Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Lazy Days of Summer

This is a picture of my great grandmother, Esther Hellman, and her daughter Clara Hellman Heller, relaxing on the porch of their summer home, Pine Lodge. You can't see it, but they are looking out at a magnificent view of Lake Tahoe. They look so relaxed here, sitting on wicker furniture in their white cotton dresses, sipping tea, and hanging out with their dogs. This picture was probably taken in 1903, the year that the house at Sugar Pine Point was finished. (Note the trunks of the sugar pine trees acting as columns for the porch)

The Hellmans used to spend most of August at Lake Tahoe. They would invite lots of friends to visit and would fish, swim, take walks, go horseback riding, and travel up the nearby General Creek for picnics. There was no road around the west side of the lake, so the Hellmans had to take a ferry from Tahoe City to their home.

Sugar Pine Point is now a California state park.

I had a great time finding out about my ancestors' lives while researching Towers of Gold, my book on Isaias Hellman. But this is one of the few spontaneous photos I have of them. Most of the pictures are formal, posed shots, nothing like this picture, which features an unguarded moment.

Photos are critical when writing narrative non-fiction. Even though I poured through thousands of pages of Hellman's diaries and letters, I never saw a description of the days they spent at their summer home in Lake Tahoe. But after seeing this picture, I could add a description about the time they spent lazing about on their front porch.

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