For more than 30 years, I have joined a rogue gallery of family and friends on an annual pilgrimage to the north woods.
Each July, we descend upon a small resort on a northern Minnesota lake, and spend a week catching up on the developments of the past year, playing games, golfing badly, and generally soaking up the ambiance of one of the most beautiful areas on the planet.
The rustic cabins are surrounded by ancient trees and lush green undergrowth.
Each morning, my days at the lake begin before dawn with a symphony of sound from the surrounding woods.
Watching the sun come up over the lake while savoring the day’s first cup of coffee can be a life-altering experience. There is no rush, no commotion. One is allowed to simply be in the moment and feel a connection to nature that one simply does not get grabbing a cup of coffee on the fly as one rushes to the office to take on a day of meetings and appointments in the city.
The soundtrack of this special place consists mainly of the chatter of forest creatures, lake sounds, and laughter. There are no phones ringing, and no traffic noise pollutes the space.
This year, we arrived on a hot and steamy Saturday. A front blew in later that evening, and we were treated to a summer thunderstorm overnight. Some of us sat in the screen porch and watched the lightning show while raindrops drummed on the roof.
A thunderstorm has a completely different sound over a lake than it does in a city.
One can feel its power and become a part of it.
There is a dirt road leading to the resort where we stay. It is sometimes damp, sometimes dusty, but always teeming with life. Lush green ferns line the sides of the road, and a canopy of trees provides cover above, casting mysterious shadows on even the sunniest day.
It is always summer in this place.
We realize it must be a different world after the tourists go home in the fall. It must be stark and snow covered and fraught with ice, but we have never seen that world.
There are some places that are infinitely familiar, but which we only see during a certain season.
The cabin is one of those.
As a consequence of repeatedly seeing a place only at one time of year, the place becomes locked into that season in our minds.
When we think of our week at the cabin, it is always sunny and always summer. Three decades if vacation photos support this conclusion.
We have never seen ice on the lake, nor have we driven through snow along the road that leads under the canopy of trees.
It seems we know everything about this place, but we only know about one chapter.
There are other places in which we have watched the parade of seasons. We have watched them through the dark months, and we have watched the spring thaw, when winter releases its icy grip. We have seen the heat of summer and the colors of autumn.
But other places, like the resort we visit each July, are trapped in time.
There is something reassuring about that. In a world that often seems to change too much and too fast, the cabin remains constant, an island in a sea of chaos.
Like putting on a comfortable old shirt, we slip on our cabin experience each year and embrace our summer place, enjoying not only the present, but the fond memories of the past that reside there.