There is nothing like the summer. The sweet sunlight that melts onto your skin and envelops you in a comforting embrace. The whippoorwills that chirp at dawn and the bullfrogs that croak at dusk, a natural clock for when youve lost yourself in the endless summer afternoons. The warm sand that crinkles underneath your wrinkly feet that disappear as the ocean waves rush ashore, burying your ankles within the coarse sandy grains. The lush forests, the dreamy stained-glass sunsets, the smell of fresh cut grass. The freedom. The healing. The beauty.

Its no wonder my summers at Bell lake were the most formative periods of my lifetime. I mean, summer quite literally is the time for growth: the trees grow taller and wider with emerald-colored leaves, the geese lay eggs and raise their goslings along with the humid months, the front lawn changes from a brown and brittle hay to a nourished and verdant green. Growth is beautiful – the result is, at least. The process, however, can at times be hideous. The same bushy emerald trees ooze a sticky sap, the same sweet goslings leave their shit all over the sidewalk, the same verdant lawn becomes infested with overgrown weeds and slimy earthworms. So yes, growth is beautiful. But it is also foul and ugly and terribly painful. That is one thing I know very well: growing pains and how much they ache. My summers at Bell lake gave me enough to last a lifetime.

But in between those loathsome growing pains were moments of pure bliss; the kind of moments that feel so unreal you question whether this is real life. The moments where I danced barefoot in the pouring rain. The moments I laughed until my muscles ached and my eyes shed joyful tears. The moments I wished upon shooting stars under the moonlight. The moments I watched the morning sun rise upon the bay. The moments I fell deeply in love – and not just with romantic partners – but with myself, my friends, my beautiful life.

Those moments made all those damn growing pains worth it.

These moments that define my three summers at Bell Lake.

And I am here to tell it all.

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