Friday, October 3, 2008

Ladies of the Lake

There is something calm, otherworldly, about being at the lake after the summer people have gone home. Oh, you’ll see a light or two on the road after dark; one or two hardy souls raking up leaves. But the stillness is a shock to the system of one used to hearing power boats and jet skis.

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…

And handsome birch, white against the deep green pines, catch my eye.

I stop at a garden center, closed for the day – just the right time for a photographer.

As I walk toward home, I look into the woods and notice a fairyland of mushroom houses.

Who lives here? Woodland sprites, I think.

It reminds me of the chimneys in “Peter Pan.”

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.


jet1960 said...

What lovely ladies and beautiful pictures. It does indeed sound like a special place.

ELK said...

Jeanie ~ yes I am drawn to older folks now that my parents are gone...your post was a real treat for me today a nice "walk" and a sweet "visit" from miles and miles away ~ blessings

Dee Light said...

What a wonderful post. probably the best I've read in awhile. What wonderful ladies, it is wonderful that you have such a conection wiht them.

anno said...

What a beautiful post! It is so important to hear stories about women like these, who make it through hard times, who don't give up, who keep making the effort to create beauty in the world -- thanks for sharing this.

Beth said...

your photos are beautiful...
and what you've added to the hearts of those women by being "YOU"....priceless !!!!

robin bird said...

oh jeanie i really loved reading about these amazing women in your lake life! having a lake life is a little like having an avalon that other's cannot see unless they are invited or were 'born there'. it likes a real world avalon where the older women are the spiritual mentors for the younger women. least i think of knitting and gardening as spiritual lessons in addition to being practical ones :)

Joanne Huffman said...

Thank you for sharing your autmn walk and the lovely ladies of the lake.


kris said...

Oh my gosh! Fran is 91? She looks great. These photos are inspiring. thanks.

Dawn said...

Jeanie your blog is like a warm shrug that you wrap up in to keep cosy and feel safe, I love to share your world through your blog, your way of seeing the world and sharing it fills me with delight. I would love to sit down with you and chat and even better i would love it if you could show me all the places and people you describe so wonderfully.... fingers crossed I win the lottery one day and then I shall call and say I am coming to visit :-) how about that!!!

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