In the stillness of an anywhere field, there’s a stream that babbles and weaves and spills. The stream is loud. There are birds both quiet and noisy, some fiddling about to themselves and others calling in friends, mates, or warning others to steer well clear. A deer in the distance makes no sound, slowly chewing the most tender blades of fresh spring grass. Two rabbits hop as rabbits do, barely crunching the dried winter leaves they bound over. There’s a soft quiet hum to this distant field, a peaceful way in which every noisemaker plays their part in this unintentional orchestra. The sounds of this field on this day are the sounds that anyone can hear in the background of whatever their noisy present might be.
The lake on that July Sunday is so blue. The waves are pushed by so much wind, starting in the southwest and blowing to the northeast, breaking all the way. These winds are steady, eight or nine knots, the sailors would guess. The steady crash of the waves against the shore provide the unexpected percussion. The trees sway, so many maples and oaks and walnuts rocking back and forth. The white noise of the day, some others would say. Something you can hear but easily ignore. There’s a quiet bass of a distant Streblow, or is it a Shepard? Children splashing at the pier two doors down, the soft squeals of city children as they find confidence in jumping off the outer horse post. Fishermen ply the waters, flipping their silly jigs towards the piers and under the buoy tied boats. Those boats, they click and they clack when their buoy chain bumps the clasp of their bow. A couple walk the shore path, no words are spoken. The day wears on, the boats change, the shore path leads the way, and the wind slowly falls as the sun dips low.
Is one of these two scenes more peaceful than the other? Is the sound of a stream in a wildflower field any more serene than a steady parade of waves marching from one end of this big lake to the other? Does a breeze blown tree in a lakefront lawn make for a different background than a breeze blown tree in the middle of the darkest, loneliest woods? Is a stream-side lunch any different than a lakeside lunch, eaten over wicker table in the cool porch shade? Is there any difference in quality between peaceful solitude and peaceful company? Is the sound of a distant car making its way down a gravel road somehow preferable to the sound of a Cobalt heading West towards the setting sun?
I love Lake Geneva, but good luck finding any peace and quiet. I love Lake Geneva, but there’s no solitude. I love Lake Geneva, but there’s no place to just rest. These are the comments of those who visit our lake but have not yet found the time to understand our lake. The magic of this place is not in its tourist-centric downtown, nor in the way boats can clog the outer ring of the lake on any given weekend. No, the magic of this place is in its ability to make a lakeside porch, pier, or patio, complete with the background noise of lapping waves, rumbling boats, and children splashing in the shallows, one of the most peaceful places to read a book. To nap. To eat a summer lunch. To be still. There’s no trick to making a place void of people peaceful. Even Michigan can do that. The real trick is making a place so full of company a place where solitude is simple to find. Where rest comes easily. Where peace comes not with complete silence, but with the lovely hum of an unmistakable summer soundtrack.