I’m referring to the relatives from Missouri, the ones I feared might be ax murders a few years back (see; 5 Reasons to Choose Happy), who have finally returned to the lake, and they came bearing gifts. You’ll be relieved to know they brought us a custom-made set of Cornhole boards, instead of a game of ax toss, it’s those unexpected moments that give you the chills.
And this time they brought their lovely daughters, Rachel and Ellie, exceptional versions of Mom and Dad, who charmed the hell out of us with constant smiles, and
devilish sparkling eyes!
Upon meeting I say, “sorry, we’re all a little hot and sweaty.”
Ellie responds, “I like warm hugs.”
Can I keep her?
So grab a glass of wine and go boldly with us into the adventure and unexpected bounty of beautiful Lake County!
Our first evening is meticulously choreographed, stocked with Clearlake favorites, designed to ensure our guests will never leave. Now, who’s the creepy cousin? Seriously, I’m irredeemable when it comes to manipulation, but I’d like you to know Larry, Nancy, Mackenzie, Jim and Sue were totally complicit in the bait and lure plan. As they say, it takes a village to get the right shade of lipstick on a pig…
I should mention Jim and Sue are quite proficient at luring their guests, they’ve had one couple stay an entire year, we can only hope!
It’s early afternoon when our prey arrive, most of us are casually adorned in colorful swimsuits, beading with sweat, basking in any available shade, with various body parts dangling in the water. I believe the temperature reached 107 degrees today and the high humidity was not a bonus. Welcome to the lake.
Larry is referred to as our exclusive MSS, “Master Slushy Sommelier,” it takes years of practice, lots of tastings, and several industrial blenders to accomplish such a feat, but as you know, he’s persistent, and has duly earned his title. Slushys are a secret combination of ice, limeade and vodka served up in a styrofoam cup. They only taste good when you’re at the lake, a phenomenon that has never been soberly (pun intended) researched, or substantiated. You’ll just have to trust me.
After loosening everyone up with a refreshing slushy, Larry takes an able-bodied crew water skiing. I stayed home to wave from the deck, and bonus everyone is successful, although Larry took a descent spill while confronting a rather aggressive wake. No broken ribs, just sayin.
Upon their return, our beloved neighbors, Jim and Sue, serve up some delicious coffee martinis, which accompany my bountiful charcuterie board quite nicely. We gather around the hammered copper fire pit on the deck overlooking our beloved lake, catching up on life, shooting the shit, swapping stories about our pre and post COVID experiences.
It appears we’ve all become quite proficient at using tools like Zoom, living with extended family, and entertaining a ruthless game of Catan. Who knows how will these skills carry us into the future? Let me just say there’s no touch-up my appearance button in real life, but I know the value of noise-canceling headphones, and how to garner my resources when necessary.
Juggling controversial topics with care, we discovered we’re well aligned on the vac wars, masking, and managing our toilet paper supply.
Oh, how we’ve missed those Missourians.
After peeling off those soggy swimsuits and slipping into some cool cotton we convene around the dining room table for a sumptuous meal of filet mignon (cooked to perfection by Jim), mushroom pie, grilled vegetables, and arugula, watermelon, and feta salad that made me wish I was a dog with two tails. My mouth is watering just writing the words. I admit I moaned through every single bite, much to the annoyance of my fellow dinners, whereas my sister Nancy remained speechless the entire meal. She may have been adopted?
If I have learned one thing through the years, it’s this, the act of eating together creates feelings of mutual trust and rapport, and becomes a powerful means of creating kinship. Our hearts have mingled like red wine and dark chocolate, it’s not only decadent, but ages well.
Speaking of decadence, Larry opened some delicious Six Sigma Tempranillo, complimenting the provisions beautifully, and aiding in the expansiveness of the evening.
“There’s a kinship among people who have sat by a dying fire and measured the worth of their life by it.” William Golding
It’s no wonder we failed to notice the evening bleeding into the night, nor the slow cessation of several bottles of wine, while the local bat population soars into the darkened skies right over our heads. We talk for hours about nothing in particular, maybe discovering the meaning of life, but having no memory of the panacea in the morning. There is a word for this, it’s called Samar, and it might be my favorite word of all time.
The morning finds us sitting on an already warm deck, with plates of heavily buttered Belgium waffles, smothered in syrup. A beloved Clearlake tradition. We have this industrial waffle maker, it’s magical, and puts out one waffle every two minutes, worthy of the wait, and besides it stretches out the morning with a delicious sort of leisure.
Of course, there are endless cups of coffee, a morning walk in the hood, with Mike marveling at the variety of fruit trees this peninsula supports, and me retelling the intriguing tale of Captain Richard Floyd who established and christened this community as Kono Tayee back in the 1860s. Our street is named Cora, after the Captain’s wife, a name one of our granddaughters now claims.
Loading the cars with heavily laden picnic baskets we head to one of our favorite Lake County Wineries, located southeast of Lower Lake in beautiful Lake County. Six Sigma, established by a gregarious man named Kaj and his lovely wife Else, whose motto is to make the customer feel welcome, celebrated, and valued. It’s not just the usual wine tasting experience, it’s an unforgettable event, one where the owner takes the time to stop by our table and chat it up with us.
