I’ve stayed home over Labor Day, relaxing, broccoli-like, on the sofa or porch.
Gone to barbecues, eaten my 74th standard-issue potato salad, and wished its maker had seasoned it.*
Gone away to Williamsburg, Virginia, which was cool.
But I’ve never yet seen a better way to celebrate than in a way I came across many years ago.
Michael and I were in our canoe on Deal Lake, a natural body of water that once flowed directly out from the ocean and which, like most natural bodies of water, weaves any which way it pleases. It has wide open areas, small, secluded nooks, and a bunch more spots that are somewhere between here-I-am and shhh-you-don’t-see-me. (My former neighbor is in his 90s and grew up on the banks of this lake. He told me that in his youth he explored every watery inch of it in his canoe. And remember that scene from ‘Dead Poets Society’ in which Robin Williams’s character has his students stand up on his desk, one by one, and look out so they would learn always to seek out a new perspective? That’s what happens in a canoe as well—it makes you see the world from a fresh point of view.)
On this particular afternoon you could feel the effect that the summer sun had had on the place for the past three months. Everything—sky, water, trees, sandy grassy banks—was saturated with sun. Not in a sweltering way, but in a lazy soaked-up sleepy way. As we floated by, we saw two young women on the Allenhurst banks. They were in an alcove within the overgrown wild maples, cherries and sycamores. There they are above. I’m born and raised here, and I didn’t even know that spot existed; there must have been a hidden path to it that they knew about. They were stretched out in folding chairs, eating pizza out of the box from our only pizza place a block away downtown, drinking, talking, and soaking in the late-afternoon sun on the lake. Except for the splash of the water against our paddles and the warm breeze through the leaves on the trees, it was completely, deliciously silent.
We paddled closer and called out a hello to them. They told us their boyfriends had finished eating and had gone to play a little one-on-one basketball on the courts behind the trees. They were just hanging now. It was almost total seclusion, and thoroughly peaceful; unless you lived in one of the houses across the lake and were squinting, or were us, you never would have seen them. That’s what they were going for, they said. They decided to do something different this year, and purposely went off the grid. We told them they got Labor Day right. They grinned and said, ‘We know.’
Tucked away with a pal in a leafy nook of quiet with a pizza and some cold beer. And I don’t even drink beer. Okay, root. But to me this tiny, quiet Labor Day drop-kicks all the others.
I hope that spot’s not taken on Monday.
*I’m holding out for that blessed day.