Plan ahead for rest and relaxation

Iconic summer scene in Ohio’s Amish country.

When we lived in Ohio’s Amish country, Sunday was a day of rest. It was a biblical concept that was actually put into practice.

Our house was built on an Amish farmstead. Few in our neighborhood mowed their lawns, washed their cars, or worked in their gardens. There were six other days of the week to do those tasks.

I wasn’t raised that way. Growing up, I knew nothing of Amish and Mennonite ways. Sunday was a day for worship and rest, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t wash and wax my car. I didn’t consider that activity to be work at all. In fact, I found cleaning my vehicle relaxing.

My Mennonite farm girl wife adhered to the Sunday day of rest tradition. I quickly swung to her custom of keeping the Sabbath after our marriage all those years ago. Sunday was church day and frequently involved hosting or visiting with others.

I haven’t looked back, and I haven’t been sorry.

Since we moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, those quiet Sundays aren’t so quiet anymore. By most standards, our neighborhood of family homes is somewhat subdued. However, the sound of lawnmowers, power washers, and weed eaters echo from street to street any day of the week, including Sundays. We clearly are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

Never on Sunday.
Still, several of our neighbors join Neva and me in holding to our principles. We mean no disrespect or ill will towards those who feel free to do yard work or some other Sunday chore. After all, working in the yard, garden, or flowerbeds can be therapeutic and therefore relaxing. Hiking, fishing, swimming, and other outdoor activities are equally satisfying.

It is vital that people who hold either view respect those who believe differently. It’s the only way we can successfully coexist as friends, neighbors, and viable society. In fact, others observe Sabbath on different days of the week.

That fact became clear to me while planning for our spring trip to New England. I have learned to plan ahead to avoid the stress of any kind of deadline, writing, or otherwise. That is a significant admission from a professional procrastinator. I sense great joy and accomplishment in getting things done correctly ahead of time.

I had several articles due to various publications for which I write around the time we were scheduled to leave. I made it a goal to complete them as thoroughly as possible before their due dates.

Doing so delayed much of the planning for the New England trip. Consequently, I had only done cursory research on places to visit.

Glen Ellis Falls, Jackson, NH was just one of many recommendations to visit that friends made to us.
Friends who had previously visited or lived in New England had given us excellent tips. I used those as the prologue to our itinerary. I scoured tourism websites, birding hot spot recommendations, perused multiple maps, both online and the physical hold-in-your-hand fold up kind.

Finally, I came to the realization that I only needed to compile an outline itinerary. The day-to-day details would unfold according to the notoriously wet and cool spring New England weather. We packed so we could dress in layers as the weather changed. We only set reservations for a few hotels and guided tours. We used the travel list of attractions as a guide, not an absolute must.

I felt immediate relief. It was 18 hours before we intended to leave, and everything was ready to roll. In my relaxed state, I realized just how important that was to me mentally and physically.

It felt like Sabbath Sunday, but only it was Thursday afternoon.

The view from the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Soaking in a Sunday afternoon’s sunshine

eastersunrisebybrucestambaugh
The day dawned bright and hopeful.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The day was an answer to prayer.

After the long, miserable, snowy winter, and the damp, cloudy and windy days of early spring, soaking in the warmth and calm of a sunny afternoon was just what was needed. And that’s just what I did.

After a light Sunday lunch, I poured a glass of mint tea and headed to the back porch. I wasn’t alone.

Because of the unfriendly weather, we had delayed rescuing all of the porch furniture from storage. I simply sat on the steps that face our little garden pond, and absorbed the soothing sun and so much more.

Since it was a Sunday, the usual hustle and bustle of work traffic on our busy county road was nil. Sounds of horse clops and

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A horse and buggy wheel it up the road.
rolling wooden buggy wheels coursing along the unyielding macadam predominated, occasionally interspersed with vehicles motoring north and south.

That was the background noise. Around me the action took a more natural flow. Newly arrived Chipping Sparrows flitted from tree to greening grass, searching for seeds and nesting material, their sharp, delicate chipping joining the chorus of other birdcalls.

