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Friday, April 02, 2004

In need of a retreat

Maybe it's the fog that's blanketed Lake Erie's shoreline that has me feeling low today. It happens every spring. I live about a half-mile from the lake, which is wonderfully invigorating most of the year. But in spring it can be a downer. Drive just a few miles inland and the sun can be shining a temperate 65 degrees. But along the shore the sun is unable to pierce the thick fog, keeping my little Bay Village in a gray haze for weeks.

The payoff comes when the lake temperatures begin to climb and the fog burns away. Come fall, it can be chilly inland, but the warm lake extends our summer days and nights just a bit longer. Even with the ups and downs of living near the lake, I wouldn't trade locations. The whitecaps and the noisy crashing of waves in fall and the icy protrusions of winter are awe-inspiring and tend to feed my creative spirit.

If I can make it a few more weeks, I'll be rewarded with blue sky and water and the lucious green of the trees that hang over the cliffs of the beach. By then Honey Hut will be open for the season and we can enjoy our favorite orange blossom ice cream. Yum! Just thinking about it makes me feel better.

I recalled a vivid memory driving along 480 this morning. It was at least eight years ago when I was first freelancing and Ryan and Patrick were very small. I had an overwhelming desire to get in the car with them and drive south until it got warm. Sorry as it sounds, I was nearly in tears. I was feeling very run down, worn out, used up. I kept thinking that if I could just see and feel the sun, if I could just close my eyes for a bit, I would be all right.

Reason and resources kept me from making that drive. Instead, I bundled up the kids and drove to Marblehead. It was cold, but the sun came out on our drive. We packed PB&Js, juice boxes and cookies and had a picnic lunch at Marblehead Lighthouse. The boys and I ran along the lakeshore, chasing one another and trying to keep warm. It was our little retreat. And sure enough, within a few weeks, summer arrived. I think we skipped spring that year.

We all have to find our little retreats to refuel our energy and our creativity. Mine is often found near the water. There's a house in Vermilion that juts out into Lake Erie at the point where the Lagoons of Vermilion meet Linwood Park. I first saw the house in 1990, when my husband took me to the place where he had spent so many summers as a child. It was fall and the lake was cold and wild. But we sat on the beach and planned our future together. He found a heart-shaped rock in the sand that I still have. I told him that if I had that house on the point, I could write my novel. He laughed, and asked if I could write from a duplex in Rocky River. Of course I could and did, though not my novel. I'm not ready for fiction, because I tend to get very focused on my work, I fear to the exclusion of my family. It was the desolate location of this house that appealed to me. Certainly the house is beautiful, full of windows and natural light. But the location along the water would be ideal for drawing solitary inspiration—calm when the lake is like glass; and fire when the lake is agitated and wild.

Two years ago I was visiting a colleague and mentor who now lives in those lovely homes in the Lagoons of Vermilion. Her home wasn't on the point, but it did sit happily along the very same beach that adjoins Linwood Park. I told her about my dream so long ago and she suggested we walk along the beach. I told her how my husband's family had vacationed at Linwood Park every summer for years and how we, too, had a spent a most relaxing vacation there. She told me how, when she was newly divorced and her boys were young, she rented a room—not a house, a room—from one of the cottage owners. It was her retreat and she had such fond memories. Life is better for her now. She remarried and now owns two homes, including the lovely one on the lake. And though her boys are grown, they still enjoy their trips to the beach with their children.

I can't afford to get away right now. But I'm finding a retreat in writing this post and remembering that beach. Perhaps we'll take a drive this weekend and see if there are any places available to rent this summer…. And we'll pick up our pool passes in hopes of warmer days ahead. If not, there's a writing retreat that's coming this summer and may be worth a look. It's near the water, too.

"The knowledge of man is as the waters, some descending from above, and some springing from beneath; the one informed by the light of nature, the other inspired by divine revelation." — Francis Bacon

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