To speak about death all the time is to be morbid more than necessary. If you go through life saying “death this” and “death that”, this isn’t good. But if we’re going to come to terms with our mortality in a healthy way we’re going to have to talk about death some of the time that we’re still living, mostly because it’s impossible to talk about death after death, at least in the normal living sense. In Midwestern vacation home vernacular, winter is our death. It is. But just as we must discuss death when we’re living we too must discuss winter when it is still fall. Today, we need to talk.
I am building a home, right exactly now. There is a large foundation sticking out of the ground, with big piles of dirt heaped around it. This is my home, but I can not yet sleep there or take a bath there. First, there is work to be done. Lots and lots of work. There is a floor to build and then walls and then some trusses must be set, ever so carefully, upon those walls. After that, a roof must go on and siding must be nailed up, but only after the windows go in. Siding before the windows go in would be a mistake. So this is the work that must be done before winter can arrive, so for the context of my own schedule and of our own winter, we must decide now that winter cannot start until sometime after my roof and siding are on, which should be December 5th.
When winter does come, on December 5th, there is a choice that must be made by every Lake Geneva vacation home owner. That choice will come then, but the decision must be made now. Are you going to make a point to come up in the winter almost as much as you did in the summer? If you have a seasonal cottage, then you’re exempt from this discussion, but if you have a winterized cottage, or a lavish lakefront estate, or anything at all in between, are you going to come up and enjoy the winter lakeside? I think you should.
The most common reason people will eschew their Lake Geneva vacation homes during most of the winter is given in this whiny, typically annoying, reply, “But there’s nothing to do!” Nothing to do. Nothing to do as though adults are children, and they must be coddled and guided and given long lists of things that they might do to keep themselves somehow occupied. To answer the question, or the complaint, that there is nothing to do, I’ll respond with another typically snarky answer, “If there’s nothing to do in Lake Geneva during the winter please elaborate on exactly what there is to do in the suburbs in the winter”.
This usually puts them sort of in their place. They think. They squirm. They think about malls and chain restaurants, and then they don’t say anything even though that’s what they’re thinking. There is nothing to do. But isn’t there? If there’s nothing to do in Arlington Heights in the winter isn’t there so much more to do in Lake Geneva during it? And if we’re not doing anything anyway wouldn’t we rather do nothing in Lake Geneva than do nothing in Glenview? I know I would.
What we’re bad at lately is the art of doing nothing. We’re all absolutely horrible at it. There’s nothing to do! Well, then, why don’t we just do nothing? Why don’t we just drive to the lake this winter, start a dangerously large fire (preferably inside our fireplaces), and then turn on a football game. Or if we’re the type that like to pretend we’re smarter than everyone else, we can start that fire and then read a book, or if we really want people to think we’re smart, we’ll stumble through The Economist, or for liberals, The Atlantic Monthly. Once the magazine is boring us, or the book is too long, or the football game over, then we’ll just close our eyes and sit by the fire and take a nap. A nap! Can you imagine such boredom?!
This winter, Lake Geneva will still be here. It might be frozen at some point, and it might get a little snowy, but that doesn’t matter much. It’s still Lake Geneva and it’s still better than whatever city or suburb you’re sitting in now. This winter, make the choice to be here. It’s only October, but decisions like this are best made in advance.