At Six Sigma they “combine the old-world art of making wine with the science of data-driven Six Sigma principles. Our team works hard toward one common goal: Making wine of extraordinary quality at an affordable price,” as noted on their website.
“Our story is in every single bottle of Six Sigma wine,” says Kaj Ahlmann. I’d say they’re a novel success and one we are driven to return to time and time again.
Needless to say, Mike and Gail joined the Six Sigma family, their selected wines will be delivered to their home in Missouri in the fall, and Larry and I can boast that we influenced our relatives to consider serial wine club membership. We’ve popped their grape so to speak.
After packing up our grub, we make our way to Vigilance Winery, just twenty miles down the road in Lower Lake, the tasting room is a rustic old farmhouse that was once home to one of Lake County’s pioneering families, and as a bonus, there are spectacular panoramic views overlooking Anderson Marsh State Park. It doesn’t get better than this.
Okay, admittedly our cousins are have not been trained to withstanding the effects of visiting multiple wineries in a single day, their endurance is shall we say subpar. After a short flight of delicious wines, the drive home was eerily quiet, a few of us snoozed a wee bit, but upon entering the nicely cooled house it was a total sleep-fest. Bodies everywhere.
What the hell?
Not the napper type myself, I enjoyed the quiet cool of the kitchen as I putzed around preparing wild king salmon with a dusting of feta cheese and pesto, grilled asparagus, and a caprese salad with Sue’s homegrown tomatoes and basil. Yes, I was hydrating all the while with several glasses of refreshing ice water before wandering over to the Goudreau’s for some fresh company, cantaloupe, and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc.
One by one the Severance’s emerge from their afternoon siesta and join us on the lush patio of Jim and Sue’s.
Our last supper is bittersweet, I offer a small toast thanking our guests for making the long journey to the lake, for their generosity, and for bringing their lovely daughters, whose endless good cheer added so much to our gathering.
Knowing this is our last night together, our next visit still unknown, I’m a wee bit melancholy.
Many of our discussions revolve around travel plans for a nebulous future, mountains we hope to conquer, canyons waiting to be forged, formula one races we hope to attend, a shopping spree in Paris, and of course our plans, now delayed by two years, to walk the El Camino de Santiago from France to Spain. Our buckets are overflowing.
Mike says, “I need more than one lifetime to pursue all the vocations I enjoy and places I hope to explore.”
I say, “I know, but maybe we have multiple lives, this might not be our first rodeo, it could be our thousandth?”
Mike wasn’t buying it, he says, “I’ll make the most out of the one I have because honestly, I’m doing exactly what I love.”
Me, “oh, that’s going in the blog.”
Nicholas Sparks claims, “the reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we’ve found each other. And maybe each time, we’ve been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.”
I will boast, on our final evening, while sipping wine on the deck, we actually outlasted the ritual surge of bats at dusk as they make their way into the inky night. We decided to make it an early evening, nonetheless, in order to accommodate the Severance’s departure in the morning. Although there’s nothing good about goodnight when you know it means goodbye in the morning.
Gail says on the morning of their departure, “I love the Swedish word, resfeber, which means the restless best of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins.”
The restless best of a traveler’s heart, I love that.
I say, “awe, that’s from Lost in Translation, great book.” I was actually stuck on the word, Iktsuarpok, which means the act of repeatedly going outside to check if someone is coming.
Gail responds, “but they don’t have a word that describes the feeling when the adventure is over and it’s time to go home.”
I say, “it’s called bittersweet.”
I have this little word book I stow in the guest room featuring significant words from around the world which carry with them expressions that resonate on a human level, regardless of nationality, because as Walter Benjamin notes languages are not strangers to one another, and given the chance neither are human beings.
Our final adieu was tinged with gratitude, knowing what we know about the capriciousness of life, if we’ve learned anything from COVID we now understand every moment is precious, having in it the essence of finality.
Standing on the sidewalk watching their car drive away, we wave at the enormity of the world that separates us, but we lean into our next crazy adventure, whatever that may be, because the restless best of our traveling hearts are mingled with the Missourians.
Until we meet again…
I’m Living in the Gap, smiling at the memories, until we see you again.
- “The summer ends and we wonder who we are and there you go, my friends, with your boxes in your car and today I passed the high school, the river, the maple tree I passed the farms that made it through the last days of the century and I knew that I was going to learn again again, in this less hazy light I saw the fields beyond the fields the fields beyond the fields” Dar Williams
- “What does brace mean, anyway? Brace. Such an odd word. It comes from the Latin brachium, meaning arm. It means, as its heart, to embrace. It was a hug. A hug good-bye.” Laurence Gonzales
- “Celebrate the people in your life who are there because they love you for no other reason than because you are YOU.” Mandy Hale
- “Woven into our lives is the very fire from the stars and genes from the sea creatures, and everyone, utterly everyone, is kin in the radiant tapestry of being.” Elizabeth A. Johnson