One of my good friends hosts a Lake Party for friends and family each summer. Over the recent Labor Day holiday weekend, I attended the 18th one, and realized that I haven’t missed many. These gatherings are wonderful and usually memorable. This year’s, will probably be tagged and remembered as the year we were ‘thunderstruck’, as an unanticipated lightning storm ended the gathering early. We might have tried to wait it out, but took our lesson from a previous year’s Lake Party. That year, it began to rain and the rain-became-a-downpour-became-a-monsoon that ended up lasting for hours. We have a pretty high tolerance for rain here in the Seattle area, but not much tolerance for soggy food, or charred food, so…lesson learned.
I remember my first Lake Party experience. Instructions on the invitation: “Bring something to grill and something to share.” When we arrived, I nervously looked around at the crowd and realized I only knew three people – my companion, my friend the host, and her mom. Not really a “Party Person” by nature, I mentioned that we couldn’t stay long, because, “We have lots to do this weekend.” We stayed until after dark.
The Lake Party is informal. Guests, young and old, from nearby or far across the world, show up each year. Most years, the food is fabulous. Occasionally, everyone brings the same thing, but it actually doesn’t matter.
Did I mention, there are boats? Some years, I’ve arrived to find nearly everyone out on the water. Over time, this gathering has provided opportunities to go out on sailboats, motorboats, non-motorized crafts, and all sorts of “floaties” and whatnot.
For many years, the Lake Party was held at my friend’s parent’s very old Scandinavian-style lakefront cabin on Lake Sammamish. It had been in their family for a very long time – providing a second home to their family, extended family, and many friends. It was heated by a woodstove. Indoor plumbing and electricity had been added as an afterthought. In its day, it wasn’t necessarily secluded, but it was off the main road down a long gravel/dirt driveway. Even when I first came on the scene, you could walk out the door and pick wild blackberries.
Around the time this annual Lake Party tradition began, the mid-to-late ‘90’s, the tech industry was booming just a few miles away (in fact, several of us worked there). Real estate development, gradually, then rapidly, approached and then encroached. The quaint, one-story, rustic wooden cabin with the wrap-around deck and huge picture windows that faced the lake just a few feet away, ended up surrounded, shaded and dwarfed by large upscale homes, some with their own helicopter landing pads.
About 10 years in, my friend’s parents reluctantly sold the cabin. Fortunately, the Lake Party had become an annual tradition by then; so it was reinvented the following year in a park on another of our local lakes. It’s not the same, but the venue has character and potential.
One year, perhaps the final year at the cabin, the group gathered on the rather small dock before sunset to pose for a group photo. I remember that we waited there for some of the latecomers to finish cooking or eating, so that they could be included. It was a gorgeous day, so I certainly didn’t mind hanging out the dock with friends. Eventually, the hold-outs joined the rest of us on the dock and we stood up to pose for the group photo.
No, it wasn’t screaming from the photo-adverse, (although I’ve seen that happen), or the photographer, (fortunately, they generally have some restraint).
Someone, or maybe all of us simultaneously, had noticed some party crashers on the dock. Dock spiders! Multitudes of dock spiders were coming up through the cracks, looking for higher ground. They soon were climbing our bare legs. Most of us were in bathing suits, shorts or sundresses – so we felt vulnerable.
None of us had noticed that the dock had been gradually sinking with the additional weight of each member of our group. We had unintentionally submerged the spiders’ homes/habitat, obviously causing them immense distress.
We might have been more distressed than the spiders, however. For the record, most of the humans sprinted for the shore, did an “Elaine from Seinfeld” dance, or jumped off the dock. The spiders seemed rather agile and resourceful, not to mention more formidable, in comparison.
Dock spiders? I haven’t thought about dock spiders in a very long time, but this year’s Lake Party and last week’s blog post both brought me right back to that surprising and very vivid moment on that dock.
However, my main takeaway from this wonderful 18-year tradition of gatherings, is actually NOT about dock spiders or even boats. It’s really about the importance of taking time to relax, enjoy, make friends or reconnect with friends and family. I’m so glad now that my younger self didn’t flee the first Lake Party after the first few minutes because it felt awkward. My advice to you or my younger self would be: get out there!