Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Days at the Lake

Mindfulness is much, much easier when one stubs a toe or, better yet, when one jumps into a lake mostly made from ice melt-off. Pain chases away all thoughts, brings one instantly into the here-and-now, and leaves no room for any mental path but "Ow!"

So it is with jumping into a lake of cold water, the first time. Subsequent jumps seem to have mildly different consequences, but the cold, the surrounding water, and the need to breathe all help keep my mind clear of everything but the immediacy of being alive. Better yet, it doesn't actually hurt, and it can be done entirely consciously and under ones own volition.

I still remember my best coding mentor talking with me about starting new code, and that it's always a bit like jumping into a cold lake on a hot day. The initial shock is always breathtaking, but it gets easier after that.

After Portland, we just headed south to Medford with a quick stop at the Schwann's Thunderbird Market.

Schwann's is a big discount grocery store, but the reason we had to stop was the ice cream counter, which sells two-scoop "singles" of local ice cream for a dollar and a quarter. *laughs* We bought our lunch and our ice cream, and got to the Medford Costco only a few hours later. There we stocked up on all kinds of food and headed up to the Lake in the Woods and John's brother Paul's cabin.

It was a huge family reunion, with fifteen people: John's parents, two of his three brothers, and various children and domestic partners. The main thing we were celebrating was the 85th birthdays of Isabel and George. We even had birthday cake and homemade chocolate mint ice cream that first night we were here. One small open cabin, one toilet, and plenty of Eurovans and tents for sleeping space. In the midst of everything, I managed to finish the last proofing read for Hearts Under Fire and get my observations off to Darkprism, who was kind enough to clean it all up, send it to the publishers, and tell me when it was all Done.

Since then I've been sleeping ten or twelve hour nights. It feels like the first few months after I stopped working, when I slept twelve hour nights at a drop of the hat and had no desire to wake up.

It helped that I've been getting my exercise here, too. One afternoon we got a pontoon boat from the marina across the lake, and Paul and I went over there to get it in a row boat. Since I was so inexperienced with rowing, he just stopped trying to row with me (as I couldn't quite meet his rhythm), and let me go across the lake the first way. I'd assumed I'd get a tow back, but he assumed that I was going to row back, and after a half hour wait for the rental, I actually found it pretty easy to get back, so long as I went steadily and thought of it as just walking back across the lake. The wind made it more of an adventure than I liked, but it worked out well.

*laughs* I got most of the way across the lake, thinking I'd find the cabin once I got there, but when I looked over my shoulder, I was only ten yards away from their dock. That worked out really well, as I got there just as they were ready to take off.

We partied out on the boat, had appetizers, and I got to just sit in the sunshine and nibble things and sip margaritas.

I dreamed my kind of dreams for the first time in a while, vivid dreams of trials that I meet and exceed. One was a climbing trial, where there was an obvious stack of boxes to climb, but I went up the architecture, up struts and walls, using corners and pipes to get up. The other was an Escher water slide, miles long, and getting pushed into it, but finding it a thrill instead of a fear. I dreamed of a cool, clean, science-centered Moon station, being invited to work there, and yelling, "I could have gone to the Moon, but I decided to stay with the ones I loved."

I actually got up early enough on Friday to make it to the kitchen while people were still making and eating breakfast, unlike the last few mornings. They were still cooking pancakes, and were reminded of the boxes of Costco blueberries in the back of the fridge, so I managed to make blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes.

They were very tasty with the plain yogurt, raspberry/blueberry compote, and plenty of real maple syrup. Coffee was on the burner and very good with some of the half gallon of half and half, and by the time I was done most folks were out on the sunny dock.

The dock onto the lake is in full sun in the morning, and before the wind picked up it was a really nice, warm place to just hang out. There was an inflated float where Jet and Marina and John and I could just hang out in the sun and on the water. I love the motion of the water, just sitting out on it and feeling the waves on the lake rock us about. Motor boats, sail boats, paddle boats, and all kinds of water craft went by, and the wakes would rock the float and the dock equally.

The dogs were happy to be out with us, and Lila a black short-haired dog loves chasing kicked or thrown water. Just playing with it.

John, Jet, and Marina were in the water while water was still and the wind down. I delayed long enough that by the time I seriously started to think about jumping in the wind had picked up and blew hard enough to drive the float to the far side of the dock and nearly to shore.

But it also drove most of the other people into the cabin, to fix lunch or whatever, so I had a very very small audience when I finally got the courage to just jump into the lake. It was cold. *laughs* Not that I expected any different, but the shock to the system was the same. I just jumped in, swam to the ladder and climbed back out. The steady wind made it cold to be out of the water as well, so I stood and shivered for a while before jumping back into the lake.

