Summer of Becoming – initiation, so this is…life

Saturday, Sept 3

My days have been spun into a whirlwind of activity since touching down here in this place, the busy-ness not at all subsided. After Wednesday’s full day of unpacking, cleaning, drying out, and taking stock of my outfit (in preparation for our next trip into the park in a few weeks) I drove into town to pick up some groceries for my stay and to retrieve my solo canoe from the Bed-and-Breakfast where I had stashed it a week ago. I made a few phone calls while I was out. I have no signal at the lodge so I will be more disconnected there than I supposed, which I suspect may be good for me, after all, once I let loved ones know what to expect, so they’re not confused as to why I am not connecting with them.

Returning to Hay Lake sometime after dinner, I fell into bed. My breakfast would be arriving at 8 in the morning and Erin had asked if I could be in the kitchen around 9 to begin learning the ropes, so I needed to be up fairly early. I still needed to finish my own personal packing in order to clear out the guest cabin I had been staying in. If I were to do this again, I would pay for an extra night’s lodging in order to have a day of rest and transition.

The next morning, I learned just a bit about post-breakfast cleanup routines, cabin and laundry chores, before the day took off at a full run and I was soon more in the way than I was useful, and I wandered off to the more-familiar-for-me chore of tending the gardens- deadheading and pruning back late summer blossoms.  Still, I felt busy in a rather extraneous way, like the ‘busy work’ of schooldays, when I truly wished to be helpful, to earn my keep. I am the one who proposed this arrangement of work in exchange for lodging, and I don’t want to take advantage. I truly desire that my presence here be a reciprocal gift.

Somewhere in the midst of that day, I hauled my belongings and scant groceries into the small unimproved cabin in the rear of the property, where I’ll be staying for my time here. Stepping across that threshold, I had the sense of being welcomed into a womb, a place of safe harbor, nurture, and passage. Dwellings of any sort always seem to me to be imbued with such a sacred trust, to shelter and bear witness to those who abide within their walls for a season –short or long.  As I entered, my heart felt both expectancy and gratitude for this homely abode as I pondered how it might hold and behold me.

By late afternoon, I was tired, still not feeling rested from the week in the bush, so, while Erin ran errands, I sat at the lodge, once again feeling out of place and uncertain.  What guest questions could I possibly answer? Did I even know how to answer the phone?

Rising early again Friday morning, I paddled for an hour or so, out and back, into the closest bay, just to introduce myself to the water, feeling a bit adrift even there. Back in the lodge by 9:30 to report for a landscaping project- mulching a staff-worn walkway and lining it with hostas- that Erin thought I might tackle, I found myself in the way once again. I have discovered already that any plans or schedules one might make here are simply tossed into the whirlwind of activity to land quite a distance from where they began.  So, I grabbed the familiar pruners again, then later spent some hours tidying up my small cabin, sweeping leaf litter from the porch, knocking down cobwebs from windowsills and filling a vase with some of those not-quite-so-dead headed flowers. Placing it tenderly upon the round metal table in the shabby screened porch, I wondered if the seed that has been so insistently stirring within me might find some space to push her way through the soil in this place?

Will this place be silent enough that I can hear her? Still enough that I can see her? Alone enough that I can feel her?  I was drawn to come here by the feeling of harmony that has previously sung her siren song to me in this space. Now, I am beginning to wonder if there will be any space at all for me here, though I am noticing that the inability to find such space is as much within myself (with my need to please and perform, and earn my belonging) as it is in my environment. It is really quite difficult for me to give myself permission to breathe, let alone sing.  

I am also hoping there will be some time to explore, to paddle, to wander, to visit parts of the park that I never get to see on backcountry trips. Time to write!  I dreamt of a quiet contemplative enclave next to the water, but perhaps I should have been willing to pay for such privilege as that…. at least believed that I actually deserved such time to myself.

Some distressing phone calls with my daughter yesterday, when I was out running those errands and so had a cell phone signal, reminded me that it would be well for her too for there to be boundaries around my perpetual availability.  I fear that my ready and indispensable presence (just a phone call away) and quickness to offer help disempower her. The conversation so quickly goes south… a good reason for me to head north, I suppose.

So perhaps THIS is what this time away in this place is all about, not at all about solitude, but about becoming comfortable with boundaries, learning that I need not be all things to all people in order to belong and be loved.

At last, the day had settled enough that attention could be given to the intended gardening project, and after some instruction about what was envisioned, I set about working on digging holes, dividing and transplanting hostas, and emptying bags of mulch. By 6 pm I had done all that I could. Both my body and the bags were empty.

I’d intended to finish that project today, but the day began in an unexpected fluster at 6:45am, when I unwittingly checked in at the kitchen door, along the path to the fog-shrouded lake, to find Erin alone (the weekend staff person having called off sick), and rapidly swirled into a tumult of chores – filling and delivering breakfast trays, washing dishes, cleaning cabins (my god, that’s like doing an annual spring cleaning after each checkout!), washing and drying mountains of laundry. Then, because of a miscommunication, I needed to pack up, strip the linens, and clean my own cabin to accommodate a double-booked guest, who was a friend of the family.

So now it is 10 hours later, and I am at last sitting down. Lest anyone romanticize the running of a Canadian Lodge, you should know that one hustles from dawn until midnight. Although certainly today’s lack of staff added to the chaos, there is so much more behind-the-scenes work that is done in order to offer the kind of hospitality that makes a place seem warm and welcoming, seamless and serene-harmonious- to its guests. There coats offered for warmth, advice given for fishing, marshmallows doled out by the fire, brownie sundaes to drizzle, kindling piled into buckets, kayaks slid into the water, maps unfolded to decipher, croissants trayed to rise, … but most of all, within and beyond these myriad chores, there is the attentiveness of ears opened to listen. I wonder if life here is at all times this way- chaos and order, stillness and movement, tranquility and turmoil dwelling at once in one place. Perhaps this is the meaning of harmony, after all.

It is nearly dark and I am down by the water at last. I arrived on the dock just in time to catch the vivid colors of day’s end, the slender curve of the waxing moon, the silken silver of the water. When I’d awakened this long-ago morning, the lake and the land were so blanketed in fog that each was indiscernible from the other, as well as from the saturate sky that bathed them both. For hours it seemed, as we scurried from cabin to cabin, that heavy fog held. Between then and now, though the lake was constantly kissing the shores of this place of wildly juxtaposed bustle and peace, I had little opportunity to regard her.

I still wait. Wait to be still. But I am beginning to understand now that this may not come for me here, at least not in the way I’d imagined it.  But suddenly that feels ok, for this also feels real and right and true. Perhaps the fog is lifting.

A loon rises to the surface next to the dock, to bob for a moment, before diving back down again into the dark.









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