July 19, 2021
What would you say is your happy place?
Mine definitely has to be Lake Martin, AL. As we were on our way to deliver this commission to our friends (and wonderful collectors of my work) to the lake this weekend, I told my boys that this painting was a Lake Martin sunset that I was pretty sure might be from a view that was close to where I grew up going to the lake. That got me thinking about some of my favorite childhood memories—being their age in the back seat of my family’s car and watching out the window as the butterflies in my stomach built up is a feeling I remember to this day.
It's like those butterflies were going to come popping out of my stomach as soon as I saw our tires leave the pavement and turn onto the ol’ red dirt roads. That was the signal that you were oh so close. Our excitement would escalate each turn we’d come to that had pine trees or power line poles adorned with everybody’s handmade arrow signs nailed to them, reassuring you that you were still headed the right way.
As we’d get closer and closer, I would quickly scan up and down for the “ L E E“ sign among the family names, smiling and proudly announcing it to the car as if I had discovered the lake itself. Early on I would try to memorize how many ‘checkpoints’ it took to see our family name up there so next time we came I’d already know when we were about to turn in the driveway. I was like a hunting dog that realizes he’s being driven to do the thing he's made for and begins to tense up with adrenaline as his eyes dilate with anticipation. You know the look.
In between the turns and forks in the road, the sun would shoot through the branches above our car and I’d pray in my heart that God would cast down a spotlight of humid sunshine on a turtle crossing the road that I could beg my dad to stop and pick up to show my cousins when we piled out of the car. If there wasn’t one in our path lucky enough to hitch a ride with us to the lake house, I would turn my head around to stare back at the the bright, red-orange dust billowing behind the car and imagine I was already on the boat, staring at the engine churn that impressive wake through the water. And I’d press my face to the window and look at my car’s windowsill, pretending I was already at the bow, looking over the edge of our boat as the pontoons carved through the surface of that emerald green lake water.
There’s something magical about the early mornings, waking up and seeing how calm the water mirrors the sunrise. It’s those lake breakfasts that fill the cabin up with the smell of bacon and eggs and put you in a good mood as you roll out of bed. It’s the boat rides that seem to take forever to go visit your friends’ lake house but you wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the funny conversations you’re trying to listen to over the wind and the sound of the boat engine and the music. It’s how everyone turns and smiles when the babies fall asleep in their mama’s arms under the shade of a towel. It’s the day drinking and floating around time where no one’s got a care in the world for a little while and the kids’ beg the parents to watch their cannonball splash contests. It’s the fishing and the wildlife. It’s the nights grilling and talking and catching up with family and friends.
And it’s definitely the sunsets that make Lake Martin my happy place. I’ll never see enough Lake Martin sunsets as long as I live.
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April 27, 2021
March 22, 2019
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