VERNON COUNTY - Shuffling barefoot into the living room, my short hair sticking out east and west, I look at the clock in disbelief: 6:15 a.m. I have 45 minutes to pack up, make my hair civilized, and catch the 7 a.m. ferry.
I start picking up my clothes and books strewn about the Washington Island cabin, but I can’t help stopping to gaze out the enormous picture window. Out on the lake, gulls dive and splash around a pair of Canada geese that are taking their four goslings for an early swim.
I feed Finn, and as I let him outside, I pause with one hand on the screen door, looking longingly at the soft colors of the morning sky hanging above the smooth, deep green water. But I’d best keep moving if I want to make that ferry!
While I pack up my dirty clothes, sweep the floor, and roll up my sleeping bag, I wonder who else is outside the cabin this morning that I’m missing by rushing.
Yesterday when I walked out of the bedroom, four deer were grazing in the front yard. A hummingbird was greedily sticking his beak into each tiny hole on the feeder, looking for his morning fix of syrup. Walking the few steps to the lake in my jammies, I noticed giant slugs clinging to a tree stump still wet from the previous day’s rains.
At 6:30 a.m. I’m in the shower; at 6:40 I’m struggling with my duffle bag and urging Finnegan not to dawdle.
The road to the ferry curves like a snake’s body in motion, hugging the lake shore. I watch for deer that are moseying around looking for breakfast. One eye is on the road, another on the digital car clock while I wonder, Should I keep pushing to get to the ferry or just give up and drive slower? It’s already 6:48 a.m.
This question keeps running through my head as the road twists back and forth. The woods on both sides are covered in white and purple trillium, tiny blue forget-me-nots, and yellow lady slippers. Lilac bushes tower over the homeowners’ properties; I open my window and catch the intoxicating scent.
6:56 a.m.: Finn has his head out the back window and his tiny front paws on the sill. I watch his face in the car’s side mirror. He is squinting and smiling, his nose twitching like a bunny rabbit’s.
6:59 a.m.: My face is relaxed in a half-smile as I continue driving. For the last two miles I try to straighten out the road by carefully maneuvering the car down the middle of the S-shaped yellow line.
7:02 a.m.: I’m second-guessing the car clock and wondering if I’ll be able to drive right onto the ferry when I arrive.
The theme of whether to keep going or just slow down plays over and over in my mind like the earworm of a top ’70s song.
Rounding the last curve before entering the large blacktopped ferry station, I see the huge white boat just starting to pull away—not yet my best high school broad jump from the dock. Missed it!
Without even braking, I circle the pay station and continue back the way I came, that crazy half-smile still on my face. Minutes later, at the Red Cup Coffee House, I order avocado toast and a large skinny chai to go.
Back in my car, I unwrap the toast and place my chai in the cup holder. Balsamic vinegar drips down my chin and the goodness of fresh avocado is rich on my tongue. I drive more slowly, enjoying every moment of my commute back to the ferry landing. I know I have plenty of time before the 8 a.m. ferry arrives.
Spying something red on the side of the road, I ease into the bike lane and back up a short distance. Columbine, a darker red than I’ve seen at home, and a whole patch of it! Grabbing my camera from the dashboard I hop out and snap a few pictures while Finn watches from his open window.
When I reach the landing, mine is the first and only car in line for the ferry. I quickly shift into park, turn off the engine, and open Finn’s door for him. We start walking away toward the dog area for Finn to explore.
Finn trots along next to me, his tiny tail curled up and held high. He stops to sniff the bushes, the large rocks, and every tree he passes. He seems to be enjoying himself, without a care in his doggy world, and no sense of time. Maybe Finn is the perfect teacher for the lesson I still need to learn!
Already, I see the ferry returning. Heading back to the car, I realize I never did have to hurry. There will always be more ferries.
After all, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye.
I’ve made a few new lifetime friends on this trip, chilled out with lakeside porch time, my face lifted in gratitude to the sun, and I haven’t had nearly as much time as I’d like for discovering all the spring secrets of the plentiful woods on the island.
So I’ll be back—and next time I won’t be hurrying!