Downy Woodpeckers announced their arrival with an assured flutter of wings and their usual, perky chirp. Their herky-jerky head gyrations showed their cautiousness. Hunger quickly overcame their suspicions of me, and they clung wearily to the peanut butter suet feeder.

The much more brash male Red-bellied Woodpecker loudly barked out its presence as a warning to any other species that might have thoughts of feasting there. He clearly trumpeted that it was his turn, and he took it with me as an audience.

I didn’t realize I was doing such a good job of behaving myself until a female American Robin jumped out from beneath our porch deck. She bounced within inches of my feet and into the shade beneath the feeder that hangs in front of the kitchen window.

I sat as still as possible while she poked and pecked at the seed residue dropped by the perching birds onto the soft soil below. Then she hit the lottery. She snagged an earthworm, which she downed posthaste.

With that the robin bounded away, and then harshly scolded me as she winged it to a far limb on the old sugar maple 20 feet off. When she finished her lecture, she promptly flew away.

It was at that point that I noticed the dozen or so goldfish in the pond basking in the sun at water’s surface. All faced me, their mouths opening and closing as if to say, “Feed me. Feed me.”

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I went to the little garden shed, grabbed a handful of fish food and plopped it into the water. The school scurried and splashed to get to the nutritious floating pebbles, then sank to the bottom to finish the meal.

The sun also brought out the resident green frog nestled into a cozy spot among the sprouting pond reeds. It picked off several insects while I sipped my tea. Bathed in abundant sunshine, the neighbor’s road horses grazed lazily on the new sprouts in the hillside pasture.

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The first butterfly of the spring fluttered by and landed in the sun at the back of the porch. The Mourning Cloak was well-worn from its long flight north.

A male Cardinal called sweetly from a perch in front of the house. I eased around the corner and soon spotted it. He sat at the summit of one of the crimson maple trees in the front yard, singing his entire repertoire. Behind the house, the sun coaxed a small herd of deer into the alfalfa field.

The glorious sunshine had warmed my skin. The immerging springtime sights and sounds heartened me to the core.

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The day ended as glorious as it had begun.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

A much needed respite at Lakeside, Ohio

Perry Park by Bruce Stambaugh
Perry Park, located at the east gate of Lakeside, Ohio, is a beautiful place to rest, relax, read a book, jog, play tennis or just enjoy the peace and quiet.

By Bruce Stambaugh

After the week we had had, my wife and I needed a respite. The most logical place for that was Lakeside, Ohio, our favorite place to relax.

We had begun our annual weeklong stint at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie. Early the second morning we received a call to return home. Neva’s mother was gravely ill.

The call wasn’t unexpected. We quickly packed up and returned home. Neva joined her sister in watching over their elderly mother, Esther Miller. Esther died the next evening at age 90.
Hollyhocks by Bruce Stambaugh
Expected or not, a death is still a death. All of the grieving emotions overwhelm family members in different ways and at different times. Time seems to stand still. All the while, the necessary preparations need to be completed. They tend to take their toll on already frayed feelings.

My wife and her sister met with the funeral home director about the services. They met with the pastor to plan the funeral. Next day, they cleaned out their mother’s room at the retirement home.

The family arrived at the church well ahead of the visitation time to set up pictures and meaningful memorabilia, followed by the greeting of mourners and the funeral itself. Afterwards, we hosted the immediate family for an evening meal at our home.

As you can imagine, it was all very draining mentally and physically. We needed a break.

Neva and I held a one-sentence discussion. There could be no doubt that the best place to renew and recharge was to return to our beloved Lakeside. The next morning we were on our way.

Lakeside homes by Bruce Stambaugh

Despite the sweltering heat, it was good to be back at Lakeside with its lovely cottages, inviting dock, marvelous entertainment and multiple activity options.

With its shaded parks and marvelous vistas, Lakeside’s location on Lake Erie makes it idyllic. Really, though, Lakeside is more about people than anything else. From staff to strangers to long-time acquaintances, everyone is family at Lakeside.

A television reporter once did an expose on this special town. He wasn’t unfamiliar with the resort. He had vacationed there as a youngster.

