the bay


Got to spend nine days at the cabin this summer — nine days! That’s the longest we’ve been up there since Drew started school, and I don’t mean college.  Nine days of sitting, feet up, book on lap, lake a few yards away.  Drew was even able to join us for three days, so the family was all together, a rare occurrence these days.

1972 — We used to feed the raccoons at the cabin. They seemed pretty tame, but now when I look at this, I can't believe we did that!

I’ve been vacationing at these cabins in Three Lakes, Wis., for more than 40 years.  My parents started taking us up there when I was around 10. At that time, the property was owned by a woman my brother Jim knew from work.  There are three: the island, literally on an island with a man-made “road” leading there; the middle, where we always stay, is more in the woods and on a weedy bay; and the small, right next to the middle.

Mom, me, Dolores and Angie, 1974?

Every July, my parents and the youngest of us kids would pack up and head for a week in the north woods. Mom would get stuck cleaning fish and cooking.  Dad and Gary fished and puttered.  Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I did while we were there, except for the time I went exploring in the woods on a logging trail. I came upon a large buck, and while I’m not sure which of us was more startled, I would be willing to bet it was me.

Eventually Jim bought the cabins; the owners had no children of their own. He’s done extensive remodeling of the island cabin, but “ours” has stayed pretty much the same as it always has been.  As we settled in for this year’s stay, Griffin said, “That’s the great thing about the cabin:  Things here never change.”  In many ways, he’s right.

There’s my favorite green ceramic coffee mug, slightly off kilter but comforting to hold.  There are the bullfrogs croaking, the woodshed, the clotheslines with their giant blue clothespins.

There are the daily morning walks on Hwy. X.   If you go to the right, it’s a mile and a half to the “owl sign,” named by my dad many years ago because its shape at that time was somewhat owl-like if you squinted and used your imagination. This is the lazy-day walk with fewer hills and more cabins to look at.  To the left, it’s a mile and a half to Honeyrock Camp.  More hills.  More curves.  More likely to see deer.  Either way you go, you must touch the sign or the rock before turning back.  Even Cesar knows it now, although sometimes he cheats and lifts a leg instead.

Jamie and I always play a ridiculous game as we walk, trying to be the first to call out when we hear a vehicle approaching and getting points for correctly discerning whether it is a car or truck before it becomes visible. I’m pretty sure I’m winning.

When you are walking from the island to the middle at night, you turn off the lantern and look up at the bowl of amazing stars overhead.  The Big Dipper is a given… the others?  I’ve never taken the time to learn them, but they take my breath away every time.

And the incredible north woods scent!  After five hours in the van, I can’t wait to take that first big inhale of the fresh air, laced with pine, cedar and lake.  Heaven.



and more reading

But time is lapping at the shore, and our lives are inevitably changing.

I was conscious the entire time we were there that our family is at a crossroads.  In a year, nothing will be as it is now.  Drew will have graduated from college and be working who knows where.  Joseffa will have graduated from high school and be planning her move into a dorm who knows where. (Eau Claire? Oshkosh? Indiana?)  Having done manual labor all summer, Griffin is going to try his darnedest not to have to do that again!  Who knows where he will spend next summer.  Change everywhere.  I kept thinking:  We will never have this time again.  Oh, we’ll probably all be together there again many times. But it won’t be when Drew is still in school; or for Joseffa’s 18th birthday, which we celebrated there on Friday; or when Griffin is still kid enough to get out his slingshot and fire pebbles into the lake.

But life goes on.  This year, my nephew Andy was telling his three-year-old daughter Maddy to be careful around the bonfire.  Years ago, it was my brother telling Andy and his sisters the same thing.  And then us telling our kids.  Someday, I hope, it will be our children saying the same thing to theirs.

Maybe Griffin was right after all:  Things don’t change at the cabin.  At least not the important things:  It will always be a place for family coming together no matter where we are in life.

Joseffa and Maddy

Brothers: Drew, Griff and Cesar

Three pretty wonderful kids


Sunset from the island deck