Touring around the Shenandoah Valley, we stopped at a local orchard and vineyard. Noted for both their apples and cider, both hard and regular, Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse has the perfect spot to while away a late summer afternoon.
Our friend had the right idea. But then, he had been to Knick Glacier near Palmer, Alaska, several times. While the rest of us scurried around exploring moraines, discovering wildlife, and capturing as many photos of the incredible scenery as possible, Doug leaned against a rock and just relaxed. With this view, who could blame him?
It was only 3 in the afternoon, and I felt like taking a nap.
I had slept well, gone to physical therapy for my cranky back and my bothersome tennis elbow and had my ouchie knee taped. When I got home, I took my morning walk around the neighborhood.
After a light lunch of leftovers, I got busy writing and met my deadline. I grabbed the book I had failed to crack on vacation and headed for the sun-drenched patio adjacent to our back porch. I took a glass of clear, cold water with me and plunked down in a lawn chair with my back to the warming afternoon sun.
Earlier that day, a friend in Ontario, Canada had posted a photo of herself wearing a winter jacket. It was early June. I just chuckled and went on about my day. I was exceedingly glad that yesterday’s front had cleared out the heat and humidity from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, giving us this glorious day.
Instead of sleeping, I wanted to take advantage of the pleasant weather. So there I was on the patio, book in hand, my focus elsewhere. The sky was the bluest blue, occasionally interrupted by fluffy cotton balls that lazily floated high overhead.
Given the series of recent damp days, it was nice to sit outside without getting wet. However, at my age, I mind my dermatologist. I wear sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat in the bright sunshine.
The northwest wind that had brought the below normal temperatures also waft intoxicating floral fragrances from an unknown source in the neighborhood. I knew it wasn’t me. I hadn’t yet showered.
The high-pitched humming of lawnmowers from three different directions buzzed in my ears, grating against the loveliness of the heavens and the sweet-smelling aroma. Life isn’t perfect, I rationalized.
Besides, those necessary but annoying mechanical noises had competition. Northern cardinals sang their repertoire of melodies. I can’t prove it, but I am pretty confident sound engineers mimicked the cardinal calls when they invented electronic emergency vehicle sirens. They just gave them strange, non-avian names like yelp, warble, and power call.
Still, the birds crooned and chased one another. It was nesting season after all, and birds follow their innate instincts to protect their territories and their young. Common grackles attacked a common crow that likely tried to steal one of their babies.
That’s the only way I can explain why one would fly away with a baby rabbit dangling from its bill. Furthermore, the distraught mother bunny desperately hopped in feeble pursuit of the crow. I had recently witnessed the kidnapping unfold in our neighbor’s front lawn.
American robins joined the cardinal chorus as if it were dawn, not mid-afternoon. Chimney swifts twittered overhead. I wanted to reply, but unlike a certain important someone, I don’t tweet.
About then, an American goldfinch lighted briefly at the birdbath right beside me. It flew at my slightest first movement.
One by one, the lawnmowers ceased. Mourning dove coos lulled me back to my book. I read a chapter and headed back inside to take that nap.
It had been a busy day, and I didn’t even mention that I had made a morning trek to the county landfill to deposit yard clippings and recycling. While unloading the cardboard, I chatted briefly with a professional baseball player who lives in the county. He was gracious as usual, but I’ll admit to being mildly disappointed that he never mentioned my Cleveland Indians t-shirt.
It’s great to have fair weather, even if it’s only for a day or two. It’s better, however, to be retired to fully enjoy it.
I sat in the warm sunshine on the back porch steps, eating my simple lunch, taking in all that transpired around me. I basked in the awesome day itself, one of several that we had as summer morphed into autumn.
Typical of fall days in northern Ohio, the day started cool, and took its time warming up. But thanks to skies bluer than my grandchildren’s eyes, the sunshine strengthened to enhance the day to beyond beautiful.
The air warmed, and the wind gently swirled in all directions. Compared to the quiet dawning of the day, everything seemed alive, moving, and vibrant. It was a glorious day, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Day of Awe.
I’m not Jewish, but I certainly was in awe. I had just returned from my weekly yoga lesson, where the students were again reminded to breathe in, and breathe out. It’s a way to encourage each of us to be conscious of just how important breathing can be.
Given our hustle, bustle lifestyles fueled by instantaneous updates from the outside world through our addiction to our electronic gadgets, we sometimes forget life’s simplest lessons. Breathing is one of them.
