It has been a day of big decisions. What do I want to eat for breakfast? For lunch? For dinner? What color t-shirt do I wear today? Do I take a nap on the couch, in a hammock or both? Is the cocktail cruise around the lake going to be clockwise or counterclockwise?
Mary Lou and I are enjoying two weeks at Compass Lake. We are joined by my mother, Jobie, who like us has been coming to this lake her entire life. Usually, we are joined by family and friends in a frenzy of activity. But then, we do not normally take this extended vacation in October.
The water has already turned dark blue and is so clear you can see the bottom a dozen feet deep. The breeze has been steady until today when the moss started hanging straight down from the cypress trees. It will not get above the seventies today, making the spring water too cold for all but the heartiest of young people.
We have counted no more than a handful of boats on the lake each day, with even fewer jet skis. You can hear workmen nailing on a new house a mile across the lake. During a six-mile walk around the lake, you will likely see no more than six vehicles pass.
As we sat having breakfast this morning, we were all staring out the windows at the same view we see every meal. To be honest, the view is hardly ever the same. Today the water was like glass, the day before there were whitecaps blowing directly towards us. Today the sky is as blue as the water. Yesterday, geese circled the lake with clouds filling the skies.
The cypress trees are starting to change color, even as the seven live oak trees I planted after Hurricane Michael are a hearty and healthy green. The stars at night seem unusually intense, as they always do later in the year. It seems like the brightest stars are always on the coldest nights.
We have turned on the heat for the first time but have run the air-conditioning as well. We enjoyed two meals at The Cove and cooked some of the best steaks ever last night. Food is always better here. Not fancier, but better.
Several books have already been finished. The television picks up several hundred channels, which is wildly different from the selection when I was a child. Nevertheless, the TV does not seem to be on too much.
We sleep well, with the long nights seemingly not affected by the numerous naps. Everyone gets up when they want. There is no alarm clock, and most bedrooms have blackout shades.
My mother has had her own routine for many years. Eat, swim, read, nap, repeat. It has been too cold for her to swim, but the rest of the routine remains. Compass Lake has been her happy place for 91 years. It is mine, too.
Even though I have been retired for almost five years, it is not always easy to slow down to this pace. I learned years ago that I could not really relax on vacation until the third day. Two weeks in the same place doing nothing is an acquired skill. It is a habit worth pursuing. I have become quite good at it.
My mother will soon go back to Atlanta and Mary Lou and I will return to Auburn. We will resume a faster pace and a more engaged life. But we will be renewed in a way I did not understand for most of my life.
This time away from the world will leave us all relaxed, recharged and refocused. That is a good thing at any age.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com