Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Summers' Reflection

It’s hot. It’s humid. It sucks to be outside, unless you are over your neck in water, and that makes working horses a bit more than tough. This is life in the south in the summer and we are used to it, and grudge our way along from late April to somewhere along about October, whining and moaning, but dealing with it. My laundry bin by the end of a week reeks of damp clothes begging for a wash from the multiple changes I go through in the course of my daily chores. The horses stand in their run in stalls by day with fans cooling their faces and the dogs hide in dark corners of the air conditioned house, until the sun sets around eight pm and the air offers some relief.

When I was in seventh grade, my parents decided that they really wanted a place at the close by Lake Martin, a lake of beautiful water and landscape, with relatively little traffic, at that time. They wanted a cabin in this yet to be discovered paradise for a family get away. Search, they did, and they found the perfect place. In that late May, we packed up our clothes, and dogs, even my horse, "Pig", and the maid/cook/my cooking mentor/and best friend, Frances, and off we moved to stay at the lake for the entire summer. It was heaven. Finally there was a solution to living in the south in the summer. In retrospect we seemed to have lived there for centuries, but, in reality it was only three months a year for maybe ten years or so, but it was the birthplace for a life time of memories and much of the molding of my adolescence.

Our cabin was at the back of a slough and our vista from our covered pier could take in most of the far off afternoon thunderstorms as they approached, until the lightening became a bit too close and we sought refuge in the house until it was over. There was a pole for housing for Purple Martins on the end of the pier and for the early part of the summer their chatter blended with the sound of gently lapping waves hitting the sides of the floating dock. There was very little to do. Television was limited to three boring channels, and one particular summer was a total bust because the only thing running was this Watergate scandal thing. The alternative was to get in a boat and either ski or explore, so we did a lot of both.

My brother Wilson taught me to ski on a slalom ski. One day I guess he had had enough watching me cruise around on two and said that it was time to move on. Eventually I figured it out with his patient guidance and loved it. There was a sheer joy of cutting a sharp turn across the wake of the boat ahead of you, jumping the wake it was leaving, and then turning sharply, at a distance dictated by the length of the tow rope, to once again jump the wake going the other direction, each turn trying to make it as sharp as possible laying your shoulder down almost touching the smooth water.

When there is something that you do everyday for hours on end, because there isn’t that much else to do, makes you get better fast. After skiing on one ski got boring, we starting improvising on anything else we might defy gravity and ride on top of the water with, including paddles, boards, and anything with a surface flat enough to stand on and slide through the water on. We took some spectacular falls on occasion, but heck, when you are young and haven’t been hurt you take risks, and continue to do so, until one bites you.

My brothers always had multiple friends of theirs up to visit for a week and I had my buddies as well so the house was nearly always full of voices and music playing through whatever eight track contraption was around. The music of the seventies was what I was going through my high school years hearing, and my older brothers and their friends introduced me to the bands that are still my favorites, The Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, Creedance, and gosh knows how many more. It was a great time for the creative part of Rock and Roll, and I feel lucky to have been on the part and space in time where that music was new and unknown.

That lake house was a refuge, a source of peace for the soul, a generator of mountains of memories of great times, and some that were not so great, but etched memories all the same. Gradually as my brothers went off to college, our time at the lake was diminished, about the time that a real estate company was just beginning to “develop” some of the land around the corner from us. My dad had been told when he rented the cabin from the Russell Land Corporation, that it was a lease for a lifetime, not to be messed with or worried about. It soon became apparent that the mighty dollar was stronger in the minds of the owner of the land and we were told that we would have to buy the land the cabin was on, buy what was to be turned into three lots and have to build a mansion on. Oh, and we would have to take down the pier because it stretched out too far into the lake. That was the end of our lake place, as ours, and back to town for summers, it was.

A few years ago, we happened to be visiting another person’s cabin up there and took a short ride to visit the place of so much of my youth and history. The cabin was gone, the pier did remain, and everywhere I turned there were memory ghosts that just overwhelmed me. There still were hooks in the big pines where Daddy had hung in the hammock, with all the dogs laying underneath him. All of the landscaping my mother had worked so hard on were still there, the gardenias still in bloom. It all lay before me like I was in a dream. My brother David, who had died just before his twenty first birthday away at college, was here, his memory strong in the events that had occurred on this site. The brick patio still was there, the pear tree, the sandy beach my dad put in for our daughter to play on, the vision of the table where the “Add-ult” lemonade jug sat waiting to fill red plastic cups, coolers of ice and beer, Frances fishing on the edge of the sea wall, all of these memories flooded me and I was stunned, and missed it so.

One of our final parties up there was for one of Dad’s birthdays and nearly everyone who had graced that cabin at one time came up for it. The grill was loaded with Ribeye steaks, and the lemonade flowed freely. I think we all knew then that the gig was up, and there was a poignant sharing of this special place and time, that was a rich thing in our hearts.

Summer would never be the same, but how wonderful it is to have those memories stuck somewhere still in my head. They remain the same.

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