The Contrast of Summer

Stillness comes in various forms. Today, the lake has no movement as I sit looking on from the old screened porch. There is not a leaf rustling, not so much as a momentary breeze, and the sticky high humidity is hovering against the distant shore, obscuring the view, making the deep greens look more like a deep turquoise. A pinkish glow is reflecting into the water from the sky, and the gentle slam of a screen door and the voices of a couple chatting over coffee are as clear to me as if I were sitting at the same table. The lake is a giant amplifier, which is why we teach our kids to always be careful about what they say when they’re on a boat or sitting on the porch. This morning, as I have my coffee, a huge bowl of ripe, deep red strawberries picked up at yesterday’s farmers market are about the most flavorful I’ve had. Store-bought berries don’t cut it, so I binge in summertime. Boom! When I was a child growing up on Lake Wawasee in Indiana, we used to take our pontoon boat onto the lake, and it seemed as if we were right


Change Is Ripping Away the Past

Fierce winds are blowing the sloshing water up onto the dock and a thin mist of water keeps spraying me, making me nudge my old green Adirondack chair back farther and farther. It’s rare to see whitecaps on this little lake in the wilderness. Amazing to me, the birds are flying overhead, twirling and diving into the thermals of air, as if they’re at an amusement park on a roller coaster. It makes me wish I could fly. Wheeeee. Deep, rich greens fill the distant shore as the tops of the trees are splashed with warm morning light. It’s early here, and it’s just me, the birds, and the sunlight. Everyone else is nestled in their cabins in their little brass beds and flannel bedspreads.  Erratic This has been a week of weird weather. We’ve had massive thunderstorms and gully washers of rain, thunder that rattled the old cabin, winds that have toppled sailing boats, and cold fronts that took us from 90-degree heat to warm blankets and cold nights for perfect sleeping. The Value of Storms Life, like challenging weather, always sees some benefit after the damage of the worst of storms. And though the world at the moment


Your New You

Sponges bounce below my bare feet as I walk atop deep green moss and thick pillows of soft pine needles, making my way to the front dock. Startled by my presence, a family of loons sends out a series of emergency calls to warn others on the lake, which is still as glass. Chirps of other birds fill the tall pines at the base of the lake as soft ripples splash up against the dock. Handmade in 1904 My chair is an old Westport Adirondack chair, crafted in 1904 according to the stamp on the back. This dock has been its home for 116 years, and it’s seen the rise and fall of tuberculosis, and the 1918 pandemic. Then, like now, families escaped to the woods to ride it out and distance themselves from the cities. Coming Changes Sipping my hot coffee as I stare out over the lake, I wonder who, over the years, has been seated in these chairs and what conversations they had. Last night, some friends, properly socially distanced, visited as we shared a toast and celebrated being free enough to gather. We meandered on to topics about how our lives and our cities will change.


The Power of Dreaming

Roaring thunder is echoing off the distant mountain and the lake acts like a giant amplifier, making the booms even louder. The old porch is shaking with each blast, and the rain is slamming loudly on the roof above. Rain is driving sideways like arrows trying to penetrate the screens, yet somehow the water isn’t coming in. My dream was to one day have a porch like this. Sitting here in a storm is one of my favorite things; it's as if I’m defying nature, nestled and secure in my little wooden shelter. Did you know there is a difference between goals and dreams? I’ve found that goals are intentional, and often related to dreams — but dreams tend to be random, often not formalized by the process of goal-setting. Which do you think is more powerful? A set goal or a random dream? In Trouble for Daydreaming In fourth grade at Harrison Hill Elementary I was sent to the principal's office for daydreaming, not paying attention in class. Most of my school years were considered unproductive because of my horrific grades, which had to do with not paying attention, not wanting to be there, being bored, and being in


A Summer of Joy

Glitter has been sprinkled all over the water, and the light is blasting it to reflect like lasers into my retinas. The sound of a mild slosh hits the old wooden dock, and the 50-year-old metal rowboat with peeling green paint and a maroon Evinrude outboard stands ready, with poles hanging over the sides awaiting today’s fishing expedition.  Brilliant Morning Light The tops of the trees are orange, while the shaded part of the pines remains deep greenish-blue as the trees eagerly await a sunbath when it rises further. The mountain in the distance is looking especially inviting today, as if to say, “Come, climb me on the first day.” We arrived here in paradise late last night, ready to go into our two-week self-quarantine after breathing the mask-filtered air on an almost empty airplane. But oh! What a place to be stuck. A boat-access-only cabin that was built 140 years ago, and we have nothing to do but absorb its silence and dust its shelves. I’m ready. Thirty Years and Counting If I were counting, I would guess this is summer number 31 for me on these lakes. I first visited in 1988 or ’89 and never wanted to


A New Chapter

Drinking in the beauty of Austin, Texas, with its deep green cedar trees and gnarled oaks, I’m staring out over the yard one last time. No more will I sit on this porch in my red wicker couch on the long covered porch with the tin roof that rings like a metal drum with each raindrop. No more will I cuddle with the dogs here as I write. I’ll miss the deer in the yard and the neighbors’  Longhorn cattle, but alas, now that the kids have graduated high school, summer calls us to an old cabin on the lake where I’ll be reaching out to you for the balance of the summer. It's good for us, our family, our kids, and even the family who stays in our Austin home each summer, who get a change of scenery. Silence But when we return, our secure little nest will be silent. No more slamming doors, teen drama, setting the table for five, no more arguments, but also no more hanging out on the couch with a day-to-day debriefing. Thankfully, two of our triplets remain in the state, only a couple of hours away, and one in a neighboring state about


