Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A day on the lake...and other things

We spent the day on the lake. The Lake, that is. Of course there are many lakes, even many lakes in this part of the country, which is the country of my youth, lakes cut from rock surrounded by Ponderosa Pines, lakes deep and clear and populated by homes large and small. While my family had a summer place on an island in western Washington, many of my friends had vacation cabins on three such lakes in Northern Idaho: Cour d' Alene, Pend Oreille, and Priest. So today, the six of us spent the day on Lake Cour d' Alene.

It was a perfect 'Inland Northwest' Day. The air was sunny and hot, the water sparkling blue, there were swimmers on the beach, and Legion baseball being played in the park, and boats pulling skiers out in the water. Beve and I watched that game for a while as the others walked up Tube Hill to look out over the water. Beve, who played a game or two back in the olden days of high school (when he wasn't sitting in the dug-out eating sunflower seeds) kept up a constant commentary about what fundamentals were missing from the play on the field. As usual, I learned a thing or two--about what happens when a pitcher doesn't cover home-plate, for example.  When our friends returned we pulled out our picnic lunch and took naps in the shade, talked a bit--or didn't!--and let the music of the breeze and the lake and children and life brush across us gently.

I forget to simply sit and be this way. Sit this way out in the middle of the world where there are people doing so many things. I hide myself on my lovely, secluded back deck, or sit overlooking the bay from my own front patio and forget the sweetness of being among others in a park at water's edge. While some of us slept, I thought of that, thought of the choir that are people in a park or on a beach, or anywhere they gather side-by-side. There's something so rich in it.

After the naps (for some of us) we took a cruise out on the lake. It wasn't the first time I boarded a boat from that dock. Back when I was a child, I went to a campfire camp on Lake Cour d'Alene, and the only way to get there was by boat.  Today, we were within sight of Camp Newahlu, where both my middle sister and I spent several summers.  But just as we might have gotten to a stone's throw, our cruise-boat turned away. Hey, I thought, that's not right!

It was just one of the many places I spent time on this lake. Three camps, several cabins and at least two camping grounds were places I laid my head in the many years I lived in this neck of the woods. And though we spent ninety minutes on the lake today, we didn't pass any of them. No surprise, however, since Lake Cour d'Alene is a very long L-shaped lake.

But with the sun overhead and the water churning out behind a boat, it felt like home to be on this lake. You see, far down that L and around to the right is the camp where Beve spent many summers and where I gave my life to Jesus the summer before I started high school. Because of that, and because of the many times I returned to that same camp for Young Life weekend camps in high school and college, I feel a very special connection to this lake. It's a part of my spiritual landscape, you might say. Or perhaps you might even say it's where "my heart was set on pilgrimage," as it says in Psalm 84.

These days are good.

One other thing:
Day after tomorrow, Beve will go home and I will head back south to Pullman. My sister's father-in-law died the night before last. He was born and lived and died on the same piece of land in the very same house. His whole life in a single place. That's a continuity we don't often see in our mobile world. There are a whole lot one might say about this man, but they are not my words to say. I am not his family, after all. But I know this: he not only loved that land but he lived it. It showed in his face--the rugged ridges of the Palouse were mapped in his weathered face, the dust of the unplowed fields in the grit on his cheeks. I  never saw him without a cowboy shirt and a cowboy hat (unless he was in church); and if there's anyone who might have died with his boots on, you'd guess it to be this old horse trader (and he really was--a horse trader, I mean!). Yes, he loved the land, and lived it. Every day of his life.

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