Which Button Will You Push?

The ground is saturated with water, and puddles reflect the deep blue sky above. It's too cold to write you from the porch this morning, so I’m huddled in my art studio in the chair normally used by models. My heater is blowing warm air over me as I try to shed the goosebumps from the cold. It’s chilly and almost freezing. Fall in Austin lasted less than a week, dropping from the 90s to the 80s and then to the high 30s. The leaves haven't even changed. I’m hopeful that later on color will come and the temperature will return to the 70s.  Though we’ve been back less than three weeks, it seems the lake was an eternity ago. I miss its deep green pines, and the scent of pine in the air. I miss our rustic old 140-year-old home, which has no road access, and of course I miss our friends there. But summers are short and life continues elsewhere. And it’s good to be home. Visiting Dignitaries Near us on a neighboring lake where we spend our summers, residents have hosted many prominent guests, including every sitting president since Eisenhower, Supreme Court justices, secretaries of state, prime

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Shield Thyself

The distant mountain of gray-blue contrasts against the white sky, which silhouettes the gnarled, twisted scrub oaks, looking like a movie set — as though an army of armored trolls is about to come in the scene. As I sit here, bright pinkish clouds begin to light up the horizon and illuminate the sky to the sound of angels singing. Fields of little yellow flowers sprinkle the naturally weed-filled fields, and the beginnings of crunchy brown leaves are sprinkled in between. Signs of fall in Texas, a place where rich color is rarer than finding a diamond in a cave.  On the old porch, red Adirondack chairs remind us of the place we spend our summers and mark our return here to Texas. Though we’re always sad to leave the Adirondack Mountains, the stunning fall color had ended and the ice was beginning to form on the lake, which is not a good thing when you have to get your food and supplies in by boat. For everything, there is a season, and we're here to enjoy Texas again until late spring. Living in Lockdown Though life is grand, and it’s good to be home, I know many people who


Change the World with Your Brilliance

It could be a horror movie. Fog so dense I can barely see my hands in front of me. The cold air hitting the warm water has made the lake completely disappear. Gradually, as the sun peeks out, I can see a soft silhouette of trees, and then, as the fog burns off, the water becomes visible. Then some hint of color appears in the trees, until the fog has completely lifted.  Years ago, on a morning like this, before I ever had kids, my dad would come and wake me to get out early in the boat to shoot photos of boats and camps in the mist. We would cover ourselves in layers of jackets, venture into the freezing air, and capture some of the best photographs ever. One August morning I remember him waking us early to tell me we had six inches of snow overnight and we needed to get out and photograph it before it melted off. It was gone two hours later, but I got some of the best photos I ever took on that day. Wake Up!! Life as Rhoads kids had a lot to do with waking up early for an unplanned adventure.


Fear Not

A quiet roar of leaves rattling through thousands of wilderness acres fills the distant air as the lapping water nudges the rocks on the shore by the barely moving lake. A nearby spring-born loon proudly calls out, knowing she is near ready to fly toward the Southern border within weeks as the brisk air turns to ice. A close gathering of loon relatives loudly encourages her as she flops and flutters a Sunday-morning experimental flight.Glistening deep yellow sun reflects like dancing elves, sparkling and shimmering atop the surface of the water. Black lace; pine tree needles in silhouette frame the scene I love so dearly as I leave my warm little cabin to venture into the chilled air to visit the 140-year-old octagon-shaped porch on the lake. Filled with the sounds of beeping birds, fluttering squirrels, and the tapping little feet of field mice.Yellow lupines and goldenrod spring up to signal fall as the dappled light makes the apples in the tree behind the kitchen glow orange. Deeply I breathe in the crisp fall air, knowing we’ll soon have to leave this unheated paradise once colder weather hits. I’m rolling the dice that I’ll see enough fall color saturate the


Why Me?

Fall is in the air. The light is dim, as if winter is around the corner, and there is a warm cast to the distant wood, the result of the trees gradually beginning to rust. Soon our mountain will glow with red and the ferns will become alizarin crimson. Goldenrod plants and little orange flowers are budding everywhere. Though it’s still warm, I feel the need to put on a sweater, because it's just that time of year here in the wilderness. We hope to stay as long as possible, until our heat-free cabin freezes us out. Then we will return to life as normal. If there is such a thing these days. Nineteen years ago yesterday, I was due to be in the Twin Towers with my management team from RadioCentral, a company I had founded. You can read the account of my near-miss here (scroll down). What fascinates me is the extended life I was granted. Monumental Days There are days we always remember, like the day John F. Kennedy died, the day a man walked on the moon, the day the Space Shuttle exploded in mid-air, and of course, September 11, 2001. On that day, my pregnant


Tuning In

Clanking is the sound I hear as the ropes hit the masts on the sailboats tied to the dock nearby, the swift breeze rocking them to and fro. The raging sound of an outboard motor zipping from across the lake carries as if right in front of me as a neighbor goes out to pick up the local paper, as he does every Sunday morning. There is no delivery when you live in a boat-access-only camp.Puffy clouds filled with dark droplets waiting to pour out float sluggishly across the cloudscape sky. In the distance a slight hint of rust on some leaves hails an early indicator of fall.Summer, as of this weekend, is officially over. It’s as though it just started, not only because time flies when you’re having fun, it flies when you’re tied down and staying home.  The Year That Never Was I find it almost impossible to believe we’re this far into the year that never was. The year that disappeared behind a mask. The year that forced us into lockdown, only to discover things about ourselves we otherwise would never have known.As we put a bow on summer and set it to drift off into the


