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  • Angela O'Brien-Greywitt

As the Summer Fades into Fall


As the summer fades into fall, there are transitions everywhere around me. The leaves are beginning to change color, the winds gather the leaves together in a swirling, circular, dance lifting them up into the air before they fall scattering to the ground. The hot summer temperatures we have had this year give way to cooler temperatures. Summer's flowers are a bit leggy. They have outgrown their pots and window boxes. Their colors are still brilliant at this time of year and bring much beauty and joy. I look deeply into their glorious colors as I water them and thank them for gracing me with their lives in my garden this year. I know their time is coming to an end. The annual flowers must bid ado every year in Minnesota because they cannot survive the fall and winter's dwindling light and colder temperatures that will be coming our way very soon.


I wander through the garden paying close attention to all of the plants as I carefully tend them before I head out of town on a four day trip. I spend as much time outdoors as I can walking barefoot in the grass and observing all of the plant life before they die off or go dormant. The perennials are storing energy needed for the winter that they have gathered from the sunlight over the spring and summer months. I am filling my buckets up too with summer's last days and enjoying it all before I have to let it go for the ushering in of fall. Change happens all the time. Fall is a time to harvest what has grown within me and all around me over the year.


My grandchildren are thrilled to be joining the throngs of students and teachers as they head to school. One will be in third grade, two will start their first year of kindergarten, and three will be in preschool. How can this be? They, too, are caught up in this energetic time of transition and filled with excitement and trepidation. I can feel the changing energies all around buzzing just beneath my skin. September is a time for school to begin, a time to lean into all of the changes that are happening, and a time to adhere to a more formal schedule as we say, "goodbye," to the freedom of summer.


Our last hurrah for the summer was a last minute weekend trip north to stay at a cabin on Sugar Lake. We usually visit Sugar Lake with some of our family members, but the resort had been booked out for two years and we could not get a reservation. Luckily, they had a cancellation for a two-bedroom cabin and we grabbed it. We invited another couple to join us and we hit the road.


The first time I visited Sugar Lake, I was amazed by her beauty, glorious turquoise color, and the clarity of the water. You can see the bottom of the lake at unbelievable depths. This lake is very still and is the color of the ocean in the Caribbean. Why did I not know about this incredible place? It is magical. It has been called the, "jewel of the north," for it's aquamarine color due to high levels of calcium carbonate that protects it from acid rain. The lake truly is a magnificent jewel and has become a favorite place for us to visit.


The lake is also called, Siseebakwet the name for sugar in the Ojibwa language. The Ojibwa, like many indigenous people, had and many still have, a deep relationship with nature. An ancient connection with the land and the cosmos. This connection allowed them to be tapped into the optimal time for planting and harvesting resources of the land in conjunction with the seasons. The Ojibwa tribe had a sugar camp on the north side of Siseebakwet Lake many years ago. A long-held tradition where the families within a tribe would gather together, each having a specific job to do, sharing time and oral traditions, and they would harvest maple syrup every spring. They would cook the sap down to make maple sugar, syrup, and seasoning for food.


The Ojibwa have a great respect for our natural resources. They honored all of life, the land, trees, and water. They believe that water is life and is unconditional love. No one can live without water. They believed the lake held healing properties and had magical powers. I agree. Times, people, and traditions have changed over the years at Sugar Lake. We are vacationing on Sugar Lake and not harvesting maple sugar or living off of the land. Sugar Lake is a beautiful place for families to gather and spend time with each other. Spending time with family and friends in a natural setting is a sacred time. I feel honored to be able to visit Siseebakwet and to play in her waters. I enjoy gleaning information about her history. It is up to all of us to take care of our natural resources.


On our drive north, the closer we got to Cohasset, MN where Sugar Lake is located, the smoke in the air from forest fires burning farther north was visible and we began to smell it filtering into the vents of the car. It was also raining. I said a prayer that the air would clear and the fires would cease for all concerned. We had been driving for a few hours and I didn't want to have to turn around and go home before we even arrived at Sugar Lake. We were looking forward to spending time away from our everyday schedules.


The drought this year has left the lake levels low everywhere and there have been many forest fires. The fires burning in Minnesota and Canada were affecting the air quality we were currently breathing. Fire is a powerful element and transformational agent for change. When we go through the fire spiritually it can get us to a new place. The natural world has already set the stage for this weekend's energy at Sugar Lake with change, rebirth, and renewal. When we arrived at Sugar Lake it was raining. The sky and lake were literally the same color...a misty gray that possessed a mystical, otherworldly, appearance. I could feel and sense the winds of change twirling.


There is barely a differentiation between the water and sky. Perhaps the smoky, misty, air is yet another message to unfold...change is happening...embrace it all. As I walk out onto the dock that is just beyond our cabin, I look down and I can see through the crystal, clear, water to the sandy bottom of the lake. I take off my shoes and I wade into Siseebakwet. I am here. The lake is showing me a different side of her. The sun is not out. The lake does not look turquoise. But she is still. She is clear. She is unconditional love.


I can't see far out into the distance because of the misty air. I thank the lake for her magic and I feel the innate wisdom of nature all around me. I have faith that it will be a wonderful weekend filled with new insights we have yet to uncover. The change in the air is pregnant with possibilities and allows time for deep reflection. The color of the lake and sky only adds to the mystery and healing properties of Siseebakwet.


The rain stopped for the evening just long enough to walk around the resort giving our friends a quick tour. They had never visited Sugar Lake. We walked to grab some dinner at Otis's bar and grill which is conveniently located on the resort's property. We enjoyed conversations and catching up with each other. We took a slow stroll back to the cabin across the beach and along the shoreline. There was a magnificent sunset across the lake....ah, Sugar Lake does not disappoint. I was able to snap a few photos with my phone camera that I will share.


