A Fisherman & The Catch of His Life
Sunday, October 7, 2001

In the mountains, only a 100 miles away, but a world apart.

Rise and Shine !

I am a reluctant riser, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and the prospect of having breakfast with our mountain neighbors, Claudia and Jeff, who live in the charming red cabin across the way, got me bouncing out of the comfort of our warm, snug bed.

We'd hoped to get together with them last Saturday, but Jeff was at a food show in Las Vegas. So a week later, our birthday celebration continues. 

Oh my, it's been one week that we've been 50, DD and I. Combined, we've got a 100 years of life experience.  Wow.

We rose, we shone, and by 9:00, we were at Stillwells Restaurant at the Northwoods Resort and Conference Center.

Stillwells is a rustic, yet elegant restaurant with the ambience of a cozy mountain lodge. The furniture is rough hewn; the decor, distinctly mountain chic. Outside the restaurant is a large pond and a little amphitheatre.  The original plan was that the pond would serve as an ice rink in winter.  I hope this picturesque idea materializes this winter.  

The menu has a fascinating history of this restaurant, as well as this stated goal:

"It is our goal at Stillwells of Northwoods Resort to earn a fine reputation, and establish traditions and memories that will remain with our guests for many, many years to come, as did the original Stillwells. 

Enjoy your meal with us and drift back into Big Bear's history!" (more)

Jeff's favorite breakfast, as mine, is Corned Beef and Hash.  Excited that it was on the menu, our taste buds were busily psyching up for our favorite. Oh, what a letdown when our waitress, Robyn, regretfully informed us that it was not available.  We were not disappointed for long.

Already psyched up for a cholesterol-laden breakfast, I easily shifted my choice to the Rib Eye Steak & Eggs with an English muffin, which was DD's as well.  Jeff opted for the buffet; Claudia, the Seafood Lover's omelet.  We may have knocked off a few minutes of our life expectancies, but we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfasts and living this morning as though it were our last. 

They are, like us, weekenders who are smitten by mountain living.  In the next few years, they too would like to make this island in the sky, their full-time residence. We regularly commiserate how the weekends fly much too quickly, and how we reluctantly leave our mountain cabins to return to our suburban homes, "down the hill'.

Since taking the human equivalent of Rimadyl, Claudia is a new person.  Pain-free, she has booted the debilitating effects of arthritis out of her life.  Her energy level has shot through the roof.  For the first time in the years we've known them, Claudia's puttering around in the garden with the rest of us, even contemplating a community garden on their empty lot. I'm backing that idea, 100%!  Nothing like communing in the dirt, seeing plants grow, and enjoying the fruit of our labor.

As for Jeff, he is a love of a man. Multi-talented and -skilled, he is handy and resourceful. He's a trained, now semi-retired commercial artist.  No starving artist, he's made a good living off his talent.  

About a year ago, we found a cushion with a perfect one-liner that describes them: Here Lives A Fisherman & The Catch of His Life.  It now proudly graces their sofa. A catch-and-release fisherman, Jeff goes out ostensibly to fish, but in actuality, it is time for Jeff to be with himself, while Claudia has her alone time on the swing on their front porch. Both respect the other's time for meditation and introspection. 

Jeff's said that he's been out on the lake in his boat these last few mornings, and he described Thursday morning's lake as placid with nary a ripple.  Glassy.  So quiet that the flutter of birds' wings overhead can be heard. Ahhh, my kind of lake.  

I hadn't realized how long we had sat and visited until I saw that the next table was ordering lunch.  

On this day, Stillwells achieved its goal of creating "memories that will remain with our guests for many, many years to come."  We'll be back, as this journal entry assures that we'll remember to do so. Next time we'll be sure to try their crabcakes and  "spinach salad ($3.50), with fresh leaves that look like they were individually plucked and arranged on the plate with julienne prosciutto and feta cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette."


A clear visualization drifted down like a bubble from the sky and alighted in my consciousness:  

A quiet Duffy electric boat.  Floating in the the old ski beach at Kidd Cove on the southwestern end of Big Bear Lake. The towering pines along the south shore.  Castle Rock as a backdrop. 

And the peace, oh the peace.

History of Stillwells
from their now defunct website

"On April 19, 1919, Carl and Mamie Stillwell and their young son, Charley, were exploring a pine and juniper covered point on the lake northeast of Pine Knot. Mamie was far more intrigued with the beauty of the forest and the lake than where she was walking at the water's edge. She suddenly stopped and desperately called "help me, Carl! I've lost my boot in the mud!" And this is why Mamie was in her stocking feet the day the site was selected for the most popular ballroom in
Bear Valley. 

They owned and operated, with other family members, Stillwells Cafeteria in the Los Angeles area, and decided to build a ballroom, restaurant, and later an entire resort here in Big Bear. Many of the then Hollywood celebrities frequented "Stillwells Resort" located on the property where today one finds the "Blue Whale Restaurant." 

The inaugural dance was held in the new ballroom on July 1, 1921. In those early years, Stillwells was a focal point for valley activities. Stillwells was more than generous to public fund-raising programs, weddings were common, and many
high school graduates received their diplomas in this rustic hall. 

During the depression, on cold Saturday nights, when a roaring fire was blazing in the great Gold Mountain rock fireplace, the music came from records on a colorful Wirlitzer juke box. For 10 cents, couples could enjoy an evening away
from the difficult economics of the real world, thanks again to the Stillwell family. 

In 1928 the structure burned, and the replacement had a new foundation made from Gold Mountain rock. The second ballroom burned in 1945, and the present restaurant is built on this same colorful base." 

I've just tuned in the ABC News with Peter Jennings:  the bombing has started.  America's fighting back, hitting military targets and terrorist training camps in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Simultaneously, humanitarian efforts are being made.  Vegetarian ready-to-go meals are being dropped over Afghanistan.

This is being emphasized:  this is not against Afghanistan, not against Muslims.  This is retaliation against terrorism.

I pray for justice, and I pray for the least amount of collateral -- civilian -- damage.  

Heavenly Family, keep the innocents safe.

Escapism:  I took a break from the breaking news and I 'Net-traveled for a bit to France.

Calmed,  I reeled myself back to The Present, and savored the beauty of this day in the mountains. 

Autumn has definitely arrived.  It's time for fall wear, and I am wearing a thick sweatshirt over soft grey leggings over socks.  I've pulled out a light jacket and covered leather shoes,  but I didn't need them,  as we supped on a hearty chicken-vegetable soup on the front porch.

Our lawn doesn't know fall has arrived.  It is as green, cool and inviting,  as in mid-summer.  Across the road, the vacant lot is donning shades of brown, gold,  and tan.  Elsewhere, the red maple trees are in full color; the poplars,  turning into vibrant yellow-gold candlesticks.  The deep red chrysanthemums are in bloom.  

The sun is kinder, and the evening will come earlier. We allow the silence and serenity of this afternoon in the mountains envelop us, cocoon us.

And all is still.

All is well.


"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown

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This web journal was created on a September Morn, September 29, 2001.
September Morn 2001