"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
For the past several years I have had the honour of joining fifteen to twenty inspiring women at Island Lake a few hours northeast of here. Golfing at the course in nearby Athabasca is the official reason for this 3-day, 2-night gathering, but it is not the reason I go, far from it in fact. I seldom golf and am not good at it, but there are bonus’ to the sport in the lovely landscapes visible from this course beside the Athabasca river and the wildlife that have found sanctuary within its woods.
We spotted a doe and new fawn more than once on and near the fairways, and the youngster above crossed within metres of us on the tee-box. They and good human company made the frustrating sport in blistering heat worthwhile.
Our hostess’ cabin is nestled in the woods above the lake. The women are friends of my mother-in-law, who sadly could not join us this year due to a recent operation from which she is recovering well. This year there were 16 of us, the youngest was aged 49 but most were in their 70’s and 80’s. There is nothing like a group of women who have vast combined life experience to grab your feet out of the air and plant them firmly on the ground. Rampant laughter, abundant food, enlightening stories, unclocked time, lovely scenery and busy wildlife all make the sojourn a well-anticipated little holiday.
Bird houses and feeders surround the cabin. Last year we were treated to a family of seven little wrens that fledged one afternoon while we all watched. Perhaps it was the sweltering heat that slowed down the traffic to the feeders this year but we were thrilled to see a few brilliant American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbirds and Blue jays.
Unusually and unfortunately I slept in both mornings and missed the early sunrise over the lake, but I did manage a few morning pictures and had to tear myself away from the dock from which I watched grebes, blackbirds, coots, loons and herons. Always a thrill, the loons called a few times and I was proud to recognize the distinctive call of a sora, a relative of whom I got to know a little last month on a marsh near my work.
A large family of red-necked grebe siblings floated out on to the lake at intervals until their parent called them back into the shelter of emergent vegetation, to be fed perhaps, or maybe to ameliorate the effects of the rare +35 degree heat.
In the evening, a few of us walked through the little village of cabins, each nestled in the woods along the lake, to a public boat launch where a pair of grebes floated among the water lilies and a coot rested with her newly hatched chick on a floating nest among the reeds.
Typically, I forgot to properly anticipate this annual retreat as, in preparation, I scrambled to keep up with my copious obligations at work and at home, sometimes even resenting this extra demand on my time…but thankfully, I did not cancel and was rewarded with rest, rejuvenation, inspiration and motivation to finally steal another afternoon to record this experience here.