Yes, that’s what it is. Snuggled among the pine and hemlock on a piece of land slanting down to the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, stands this simple cottage, built by my parents in 1951 before the onslaught of fourteen grandchildren, and it has been expanded to become a family gathering place ever since. Just one hour away from the White Mountains, it is also our New England base camp for wilderness exploration and hiking.
On my last day before returning to Whidbey Island I looked at the lake, longingly, and with a touch of sadness. Early each morning I would swim way out until I could see the sun streaming through the tallest pine. I’d float in the water letting it bathe me in its warmth.
On this day I had just finished my swim when a huge storm loomed over the distant hills and made its way down the wide stretch of lake we call “The Broads,” bending branches and knocking down power lines in its wake. Boy, did I run up that hill fast!
It is only now, nine hours later, that the electricity has returned. But in the meantime the storm left a turbulent lake with ocean-like waves, which I played in, as I have each summer for the past sixty-five years.
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I’m sitting on the dock, shielded by a breakwater that protects me from the ferocity of the waves, and looking out at Barndoor and Rattlesnake Islands one hour before sunset. What a kaleidoscopic day—from calm silver gray to bright blue to heavy clouds dusted with pockets of charcoal.
It’s wonderful to come in from a brisk swim to my favorite rock and be tantalized by a sun that is playing peek-a-boo with those heavy clouds. First you see me—then you don’t! But where does the pink glow on the water come from? How can a white glaring sun, fighting an onslaught of wispy gray clouds, produce pink sparkles in a triangular swath of water? And how can this be reflected onto an island that seems totally unconnected to the process?
Maybe if I were a scientist and knew the answers it wouldn’t be so amazing. Instead, I am in thrall and watch until that white ball turns the pink water to deep blue crystals and the pink finds a new home under another cloud bank.
As a child I was fascinated by cloud formations, which I anthropomorphized. But now they are not people or dogs or dragons. They are paintings and ships and tumbling patterns. And, as is happening tonight, they seem to open magically at the last moment before the white sun turns to a red ball and disappears behind the hills, leaving yet another unfolding pattern, this time of radiant color.
Sunsets are like fires. We never tire of looking at them, analyzing them, and seeing a world of symbolism in their infinite formations.
No last day is complete without a farewell fire.
For me, this is the end of summer. After eight hours of flying cross-country from Manchester to Baltimore to Seattle I was greeted by Mt. Rainier, glorious in the sunset, and seeming to follow the plane right onto the runway. I now know which side of the plane to pick for a perfect view. It’s the left behind the pilot going west and the right going east. Pretty good for a lady who is directionally challenged!