Lying on my back, my book held arm’s length above my face, it shades my eyes from the bright sun. I read and sunbathe along the shore of the lake, soaking up these last days in Italy. Children splash and play in the water, while the grownups swim past them to the quieter, deeper water, finding relief from the heat and humidity as well. It’s hot as hell, but I’m glued to my book. I make a deal with myself, finish the chapter and then go for a swim.
Before I can finish, I am distracted by a loud thumping. Now propped up my elbows, I see a beautiful wooden motor boat has pulled up to the small pier. The strong rolling wake of the ferry pushes it against the end of the pier creating the noise and making it difficult for the captain to tie it up in the shallow water. I watch as he changes the position of the boat, pulling along side the pier instead.
Just feet from the boat, two local boys, wearing only their underwear, stand waste-deep in the water, splashing each other, and everyone around them. They take a break from fooling around to shout to the young, and very handsome, captain. I listen intently, translating in my head as quickly as I can. They are asking for a ride. The captain shouts back an emphatic, “NO!” and tells them to back away as he finishes his maneuver. The boys are not deterred. They run barefoot across the wet slippery rocks, where I can hardly manage a slow tiptoe, then onto the dock and right up to the captain as he climbs out of the boat. I can’t hear them now, but it seems they know one another, there is a casual familiarity in their exchange, the kind that comes with growing up in the same tiny lakeside village.
Life is simple here, my life is simple here. I try to imagine the same type of scenario in my hometown beach community, boys stripping down to their underwear to bodysurf on a hot summer day. I do remember this type of spontaneity as a teenager on long, lazy summer days. Sometimes my swim suit was all I wore, all day long, barefoot, or with flip flops if I had them. I think a lot of people my age would have similar feelings of nostalgia for simpler times no matter where they grew up.
The boys manage to talk the captain into letting them sit on the boat. They touch things they should not touch and he playfully scolds them. Eventually he tires of their rambunctiousness and tells them they have to go. The boys scurry toward the bow and jump into the lake. More memories come to mind, summers in Lake Arrowhead, rowing and rafting with my siblings and childhood friends.
Carefully I tip toe toward the water’s edge, barely maintaining my balance. I move slowly until I am knee-deep. I push off the rocky lake bottom and breaststroke, head above water toward the grown ups. I turn, facing the shore and tread water, watching the children and young families splash and play.
A year ago, I would have said that life is harder now than it was 40 years ago, more pressure, more work, the hustle, the bustle. I would say that beauty and simple pleasures could only be found on vacations, tiny towns or far away places. But it’s not true. The simplicity or complexity of my life is the result of my choices. It always has been.
These days, I choose simple. For now, I like it . . . I like it a lot.