By Susie Moses
I dream of living for awhile in a cabin in a thick forest at the edge of a quiet lake, possibly in the North Woods of the Adirondacks or the wilds of Minnesota on the Canadian border, or maybe the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. Maine would work too. I will have a canoe, or these days, a kayak, easier to manage solo.
I will arise as the sun emerges, put on a jacket and knit cap against the morning chill, and insert myself into my boat for a silent tour of the shoreline. As I watch the light spread from the horizon, changing colors are reflected in the low-lying clouds as the sun burns off the fog. My lake will be sparsely populated, no jet skis or motor craft of any kind, just self-propelled canoes or kayaks, and at that early hour I may be the only person out and about. I will gently dip my paddle into the flat surface of the silky black water, creating gentle ripples, but almost no noise other than the sweet sound of dripping as droplets dribble off the oar.
I will float quietly among lily pads and reeds observing the world come alive. Birdsong, fluttering wings, the kerplop of a frog, the delicate splash of a smallmouth bass seeking an insect. And if I am lucky, the call of a loon. The world will be my oyster. I can be a voyeur of nature’s great bounty as the day begins. It will be my meditation.
I will paddle for about 40 minutes, feeling the stretch in my upper arms, delighting in the simple exertion of slicing a path through the stillness. I will be filled up with noticing, with taking stock of what surrounds me, of becoming aware of the busyness, the fullness of nature that envelopes me here once I have given myself over to paying close attention.
When I return, I will strip off my outerwear, down to my basic red tank swim suit I had put on under my warm layers, and I will dive off the end of the dock into the chilly waters. “Bracing,” I will hear myself think, recalling my father’s words on summer mornings of my youth when a pre-breakfast dip in the lake was a requirement before pancakes and sausage. After my quick swim, more of a plunge, really, as it is too cold to stay submerged for long, I will wrap myself in a thick terry cloth towel as I run to the outdoor shower to stand under sheets of almost too hot water to stop my teeth from chattering.
Then, dressing in warm clothes again and enjoying a hearty breakfast with lots of dark thick hot coffee, and after tending to any business or domestic details which must be seen to, I will gather a stack of books and settle in the Adirondack chair that sits on the crest above the lake. Pine trees tower overhead, the smell of sap surrounds me, a result of my footsteps on the pine needle-strewn path.
This is nirvana. The only physical exertion required will be to move my chair to follow the warmth of the sun as the light dapples through the trees. Later in the day, as the temperature rises, I will reverse this process to keep the chair in the shade. I will take breaks from reading to undertake a longer swim in the afternoon, stroking all the way to a neighbor’s raft several houses down, where I will emerge to lie on the warmed boards as I soak up the heat from the strong sun overhead. When that becomes too much, I will dive back in to the clear water, its minerally taste on my lips, eager to get away from the slight creepiness of whatever it is that lurks beneath the raft, among the rusty barrels that hold it afloat.
I should make this dream come true. I should arrange this. It is a simple experience I seek. Nature, solitude, fresh clear water, many books. Quiet and peace providing the space for watching and seeing and taking in, interrupted only by bats that invade the cottage, the black flies that draw blood at the hairline, the mosquitos and no-see-ums and the damned geese that leave their white droppings all over the dock. The mice that skitter around the kitchen, the flying squirrels in the attic. The realities of living in a rustic abode in an unspoiled environment. I will have to share with the beings that preceded my arrival. It’s all part of the package.
Susie Moses is a generative writing junkie, enjoying the process and dreaming of actually doing something constructive one day with the piles of papers and notebooks she has that have accrued, that are spilling out of closets and off shelves and out of drawers.
But for now, just getting words down on the page is an accomplishment and a delight. She has spent the year of Covid in Marin County to be near her daughters, but at some point, will have to tear herself away to return to her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, at least for a while.