Back at Rock Harbor I packed the car while Susan prepared tuna melts. The temperature had warmed to the mid seventies, and a light breeze was blowing off the lake. We ate lunch on the deck, one last indulgence before locking up and heading back to Manhattan.
Perched a hundred feet above the lake, the deck offered a stunning panorama of Lake Champlain’s mid-section, known as the narrows. At just over a mile across, the narrows are the wasp’s waist of the 125 mile long lake that at its broadest spans 14 miles across. Across the field of sparkling topaz Vermont farmland extended to the Green Mountains. The Basin Harbor Club’s whitewashed cottages winked through heavy foliage along the shoreline. Several sailboats glided north. A motorboat buzzed lazily, weaving in and out of the coves along the New York shoreline.
I remembered the summer five years ago when Susan and I first explored these same coves together — waterskiing, drifting, skinny dipping — enjoying a whimsical summer fling before heading back to separate lives and responsibilities on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
“I was thinking,” Susan interrupted my reverie. “I don’t really have to be back in the city until noon tomorrow…”
I smiled. We both knew that she really meant, Do you want to stay another night and drive home tomorrow? Though not habitually subtle, Susan had a tendency to suggest rather than request. So, an offhand, “It’s getting late, we really should feed Tasha,” actually translated into, Can you please feed Tasha dinner? Or, “It would be nice to have a fire in the fireplace,” meant, Would you build a fire?
“Great! Let’s stay.”
“Really?” Susan sounded surprised.
“Sure, it’s a perfect day for tennis.”
My work was portable, so Monday mornings rolled out more or less the same whether we were upstate or downstate. Up early, take Tasha out, feed Tasha, feed myself, fire up my laptop and get to work. In Rock Harbor I could let Tasha out the front door in my bathrobe and then let her back in five or ten minutes later when she barked at the door. In Manhattan, I got dressed, chatted with the doormen, walked Tasha around the block on a leash, chatted with the doormen again and then scarfed down a banana or some cereal at my desk in front of my computer. Breakfast at 430 East 57th Street and Camp Wabetsu might have tasted the same, but the view from the kitchen window in Rock Harbor — this same IMAX movie we were experiencing right now — tipped the scale. Often we were accompanied by a bald eagle sitting in the dead pine tree 25 feet away, waiting to plunge down and grab his own breakfast. Or a fox patrolling for mice. Or a herd of white tail deer browsing saplings and tender spring shoots.
“You won’t be anxious if you can’t work tomorrow morning?”
Translation: You won’t be annoyed if I sleep in and we get a late start? Now we were getting to the crux of it.
“No problem. I’m okay with missing a morning’s work while we drive down in exchange for some tennis this afternoon and another relaxing night here. But let’s make sure we get up early and leave on time, okay? I don’t want to miss a whole day’s work because we got a late start.”
This was a familiar conversation. We always craved more time at Rock Harbor and always found it hard to leave. The Champlain Valley effect. It kicked in each time we drove up, right after passing the last Lake George exit on Route 87. It felt like the first few deep breaths after a good visit to the chiropractor. Maybe it was the clean air or the spectacular views. Or the absence of traffic. Or the anticipation of a slower rhythm.
We agreed to postpone our departure, and I unpacked the car while Susan cleaned up from lunch. A couple of phone calls and a change of clothes later we headed up to the tennis court to burn off the tuna melts and Doritos.