Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Favorite Place on Earth

This started out as my write-along with my students. They are writing descriptive essays, so I wrote one too. I kinda liked it, so I will share.
My favorite place on Earth isn’t a fancy restaurant or a classy hotel. You can’t hear traffic or the background chatter of the local news. There is no indoor shower or central heat and air. It is one step up from true camping – call it camping with a microwave and a hard roof overhead. The road that leads to this hidden treasure is deceptive. Traveling it makes a person feel like he or she is certainly traveling down the wrong road. It feels too long, too secluded, too far off the beaten path. Soon enough, however, the narrow road turns to a gravel one and finally opens up to a small bit of cleared land upon which sits three squatty cabins, all facing an emerald channel of water that flows gently into a southern- size, man-made lake. This little speck on the map is my escape.
These three chubby cabins form a triangle outlined with dog pens, boats of various sizes and shapes, tractors, fallen trees, and dirt bike paths. Each cabin has its own personality though they distinctly come from the same family. The matriarch of the three is at the center and was the grandparents’ before they passed away. It is a homey, tanned square with an oversized, screened-in front porch furnished with ancient rockers, a jumbo picnic table, and an old wooden sign engraved with “The Powells” that used to dangle off the underside of a worn bird house perched at the end of the gravel road. That sign used to be the only signal that there was life at the end of the dirt road – it has now been replaced by an official green, metal street sign.
The fun, younger-brother "red" cabin - though it isn't red - sits to the left hand side. It is lake-washed white with rust shutters. Old skis that taught the grandchildren to ride the water adorn the porch roof which secures shade from the blazing summer sun and provides cover from the rain. Newcomers give themselves away when they catch a glimpse of the all-too-real looking alligator statue that the current caretaker of cabin two strategically placed near the bottom step of the porch – first a squeal of fear, then a giggling fit.
The third and final cabin – the little blue one –sits on the right hand side of the grandparents’ cabin and completes the triangle. It is cheerful and smiles through its faded denim walls and cracked windows. As though the cabin holds its breath, waiting for us to return for another weekend of fun, it releases a steamy sigh when the screen door creaks, and we open the front door. The air inside is thick and muggy until the three air conditioners convert it to cool and comforting. The walls separating the four tiny rooms are in the repair process and are half painted in a variety of try-me-out colors. Though the kitchen lacks a stove, it is home to an old, handled refrigerator that my husband, as a child, used to snatch popsicles from and a sink that is older than I am certain of. I do know, however, that my husband’s aunt was bathed in it when she was a baby. That sink has bathed too many of our families’ babies to count, and I find a lump rising in my throat when, as I bathe my own baby in the smooth, worn metal bowl, I think of my mother-in-law bathing my husband when he was an infant. The whole place is remarkably comfortable even though the floors slump in places so furniture doesn’t sit straight; dishes roll around on the shabby table, and, occasionally, the roof springs a leak. We just patch it up and keep going.
The porch that wraps the back of this little jewel is painted red – not offensive red, but the last-glow-of-a-fall-fire red – warm and mollifying. Edged with bug defying citronella torches, it is scattered with shells from the fresh-water clams that the children have collected. Every time we visit, they collect more and present them to us as if we have never seen them before – never mind that the little black and white half shells litter the ground outlining the porch. From this spot, the view of Lake Greenwood is faultless. There is nothing blocking the view. In the morning, on this porch, steamy coffee wakens my senses enough to enjoy the flip-flapping of the fish dancing just below the surface of the shadowy water. They huddle together in small schools trying to outsmart the hawk sitting in the pine tree just above them or the dozens of snapping turtles - their little black heads bobbing at the surface like little shark fins, circling the school trying to catch breakfast. This game continues until the first speed boat shoots across what we call the “big water”, and then nature life disappears while we swim and play the day away. At dusk, the children are called out of the water giving the marine life free reign of their domain again. Night time is squandered away with savory food, good conversation, movies, and ice-pops. Finally, the kiddies’ droopy eye lids win, and they drift off to sleep. The adults are left to lounge around until they, too, must turn in. Then, the lake is quite.
Take a deep breath here, and it is like breathing in family and values and memories and life. Here, the qualities of a southern summer were established and are fostered. The air fills the lungs with freshness and renews the soul. Here, life isn’t about go, go, go – it is peanut-butter-and-jelly kind of simple. This place wraps around me like a hug. It hugs my children too, like Mema would if she were still alive. This little lake shack is serenity in its truest, simplest form.

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