People seek different means to “rescue” themselves from the hustle and bustle of everyday lives, escape from the hundreds of daily peeks on their smartphones, and seek a sense of peace, solitude and tranquility. Maybe they pursue self-help mentors, study religion, take up relaxing hobbies, and ok, even bury themselves in a book.
For Anne Goodwin, she goes to the lake.
Rather than preach what may or may not work for somebody else, Anne has captured what works for her, and has shared it in her unusual memoir, Come to the Lake: Reflections On a Cottage Life (Pleasurable Pause Press). It contains the experiences and reflections from life on her family’s 1920s lake cottage on Pleasant Lake in southeastern Wisconsin. The book is a compilation of short vignettes, essays, poems, notes, images, thoughts, checklists, even recipes that are marvelously conducive to lakeside living.
“Early on at the lake, I started taking notes,” Goodwin explains. “These notes have been tucked away for years, with me occasionally feeling compelled to add to the pile. The pile evolved into a book.”
“Life at Pleasant Lake is a jumble of friends, families, adults, children, routines, traditions, activities, games and gatherings amid the magical backdrop of cottage lake life. It also conveys my singular relationship with nature.”
The book appeals to anyone (1) who has ever gone away to camp or lived in a lake house; (2) who is not looking for heavy-handed lessons in how to live their life better but simply seeks relaxation and a “pleasurable pause” from the daily grind; or (3) who wants to feel the warmth of a particular family and their love for a place and lifestyle that, to a large degree, has defined their existence. My wife to this day still finds joy and a tingling sensation reflecting on her years sharing a lake house in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.
The author writes, “I became a Pleasant Lake girl 35 years ago. The rite of passage is simple: One must truly love life at the Lake. That means swimming across it, searching for sunbeams as you glide under its fresh water surface and charting long hours in sailboats, canoes and kayaks. It also requires being immersed in the rhythm of the Lake, which means opening books instead of pushing buttons…knowing how to build a crackling fire, spending hours in the back bays investigating turtles and heron nests as the sun blazes across the sky.”
One of Goodwin’s favorite group activities, she says in the book, “is convening at sunset in the middle of the lake in a makeshift flotilla to enjoy our 360-degree view as the day dims around us. We are constantly amazed how this postage stamp of a lake and these postage-stamp size cottages continue to make a mighty ripple in so many lives.”
Some of the most touching passages are found in a section of notes from guests. Says one, “Reading with my kids. Enjoying the cool breeze off the lake. Personally, this was the most meaningful. I needed a few days of soul searching and reflection. Thank you to the soul, spirit and peace this heavenly treasure provides.”
Says another, “Where else in today’s tumult can people of all ages spend an hour sharing dinner with a large, ancient turtle? The turtle was not hurried, so why should we be?”
The author has a way of poetically capturing the lake experience. Her description of the solitude of a kayak break: “Alone, in my willow room, cool quiet shade enclosed in a canopy of feathery branches delicately brushing the lake as if sipping tea.”
Or what is her secret to waking a cottage full of sleeping boys? “Just start sizzling pounds of thick-slabbed bacon and wait.”
Goodwin notes that each summer she has the opportunity to make a special, unusual connection – with a group of owls, or Sandhill cranes, even great blue herons. In the book she describes her bonding with a visiting loon. “Their lyrical call is plaintive and, yes, a little bit crazy sounding. I love their call. While I miss them, I was happy for their contentment. Now there is only one loon again swimming alone at sunset. Nature can be so heartbreaking.”
If you are looking for a feel-good book about a family that has found its personal peace in one of nature’s special surroundings, consider Come to the Lake and share in the experience. Writes Goodwin, “I can’t quite grasp my life or myself back home, so I’ve fled to my kayak and am waiting for the center to come back as I sit surrounded by curling lily pads and raining leaves.”
Come to the Lake is available for purchase.
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About Anne Goodwin
Anne Goodwin, award-winning author of Stay For Lunch, spends her summers in a 1920s cottage on Pleasant Lake in southeastern Wisconsin. Her passions include feeding large groups of family and friends, swimming from shore to shore, paddling any non-motorized craft available, observing nature’s glories and taking notes along the way. Come to the Lake is her second publication.