For the past 4 years in mid-August, my older sister Christine has invited me to her fabulous, rustic cabin on Lake George, New York. With my extensive beach time in the rear view mirror, this August I once again looked forward to her generous offer. My annual visit represents the closure of my summer traveling chapter. It is our special sister whisper time. A time when our hearts connect and old memories surface and new ones are created.
6:30 am. The morning sunlight navigates through the leafy canopy. In the rectangular openings of the half-drawn bedroom shades, I observe golden threads piercing the drowsy earth. An innocent breeze pushes the odor of fresh pine up my nostrils as I snuggle under the cool sheets. If I don’t stir, I can hear the echo of the gentle waves of Lake George kissing the rocks. The sloppy smooches smack the shore. A blue jay’s squawk interrupts the peaceful sound and intimidates the other wildlife. So selfish.
Another beautiful morning on Lake George. Another chance to kayak in Blair’s Cove.
By breakfast time the cicadas have set the rhythm for the day. Nature’s percussion inspires me as I sip my coffee on the wide porch.
The stone-lined pathway leads me to the dock. I leave my sister behind in her quintessential Adirondack cabin in the cool shade of the protective trees to enjoy her morning routine. She knows the lake whispers to me.
I nudge the neon green L.L. Bean kayak along the smooth boards and launch it into the still water. My heart swells. It pushes against my cinched life preserver. Pure joy.
The matching green paddle is my only companion. I grip the center of the black pole and we become one. My bare feet press against the plastic foot rests with confidence. I lean back against the seat and start to paddle. Each morning the lake takes on a new persona. A new day. A new friend.
The plastic shell glides along the surface like a water bug. We hug the shoreline for security. Bare rock cliffs cast their shadows on the brim of my yellow hat as I pass below them. Above, tall trees cling for life on the steep slopes. Brown cabins hide in the dense vegetation. Their silhouettes are shy and beg to be anonymous. I respect their privacy and paddle on by. I whisper hello.
Further into my journey the water turns ink blue as the rocky bottom dissolves. Small waves appear and attempt to invade the oval opening of my vessel. A few successful splashes cool my bare legs. The clear atmosphere encourages the early sun to start its upward journey. Blinding rays dance on the tips of the choppy navy water. Their reflections sparkle like a handful of diamonds thrown into the air.
My paddle never stops dipping into the cool water. My energy is endless. The Adirondack Mountains circle the narrow lake and protect me on my morning trip.
Afternoons are for sunning on the dock and floating in the clear water on my colorful raft. My arms dangle in the lake. There is no worry of what lies below. I left my concerns at the ocean for its underwater predators.
Sometimes Chris joins me on the dock with a stack of fresh magazines. Words are few. But whispers flow back and forth.
Our days are without clocks. We do what we want, when we want. The liberation from time relaxes me. It clears my head.
For hours my mind is occupied by a new book or by the breathtaking vista. I equally divide the minutes between the two.
As I stretch out on my chaise, puffy, white clouds pass by overhead. I tilt my head back and engage in a favorite childhood activity. Cloud Pictures. I look for animals or other familiar objects in the vapor. I used to do this when I hid in the tall grass on a summer afternoon at home with my sisters. There was always a unicorn or a giraffe. There still are. The sun plays hide and seek with the shapes. I don’t mind. The shadows give me respite from the hot sun. I could gaze up at the sky for hours. The blue is so vast. I feel so small, like a child again.
One more refreshing dip before I retreat to the cabin for dinner. Like an anchor, my toes curl around the slippery, wooden steps into the lake. The sandy bottom in the shallow area squishes between my toes. It is littered with small stones and twigs. An occasional small fish scoots past my calves on its way to deeper water. Within reach, 2 ducks pass by towards the tall grass. Through the clear water I can see their tiny, orange webbed feet paddling vigorously like Olympic swimmers. I remain in the waist high water and feel the heat exit my lower body.
As my sister makes dinner in her small kitchen, I sit on a high red stool and keep her company. A delicious meat aroma forms a halo around my head. The sound of sliced supple summer vegetables attracts my attention away from Chris’s Bernese Mountain dog whose muzzle is deep between my legs.
“Harper Lee sure likes you.”
“I like her too.”
I rearrange the dark fur on Harper Lee’s head and scratch behind her velvety ears.
Chris plates the meal like a florist arranging a bouquet. So colorful. So tempting.
We sit next to one another in the dining room and dig in. The warm glow of a single pillar candle flickers on our half-drunken glasses of beer. Conversation freely shifts from present to past. Sister whispers are exchanged.
“Remember when a milk snake slithered out of Mom’s fresh-cut bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace onto the den floor? Boy was she surprised!”
“Yep, and she put a soup pot over it with an index card that read ‘Don’t Touch’… like we were going to!”
“There have been a lot of black snakes here this year. But Amanda told me not to kill them. Native American folklore says they are a good sign. “
“I just hope I don’t see any snakes in the lake like I did last year.”
“Oh, that was a different kind. Remember? We named it Farkel.”
“I remember. That sort of made him like a pet. Then it was okay.”
I wash the dishes while Chris walks Bailey, her other dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
While I do my self-assigned chore, Harper Lee is never more 2 inches from my feet. Her warm tongue strokes the top of my toes while I scrub the china plates with a tired sponge.
We end the night in front of the T.V., each with a cup of hot tea and 5 tiny raspberry filled chocolate treats. It is a ritual with no meaning. They are my meager offering from Lancaster.
The yellow light from the single lamp next to my overstuffed rocker makes a soft orange glow on the wooden ceiling and matching walls in the large, open downstairs space. Outside, the daylight has been replaced by a thick, black sky. Bright constellations punctuate the darkness.
The lake still kisses the shore. But they are gentle, goodnight kisses now.
The annoying blue jay has gone to bed.
The cicada’s wings are still.
Two sisters whisper “good night” to the summer day.
Thank you Chris. I will be back next August.
There will be more sister whispers.