“Best. Lake. Ever.”
It’s commencement week at our alma mater. That means that the choir and band members, who perform at various commencement events this weekend, spend the week hanging out on campus and at the school’s retreat house on the lake, goofing off between rehearsals. The lake house is one of my favorite places. I’ve spent group retreats here surrounded in heartfelt chatter and inspirational music, and I’ve spent a five-day Ignatian retreat wrapped in a cloak of silence here. Both left significant impressions on me. However, the annual music department lake house takeover ( we just call it “the lake”) is one of my most persistent memories of this lovely place. Nerf wars tearing up and down these hallowed halls, lazy afternoons sitting on the dock or splashing around in the lake, late-night card games and indecent versions of Bananagrams… these form a different kind of retreat for me. The acceptance of and enthusiasm for odd interests, odd wardrobe, and odd humor found at “the lake” feels like fresh air and childhood. We speak freely. We sing to ourselves while we walk around. We build friendships first and learn names later. The juvenile activities that spark our interest while we’re here stem not just from nostalgia and refusal to grow up (though those are present), but also from a childlike faith in the human nature of at least these people. It’s a way to detox from all the anxiety about plans, performance, and presentation that pervades college and post-college life.
I wrote the first half of this post late last night in the Lake Room, the heart of the retreat house. Up late again tonight, I’m finishing it from my bedroom at my family home over 100 miles away. Here, not the college town where I laid my head the past fourteen semesters, will be my home again as of June.
I will miss the motley crowd of professors, cafeteria workers, classmates, musicians, and friends that populated my days in that college town. I will miss being six blocks from Mister and eating at least one meal together each day. I’ll especially miss the retreat house and all it’s come to symbolize for me. Like all the best things in life, it’s deeply important yet impossible to take quite seriously. God bless that lovely lake, the lake house and all its inhabitants through the years, and our dear alma mater.