There is a tradition that seems something from a different age, and one I never experienced when I was young, the family vacation. I have reached a point in my life when things are different and I can afford to take the traditional sabbatical. I choose to do so at the lake. I find the parenthetical pause useful in a life flooded with too much to do. Here, things slow down. In Brigadoon-style, life is lived in episodes.
I visited the lake in September and I always stayed the full month. Though not quite deserted, the population of the tiny town was certainly much reduced. Dinner did not require reservations, and the lake was not crowded with water sports, barking dogs and screaming children. It was quiet. And I loved the feel of fall creeping into the early morning air. It was my time. You see, I am a writer. For one month I was free of marketing, editors, illustrators and all the other paraphernalia of life. Just me and my laptop in a lakeside cabin in the fall.
I was not completely oblivious to the other inhabitants of the town. After all, the place had a wealth of character material among the locals and the visitors. When writing seemed to come slowly I would tap out short cameo sketches of the people I met. Describing them and creating short story threads around them as I saw them that fall. I was having lunch on the deck at the local restaurant and searching for a subject when I noticed her.
She sat on a small stool with an artist pad on her lap. I wasn’t close enough to be sure, but it appeared that she was sketching something with charcoal or pencil. Her subject sat on a bench before her apparently lost in thought. Soon, the artist tore a sheet from her pad and handed it to her subject. The man stood, holding the sketch before him and started laughing. Pulling his wallet out he offered her some currency and I saw her shake her head. He shrugged and, still laughing, walked away.
As the days passed I saw the sketcher here and there, always with her stool, always sketching. Some of her clients appeared quite happy, some very sad. One even tore the sheet to tiny shreds and watched as the confetti floated on the wind to the water. The day came when it seemed time to visit the artist myself.
I found her not far from my cabin and near the public dock where my boat was moored. She wore a large straw hat that kept the sun from her eyes. It also kept her face in shadow making it difficult to estimate her age. She wore a long skirt and a blousy top reminiscent of another time. He hands were suntanned, rather delicate, and very nimble with her tools. She smiled at me as though she were expecting me and motioned toward the seat on the sunny side of the boat house.
She sat and began to draw. Time seemed to slow in the mid-day sun. I found myself lost in contemplation of life in general. I drifted to a state of might-have-been. Would life have been different if I had known this person sooner, never met that one, had children, a different career, a different childhood? What was it that made me who I was? Would any other life had changed that? I forgot the artist and drifted on a gently rolling sea of thought.
With a start I realized how far the sun had slid across the sky. Wondering if I had actually fallen asleep I shook myself and noticed the patiently waiting sketcher. She smiled and handed me the torn sheet from her pad. Taking it from her hand I looked at what she had created. I still don’t know if it is a good thing to know with certainty what your future holds or what it is that makes you you.