It wasn't precisely warmer, but it was more tolerable. The surface felt warmer, as well, so I swam out a ways, turned into my back and floated for a while. It was something of a trick of the mind to trust the water that much. To let the cool depths lie under me and support my weight in the water: to just breathe deep and let go.

Grimmalkin said that the real trick to happiness is to just let go. Release control and let things happen, to stop thinking that one is the driver of all events, and just allow the universe to be. I happen to agree. *laughs softly* I love those moments when I can. It's easier to have a driving force, but being able to do it myself... that's amazing. Mindfulness, just being where I am and what I am and knowing the moment for all its intensity. I love that.

Lying on the dock, in the sunshine, afterward, I realized I was exhausted, shaking, and happy. *laughs* I think I've held off the exhaustion for months, now, and just felt like I had to do One More Thing for so long I'd forgotten what it was like to not have it anymore. I am finally totally and utterly done with the book.

Okay... it was uhm... Saturday? We've been here since Wednesday evening, and the mornings have been sunny and calm, the evenings shaded and cool on this side of the lake. We've taken advantage of the water as we're able. Thursday evening we celebrated George and Isabel's 95th birthdays, a year late, but in the summer when most everyone could get here. Friday evening was vintage movies. There's been huge dinners every night: pasta with pesto, garlic bread, and salad accompanying homemade chocolate mint cake and ice cream; seafood in white wine sauce or spicy tomato, with bread and salad; brats with salads and vegetables; and tonight will be teriyaki chicken breasts, burgers, and Thai noodle salad. Along with a constant temptation of chips of all kinds, salsas, hummus, fruit, watermelon, and all kinds of drinks, including one of my buys from Costco: Mexican Coca Colas, which are made with real cane sugar instead of corn sweetener.

There was a friend with a powerboat that took the kids out "tubing" on a huge inflatable raft, and helped all the adults try out wakeboarding. I refused to even attempt boarding, instead just taking pictures and holding up the flag to warn other boats that there were people in the water.

I've managed to keep the project end depressions off by jumping into the lake. *laughs* It's a funny thing to do, but it makes me be right Here-And-Now in an instant and there's absolutely no room for sorrow or fruitless speculation or worrying about social interactions in a crowd this big. I'm definitely an introvert trying to find some space for myself, but most of the folks here are good enough to give it to me. They've often given me time out on the porch, all by myself with my netbook for me to write journal entries or just be, too.

Saturday night, John, his brother David, and I ended up on the dock in the dark of the night, after Jet was asleep. We looked up at the sky and saw the Milky Way, and we could track satellites across the night sky. My neck got so sore, they suggested that was just lie on the surface of the dock, so we did, with our knees up to block the lights from the resort.

During the day, the dock is literally rocking all the time, from boat wakes, from the chop stirred up by the winds, by people jumping around on it, and by the dogs running over it. But when and where we were, the dock was dead still, and the lake was as smooth as a mirror. There was no moon in the sky, and the only light was from the billions and billions of stars up in the sky. The clouds of light that made up the Milk Way was easy to see, and they certainly weren't drifting bits of water vapor, they were billows of stars so far away they were just a sheen of light against the blackness. It was astonishing to see, and, against that backdrop, it was clear to discern shooting stars, planes overhead, and the swift single passages of all kinds of satellites on their north-south paths in orbit about the Earth.

I loved it. Loved just lying there and seeing and being Right There.

Sunday morning, the wind changed to the south, and the water was warmer than it had been all week. I swam for a good hour, using a life vest against the chop, and the water was so nice that I just stayed out there. After lunch, Paul, David, and John took care of a septic system problem, and then we put away all the "toys". The row boat, all the kayaks, life vests, paddles and everything went into storage. The cabin was picked up, cleaned up, scrubbed, and mopped. All the food was put away, and we packed up all our stuff. John and Jet and I headed to Costco, to pick up lunch things for Monday's river rafting trip, get me a new swim suit, and find the pulled pork for dinner that night.

When we got into Ashland and Paul's house, we rested for a bit before I made scallion pancakes using Jan's food processor. John and Jet helped cook the pancakes, heat the pulled pork, and John did the work for the salad. We all had dinner out on the back porch, and then everyone had their turn at the showers. *laughs* Five days without a shower, and it was sooooo nice. We went into town for ice cream that night, and I really enjoyed a cone with chocolate ice cream, blackberries, and Oregonian hazelnuts all through it. That was marvelous.

I also got a text message from Darkprism as to the status of the book, and what we had to do next, and Monday morning, while everyone packed up for a river rafting trip and had breakfast, I was on the back porch on my laptop, on a headset, talking over the details of what needed to be finished with the book.
Tags: travel

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