I have a running list of the places that have made me, have transfused the energy and spirit of the city or town or lake into my own blood, so I take a piece of it with me wherever I go. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I’ve left enough of myself there that I recognize it as home even when I’ve been gone for a long time, a sort of not-evil horcrux for the places I love best. Either way you slice it, I’ve got a mental tally for the cities and stretches of road and turns of the river and long fields that are important—for a minute, a year or a lifetime. One of them, for me, is Lake of the Woods.

It’s always meant family to me, a familiarity that’s reassuring and quiet and good, but it also is a peacefulness that gets under the skin in a way that makes me feel whole. Something about being near the water does this to a person, makes them more themselves. It’s an easing of the mind as soon as we start winding our way through the trees leading to the cabin, it’s the permission to let go as soon as your feet hit the dock. It’s something about the everyday rituals of love my Grandma performs for all the living creatures: coffee set the night before, food always on the table, wine uncorked just as you think the time might be right, scones in the morning, fruit and seeds out on the feeder for the Blue Jays and down into the cracks of the stone wall for the chipmunks. Maybe it’s a little bit of everything—the sun on the water, the cool morning air, the sound of the boat roaring away past the 5 mph buoy, the creaking noise of the ramp to the dock and the way the water laps the shore, the sound of everyone breathing at night in the Duck Inn.

All this to say, I was so glad to be back a few weekends ago. We brought our French family friends along with us during our road trip of the West, and it was glorious (as it always is, but especially so) because we were able to share it with them. We stretched into our days and lazed into the nights, and it was the perfect place to gather our wits about us before embarking on the madness we had coming (Redwoods to San Francisco to Yosemite to Vegas..where I left, but the others forged on to the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Moab, and then back north to Baker City—where I’ll meet them this week!—and then back home to Portland).

Of the things I believe in, I think these days I believe most in magic. How could I not? The world has revealed to me so much magic—in people, in places, in flora and fauna, in moments so tender they hurt to remember—I would be a fool to turn a blind eye. I’m reminded every time I visit this place I have under my skin, or where I’ve left myself, that a current of the mysterious and wonderful runs through everything if we let it. At the lake I always let it.