Monday, August 13, 2012
Silver Lake...so little and so much
Caroline enjoying the beauty of Rim Rock.
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." -- John Muir
In 1938, a tiny lady from the central valley of California sought refuge from the blazing summer heat in the woods near a lake. She built a cabin from the surrounding pine and stone, intentionally setting the cabin up on a hill to enjoy the view, Mary Goni created a lasting legacy -- one that would continue for generations. Her attention to detail was exquisite. This cabin was no quick project. She built a smaller cabin to house herself as she created her dream house. She weathered the winter and braved the lack of electricity and basic conveniences all to create a space, a refuge, a haven from the work-a-day world. Mary was an avid birder and her copious careful notes about the birds and animals around Silver Lake serve as a talisman to those early years. She was a visionary and I often think of her as I enjoy the fruits of her labor every summer.
Mary dreamed big.
Almost every summer since John was in diapers he has spent time there. There are stories of his mom dragging the unceasing cloth diapers of a set of twins through the lake tethered to a canoe; stories of wandering for hours through the forests and climbing the famed cliff of huge boulders that borders one entire side of the lake. John knows every nook and cranny to Silver Lake and the surrounding meadow, forests and hiking trails.
When we were in college, John told me about his family's cabin at the lake and took me there one summer week-end. I was expecting a small cabin: sturdy, spartan and stoic. I gasped when I got there.
Silver Lake is a study in contradictions.
It is elegant and roomy; bold yet unobtrusive. It is is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and yet functions without electricity. It has plumbing but the water is always precarious and requires use of an outhouse. It inspires and comforts. Mostly it directs your eye and focuses your vision on the surrounding simple beauty of a forest and a lake -- unchanged and timeless. Universal in its beauty and its simplicity. Cloaked in the sounds of silence and nature, this "cabin" provides a retreat from the modern world that is unmatched. There is no cell reception. No connectivity. It is remote and isolated. The nearest town is a thirty minute drive. No Starbucks. No television. Nowhere to go but outdoors and into the forest. Nowhere to hide from your thoughts -- nothing to do or notice but the natural gifts all around you.
Since our kids have been going since they were infants, Silver Lake is something they beg for. The teen-agers don't complain about the lack of cell reception. They don't mind missing texts or catching up on Facebook. They crave the quiet. They stock up on books to read. They beg for extra days. They plan the multi-day Monopoly game and anticipate the fires that last for hours and the conversations that leisurely develop when you have nothing but time and no distractions. Mary Kate is greedy with her time at Silver Lake...anxious to get back to the lake after an inevitable outing into town to stock up on supplies. Grumbling she wishes we didn't have to leave, ever.
Mary Goni lived an astonishing 102 years, on her terms and in her way, but I so wish Mary could see her Mary Kate and know that she did it...she passed the torch. She touched her heart and she created an environmentalist, a naturalist and a devotee to Silver Lake that will only, could only, get passed on as well. Mary Kate isn't the only one by any means. Siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts feel the same way about this treasure.
Without electricity, we naturally get in the rhythm of the natural light and we find our way back to our roots...back to what matters. Back to ourselves and back to our family. Back even to our ancestors.
I wonder about this timeless treasure. For how long can cell reception and the outside world be held at bay? How will it be if the invisible circle of reception opens and the world pushes its way inside? Will future generations ever know or understand the silence of wilderness? The sense of remoteness that is simultaneously haunting and freeing?
I know we will work to delay the inevitable. In almost 80 years, Silver Lake remains unchanged. I pray that it can stay unharmed, unknown and untouched.
Today I am grateful for a stubborn woman named Mary Goni who dared to dream, sought it to fruition and kept it like a careful treasure. Thank you, Mary, for countless moments as a family, for helping me to see the beauty in natural light and the preciousness of running water and the gifts and glory of unabashed nature. Thank you for this amazing gift: Silver Lake.