My partner David inherited a little A-frame on Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s a modest place, no more than 1200 sq ft, 40+ years old, circa 1975 and still looks it. Several years ago we had to decide whether to sell it or fix it up and enjoy it. One phone call, made on a whim from the end of the dock on a beautiful Labor Day weekend, made the decision for us. The Season had just ended, so a just-out-of-work contractor picked up his phone. He said, Yes, yes, and yes in response to all our questions, and we were off. We didn’t have any money to do anything lavish. This was more along the lines of ‘Make it habitable.’ After a new floor and roof, lots of hard work, many visits to the dump, and several miracles on Craig’s List, we have a place that feels like home — a camp that I love to spend time in now.
For decades this little home-away-from-home was surrounded by other modest little getaways. Generations of families knew one another and continued the tradition of spending summers lolling by the lake. But increasingly, and perhaps inevitably, the last few years have exposed the evident strain of this thing called “progress”. Newcomers want more and bigger, extravagant instead of efficient, castles instead of camps. A profusion of cash has led to a marked transformation of our nature paradise. One by one, cottages have been converted to estates, bringing more landscaping than landscape, more asphalt than animals.
Soon, perhaps, David and I, with our backwards ways, will be pushed out, seeking more remote locations for our solace. Until then, I am moved, each time we visit, by a sweet satisfaction that I experience in the simplicity of the choices we’ve made here. Unlike most of the neighboring renovations, ours was not a spare-no-expenses one. The challenge of funding meant that we did just what was necessary. We largely cleaned, recycled and repaired. When I look at the handmade bookshelf I brought back to life with paint or the closet I reclaimed with care I feel…full. Full of connection to the people that came before me and built this place, full of gratitude that I’m now part of its history, full of self-respect that I’ve stewarded it well.
I’m moved by the realization that, once again, Life has managed to transform what was an obstacle into a gift. In this case, the challenge of being cash-strapped resulted in creativity and connection. It happens again and again this way. An injury becomes an understanding, a loss becomes an opening, a devastation becomes new life.
Perhaps it’s this reminder that touches me so deeply when I come here to our humble little abode in New Hampshire. This is a place that was almost lost. We could have walked away, sold the house, given up. But hard work, determination, patience and faith, resulted in new possibility. Being here reminds me that Life, so often, excels at converting impediment to success. As long as I don’t give up.
And so, I remind us all that the places that feel impossible — in our individual lives, in our divided United States, and in our global shared world — may yet transform into something beautiful. Let us not give up hope. With hard work, determination, patience and faith, some careful repairing and cleaning out, we may yet create something that leaves us feeling full of connection to those that came before us, grateful to be part of this great experiment, and, hopefully, full of the self-respect that comes from knowing we’ve stewarded it well.
Until next time, in the practice,