Lonely at the Lake

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Lonely at the Lake

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My family has owned a small cabin by a lake in Northern Minnesota for over 60 years. This is my favorite place in the world and was our family vacation destination every year. As years went on my dad and I are one of the few who continue this tradition. After quarantining in April and May and businesses slowly reopening in June we decided in August 2020 that it would be safe enough to go up there. However, this trip ended up being much different than usual.
While Minnesota was under a mask mandate the area we were in was much different than the suburbs of Chicago. At home more often than not people did adhere to the mask mandate and there was a mandate to self-quarantine when returning to the state after traveling.
The area where are cabin is located is very densely wooded and not exactly populated. The small town has about four hundred people and the nearest large grocery store is a forty-five-minute drive away. While grocery shopping in town it was clear the mask mandate was not as strictly followed up here. Only about half of the customers in the store were wearing masks. The likelihood of adhering to the mandate dropped even further once we reached our township. Even though there were signs posted to “wear your mask” my dad and I were considered the odd ones out at the bait shop or lumber store, as I did not see a single person with a mask on in the ten days we were up there.
All of our neighbors who live on the road that hugs the bay are all older. I have known most of them my entire life and some have even watched my parents grow up. Many of them live downstate near the Twin Cities, and some even live out of state, but very few of them live up there full time due to the harsh weather and isolation. It wasn’t until the last few years that the country started to plow our road in the winter. This ten-day vacation is normally packed with multiple dinners at neighbors' houses, tubing and fishing, parties and yard games, and finally ending the night around a fire with our neighbors, their kids, and often their grandkids.
This trip, there was none of that. Windows and doors were boarded up because out-of-state neighbors never made the trip up to open their cabins. Jetskis and other water toys were locked up because most older neighbors did not risk leaving quarantine. As far as we could tell it was just my dad and myself. Fishing was just the two of us, the only people we had to argue with over card games were each other, and we both fell asleep more than once on the boat or dock while reading books because it was so quiet. It might have been much more lonely and quiet than normal, but it was still relaxing to be surrounded by nature and absorb its sounds uninterrupted. COVID-19 changed my vacation, but not necessarily in a bad way. I am lucky to have a lake house that was isolated enough that COVID did not seem to touch it. Although we missed our neighbors and have since seen everyone the loneliness allowed for a sense of stillness, the ability to fully emerse myself in nature and relax.

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This item was submitted on January 31, 2023 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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