There are two environments I’ve experienced in life that have made me feel completely renewed and at home. One is the mountains, even though I have never lived there. The other is alongside a lake in the Midwest during the summer. I tried to describe it more clearly to Brett the other day as the sky shifted into its enchanting evening mode and the first lightning bugs came out for their matinee performance.
“You know how people describe seeing the Amalfi coast? Or waking up in Tuscany?” I ask him. “That’s how I feel here. There’s a summer magic here that literally takes my breath away–it’s a happy calm I can’t quite describe.”
“I think you’re forgetting what it’s like here in February,” Brett retorts. “It’ll take your breath away alright.” He laughs hard at his dad joke, as he often does.
“LET ME HAVE MY MAGIC, OKAY?” I yell back.
Maybe that’s part of the magic–the fact that a Midwest summer is so fleeting and that people here have to endure a hellish climate for way too long while waiting for their seasonal flower to bloom, so that when it comes, you notice and drink in every glorious thing about it. I wouldn’t doubt there’s also some nostalgia tangled up in my love affair, the spell of childhood delights reawakened when I’m back on soft grass with a pebbled lake shore nearby.
Whatever the case, I wait for this all year–and to see my family enjoying all my summer loves makes me ridiculously happy.
“I see you quite enjoying evening fishing with a lake breeze,” I point out to Brett. “You think I don’t notice you all blissed out next to that campfire? Don’t pretend like you’re not in love with it too. Admit it, you like it here.”
“…in the summer,” he’s careful to add.
This week, we’re actually back to Brett’s old summer stomping grounds–Delavan Lake, Wisconsin–while we’ve been waiting for Lainey to finish her first sleep away camp. We dropped her off last week–a goodbye that was hard for many reasons. Camp was a big decision for her, but one we know will give her priceless life lessons and summer memories. Longest time we’ve ever been apart from each other, and…with no contact. (spoiler alert: we picked her up this morning, and all is well! The camp songs! The chants! The stories of secret camp rituals, cabin pranks and counselor skits! All the summer magic!)
I’ve never spent a summer in Wisconsin before and am delighted by how much it feels like Michigan. We spent most of our first week at a friend’s empty lake house and are finishing up Brett’s part of our vacation at a lake resort on Lake Delavan.
Some favorites so far…
The swing. We visited a friend’s house in Rockford before heading to the lake, and the girls fell in love with the swing outside her house. The next morning, we found it on a grocery run to Walmart (only $35!) and brought it back to hang from the most perfect swing branch in the history of mankind–a sturdy arm of an old enchanted willow tree extending over the water. The leaves draped all around the swing, creating a little foliage grotto straight out of a storybook.
Dash fell asleep in it one afternoon, and slept for two hours.
Lainey and Dash read books in it another afternoon. And early one evening, I went out with Nella, intending to swing for a few minutes but woke up later to a dark night sky and Nella sound asleep next to me.
Dash has spent hours fishing–my new favorite hobby for him. He sat in a chair–quietly, alone–for HOURS, patiently waiting for a fish. He caught many…
…and shared the love.
He also found a new best friend–a stick he named Max. We are inspired by Max’s perpetual state of summer excitement, his arms raised in an exuberant “WOOHOO!” forever. We will be taking him home with us because we will need his mojo come the first week of school.
Painting rocks has become a summer tradition now. We paint them by the lake with music and snacks and take the finished products to the nearest town, hiding them in store windows and planters for others to find and take home. The first time we did this, we were staying in Blairsville, Georgia where we evacuated for Hurricane Irma and learned that the painted rock treasure hunt was an actual ongoing activity in the town (store owners even hide them in their shops!). We were hooked.
Making things on summer vacation is definitely one of my favorite things to be happy about. “You know you’d have more room in your suitcase if you didn’t bring half the inventory of Michael’s, right?” Brett says. Almost everything we make on summer vacation, we make in open air. We paint in the grass, craft bracelets on picnic tables, journal in the hammock. I even bring all our cherry pie ingredients outside, and we put them together on the back deck at my dad’s. It’s so creatively invigorating to make things in nature and to change up normal create routines.
And as always, I stash all the love, all the feelings, all the inspiration that comes from the magic of a Midwest summer and store it in the reserves to take home come August. The last few years, going home at the end of the summer isn’t depressing. I’m always ready to put to use back home what I’ve gathered from all this good.
Meanwhile, we’re still in stash mode. On to Michigan this week!