My Aunt and Uncle own a cabin on Maiden Lake in Lakewood, WI. We make the four and a half hour drive up there every year for the Fourth of July. Every time we pull into the gravel driveway, I feel exalted and eager to start a long weekend of cabin bliss. It sits atop a wooded hill, its view of the lake obscured by the tall pines that surround it. There is a stone path leading down the hill to the lake; it ends at the pier, where a fishing boat and a speed boat are always tied. Further down the shore, three lawn chairs sit in a row; the ideal place for morning coffee. They sit on the perfect peninsula to wade into the lake from. The lake is always a little cool, and so clear. It’s a smaller lake, and you can see the houses on the other side. I feel very content here. It’s my happy place, and I’ve been lucky enough to come up here for the past fifteen years or so. The last six years (since I moved to Chicago), it has been a perfect and welcome escape from my hectic city life.
I think it’s the night sounds that make the difference for me between city life and lake life. When I am lying in bed in my apartment in Chicago, I hear police sirens and Metra and freight trains trundling along their tracks. By the lake, I sleep in a screened in porch and listen to the haunting cries of the loons and bellowing bullfrogs. It’s like a beautiful, natural lullaby. Although, my horror flick saturated brain always strains to hear heavy footsteps squelching through the leaves and dirt that that coat the forest floor towards where I sleep. This never actually happens.
The lake smells are equally enchanting. The lake itself smells clean and fresh and the smell of bonfires lingers all day until they start back up again at night. The general nature smell is everywhere, throughout the pine trees and the wild flowers that surround our lake house. I have to say I’d choose it over the smell of trash and hot pavement any day.
Though it has changed over the years, some things always are and always will be the same. Each year we have delicious, home cooked meals, good books, and good wine (which I didn’t always partake in, but now thoroughly enjoy). There will always some sort of water activity, like paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming (of course) and tubing. I don’t think I will ever grow out of the giddy feeling of tubing over the clear blue water, being towed behind my dad’s boat; that will never change. There will always be a trip to Sweet Memories, an ever-expanding candy store in town, that still manages to hold on to its small-town charm (complete with sour punch straws and cow tails). We also always celebrate my mom’s birthday while we’re at the lake, with streamers and party hats and cake. There is a comfort in repeating these rituals each year, and in knowing that I will be equally happy each time we are in Lakewood. Every year, I feel so very sad and desperate not to leave when our last day there approaches. However, I know that I can always come back and do it all again.
I can’t wait until next year.