The reporter knew how friendly Lakesiders could be. To prove his point, the reporter casually walked into a cottage without knocking and asked for lemonade. He wasn’t quizzed as to who he was or why he had barged in. Nor was he told to get out. No. Without a second thought, the homemaker poured him his icy drink.

Lakeside cottage by Bruce Stambaugh

On our recent extended weekend retreat, my wife and I had a similar experience. After finishing a very informative walking tour of Lakeside, one of the other participants invited us and another couple to tour her newly remodeled cottage. She didn’t even know us, and yet showed us every corner of her beautiful place. That’s just the way people are at Lakeside.

Lakeside flowers by Bruce StambaughAt the end of our visit of this lovely summer home, I realized that the kind lady didn’t even know our names. We made our introductions as we profusely thanked her.

What nicer place than Lakeside is there to sit back and forget your worries? You can read a book, play dominoes, go for a lovely morning walk, or just enjoy the view while eating a refreshing ice cream cone. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you just might get an unexpected tour, too.

That’s just how Lakeside and its gracious summer citizenry are. They invigorate you just when you need it the most.

The column appeared in the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Revitalization weekend at the cottage

By Bruce Stambaugh

It had been an unusually stressful week for me. You would think that in semi-retirement, stress wouldn’t even be in my vocabulary. But it is.

Without going into the sordid details, here is a sampling of the week’s chain of events that had sent me over the top by Friday’s end. My six-year old grandson got whacked in the face with a metal baseball bat. The next evening, his daddy severely injured his right knee rounding first base in a softball game.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh
Our 10-month old granddaughter, Maren.

The following day our daughter reported that our 10-month old granddaughter’s first tooth finally had broken through. In and of itself, that was a good thing. However, Miss Maren was still pretty cranky, with other teeth ready to make their appearance.

Other nerve-racking events oozed into our normally quiet lives in Ohio’s Amish country, too. For confidential reasons, I won’t reveal the nasty details, other than to say one of the logjams required a plunger.

Clearly you can see that the weekend getaway to our cottage was just what the plumber needed. It was the necessary salve to my pent up emotional sores.

First of all, my wife and I feel fortunate to have the cottage my parents built in 1975. We purchased it from them a couple of years ago and finished it the way my mother had always envisioned it would be.

The cottage’s location alone has several advantages. Its rural hillside setting on the natural shoreline lake is the most obvious. Having good neighbors who own other nearby cabins is another.

The cottage by Bruce Stambaugh
Our cottage retreat in southeast Ohio.

But the cottage makes for an ideal sanctuary for other reasons. We have no landline. Cell phone reception is marginal at best. There is no television, no email, no Internet. Other than electricity, the cottage is the epitome of electronic reclusiveness.

Right after we arrived Saturday morning, we went to work cleaning up inside and out. Though the cottage was locked up tight and unused for a couple of weeks, insects not surprisingly managed to make themselves at home. My wife soon took care of that.

Meanwhile, I donned gloves and pruners and attacked the weeds with a mission. That’s no easy task on a steep slope that falls away quickly to the graveled lane below. But just being out in the fresh air was invigorating, and the exercise personally beneficial.

The real blessings came at the marvelous supper my wife prepared. We ate the tasty meal on the open-air deck.

For dessert, we simply sat on the porch and watched and listened. Cicadas intermittently sang their monotonous song. Colorful butterflies enjoyed the sweet fragrance of various wildflower blossoms.

Butterfly by Bruce Stambaugh
A tiger swallowtail butterfly enjoyed a variety of wildflowers.

A Carolina wren serenaded us with its luscious calls. Chickadees and tufted titmice played and fed in the surrounding mixed hardwoods. Cardinals sounded their evening songs. A great blue heron grunted from water’s edge, hidden by the forest curtain.

A gentle breeze rustled the nervous leaves of a quaking aspen. Human induced sounds intruded, too. We have accepted the fact that lawnmowers, weed eaters, shouting children, dogs barking in the distance are all part of the cottage life at times.

Altogether this harmonic mishmash of sights and sounds must have worked its magic. I slept 11 hours that night.

With those revitalizing results, we should embrace the cottage’s graciousness more often.