When I went back last week to the family cabin, I was prepared to be disappointed. Almost all the original cabins around the lake, small and almost primitive (no showers and heated by fireplaces, such as the one below), have been replaced by big, modern houses. The newest one takes up almost the whole piece of property and imitates someone’s idea of a French provincial house with a stone patio.
These new residents ripped out the native vegetation and planted lawns (boosted by fertilizer that seeps into the spring-fed lake). Not only are many of the pine and birch trees and blueberry bushes gone, but the frogs have disappeared, as have most of the chipmunks and birds.
Until this year, one house sat high on a hill above the lake, empty and remote, which I saw as a kind of white castle, unreachable, when I was growing up. Now it’s become a rental, and last week a large, noisy group had taken over the beach below the house, with country-and western-music as well as profanities spilling out across the blue water to reach us across the lake.
I sat on our pier and watched speedboats and a Jet-Ski make what seemed endless, pointless circles around the lake, a repetitious onslaught of noise, drowning out the sound of the birches in the wind.
But I knew I had to accept all these disturbances. The lake had changed; it wasn’t the remote, wild place it once was. There was no use wailing about losing something I loved. I would enjoy the lake on its own terms: take the kayak out in the morning when the lake was still calm and I could maybe see the loon floating on the water, and at night just before sunset, when only the big pontoon boats were out circling the lake. I would enjoy swimming in the clear blue waters. I would sit on the pier with my family and talk about the old days.
And something unexpected happened. By the second day at the lake, I started to relax into this place, that relaxation that goes so deep you realize you forgot you could feel that way. Without being aware of it, the lake’s softness took hold of me, and I became captivated again by the gentle breezes through the birch and pine trees, by the waves lapping against the sandy beach, by the rich smell of the pines and sandy soil, by the crystal blue waters.
In my own way, I had returned to Thunder Lake. Or it had returned to me.