For nearly 40 years my family has joined the ranks of so many others who travel to the Adirondack State Park for their vacation. Our time is spent along the shoreline of a crystalline lake nestled in the midst of the East’s Appalachian Mountain Chain. Within this sea of timber, lakes, and ponds there is, for me, a calmness that calls my name. The mountain greenery, the cool, clear water, the sight of the forest creatures in their natural habitat, the early morning call of the birds from here, there and seemingly everywhere fill my soul with peace.
For years this coming away, this escape from the sometimes utter chaos of the working world, was the only way I could experience a real vacation. This was where my batteries were recharged and, upon leaving at the end of the week, I carried its memory in my heart until the next year’s return. Even now, as a retiree, the Park continues to offer that “other world” feeling so necessary in the crazy happenings of day-to-day living.
In the early morning, when children are catching the last few minutes of sleep before racing out to meet another day of play, when the lake’s surface is still calm, when the traffic on the nearby mountain highway is still occasional, I let the quiet soak into my soul. Standing by a tall woody bush, I watch young blue jays chase each other within the safety of its branches while they earn their wings. A young buck, eager to impress the doe by his side, prances in front of me as I watch – still as a rock. From the vantage point of a small knoll, I hear the call of a loon and watch a parade of ducks swim by. A lone kayak enters the scene from the right. (Yesterday that was me). Two ducks fly past me low to the ground and I am momentarily reminded of my 30 year career in aviation. In tight formation on final approach to the bay’s watery surface, they extend their landing gear, flair their wings and cruse to a smooth landing. They look like precision pilots from the Navy Blue Angels or the Air Force Thunderbirds. Then, in a flash, I forget that world and return to the tranquility of this mountain paradise.
My mind circles back to earlier years – growing up years. This moment is not unlike how I found peace when I was a teenager. I lived in rural Western New York. Surrounded by wooded hills and plush meadows, I often picked up my rifle (rarely used) and headed off to the seclusion of the forest. There, I would tramp aimlessly for miles and miles. I drew strength from the silence of Nature, broken only by the shifting of leaves in the breeze or the scampering of some woodland creature. The woods were my “cave”, my place to get away, my own little piece of heaven.
A distant church bell rings out the eight o’clock hour, its tune bouncing off the lakeshore across the way. I sigh. It’s time to cap my pen and join the day’s activities.