The Magic for Success

Massive gray and yellow clouds are billowing, filling up the sky in every direction and racing at high speed to win the cloud race. The sound of thousands of acres of blowing trees is almost deafening. Trees are bent and there are whitecaps on the water sloshing up against the dock, which is too wet for comfort. The temperature has dropped and a chill fills the air, countered by burning logs in the ancient stone fireplace of this old Adirondack lodge. The scent is heavenly as the smoke swirls and dances to merge with the clouds once it escapes the old red brick chimney. This storm is fierce, but I cannot imagine being in Hurricane Laura. My heart goes out to everyone in its path and those who have had to battle destruction at its highest level. Looking Back With all three kids in college now, I’m thinking about them more than ever and second-guessing the things I should have done, should have taught them. I can see, for instance, that I let them off the hook, did not work them hard enough to develop great work ethics, and yes, they are a little entitled or spoiled. That certainly was


Moving On

The scent of balsam fills my lungs as I take long, deep drawn-out breaths not just for the scent and the freshness, but for the medicinal effect on my state of mind. Adirondack pines reach their roots out to the edge of the water to drink its mineral-rich nectar, which invigorates its deep green needles to spread like open arms, welcoming us back in the Adirondack Mountains. The eerie call of the loons reminds us that they will soon congregate to make plans to fly south. Instinctively they know the cooling air and water will be their formal invitation to a winter in Florida. Soon, probably in a week or so, we’ll start to see the first indications of brilliant reds pop out for an early fall, with the rest of them a few weeks to follow. Rarely do we get a chance to see such brilliant fall color, when our mountain turns red and the reflections of color will dance in the water. Our forced summer returns for school have prevented our time here in this soon-to-come season of beauty. We’re looking forward to it, though deeply missing our newly appointed college students. Hot! Roasting in record 106-degree temperatures for


The Opposite of Dread

Fog covers the windows as I glance out at the porch. Condensation from the frigid air conditioning trying to keep up against oppressive heat has replaced the fog and cool mornings on the Adirondack lake.Slamming my face as I walk out to the porch, the heat is like the blast of getting too close to a pizza oven, bearable for only a brief moment before my roasting occurs. Yet I make my way to the wicker couch to look out over the vast rough weeds, now brown as toast, and the twisting cedar trees, which thrive on the heat.Briefly, I can feel the heat against my bare legs as I sit on the red cushions. It's soothing in a way, like a heating pad on my sore muscles from being cramped inside an airplane. A Fresh Start Being back in Austin is comforting because it’s home, yet I always pine for my lakefront summers and wish they would never end. “Be careful what you wish for,” people would say, and today, the return home is followed by a week of driving our triplets off to three different colleges to plug them into a new life on campus, and the start of


Moving Our Immovable Mind

My mind flashed to a scene in The Hobbit as I looked across the glassy lake, not a ripple in sight. The reflections of the tall, dark pines are perfectly in focus in the still water, and a layer of thick fog at the shoreline is making the lake and the trees blend together as though airbrushed.  The bright golden morning sun is blinding me as it reflects off the lake, and, like clockwork, the fog is burning off before my eyes.  There is a chill in the air leftover from the passing hurricane, which brought rain and a cold front. I can feel the goosebumps on my exposed legs as my warm red-checked flannel shirt cuddles my core and the hot coffee dribbles warmly into my system like water in a radiator. Summer’s End Every year for the last 18 years, August signals our last week or two here, knowing we are beholden to the schedules of schools back in Texas. With the idea of leaving come the thoughts of all the things I intended to do this summer but never got around to, the sadness of departing our favorite place on earth, and the end of something we


The Talk

For a brief moment, I thought I had woken up in the middle of the night, and was ready to put the old patched quilt over my head. But a quick glance at my watch confirmed it was time to get up. Looking out the wavy glass window of our 140-year-old cabin, the sky was dark, and the rain was blasting the roof like a thousand nails being dropped every second. Reluctantly, my bare feet slid into my old rubber Bean boots, and I rushed through the rain to the other cabin for my morning brew. I’m soaked but beaming, because my favorite time on the screened-in porch is during a thunderstorm, as the roof rattles like a freight train with every boom. Big Change The ticking clock reminds me that this is the last two weeks of normal life with our triplets, who go off to college soon. The family will leave our summer paradise, drive to their respective colleges, and return to a very quiet house. Friends told me they cried for weeks when their birds flew the nest, I’m sure we’ll be no different. Yet we’re excited about their new lives, their new adventures, and the next chapter for


Drawing Bad Cards

If I close my eyes at this moment, I can hear a gentle breeze quietly tickling the pine branches above and the slight slosh of water hitting the dock. It's heavenly. So peaceful. So quiet.  Opening my eyes after a deep breath of the freshest air I’ve ever breathed, I feast my eyes on a large, pink billowing cloud, about 30 stories tall, floating just to the east of us and carrying a rainstorm with it in the distance. I can hear an occasional distant rumble and can see a gray sheet of rain falling below it. The pink morning sun is coloring the deep green trees, yet if I were to run and get my easel to capture the mood, it would be gone within moments. I’ll just try to imprint it in my memory. On the dock across the lake I can see two red spots — Adirondack chairs that glow when the sun hits them, and then are barely visible when it tucks behind a cloud. The red against the green is the perfect color harmony. Lucky When I was back in Austin for PleinAir Live, I mentioned how eager I was to return here when someone


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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