Why We're Here
The reading before one of our meals is from actor Alan Alda:
"Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful; yourself. "
A rare silence fills the main lodge. I look over to my new friend and classmate, Muriel Hanson (Bill’s wife) and ask her if she’s loving The Clearing, loving the freedom, loving the late-spring woods as much as I am.
"The part I’m enjoying most about being here, " she says, "is the fact that I don’t have to cook. "
That’s a pretty good point. We hear the lodge’s dinner bell three times a day, and amazing foods like blue-cheese burgers on homemade focaccia or strawberries with chocolate dipping sauce are magically served to us by the waitstaff on the Blue Willow table service. It’s pretty seductive.
Hermi Krueger from Appleton, Wisconsin, sits near us. Hermi is always smiling. She grew up in an Austrian refugee camp, a place where she says she was never allowed to play. At 60, she’s playing as much as she can. The Clearing is her favorite place to do it.
"When I come here, I feel like I’ve gone to camp, " Hermi says. "But with better food. "
After the meal, we learn that we’re having a summer solstice party. The photography crowd kicks things off with cocktails and bawdy jokes on the main lawn before we all head to the main council ring for a polka dance.
Who doesn’t polka on solstice, right?
We drink champagne, and Roger plucks John Prine songs on his guitar, plus a few tunes of his own creation. A luna moth swoops overhead.
Another term for the cedars surrounding The Clearing is arborvitae, or "tree of life. " The wind shushes through their limbs, and it’s a sound of something fresh and full.
Green Bay laps the shore below. The slow witness of waves on rock seems to reiterate how we’re all just eensy-weensy dots on the continuum of this universe.
When I go home, I’ll still be a plate spinner. Parenthood is that way. But when I’m back at it again, my feet for a while will be planted on a fractured bed of Door County dolomite, with the sound of the wind through arborvitae rushing faintly in my ears.
The Clearing, 12171 Garrett Bay Road, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin (877/854-3225; www.theclearing.org).