It’s 5:00 am.  I don’t know why, maybe the light, but all summer this is the time I wake up.

I’m snuggled under a quilt sewn by my Grandma Edith, or so I believe, in the bed that was my Grandma Nellie’s, this I know for a fact. The spindle bed is now located in what was my parent’s bedroom at the cabin for 56 years. When dad died, it became my mom’s and now it is mine.

I hoist myself up on my knees, push back Mom’s white ironed curtains, and look out the small east window. At this hour, the sun rises red over to the left of the east bay. Red. That strange ball of red we have seen all summer through the haze – the smoke from Canadian fires.

The scene is other worldly. The usual diamond-sun sparkled path across the water shimmers pink. The purple pickerel plants begin to bloom amongst the white and yellow lilies. The birds don’t even start to chirp for another half hour.

Then, they start. I record them. An Ovenbird, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Hairy Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo and a new one, the Broad-winged Hawk. No, I’m not a birder, but the Merlin app is great fun! I am far from alone in this backwater woodland.

I’m never alone, despite the appearance of a hermitage. Mom used to call this a “self-imposed” exile. It is an opportunity that I feel fortunate to have among my choices. I’m well aware this isn’t an option that everyone on the planet has.

I sit back on the bed, throw the quilt aside and put my feet down on the wood floor, a floor that I appreciate more since I read my dad’s building journals. I knew he pulled scraps together, but the two pages of inventory I found this week confessed to inability to purchase underlayment, a regret he carried along with use of 2”x 4” studs instead of six-inch, and so went the list.

My list includes what he did do. He taught me to fill the water pails and wood box in anticipation of future need; to put away all the swim paraphernalia in the boat house at day’s end; to sit quietly by the bonfire as the moon rose and how to change the spark plug on the mower.  Mom did her share of mowing, wood piling, cooking and parenting, all done quietly in the shadows of “big Building” projects.

In the kitchen, I find her cookware, two racks of spices, once alphabetized, her brown, full-bodied apron and dishtowels proclaiming “Kurtz” with a German motif. The kitchen is one of my “Zen” places – the place I mindfully heat the pumped water for dishes. The place I put the dishes in a rack by the window to dry in the breeze. The place I take the Loon glasses from George and fill them with ice. I notice the crunch of the ice releasing from the tray. Zen.

Here, time does not exist. Here, past and present overlap. Here, clocks tick, but the weather and body guide. Here, time flows unencumbered by humans. It is a figment of sunrises and sunsets.

Dad liked to quote the Bible verse about “10,000 years is but as a night passed in Your sight,” or some facsimile. I listen to bumblebees, notice the monarch dance from milkweed to daisy and stop to watch the dragonfly basking on the dock. Every summer, we are here in some rendition, not the same as last year, and yet – the same. To me, eternity is – then, now, always – layered simultaneously.  That is “time” in a universal scope.

I’ve cultivated a plan of staying here longer stretches this summer, opening more opportunities for friends and family to venture down my lane. “If not now, when?” echoes as calendar pages flip over. I miss Mom’s knack at cooking and Dad’s offer to take folks for a spin around the lake, but I can still provide a unique place for making memories. We sit on the shoreline swing and look across the lake at a view that hasn’t changed much since moccasins padded overland and birchbark canoes paddled past.

What footprint will I leave? What plans will I make to protect this shoreline, this esker, these animals and all those birds popping up on my Merlin app?

If I don’t do something now about the future of this place, then when?

Time might not exist here, but it still passes!

Night falls. After checking for snakes 😊, I shove off in my kayak to catch the western sky at sunset. The weekenders are on highways homeward bound, leaving this side of the lake to me and a pair of loons. I round the island and again see the hazy red ball of a sun, peeking through the branches on Hemlock Hill and shedding itself onto the lake.

Without warning, one loon popped up next to my kayak, looked at me and then calmly stayed close – two creatures together, floating along the lake’s pink sparkling path. The gentle waves buoyed us westward until the thumbnail moon rose, also pink, in the sky.

For those moments, time did not exist, yet the echo of his mate calling from the bay – a call dating back to dinosaur days – pleaded for me to be a good steward going forward.

"God, don't permit that man destroy this marvelous world you have created."