So there I was, enjoying my wife’s homemade hummus with crunchy gluten free crackers, a homegrown tomato, homemade refrigerator pickles, some fresh turkey breast and locally made cheese, washed down with homemade mint tea, breathing in, breathing out the beauty of the day. I felt ecstatic, really.
My presence had chased away the Starlings and the American Robins, who were at war over the bright red, ripe dogwood berries. Like most conflicts, it seemed neither side won. In the fracas, most of the berries dotted the ground beneath the trees, their leaves growing more and more crimson.
I breathed in, and saw a family of Chimney Swifts skimming the fields behind our home, and circling over and through our stand of trees. I exhaled with a smile, overjoyed to see the friendly birds again. The ones that occupied our chimney had gone missing a few days prior, likely on their way south, like these chattering brothers and sisters were as they devoured every airborne insect they could.
My solitary picnic didn’t bother the ever-present American Goldfinches, now in their duller decor. They ate right along with me as long as I didn’t breathe too hard.
At the front of the house, I breathed in another pastoral scene. Clouded Sulphur butterflies and bumblebees flitted about the fall blossoms, especially enjoying the blue salvia and bubblegum petunias my good wife had planted in early June. I breathed out a hearty thanks to them and to her for these special, significant insignificancies.
That’s just one of the tenants that I have learned from six months of yoga. Yoga is much more than physical exercise. Your movements, your thoughts, and especially your breathing need to be congruent. I think the pros call it mindfulness.
I don’t know if it was my breathing, the gorgeous day, my tasty lunch, or that combination that put me in such a peaceful mood. I just know that I want to keep breathing in and breathing out as long as I can.
With that, my mind wandered to too many friends I know locally and globally who would love to love this day, yet who have little opportunity to do so. Illnesses and real wars prevent their abilities to breathe in and breathe out the way I was.
Erik Beun of Berlin was typical of the many people from the Holmes County area who vacation at Lakeside, Ohio.
“It’s a relaxing place,” Beun said. Beun and his family were enjoying their sixth year at Lakeside. Beun also brought along his parents, Henry and Julie, for their first Lakeside experience.
Their family was emulating a scene seen thousands of times a year at Lakeside. They were tooling around the quaint village on bicycles. And why not? It’s an easy way to see Lakeside’s immaculate gardens, quaint old cottages, shady lakeside parks and amazing views of Lake Erie and its islands.
Because Lakeside is a gated community during the summer months, it is a non-motorized vehicle friendly place. In fact, bicycles often go faster than cars. In part, that’s because once at Lakeside, the need for a car drops dramatically.
The place is so pretty, so quaint, so relaxing and the people so friendly there is no hurry to go anyplace. You are on vacation. Sit back, relax and enjoy. Many from the Holmes County area have done just that over the years.
Kent Miller of Millersburg started going to Lakeside with his parents when he was 10-years old. That was 1982. Now his son, Kyle, is 10, and has the same sort of fun that his father did.
Miller said the family likes Lakeside because it is “a safe haven for young families to go and relax for a week.” He said they particularly enjoy the amenities of doughnuts from The Patio Restaurant, and letting the kids shop at Marilyn’s, a store with an eclectic mix of clothing, candy and Lakeside souvenirs.
Shasta Mast, executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, and her family have retreated to Lakeside for 15 years. She said the most difficult decisions she has to make while at Lakeside are what book to read and when to get ice cream.
Like many other Lakesiders, Mast likes to read her book while sunning on Lakeside’s popular dock that juts out into Lake Erie. Others swim, with lifeguards provided during certain hours. Still others fish from the dock, while some simply choose to sit and watch the variety of boats sail or speed by. In the evening, the dock is crowded with sunset watchers with cameras at the ready.
Of course, the front porch is just as good for reading as the dock. It could be the house rented for the week, a bed and breakfast or the sweeping, screened porch of the historic Hotel Lakeside. They all provide peace, shade and plenty of congenial company.
After all, Lakeside is the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, nurturing the body, mind and soul. That is what the Lakeside Association both promotes and provides for its visitors. Educational workshops, seminars, evening entertainment and worship can all be part of the Lakeside experience for children to adults.
Tennis, shuffleboard, miniature golf, running, walking and Frisbee are also available if exercise and competition are your game. There are businesses to spend your money if you want, and by the lines, a lot do. Specialty drinks, ice cream, homemade doughnuts, and Lakeside-specific clothing are all available.
Then, again, you can just adopt Erik Beun’s attitude and simply relax. That’s the Lakeside way.
This article initially appeared in The Holmes County Journal, July 29, 2010.