And so, I took my autumn walk last Saturday, wandering down the wooded road, camera in hand.
I called my cousin on the phone as I approached her cottage. She was in Ohio, but we could "walk" together, and when I arrived at the spot I consider our “ancestral home,” I sat on the breakwall and we reveled in the glory of a flawless day, some three hundred miles apart.
I stopped to visit my mom’s friend Fran. Fran is 91 and she and mom were best friends from the age of about nine. Mom was her maid of honor. Whenever we talk, I hear stories I never knew about life at the lake in the 1920s, when children were carefree and no video games or power boats broke the silence.
Fran is raking her leaves. She’s active, spry, beautiful and does most of her own outdoor work. And, she seems to love to do that (unlike me, who does it, but wish I could hire it out!) After chatting for awhile, I continue my walk.
The leaves have just started to change and while it’s not the glorious golden I’d hoped for, I’m not disappointed ...
Patches of red maples…
I stop to visit Eulah, my 100-year-old next door neighbor. Soon she will leave for the winter and our visits this weekend will be our last for the season.We talk about the summer, her plans for the winter (which include ballroom dancing two nights a week), and then I’m off again.
Off to read, to create, to clean, to work.
I’ve think often about Eulah and Fran and my friend Annette, another senior of enormous energy and accomplishment. They are all part of the soul and history of Otsego Lake.
Annette is a hosta gardener extraordinaire, and when we saw her on Labor Day, she was hauling pine needles and digging garden beds. She's little but she's very tough!
I admire these women tremendously. I admire their physical strength and their ability to survive and thrive after cancer (both Eulah and Annette are survivors). I am inspired by their emotional centers, and their great hearts. All have volunteered often. All knit. (When mom and Fran went to college, they spent the summer before knitting their clothes!).
They have a profound respect for the lake and what it gives us, not only in beauty but in history. They keep it alive by telling their stories and reminding us of a glorious past in a different time.
I'm not sure if my being so drawn to them is a function of not having a mom anymore and longing for the wisdom of those who have lived so long, so graciously and so positively.
Or, if it's because I'm getting older, too, and see in them what I desperately hope to achieve three or four decades down the line.
Of, if it is just because they are wonderful and amazing, strong women -- and that in its own right is enough.
It doesn't matter. Autumn is here.
I’ll miss them.