The Calming Nourishment of Same by Jeanie Croope

lake sunset (Jeannie) I’m writing this at my summer house in Northern Michigan, tapping on my laptop in a document because I don’t have an internet connection.

Outside it is dark and the only sounds I hear are soft waves, gently lapping on the shore, the occasional fishing boat and soft music coming from my neighbor’s porch. Lizzie the Cat is perched on the back of the chair in which I sit. The table beside me holds the book I finished and the one I started a few hours ago while sitting on the beach enjoying the last bit of a gentle sunset and the dusk that follows. On the table across the room you’d find my art journal, my watercolor brushes and palette and a few more books.

In other words, it’s pretty much the same as always.

I’ve come to this lake since I was a baby and my mother and her family came here for decades before that. When I was 13 they bought this cottage, a short walk from the old family place where my cousins now vacation. They bought it furnished — even much of the art was on the walls.

mantel at the lake (Jeanie)

Over the years, some of the furniture has been replaced — more often than not from castoffs at home — crewel-work still lifes and oversized posters were swapped for new finds from art fairs, special gifts or my own photography. The newer stove and refrigerators were sorely needed birthday gifts from Rick. The bathroom was remodeled — not necessarily for the better, in retrospect — and the old steel sink in the kitchen removed and replaced with nice stainless one surrounded by a second hand cabinet. A porch added on when I was 14 has been rebuilt with a newer model and last year’s project was replacing the screens.

But you’d still find the same braided rugs, the evocative photo of the Au Sable River over the fireplace mantle, the maple buffet hutch and dining cabinet and even a couple of the original end tables. You’d see two old prints of Dogs Playing Poker because it just seems wrong to have an old cottage and not have these iconic images. The bookcases are filled with VHS tapes that moved north when the DVD player was added at home and packed with the books of my childhood, along with mysteries and novels left by — well, I’m not sure.

When I leave the city for weekends or an extended period at the lake, I don’t seek the new, the stylish, the avant garde. I seek the safety and nourishment of “the same.”

Although I have always lived within the same city, I’ve lived in a variety of spots — my parents’ house, the dormitory, college and post-college apartments, a duplex and finally a house I love. With each move there have been the changes one would expect — packing and discarding, accumulating new furniture or art, learning about new neighbors or where things are most conveniently located.

lizzie at the lake

But when I head north, it’s rarely change I seek, except for a change of locale. I walk into the cottage and I know where I am. I know its quirks — tricky windows, for one — and the sounds it makes. (I’ll never forget the time I was reading The Shining alone on a windy night and the tops of bushes scraping against the screen gave me a shiver!) I can count on being awakened by noisy gulls (or grackels?) and going to sleep listening to the sound of the water.

The pressure is off. I’ll make the bed, be sure the dishes are done and on occasion will sweep sand from the rugs. But more likely than not, I’ll settle into a comfy chair or chaise lounge with a book or perch myself at the end of the table on the porch that serves as a temporary art table — at least until dinner.

I’ll walk around the circle road, woods on one side, lake on the other. Lake people wave if they pass you in a car or greet you with pleasantries if you pass on the road. I might stop to visit friends or family in cottages along the way or just do the circle. And my mind is free — free to welcome a new blog post, writing project or art idea.

In the years since my parents have died, I have made few changes to the cottage. Old treasures of my mother’s sit on the shelves, though I’ve added pieces that catch my eye. The dishes in the cupboard are the same, but new placemats or a tablecloth will cover the table. The mishmash of cooking bowls and pans have been accumulated over years, everywhere from my parents’ wedding pans to yard sales.
lake tree heart (Jeannie)

I don’t come north to have the life I have at home with a dishwasher and garbage disposal, cable and yard work. I come north to simply “be.” I grow here. I think, I slow down my mind and listen and in doing so, take in ever so much more. Changes are made gradually and I live with the comfort of welcoming each day with a degree of familiarity, one that can be modified to be sure, but at my whim.

A moth is dancing around the light beside me. Lizzie has seen it and soon will be on its trail and if she doesn’t capture it, I most certainly will before the light is turned off for the night. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice again. I’ll pull some weeds on the beach, take a dip (or two or three) in the lake, work on another painting and run into town for cat food.

Yes, some things always stay the same.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

22 Replies to “The Calming Nourishment of Same by Jeanie Croope”

  1. Beautiful essay, Jeanie. I feel calmer and more relaxed just reading about your cherished cabin. Sometimes we think we’re accomplishing things when we’re really just spinning our wheels. Giving our minds time to slow down gives our best ideas a chance to flourish.

    1. Thank you so much, Bella! We all need calm, don’t we. Today I’ve been very slow — and thinking like a crazy girl! Thanks for coming by!

  2. I love reading this post, Jeanne. There is a calm peacefulness in love of and knowledge of place. You speak of roots and memories that are steadfast. A lovely piece of writing. PS Happy Birthday!

    1. Thank you, Barb. Calm peacefulness – I love that! And thanks for the greetings, too!

  3. This beautiful morning in Las Cruces NM I awake and I read your lovely comfortable words. To be “in the same” is finding peace and joy and the ability just “to be”. thanks for sharing your world with me. I am smiling as I write this.

  4. Jeanie, it’s been too many years since I canoed on the Au Sable with my husband. Your essay has me feeling the peace that always comes with going up north. I’d love to hear more about the bathroom remodel “not necessarily for the better.” (Maybe you could do an UnRemodel?)

    1. Thanks, Jean! Oh, canoeing the Au Sable — it’s fun, isn’t it! You are right — There is such a peace with being north. Beautiful (though more crowded than I wish, sometimes) and so very lovely. Ah, the remodel — well, it took out a very bad tub and replaced it with a shower and it is more functional but I’m afraid the only way I’d ever get it right is to rip out a wall and that just won’t be in the budget. I do my best with art on the wall! (And relief that there is a shower!)

  5. You’ve helped us hear the sounds of the waves on the lakeshore — summer magic, no matter where we actually are.

    Certain old things hold love, don’tcha think? Undemanding, never fading love. Thanks for letting us visit your summer place.

    1. What a beautiful way to think of it — undemanding, never fading love, all held in a certain place. Thanks, Maryanne!

  6. Nicely written, beautifully ended with a feel that the story will keep going on, without our knowing about it. Jeanie, I’ve had a bit of this experience this summer in my own home. For me, I haven’t had the stress of coming home late, plopping whatever on the table for dinner, but rather, I’ve taken the time to BE. Sometimes we forget or are unable to do that.

    What a legacy you have in this cottage. Absolutely beautiful. Anita

    1. Thank you, Anita. While it is wonderful for me to have that sense of “being” at the cottage, I find it even more special that you can do that in your own home without the other stresses of life. You are a fortunate woman!

  7. Jeanie’s lake home is a treasure! What a wonderful place to escape and enjoy a more simple way of life and living. Beautifully written……….

  8. This is beautiful written, as usual! I am so glad that you have this place that you can return to year after year. The sameness of it all would be such a comfort to me, too. And it’s nice to go somewhere with fewer bells & whistles and fewer distractions!! I’m craving that kind of getaway these days!

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