The Absence of Ceremony

Each morning during self-isolation I’ve been without my normal routine. Normally, pre-COVID-19, I’d awaken early, make breakfast for the kids, see them off to school, head to the gym or yoga, come home to get ready, and then go to my office. Now, I’m staying up late, usually until midnight, sometimes one or two, and there is no routine to awaken for. My kids have been sleeping in on days when there are no Zoom classes, or getting up two minutes before class, which they can attend in their pajamas. No breakfast to make, no gym available to visit. The only thing consistent is my “go to the office” routine, which has been at home since the kids were born. Sleeping In Frankly, I like sleeping till I awaken and not having to deal with an alarm, but I do miss those morning routines with the kids. And this week one of my triplets graduated with a Zoom call, and the other two are officially graduating next week.  Leaving the Nest My wife and I are mourning because we’ve looked forward to this day for years, watching our little birds released from school and ready to move to more self-sufficiency


Sifting Our Personal Sand

A glowing, dark yellow sky, along with a stillness in the eerie calm of recently blowing trees and distant thunder and flashes of light, reminds me of my childhood in Indiana’s Tornado Alley. Warnings were issued today, but thankfully we’re hearing none of those sirens we used to fear as children. We knew if one went off, it was time to take shelter. Storms come in all forms, and we’ve been living in a storm for around 60 days, a storm that ripped up the green trees of our economy, destroyed everything in its path, and leveled households. There was no warning, and no one before has experienced a storm quite like this, the mother of all storms. How will we rebuild? How will we survive? We feel helpless. For each of us, life has brought frightening moments and problems that seemed insurmountable, impossible to get over. Yet we got through them somehow. A Giant Rock Much like the frustrated rock climber at the bottom of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, it seems impossible from the bottom, but everything seems much easier once you’re at the top.   A mountain cannot be conquered in one leap, unless you have a


The Secret Motherhood Club

A pinkish mist fills the sky and the distant mountain is glowing a vibrant purple. The twisty trees with umbrella-like tops are silhouetted against the eerie light, making them feel like a Sydney Long painting; the only things missing are flute-playing nymphs.  Looming Overhead No matter how lovely the scene, a giant dark cloud hovers overhead this morning, a cloud that will be here each Mother's Day forever. This past week was the one-year anniversary of my mother’s graduation to a better place. Though it’s a week we remember her, celebrate her rich life and her new home, the dark cloud of sadness will never completely lift. Landing on “Go to Heaven” I like to think of it as a graduation — life provided the lessons needed here to move to the next level. Some learn the lessons at young ages; others, like my mother, absorb them over 93 years. She would have been 94 on April 8. Life, like a big game board, lands us in a better place once we land on the right square. Unknown Depths With a year to think about my mom, to relive special memories of our lives together, and as a parent who


Our Beliefs Are About to Change

Droplets fall patiently, one at a time, slowly and methodically, thundering loudly like a stick on a snare on the metal roof above my little brown clapboard studio. Wet decaying fall leaves cover the ground as bright, twinkling blades of springtime fight to take over the ground cover as if to say ‘My turn now. You can come back next fall.” Lasting Memories As I gaze at the walls inside my studio, my equivalent of a man cave, with paintings instead of posters, and model lights inside of neon beer signs, my life flashes before me with each painting a memory of a time and place in history. A little brown church with a glowing red door, surrounded by fall color which I painted beside friends Don Edic, Rick Wilson, and Frances Pampayen. Painting in Bruges Another memory of painting quaint canal-facing homes in Bruges which I painted beside Rick Dickensian, Michelle Jung, Roger Rossi. I remember when a local newspaper reporter talked to me, took my picture and it appeared on their website. Friends painting together A distant foggy mountain peak painted at my Adirondack event has been hanging here for nine years, a scene I’ve painted over and


Coming Back Stronger

Perky little yellow wildflowers are showing their faces in the bright morning sun. Greens are bright and happy after last night’s bucket brigade of nourishment. My symphony of birdsongs is performing from all directions, as if to say, “It’s spring!” Not all of life is about birdsong. Sometimes it’s the deadly squawk of a vulture. Horrible, unpleasant things happen to us. Loss of Love Looking back on my life, I’ve fallen in love many times, and every time a breakup occurred, I’d be devastated for months, sometimes years. I fall in love deeply, and when it ends, it hits me hard. I feel battered and bruised, as if my parachute didn’t open and I slammed into the ground at the speed of light. But sometimes you have to be pushed or jump out of the plane. Frequent Failure Miles I can count the failures, too. I can clearly remember the day my bookkeeper came into my office to tell me, “Eric, you’ll be bankrupt in three weeks.” There was no way out. So I did what any self-respecting businessman would do. I went into my office, laid on the couch in a fetal position, and wept.  I could not see


Never, Ever Give In

Goosebumps pop up on my arms as cold air blasts me when I open the old screen door to the porch. The long, wet painted floor planks with peeling paint reflect the sky, and the distant fog has turned the mountain a light gray-purple color, barely visible. Wet spring greens contrast brightly against the dark sky. Carefully, I make my way to my favorite experience — sitting under the long porch roof during fierce rain and thunder. As a child, we had no porch, but we would roll up the garage door to sit and enjoy storms, and every time it thundered, we would say that God was bowling. Counting my blessings this morning, knowing that being cooped up with a wooded backyard and a neighbor with 40 acres helps me cope with knowing others are stuck in a tiny apartment and can’t even go for a walk for fear of infecting or being infected. Last night this masked, gloved hombre risked his life driving three minutes down the road to pick up a bottle of wine to make our Saturday feel a little more special. It’s the first I’ve been in the car for two weeks. Even though I


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