My childhood summers were filled with hours of outdoor adventures. Most of them were in the woods behind our home. But every year we packed up and headed out on a family camping trip. From Cannon Beach to a cross-country trek, the locations varied. Our favorite place was a small campground next to Little Lava Lake in the Cascade Range, just outside of Bend, Oregon. We played in the lava beds nearby; we explored the "lagoon," an idyllic stretch of water at the head of the Deschutes River (we even knew where the springs were for fresh water); we made and played on a raft, and we ran through the woods exploring on our own. Fishing, cooking over a camp stove, roasting potatoes and marshmallows by the fire, playing Yahtzee, laughing, singing, napping in the sun, it was a time when our petty squabbles mostly took a vacation and we enjoyed being together with our family.
When it was my turn to create summer memories for my children, we also took many camping adventures: Acadia National Park, Assateague Island with it's wild ponies and pirate treasure hunt, and three cross-country treks. But every summer we made sure to go to my husband's family cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan. We were the fourth generation to
spend time there. My husband's great-grandfather and some friends bought a stretch of newly cut woodland that was useless to the farmers inland. They were "rusticators," who took time from their settled lives to camp and laugh and trade stories as they enjoyed the healing of time in the woods. In a world with too many restraints on childhood freedom, it was the one place we could tell the children to go play, and they could explore on their own all day, as we had when young. I knew that they could wander into any cabin for a mile and find cousins who could feed them, play with them, or send them home safely - as we did for those who showed up on our doorstep.
This summer is different. None of my family will make it to the cabin. We had planned to, but the difficulty of traveling during a pandemic makes it unlikely. Like so many, our lives are currently restricted mostly to our house. (And I am so very grateful to have a home.) But a family wedding has been cancelled, a beloved friend's funeral took place online, and I may not make it to see my 91-year-old father in Oregon as planned. Those losses make me sad.
It makes me more grateful than ever for the freedom of movement and exploration my life has had up until now. And so, we adapt, and dream of when we can again pack our car and head on an adventure. I have a new appreciation for the incredible gift of that family time. Tall pines, water, boats, laughter, cousins, a summer escape will come again. Maybe next year. In the meantime I paint and try to recapture and reflect the joy of those times.