It happens every year.
This time I was away visiting my daughter in Kentucky, but I knew it was coming. The surface looked a little grayer each day and every time the wind blew you could feel it in the air. It was just a matter of time before it happened. On Friday Jim sent me a text message…
The ice is off the lake!
To someone who lives in a northern lakeside community, this is a big thing indeed! We all look forward to it with increasing excitement as time passes. The locals hold a contest to guess exactly what day it will happen. They even have a Facebook page to promote the event as a fundraiser for the local Lake Association. A well-known shop in one little town has a long list of painted numbers representing the exact date that it happened each year – some years more than once, when the weather was mild.
The lightness and hope that most of us feel is very real, almost palpable, as the news spreads. The sparkling water brings with it the promise of boat rides and sunsets, bare feet and great blue heron sightings, screen doors and dewy grass.
I remember the first time that I actually experienced the physical sensation of exhilaration that the open water gave me. I was about 16 or 17 and driving alone in my father’s car. The day was sunny and a little warmer, but it still had a sharp bite if you stood in the shade. I had the window down , and the wind was blowing my hair around, making it hard to concentrate. When I came up over the hill on the main road that loops the lake the glare nearly blinded me. As I crested the rise and looked to my left I saw the sparkling waves. The energy that came from deep within me could be described as nothing less than freedom. Sweet summer release that was getting closer and closer. At that age it was less about the weather and more about daily life. It meant that the stress and worry of schoolwork and classes would soon be over and then the fun would begin!
Now it is more about longer days and not having to fight the snow and ice at every turn. No more worry about the forecast when making plans or thinking about loved ones who live alone and have to contend with the elements by themselves. Winter in this area is hard and the older we get the more difficult it seems to become. Thoughts of escaping to a warmer climate come more frequently as each season passes.
Soon we will all be complaining that “they” have returned. The ones who don’t belong here, the summer visitors. The roads will be busy with cars that have out-of-state license plates, and the traffic will be annoyingly slow. They will change the speed limit on the road that loops the lake and everyone will grumble that it takes too long to get from one place to another. Someone will proclaim that it is ‘too damned hot’. The long, cold winter will be forgotten to the demands of the busy tourist season.
This year as I look out my window at the little sliver of blue/gray water that is visible from my morning “spot” up here on the hill I am going to try to savor this hopeful feeling without the distraction of the bothersome things that springtime brings….the changeable temperatures that make it hard to know what to wear, the unexpected cold rain storms that come up quickly and take us by surprise when we left our jackets at home, the mud and the loose gravel and the black flies….the relief that we feel as we welcome the release from winter’s grip does not last long.
Before you know it we will be looking at the falling leaves, so for now I am going to think of this with sweet anticipation. Summers up here on the hill sure are spectacular…even if they are too short!