The next morning, I woke up early to anther gray, rainy, misty day. No one was up yet so I lingered a little longer in bed than I normally do. It was just too cozy not to. The cabin windows were slightly ajar offering entrance to the cool breeze off the lake and I was grateful that the smell of smoke had been lifted. The level of the lake water is low this year so there were no motor sounds from boats on the lake. It was quiet and peaceful. I could hear the gentle waves lapping at the shore. The late summer rain falling softly was an added gift to aid in the quietude. The rain was also slowly replenishing our beloved Sugar Lake and distilling the smoke. I was very grateful that the smoke was dissipating.


There were additional sounds of nature that began to waft in the window with the rain and the waves. The vibrating sounds of the cicadas were humming outside. Cicadas remind me of my immortality, to keep my vibration high, and to always look up. When I peaked out the window, there was a crowd of the resident gulls standing on the boulders that protruded from the water, many gathered along the shore, and some flew overhead. They are a familiar sight at Sugar Lake. Their squawks that sound like laughter brought a smile to my face. The gulls are symbolic of creativity, play, and the importance of a good laugh. As the sounds fade in and out of my awareness, I hear the mournful wailing of the loons. Their song is one of my favorite sounds and one I shan't ever forget.


The loon's wail reverberates across the lake and resonates deep in my soul conjuring up a host of lovely memories from spending summers on Lake Roosevelt with my children and husband over the years. I became lost in thought. We used to stay at a small resort aptly named, The Call of the Loon. The Call of the Loon housed 5 rustic cabins where our family would spend a week every summer. We would get up early and take a leisurely boat ride and drink coffee or hot chocolate. We could hear the call of the loons everywhere and watch them dive down under the water. The lake was peaceful and placid as we slowly boated from one end of the lake to the other. The days were filled with boat rides, skiing, fishing, swimming, kayaking, or just playing near the water. The meals were light and informal and lots of snacks were enjoyed throughout the day.


I loved to sit in the boat tied to the dock and read. I could feel the water gently rocking the boat back and forth and it would lull me into quiet as I would devour all of the books I brought with me. The boys never understood my love for reading. They would say, "We are on vacation. Why are you reading?" I would respond with, "Reading IS a vacation for me!" Minnesota lakes to me are reminiscent of playing, boating, swimming, and relaxing time spent with family and no schedules. Freedom to play in the water and just be. A time where you are waking to the rising sun and listening to the myriad of sounds all around and going to bed under the stars when it is dark. If you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.


A time spent with family enjoying the lake and outdoor activities and ending every night gathered around a campfire telling stories and possibly making s'mores (roasting marshmallows on a stick, placing a piece of chocolate on the melting marshmallow and sandwiching it between 2 graham crackers). Ah, the healing sights, feelings, and sounds of a Minnesota summer run deep and remind me of my life and all that I have experienced and continue to experience. It doesn't matter how old I am, I will always try to tap into the child within that truly knows how to live in the moment and knows how to play.


The rainy morning in bed gives way to more memories stored within my memory banks of having spent most of my life here in Minnesota. I hold close in my heart for the countless times I swam in the lakes of Minnesota throughout my life. You can wade slowly into the water from the shore where you can gradually get used to the cold water temperatures or you can run and dive in and get it over with right away. I love being able to run and jump off the end of a dock and splash into the cold water if it is deep enough to jump in. I also love jumping or diving off the back of the boat when we are anchored in deeper water. It is invigorating and has the ability to take your breath away only for a moment. It is refreshing and makes you feel alive, childlike, and present. Swimming in a clean, clear, lake in the summer has always been a memory of pure delight for me at any age.


This weekend will be no different. Because the water is shallow this year and it will be a rainy weekend, we decided to leave our boat at home. I will not be able to jump off the back of the boat. I will have to wade slowly into the cool, healing, waters of Sugar Lake later today because the water at the end of the dock is too shallow to run and jump into it. There is a short list of things I must do while visiting Sugar Lake this weekend. I will walk, swim, and kayak in these cool, healing waters before I leave. Rain or shine.


The end of summer is here and fall is fast approaching. The changing of the seasons from summer to fall often brings out a slight feeling of melancholy just beneath the surface of my awareness. The grief that summer is ending and fall is beginning. I am sure that it stems from distant memories of attending school in the fall throughout the years of my life. I listen gratefully to the all of the sounds of summer on this chilly Minnesota morning as I reach down to press the button to turn my electric blanket back on. It is still early and quiet within the cabin and I am not quite ready to emerge from my warm bed. I pull the covers up to my chin like I used to do as a child. I am nestled comfortably into their warm embrace for a few moments longer. Waking up with ease and not hurrying has become my norm. Afterall, I am on vacation.


While I stay in bed during the last few moments of this early, gray, morning, I continue to ponder. I have always been interested in the deeper meanings of pretty much everything. I look at rainy days as a "free pass" from our daily routines. It is an invitation to move at a different pace and to lean into life. Rain gives us a quieter and perhaps softer opportunity to reflect on our lives, memories, or thoughts we may have been chewing on that might need our attention.


The quiet rain allows the answers to float in softly on the cool breeze. I have enjoyed this morning taking time to remember and be grateful for all of memories in my life of amazing times shared with my family and friends enjoying Minnesota Lakes. The sounds and sights of nature, all her creatures, the power of her landscape, and her healing bodies of water, are all around us and have spiritual messages to share with us. Wake up to the power of communication to the natural world. She has much to share. Our thoughts and feelings are incredibly powerful. If you think of thoughts as being seeds that you plant...what seeds have you planted this year that you can harvest this right now?





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