Summer Gratitude #1: The Cabin

At the beginning of summer, I usually make a list of places I want to go or experiences I want to try. One of the things I want to do is get back into my blogging. But I also want to tie it into something practical and positive. I’m going to do a Gratitude Project, a la 100 Happy Days, but for my blog. And I’m not going to do 100 of them. I became far too tied up this semester in worrying what people would think of what I wrote. Now I’m gonna say fuck that, and write about things that make me happy.

On we go….


The Cabin

Yesterday evening I sat inside the living room of the cabin in Wisconsin that my grandparents bought in the 70s. I was looking out the bay windows at Lake Michigan while a thunderstorm rumbled somewhere, miles away, over the water. The sky was that smoky purple, which made trees look so intensely green. One of the first storms of the summer.

Hours later, I went upstairs and turned the lights off. I laid on the bed underneath another large window and watched the lighting flash over the lake. There were two storms going on—one, south of us somewhere, the lighting flashing to my right, the sound rumbling loud; another, over the lake, the lights flickering, the thunder too far away to hear.

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And now I sit on a wooden chair on the beach just before dinner, near birch trees and listening to the lake crash onto the sand. It’s an amazing day, thanks to the storms, though it never gets terribly hot near the house. It’s too close to the water for that. My brain, for the first time in months, has calmed.

In New York last semester, I realized that I was never alone. I shared a room with not one but two girls, and never seemed to find space. Even on a walk in Manhattan, it may be considered “alone time”, but you are certainly never by yourself. In my office at work, I’d hear people’s phones ringing. I can count on one hand the amount of times when I could close a door and hear nothing but quiet.

My family moved from New York to the Chicago area when I was nine. I went to school, where every six months I’ve packed up and moved someplace else. There was my summer performing in Connecticut, my time in Paris. The only constant house I’ve had in my life is this cabin, which isn’t even my parents’. But it really is like a family home. Perhaps people who have never moved feel this way about houses. There are memories everywhere.

I remember sitting on the stools in the kitchen, eating homemade jam from the raspberries we picked from the bushes (now gone) on the edge of the beach. I cut my foot swimming when I was little, and my brother carried me to shore on his back because I was scared. I’m sitting right next to the fire pit where my dad taught us to roast marshmallows, near the fort that was dismantled last year, that we never finished building.

The grandchildren on this side of my family have a tree in the (rather large) yard. Mine, a blue spruce, was planted when I was very small. There’s a picture of me sitting in the hole in the ground where the sapling was to go. The tree stands now more than twenty feet tall.

As I’m moving into adulthood, these memories seem so different from my everyday life. It’s hard to balance the need-for-speed ambition that races through me, the one that pushes me toward internships and apartments, grad schools. Even my leisure time in this life is fast—long nights out, travelling. I’m not complaining. It’s what I want.

If life is about balance, then for me it’s about balancing between ambition and rest. And not the “sleeping till noon because you stayed out too late” kind of rest. But when you’re staring out over the lake and watching a storm, your brain goes quiet. It’s watching something that’s been happening for millions of years, when you’re only a blip. Human achievement is incredible; I get teary looking at the New York skyline, walking through museums gives me peace, and I’ll never get over the lights of Paris. But I think it’s important to for me to learn to be small.

This place has held good memories for nearly everyone on this side of my family, and one of my favorite moments every few months is stepping out of the car and smelling the air. It smells of the lake and the soil. I’m going to fall asleep tonight listening to the tide, and return to New York in Saturday. It’s going to be a busy summer, hopefully an incredible one, and hopefully one with moments of peace.

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