We made reservations exactly a year ago. It was done with a tight eyed wish and crossed fingers. But in May, it became clear that we were not going to be able to make it to Jackson’s Lodge and Log Cabins in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont this year. Our dog sitter and long-time close friend, Jill, was moving away. And although dogs are welcomed at the lodge, bringing them with us would be more of a job than a vacation without a fenced-in yard. They’d hate being tied up.
But when Jill sold her house in June, she decided to move in with us for a few months to regroup before heading off to her new adventure. It occurred to me; she’ll still be here in August. Maybe she won’t mind if we leave for a week. Maybe our cabin will still be available. Maybe we can still go. And we did. And our cabin was still available. Jill is no stranger to the value of giving and receiving. She understands the depth of our gratitude.
Our cabin is called Coyote. It’s rustic and cozy, and we hear it’s a favorite of many of the regular guests. We sit up in our tiny sized bed in the early morning, in our tiny sized bedroom, in our tiny sized cabin and look out of our tiny sized kitchen window in the next room and see a magical mist covering our tiny sized International Wallace Pond. Most of the shore line that surrounds the pond is in Canada. But in the summer, when the lake is not frozen, swimming or boating or kayaking or paddle boarding or pedal boating to Canada is permitted. Just don’t attempt to step on the foreign land. The international line on land is marked by a flimsy fence and non-stop border patrols. It separates the Jackson Lodge guests from our neighbors to the north. We’re happy to stay state and country side. We have no need to go to Canada on this trip.
Desperately Seeking Peace in the Face of Unimaginable Loss and Sadness
We meet Bobby and Jennifer. They’re staying in a nearby cabin. Bobby’s illuminating personality brings him to sit with us on our porch. Strangers. He shares some gut wrenching stories of his life. In between laughing and talking about fishing, he lets us know that he’s been an orphan since he was 17. He’s now 54. His parents died within a year of each other, leaving him and his siblings without the parental guidance that we all seem to need well into adulthood. He finds his own compass and goes on.
He has to. He has no choice.
Eventually, he has two children of his own. One day a few years ago, two detectives showed up at his home. His heart stops beating as they tell him that his only daughter, Tiffany, has been murdered. He tears up telling me this story. I look away, not wanting him to see that I’ve joined him. With an infused spirit of happiness and great sorrow, he tells me about their ritual at Christmas time. They’d make up a lame excuse to go to the store and then vanish down a road blaring “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. Both singing as loud as they can. The happiest of times. Her absence penetrates his being. The trappings of his profound loss are felt. I vow to never forget him, his daughter, and the lesson he has been forced to learn. Loss is universal. Dealing with its elements is individual.
We all find our way. We have to.
I meet Sharon. She’s a friendly and outgoing Maryland-er. I watch her and her son in the early mist one morning as they begin their water recreation hour. Her son is bravely atop a paddle board and tells me that he’s never done this before. He has me fooled as he sends the board under the dock, runs across the dock and jumps back on it on the other side. I’m in awe of his sense of adventure, creativity, and lack of fear. The lack of fear that defines children. He doesn’t weigh the risks against the fun. He just has fun. The kind of fun that allows him to explore the world and himself.
Sharon and I talk about Life’s obstacles and rewards, especially in raising children. I admire what seems like her never-ending spirit and commitment to her family to provide simple but meaningful experiences that will last them a life-time. And although I don’t have children, it seems that my new friend and I have a common understanding. Strangers can click in the first moments of meeting.
Sharon and I did. We’re no longer strangers.
Our Own Family
Our week here will culminate tonight in a family reunion. Nineteen of us from Brian’s side have what seems like a collective purpose: to take a break from our stressful lives, contemplate our existence while communing with nature, and join together in some family fun. Our group hails from Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada. A rhythm develops as we spend time together that we know is rare and precious.
We all came together in an unplanned bon fire meeting last night. Larry and Daniel played the guitar and we all sang songs. Out of key and missed verses, but fun never-the-less. As we all leave in a few days, we know that our coming together will fortify us indefinitely. We’ll say our good-byes and scatter back down the road to return to our responsibilities and routines.
One of Tiffany and Bobby’s favorite songs comes to mind:
Bob Marley’s “Every Little Thing Gonna be Alright.”
And it will.