“My stroke changed my life,” said the man with the lime-colored t-shirt. “My other health issues didn’t change it, but my stroke did.” He held onto the lens of his camera with his finger and thumb as if he was going to focus in on something, except the camera laid against his chest. “It made me slow down and really stop and look at things. That’s when I started getting into photography.”
The group kept talking as I sat in the red Adirondack chair. Before they had gathered around my chair, I snapped this photo:
My husband and I had recently arrived at the Heartwood Conference & Retreat Center. After we found our room, we ventured down to the lake to meet the other guests. On the way to the chair, I admired the sculptures pictured below. At first they looked like they were carved from an existing tree. As I got closer, I realized that each piece of artwork was sitting on top of old tree stumps:
Just because they were not made from the tree that originally grew there, didn’t mean I liked them any less.
“There are several photographers here this weekend,” I heard someone say. I thought about how I liked capturing picturesque scenes as three photographers shared information about different types of cameras. First they talked about the old and familiar 35mm camera. Then their conversation drifted towards up-to-date high technological lingo that went right over my head. I held onto my cell phone and admired how photos could be easily accessed. When the group shared information about cameras that focus in on a single object and make other parts blurry, I thought that would be something I’d like to try one day. Even though learning this process would be more creative, it wouldn’t be as easy as carrying around my cell phone.
As they chatted, I excused myself and walked over to join my husband who was playing a friendly bean bag toss game. I never played before, so I asked if I could practice. My tosses almost made it to the board, and I felt my old bowling strategies coming through. When the bean bag stayed on the board or fell through the hole, I heard people cheer right along with me. Having that much fun didn’t make me nervous about my quirky athletic skills. We lost the first game, but as the next couple of games continued our skills improved and we were winners, not just losers. It helped that I tried to imitate my very skilled competitor – a lady who had obviously played the game before.
The moment our kids arrived, we were relaxing and cheering on others. Laura and her fiancé, Michael, and Katie found us and their grandparents. We were all greeted with hugs and ready to celebrate our uncle’s birthday. We found the “man of the hour” inside chatting with friends. When Uncle saw the kids, his eyes got misty. He apologized and talked about how when you get to be his age and different friends from your life gather around, it brings back memories about the different parts of your life. The kids all gave him a hug and wished him a happy birthday. They smiled at his comment and thought it was nice to be remembered as being an important part of his life.
We munched on popcorn and Chex mix then washed it down with beer or cocktails and, oh yeah, water. We recognized familiar faces outside and talked about how handshakes are more germy than high fives, the latest study broadcasted by the media. As the chef worked at the large grill, smoke traveled to us on the patio. Our stomachs growled. As soon as dinner was ready, we patiently stood in line at the buffet table ready to enjoy the summer type of meal that we long for in the winter: grilled burgers or large chunky bits of chicken. Either could be topped with dollops of barbecue sauce or any kind of condiment. Hefty chunks of potatoes, baked beans and potato chips made the meal complete. Dessert was cherry cobbler, if you had room. After dinner, some guests stayed inside while others sat on the deck to gaze over a lake that could have been mistaken for a gigantic shiny piece of glass. I sat and wondered why only parts of the trees reflected in the mirror of the lake. Some reflected parts were hidden for a while and then appeared.
We ended the evening by deciding when we would meet for breakfast. The comfy rooms helped us to fall asleep quickly. The next day we ate a healthy breakfast of eggs, sausage and fried potatoes. After a little digestion time, my husband and I decided to walk along one of the many trails around the center. We chose the Julia path, a two-mile walk around the lakes. We couldn’t always see the lake along the trail, but we knew if it was on the left, we were going in the right direction. Our pace could have been quicker, but I stopped every now and then to take pictures. I was reminded about the conversation I overheard the night before about how having a camera in your hand makes a person slow down and take a look at things. So true.
The lake was as calm as it had been the night before. The trees hardly rustled and there was barely a ripple in the water. No motorized boats are allowed on the lakes. No birds sang a greeting to us as we scuffled along the dirt road. Sometimes I spotted one dashing from tree to tree not making a sound. Was the forest quiet and welcoming us to slow down and take a breath? A horse fly circled around my head with its buzzing noise fading in and out over and over again. I swatted at it, but we never connected. All was quiet again after the fly buzzed away. Was that bug also there to remind us to enjoy the quiet because it usually doesn’t last very long?
Later in the day, we were lucky to enjoy a leisurely tube ride down the protected Namekagon River. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I didn’t want my phone to get wet, but we were still able to relax.
We celebrated the evening away wearing fancy clothes while enjoying a delicious dinner of pork, salmon or chicken, rice or potatoes and green beans. We sang “Happy Birthday” and waited for the birthday cake that never arrived. We had sherbet instead. Fran the Piano Man, a one man band, entertained us with his versatile musical skills. If he wasn’t playing the piano and singing, he was playing the saxophone or harmonica.
Whether we were quiet or not, our party was the loudest thing to be heard on the lake that weekend. It’s nice to be quiet sometimes, but more times it’s fun to be loud!
Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who
have the most live the longest. ~ Larry Lorenzoni