Make your heart like a lake, with a calm, still surface, and great depths of kindness. – Lao Tzu
Mountains are hard, stony, unforgiving. Nothing comes easily on a mountain. Gentle paths are soon strewn with rocks, small boulders must be climbed, and always the trail goes up, up, up. Until it goes down, and usually that’s worse. No question, mountains are hard work.
This summer, my friends and I answered the call of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Forty-six peaks over 4000’. Lots of hiking and climbing and days filled with vigorous activity beckoned.
This year’s destination came with a bonus – a lake.
Lakes are soft, fluid, soothing. Doing nothing comes very easily on a lake. You want to linger, trail your fingers through the cool water, listen to the cry of the loons, soak up the sunset. The living is easy on a lake.
This was a BIG lake. Our rental house perched on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake. With 37 miles of shoreline, that’s a lot of lake. The heck with peak-bagging! We were looking forward to relaxing by the water. It would be restful. Restorative. Carefree.
Adirondack Park is a long drive from Philadelphia, north through three mountain ranges. Our own Poconos, the Catskills, and finally the Adirondacks. The High Peaks rose around us, cascading long ribbons of waterfalls into narrow lakes, thoroughly distracting the driver.
Concentration returned on the three miles of twisting dirt road that led to our home away from home deep in the woods. Ahhh!
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more. – John Burroughs
Early mornings on the dock were a joy. With cameras and journal, I settled myself there after breakfast each day, to write and immerse myself in the peace.
One morning dawned draped in mist.
A Common Merganser swam into view. With her were five fluffy ducklings. Two got a ride on mama’s back, dozing sleepily, carefree. The others paddled along in her wake. I watched as the lovely little family passed in front of me and disappeared into the distance. I wondered where they were going? Maybe Mom knew a good diner for breakfast?
The Merganser story took a turn two mornings later, after a nighttime thunderstorm with winds and heavy rains. Now Mama Merganser returned – with just one duckling in tow.
I told myself that the time had come for the other ducklings to be out on their own, or perhaps this was a different family altogether. But in my heart, I know that’s not so. Not all the young ones of any species survive their youth.
But this young duckling was handsome and strong, and wonderful to watch.
Above the water’s surface, the mayflies danced, carefree.
If there’s water, there must be kayaking… I’d dreamed for months about long solo paddles in the early morning or evening, sneaking up on loons, perhaps even catching a moose as it drank at the edge of the water. One look at the dock crushed that dream. I’ve yet to master the art of dockside kayak launches. Even with three of us, it’s a challenge. Alone? No, that wasn’t going to happen.
However, my friends agreed to try the two kayaks out with me one still morning.
And then, reluctantly, Robb. These kayaks were much narrower and longer than the boat he’s used to, and it took quite a while before he got the confidence to paddle more than two strokes at a time.
Once he got the hang of it, though, he was the king of the lake.
We weren’t out long, but it gave me the chance to get that obligatory view-from-the-kayak shot.
Peeking around the point as Don paddles back to our dock.
Bird feeders in the back yard drew lots of feathered friends. Some were birds we don’t get to see often. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Black-capped Chickadees (we get Carolina Chickadees) and lots of Purple Finches. Ruby-throated hummingbirds visited.
Underneath the feeders, though? That was the domain of the red squirrels.
The time was rare when there was no squirrel under the feeders. Not much bigger than a chipmunk, red squirrels are much smaller than our common gray squirrels. These jaunty little fellows have a white ring around their eyes and a black stripe along the side of their bellies. We never grew tired of watching their antics.
Did someone mention chipmunks? Yes, they visited from time to time, too. Tiny but fierce battles broke out between the two tribes when a chipmunk and a squirrel both wanted the prime real estate. Surprisingly, these war games usually ended with the squirrel fleeing the chipmunk.
Each day ended lakeside on the dock, awaiting the sunset. Occasionally a highly polished classic wooden boat would motor by. A classic Adirondack sight.
We looked for the Milky Way one evening. We didn’t see it. Perhaps it was not yet dark enough. Still, there were an amazing number of stars. I can only imagine the sky in the middle of the night, when we were lost in our dreams, in our lakeside reverie.
Oh! For the lazy lakeside living! We could have happily passed the days by the water’s edge, relaxed and carefree.
The mountains are calling and I must go. – John Muir