I visited my mother last weekend, savoring time away and time with her in her little cottage on Lake Michigan. “A little piece of heaven” she and my dad used to say, when referring to their once summer home, turned full time residence upon retirement. They bought the place when I was in middle school, a little cabin they could get to in the space of an hour and fifteen minutes, making it easy to have weekends or even a day away from their home in Waukesha. My mom would spend whole weeks up there sometimes, with my dad commuting from the hardware store he owned in Pewaukee. They simply loved the place.
And I grew up loving it too, and my kids as well, attending “Grandma Camp” in the summers–a week with grandma and grandpa, roaming the woods and the beach, creating time capsules, making up endless games in this space of great imagination. My children, adults now, move in the cabin and the space around it as if wearing a comfortable sweater that they can find and put on with their eyes closed, it’s so familiar.
Though nestled in the woods behind a dune, the house affords a view of the lake through the trees, offering a protected vantage point to observe the lake’s moods which are many. Calm swells to crashing waves, brilliant aqua to steel grey, the lake’s face is ever changing and mesmerizing to watch. From the windows in the living room, my kids could tell if the waves were big enough to warrant getting out the boogie boards and throwing themselves into the surf.
The best views of the water are from the living room and over the years, we’ve each found our place in that room. I’ve always sat in a big down armchair, which I share with the dog, while my father always sat across the room in an old recliner that my mother tolerated. My kids shared the couch, battling over whether one of them could lie down, leaning on one another through movies and conversation. My mother floats, always a good hostess, to the unoccupied seat, making sure everyone else is comfortable. Since my dad’s passing in 2014, my mom has settled into a cozy chair which has moved once or twice to different locations in the room, always with a little old table nearby holding her journal and her books.
When I woke up on Saturday morning last weekend, I found my dog right in the middle of the seat we normally share, sound asleep. Coffee in hand, I made my way across the room, to the chair that now occupies the space my dad’s recliner used to hold, facing the east windows to the lake. It was early and the morning sun flooded the room. Once settled, I really let myself register my surroundings and for the first time, really took in the view that my dad enjoyed upon waking–the sunrise over the lake, the hummingbirds at the feeder, the dew glistening in the morning sun. I thought about the months near the end of his life when we made a decision together to move him home from the rehab center and engaged hospice to visit him there. He would sit in this space and drink in the view, endlessly staring out the window.
Now I see, I thought. This place filled him. A bright, witty gentleman, my dad’s tastes were simple but yet, looking out on the view that was so much a part of him, I understood the depth of that simplicity. This was all he needed–the quiet beauty, ever-changing, of the world around him, enjoyed from his seat in the cozy house, in a tiny cabin on the shore. He would check the weather and report in to my mom, who would record it every day in her journal. Passing barges were noted along with visits from deer and other forest neighbors. Together they would observe the detail of the natural world with its rhythm and variety, and that was enough.
And in that moment, as I sipped my coffee and shared my dad’s view, I knew exactly how it could be enough. A little prayer escaped my lips as I asked to hold this within me in those times when the world seemed to be moving too fast–let me hold this view, this beauty, this simplicity as a touchstone to bring me back to “enough”.