes, it does say, “EST. 1784”

If you have time for a slight detour–and of course you do: you’re on a country walk in Vermont–instead of a left at the cemetery, continue straight another thirty yards or so to appreciate this:

Westminster West, Vermont
Westminster West, Vermont

Eagle's Roost Tree CroppedAnd a bit further on . . . well, this:

Yes, someone turned a tree upside down. They’re very artsy here in Vermont. We did not hang around to see the massive eagle (or pterodactyl) that laid these eggs.

It may have escaped your notice that Westminster West is an international crossroads (although Sturgis is not mentioned), but if your GPS fails you, you can consult this:

IMG_4675

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Once you’ve got your bearings, make a sharp left, back toward the church and the cemetery and you’ll be rewarded with this sight:

Westminster West, Vermont
Westminster West, Vermont

Seriously. It’s like calendar photos everywhere you look. A few more sights from the loop:

Sheep Barn Enhanced and Cropped

IMG_4601

Mossy Rock Wall Enhanced

Bird Condo Trimmed and Enhanced

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I’ve just started a book by Alice Steinbach called Without Reservations, in which Ms. Steinbach* says of her own year of adventure, she hoped to learn “how to stop rushing from place to place, always looking ahead to the next thing while the moment in front of me slipped away unnoticed.” That’s what we’re trying to do, too, and sometimes I think we’re even succeeding a little bit.

“When I entered my fifties–the Age of Enlightenment, as I came to call it,” she writes, ” . . . I’d knocked around enough to know that, in the end, what adds up to a life is nothing more than the accumulation of small daily moments.” And although I believe there’s also something mysterious and transcendent, and sometimes even holy, that can infuse those moments and make them not really small at all, I agree with her that the moment we’re in is all we really have. Here’s wishing you transcendent and even holy moments, every one of them fully noticed.

*I have a feeling Alice Steinbach will soon be appearing on my quotes page, so keep checking.