Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spontaneous beach lunch

Cherished times often become strolls down memory lane. 

Just give any good thing sufficient time and it will surely happen.

A place we fondly remember recently became our stroll down memory lane. 

Lane is a good choice of word for what we were on. It was a pretty country road passing through once familiar farmland and woods.

We were newlyweds, to go to the beginning of the story. Al’s job took us to a small town which we entered as strangers. The place grew in importance as we made it our home.

It had one long main street, which was a major US highway, which ran north and south through town.

It was intersected downtown by an east and west street which also claimed some commercial importance.

It was the street that was the US highway, however, that had the post office, Andrew Carnegie library and grocery stores on it.

This, then, was essentially the town. Count in several leafy residential streets with alleyways, schools, churches, possibly a golf course, a defunct theater, a lake and a river through it, and you have a picture of our first career assignment after marriage. We were there nearly three years.

Winters got long in the small town. The winters back then were especially cold. Cars didn’t always want to start and you bundled up to your eyes if you went out on foot in the strong winds.

You were cautious all the month of January about going too far away to find the bright lights on a weekend in case a new snowstorm blew up, or for fear you’d freeze to death in your car if the engine conked out.

You found your friends and clung to them. You were grateful for the chances to get together and beat back the dark and chill of interminable wintertime through social gatherings at each other’s houses or joint trips somewhere to eat out.

But then it became summer and suddenly you were embracing the small town setting as if luck had rolled around and looked right at you.

Al and I used the long summer evenings to fish the many area lakes. My fishing was quite minimal and I’ll leave it at that.

I was happy to be in the boat with him and letting the casting and reeling in of the fish happen around me.

The quiet of the lake, the call of the loons, the restfulness that comes when shore is distant and land voices reach you faintly over the unruffled surface of the water make a summer slip gently away on long twilight nights.

Other times, rather than boating, we went swimming. The swimming lake was not the lake in town but was located about three miles out.

The city lake was a reservoir of the river. River current flowed through it. The current probably made the lake somewhat risky to swim and, consequently, a public city beach was not developed there.

We went swimming after work. I don’t recall going to our lake on weekends but only in the evenings. Supper dishes were done and we were free as the breeze to do whatever we wanted.

Just as cold winters were a trend then, so were dry, toasty summers. Nature balances itself.

An evening jump in the summertime lake was a cooling thought. It was easy to suggest and carry out. We got out there quite often, especially the first year.

The beach was at the end of a turnoff from the highway. It was in a stand of oak trees. There was a scattering of picnic tables. It was all very simple as you’d expect of a picnic beach in the countryside.

On the opposite shore was a farm. In sight were a farm home, red barn and fields. Sometimes the farm's dairy herd grazed in the pastureland.

Occasionally the cows came down to the shore to drink. It was fun to watch the cows as we let the day slide off us in the shallows at our end of the lake.

Passing through the area on the way home from an event this month, we had the spontaneous desire to see our old swimming hole again. It’s been years since our time there.

We have revisited our former home but haven’t put on the paltry extra mileage to get to the swimming lake.

We took the Interstate off-ramp and stopped at a food mart to buy provisions for a picnic lunch. Then, without difficulty, we navigated to the road that would take us to our lake.

The farmhouse and red barn are still standing across from the beach as we remembered their shapes seen from our side of the lake.

They were like old friends, keeping true to an image held of them.

The cool clear beach waters invited us in. We ate our lunch and skipped a pebble across the waves instead. Time, even with its memories, gracefully moves on.

Ro Giencke – July 17, 2014

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