No television or newspapers for me tonight, nor has there been much of that over the weekend. I returned this evening from a short two days at Sweet Lake in northwestern Wisconsin. While away I eased myself out of my routine so effectively I forgot to change my socks and smoke my cigar. Not necessarily things I do together at the same time, but either one is a certain sign that I was preoccupied.
But preoccupied in good ways, I think. I was there with my brother, an uncle, and two cousins. An early autumn trip with them has become a bit of a tradition. We didn’t stand around and look at each other as much as we have in the past, but we shared a good time nonetheless.
For my part, I think I could use more time in a remote quiet place without distractions. The cabin is stocked with many artifacts from the past, including a small collection of books, that set a mood I enjoy. I like to think about the cabin’s previous owner reading those books which were likely a large source of evening entertainment back in 1952, say. I started reading The Clock Strikes Thirteen and it was difficult to focus on story. My mind wandered instead to thoughts of what it might have been like sitting in a rustic cabin 50 years ago reading about life in New York City while on a small isolated Wisconsin lake.
For a moment my uncle found a radio station playing songs that recalled the Big Band era of years ago…but that station quickly got changed to some slick contemporary station out of Duluth or Superior. Madonna didn’t really fit the scene so well for me. But I read on and found a few other interesting books. All very good.
And, of course, where would I be if I were not a bit hypocritical about my pining for rustic isolation? We did indeed go out for a drink or two and a pizza. Dinner in the cabin was quite nice, however…still, you have to get out and stimulate the local economy these days and staying in touch with the locals is a good idea too. So out we went.
This is the perfect time of the year to be alone at the lake. This morning we had a breakfast of quiche, rolls, apples, and toast on the picnic table with a comfortable early autumn chill and it could not have been nicer. The entire day sort of teetered between summer warmth and autumn chills; it is that time of the year.
And here I am tempted to go all quasi-psuedo-philosophical on you and say that I couldn’t help but feel a little Septemberish myself, teetering between this and that and wondering which was the better way to go, but I’ll spare you the self-analysis at the moment and talk about Rick, the chipmunk, instead.
Now Rick…there’s an enterprising guy that is anything but a September dude. He’s all action and determination and full of purpose. Staying away from owls and coyotes are a top priority, but an even more urgent task is at hand and so he goes at it. This is the time of the year when Rick gathers up some reserves for the winter. I felt good about this, seeing Rick scamper about without complaint or delay. So I put some peanuts out for him, which I hope won’t spoil his strong hard-work ethic. (I don’t think so…chipmunks don’t seem to be very neurotic animals to me.)
I did get a couple short walks, but I don’t have much to show for them. No photos of deer or wooly bears or bear scat to share this time. I did find this awesome trunk of a very old pine splintered at the back of our lot. It was a tall tree — at least 40 feet tall, I think — and it snapped while others remained standing. That in itself is interesting. But look at the trunk of this old tree. It is absolutely shattered. In fact I found an eight-foot splinter about 25 feet from the trunk caught up in some hazelnut bush. I started carrying it back, but it was heavy and sticky with sap. I leaned it against a tree to get another time and I regret now not saving it today. The wood now is a rich butter-yellow color and soft and smooth. When I see it again it will likely be turning grey in the weather.
Virginia Woolf made the point that a woman needed a room of her own if she were to have the opportunities to fully realize her potential. (I’m paraphrasing interpretation here, but that’s more or less it.) Depending on how you want to read Virginia Woolf’s thesis, you could see how she thinks a level of security and comfort is necessary for the full and free pursuit of one’s interests, but I think there is something more spiritual and affirming about her idea. A room of one’s one is also a space, both literally and figuratively, where a person has a degree of poetic license…a place to sort things out, if you will. These weekends away are kind of my room. I think we all need these.
I’m still looking for that passion, however…that thing that tunes me up and gets me running…and sometimes I feel like it is right there, about ready to converge upon me. Getting warmer, maybe…
And then, alas, I have tomorrow’s meetings creeping up on me and my noisy neighbor sorting glass in recycling bins behind me. The noise! Noise, noise, noise…yes, the noise.