“If you are lucky enough to be at the beach,” the mantelpiece sign reads, “you’re LUCKY enough.” You’re luckier still if you have a friend who lives at the beach, who invites you to visit and welcomes you into her home.
Alyce’s cottage is a sanctuary and as we drive up the long, winding, gravel pathway to her door, I feel the irrelevant nonsense of my life flying off me and blowing away like so many dust motes. This cottage is surrounded by McMansions that are hermetically sealed to preserve their central air conditioning, appointed with lawns of exotic grasses and fussy landscape design. Next door, the sprinkler system ticks on and off according to a computer generated time table.
But at Alyce’s, the jagged beachgrass scratches our feet as we walk towards the beach. We leave all the doors and windows open so that breeze flows through the house, tickling the kitchen chimes and wafting the scent of wood paneling through each room. Her grandfather built this cottage in 1955 and it is lined with the last of the knotty pine that once defined this part of Michigan.
I find myself given over to metaphor when I’m here, even moreso than usual.
Back home, on sleepless nights when I’m crippled with insomnia, this cottage is where I go. I walk myself through the house, turning my mind’s eye over to each detail, the bright pillow cushions, the upright piano, the bas relief of Joan of Arc hanging over the mantle. I float my mind through each room and out to the staircase, where I walk down slowly to the sand, slowly to the water’s edge, allowing the hypnosis to do its work.
All we need, any of us, is one place in the world that’s real and true and firm, one place that’s good, and quiet, where we can be at peace, where we can be treasured and cared for and valued. I have that place.