Friday, September 19, 2014
I knew that I had stayed away from the water for far too long, but I had no idea how palpable the energy would be when I finally returned. As I entered the park, the car suddenly enveloped in the lush green canopy of trees, I immediately felt a rush of calming energy blanket me. My heart rate slowed, my breathing deepened, and I reached over to snap off the radio so that I could hear the songs of the crickets chirping through my open window.
It was a crisp Fall day, gleaming with golden sunshine radiating from an almost cloudless cerulean blue sky. Though I saw small groups of power walkers and the occasional cyclist as I made my way deeper onto the peninsula, nothing penetrated my growing sense of calm.
I turned off at my favorite spot, one of the Westward beaches near the Ranger station, and shut off the engine. I sat silently contemplating the sensations for a moment before exiting the car and hoisting my backpack of art and writing supplies to my shoulder.
I spied a weathered wooden picnic table perched somewhat precariously on the bank of the beach, providing a perfect panorama of the calm, undulating lake before me. I made my way towards the table and settled onto the warped bench.
The deep palette of blues from the late waters enhanced the creamy, chalky tones of the piles of stone that serve as breakwaters all along this side of the peninsula.
I chucked as an old joke ran through my head. “How do you know God is a Penn State fan?” “Why else would the sky be blue and white?”
As I sat probing the horizon, listening to the gentle lapping of the water against the beach, my calm deepened. I watched a plane as it banked over the water, growing from a tiny speck to loom large over my head as it ascended into the spotless sky on its journey to some unnamed destination. The rumble of the engines was the only man-made sound in my otherwise natural surroundings.
As the plane faded away, the song of the cicadas intensified, almost as if they had seen the plane as an intruder, threatening their territory. Their warning buzzes rose and fell for some moments, telegraphing a territorial message for all to hear.
Occasionally, a vehicle passed slowly on the park road that fronts the beach, but they vanished without disrupting the overall mood of the moment.
New sounds began to emerge from the peninsula: chirping crickets, singing out their song of hope to delay the frost; bird songs – I couldn’t tell from what species – trilled out from trembling tree branches. I heard the rattle and buzz of a beetle as it worked its way down the beach. And a vivid yellow moth approached, attracted by the purple cap on my water bottle. It alit on top of the container, pausing for a moment, almost as if to give me an opportunity to marvel at its beauty and grace.
My art supplies lay strewn about the tabletop, just waiting patiently for me to take them up and transcribe a fraction of the peninsula’s perfection to my pad. I sighed, wanting desperately to dive into drawing, yet so content to bask in the beauty of the moment that I could not open my sketchbook.
A gentle breeze kicked up, just as the rays of the sun were overheating my exposed skin. It was as if Mother Nature noticed that her rays were just a bit too harsh and turned on a fan to cool it down. Between the warmth of the sun and the deliciously cool stirrings of the air, I had no desire to move or act. I simply had to drink it all in.
As I surveyed the beach, my artist’s eye was drawn to several scenes, wondering if I could capture them on paper: the breakwater, rising out of the water in a stately manner, framed by the gentle trunk of a tree on the beach. A small sand dune, dotted with sea grass and twigs. The horizon, with its gentle dividing line that radiated pink and had a streak of puffy white clouds hovering directly overhead. So many options, and yet my sketchbook remained blank.
I closed my eyes and just listened for a moment, hoping to find inspiration. The warmth of the moment settled over me like a cloak, pushing out months of uncertainty and gloom.
Like my recent trip to Lily Dale, this morning’s venture to Presque Isle reaffirmed my need to pay attention to my inner self.
I started as a large spider descended upon me, falling from the tree branch above. This was the third spider – in gradually ascending size! – that had found me in the short time I had been sitting there. I gave a small shout and then laughed as I flicked it away. “Ok, already, Ellen. I know you’re thinking about me! You can stop sending me spiders!” I said to the air.
My friend Ellen and I have a very strong relationship that often manifests itself in unusual ways. Her totem is the spider, and when she is thinking deeply about me and can’t talk to me, I often see real spiders instead. Though I do not particularly care for spiders, I have learned to accept them as messengers from Ellen, and send them on their way.
As it approached lunchtime, more intrusions made their way into my idyll. More frequent, louder traffic traveled the macadam, and I saw more people ambling along the shoreline.
Not yet ready to be dragged back into the everyday world, I opened my sketchbook to see what would emerge.