Down by the Lake

Happy Labor Day to all those celebrating here in the US! I used the long weekend to drive down to Starrucca, Pennsylvania with my friend Ally and a couple of her friends from college. Another one of my high school friends joined us for on the second night, too! It was a lot of fun to be in a completely different environment from the city, meet new people, and reconnect with people who I have known for almost half my life. This weekend was rejuvenating and I needed it.

The largest town near Ally’s family’s lake house is actually just over the border in New York State so there’s really nothing around. That’s what made it incredibly relaxing. I had zero cell service so my phone remained on airplane mode for the weekend and acted merely as my camera, which was a much-needed break from my current preoccupations.

Other than visiting a farm stand to pick up some corn and peaches . . .

. . . and a smoke house to buy delicious cheese and check out the selection of smoked meats and fish . . .

. . . we opted to spend the weekend eating, drinking, laughing, and playing on the water.

Wouldn’t you?

Both the air and water were chillier than we were hoping, so we voted for boats instead of swimming. Island Lake is so named because of a small tree island towards the center, which I explored with the aid of a canoe. I haven’t canoed since summer camp as a kid and had never been responsible for a row boat, which we also took out. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you already know that I adore boats and anything to do with being on the water. I was very much in a happy place.

When the sun went down, we entertained ourselves over a 550-piece puzzle! We remained surprisingly focused throughout and completed it in about 4 hours. If anything, the margaritas that we made to go with our tacos were quite the asset to our puzzling. The margaritas and the “all the hits” radio station that played all weekend long. They literally meant all. There were eras of hits.

The second night was the warmer of the two and we made a fire and roasted s’mores after dinner. My favorite part was looking up at the sky and seeing nothing but stars. (I will never forget our school trip to Battambang, Cambodia last January when that’s the first thing the students commented on when we arrived. I heard their voices in my head and felt their excitement.)

The cloudless sky over the water made the world seem so much bigger and emptier than it did during the day. It was a stark reminder of how small we all are in such vast space. Simultaneously, however, mesmerized by fire as I always am, I was reminded of how interconnected we are as a collective humanity. It was a strange juxtaposition that I continued to acutely feel and notice until we let the fire die and went inside. While it’s not new, the idea of being so insignificant and yet so integral to the existence of every other person is humbling and difficult to comprehend. I can still feel that weight in my heart.

What I appreciated most about the lake was not the break from the city or the weekend with friends, though both were delightful. I was not expecting the sense of peace that came over me when I went out on a paddle board for the first time on Sunday. I regularly make an effort to seek out and do things that scare me but I’ve always avoided paddle boarding out of fear of falling into the water, which is a bit silly since I’m a decent swimmer. (And what’s the worst thing that can happen when you fall into the water? You get wet.)

The silence I experienced in the middle of the lake took me pleasantly by surprise and I appreciated the opportunity to seek out serenity, alone with my thoughts. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my present daily life and it makes me uncomfortable. There’s even more in the near future that has me questioning everything I’ve ever wanted, anticipated, or dreamed about. Alone on the paddle board in the middle of the lake, I asked myself the hard questions that I usually avoid (mostly questions starting with, “What if . . .”) and let myself reflect on the very honest answers that I also usually avoid. (Are you sensing a theme?) The whole experience was eye-opening and, ironically, significantly scarier than first standing up on the paddle board.

Not that it matters, but I didn’t fall.

Summer is now officially over because I start with students tomorrow! I’m also moving next weekend and eagerly anticipating a change of pace. The personal goal that I am setting for this fall (I have seasons now!) is to continue asking myself hard questions and, more importantly, being honest about the answers. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue finding the peace that came to me on the paddle board on Island Lake.

I hope it’s been a wonderful weekend, wherever you are. As always, thanks for reading. Thank you for journeying with me.



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