The lake is glorious. Restful, peaceful, serene. It doesn’t shout, “Come, play with me!” It doesn’t tease, “Lookie what I’m doing.” It doesn’t tempt with rowdy revelers splashing and sailing and fishing. Well, there are quite a few fishing.
No, the Lake at Junaluska just is. It is rest. It is peace. It is serene. It is not a place to get things done. I realized this as I set up my computer facing a window overlooking the lake, and sighed. Ah, now THAT is a view.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It didn’t distract me. More, it called to me. “You are here. Come be with me.”
I had come to spend the week at the lake, catching up on all the things I hadn’t gotten done in the middle of my busy life. The things that needed reading, needed writing, needed sorting, needed attending to, things that I just hadn’t found time for. Now, I had all week for them, but the the Lake said, “Come be with me.” And that invitation is strong.
I had come to be alone, and found solitude.
I had come for quiet, and found silence.
I had come for refuge, and found welcome.
What I didn’t find was space to organize my disheveled self. Rather, there were sights and sounds to be shared. Things to be remembered and recorded. There was activity to be investigated and experienced. There were people to visit with, dogs to pat, birds to listen to, storms to respect and, of course, the Golden Hour to photograph.
But what were any of these things without someone with whom to share?
We are communal beings. In spite of my ready angst about the person too loud at the next table, solo is not a natural state for me. “I just need to tell you, show you, share…” is the constant state of my being. Somehow, the solitary experience is incomplete for me. It vanishes with no one else to know it. Did I really see that? Hear that? Feel that? My testimony alone cannot confirm. I need companionship. Someone to listen, reflect, and appreciate with me the wonders of the world before me and their impact on the world within me.
I guess I’m just not cut from monastic cloth. After but a few hours, I am longing for someone, something, somewhere. My journals are but a meager substitute. It’s the Lake’s fault. It bids be come and walk and talk awhile. Perhaps I am the only one who hears, but I expect not, as the crowds on its pathways testify to its attraction for so many others. It is a wonderful conversational companion.
Sure, stop and rest a bit, the Lake says. But don’t bring what you haven’t gotten done here expecting me to help you do it. I am for reflection, you to yourself. Depart, knowing better what you came for and what you go with. The world needs you back. I send you.
I came to the Lake at its invitation of rest, but I brought work with me instead. On my last day to spend in its embrace, it speaks softly. What you need is who I am.
Go now, and I go with you.
Stillness is a shock to the system.
The screeching of tires, the squealing of wheels, the swerving and maneuvering to get out of the way. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, it takes a bit of righting to find balance. Turns out, forward momentum can keep you upright through pretty much any squall, but stillness…now THAT requires full attention.
Nothing propels you forward but your determination.
Nothing holds you back but your inertia.
Nothing prevents you falling, but your course corrections. Be aware of your surroundings. Be sure of your footing. Have your compass handy.
Nothing moves you forward but your own efforts.
Stillness is a sock in the gut and a kick in the pants. It’s not the friendly place you once knew, it’s the firm place you now need.
It’s amazing what stillness brings into focus.
Oxymorons. You gotta love them. Verbally puzzling expressions that stop and make you think. Because they just don’t go together.
- Great Depression
- Jumbo shrimp
- Act naturally
- Deafening silence
- Definitely maybe
- Virtual reality
- Random order
Today, I am headed 8 hours south into the mountains of North Carolina to a retreat center at Lake Junaluska.
There may be more beautiful and restful places than this, but I don’t know them.
But, there are things that still need my attention. Things from home. Things from work. Things with a deadline. As I load up the car I ponder the oxymoron I am living: a working retreat. First bag in has my bottle of wine, 2 cups, and the old bread I have been saving to feed to the ducks on our arrival.
“Bread and wine?” my daughter says.
All I need.