my little slice of heaven

my little slice of heaven
My little slice of heaven, click image to see more

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Long Goodbye

 My wife and I were fortunate to spend a lovely week with some dear friends at their family retreat outside Livingston, Montana. It had been many years, since a college aged NOLS course, that I'd spent any time in this part of the world. I had forgotten how breathtakingly beautiful it is, how alive one feels when hiking through the mountains, or floating down a river, still a bit swollen from snowmelt, fly rod in hand. The climate in the Absaroka's this time of year was refreshing, overnight lows in the 30's and daytime highs in the 80's. The lupines and poppies were just beginning to bloom, it was just about perfect. 
 The only thing to mar this idyllic vacation was the fact that our friend and his sibling were in the process of selling this remarkable slice of heaven. As I've remarked upon before, joint ownership of this sort of family vacation home proves very challenging. So our week was bittersweet by association, colored by second thoughts and recriminations. Emotions run high when dealing with real estate and even higher with family.
 Despite this narrative playing out in the background, the four of us had a fabulous week, and I'm a little disappointed to be back in the humidity and 'closeness' of the East.

Grain elevator, Livingston, MT

The West Boulder Creek

Fishing the Stillwater

A  view that will not soon be forgotten.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Beginning Of The End

Well, after one high school graduation ceremony, and one college orientation, summer is in full swing. My boys are already complaining that their internships are starting on Monday, after only one week of 'true' vacation, if there is a silver lining (in addition to the fact of their actually having paid internships), it's that their lovely cousin has arrived to stay with us for six weeks, as she is interning as well. Somehow, summer has become something slightly less idyllic, less relaxed, no longer seemingly endless. Jam-packed and abbreviated by early college move-in dates, month-plus long internships, the only solace, truly, is a change of venue from the usual school-work year. There is almost more joy in the planning than the execution, as one old friend is famous for saying each Memorial Day..."summer's almost over".
Where I long to be.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Reawakening

Apologies for the pregnant pause between posts. I've just returned from a long Memorial Day weekend to open our family's summer house. For generations my family has been making the long trek to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to take in the cool air, sylvan north woods and sheltered waters of the Les Cheneaux Islands. My great grandparents began visiting family friends in the 1920's and bought a cottage in the early 30's. For them, it was an escape from the muggy Ohio River valley of Cincinnati. 
For anyone who's shared the tradition of a family summer house, they know that these places are more 'home' than any place they might spend the other nine plus months of the year. Each of these places holds a rich tapestry of memories shared in common among siblings, cousins and generations. Every bedroom might be named, 'the indian room', 'uncle Louie's room', and so on and if not for the oral histories passed down through generations, uncle Louie's identity might be lost to the mists of time. 
So for me, Memorial Day is a time not just to reflect on the sacrifices of those who spilled their blood to ensure our national freedoms, but also to meditate on the rich tradition which I've been privileged to enjoy. As the cottage reawakens from it's winter long dormancy, so do all the memories of parents and family, some long gone.
Each generation inevitably faces a watershed moment when siblings and or cousins part ways, joint ownership can and often does prove nettlesome. When my father passed away nearly 20 years ago, my mother, not an avid boater, decided to acquire a mainland residence so as not to be island-bound at the old family cottage. Just a couple of years ago, my wife and I secured a full interest in my mother's place and were able to renovate. The house, not freighted with the same degree of aforementioned memories and history, allowed us a free hand to take things in a fresh direction. I think the reawakening was a wonderful one, hopefully it too will last for generations.