By Adrienne McGee Sterrett
Tufts of cottonwood were making themselves cozy in her screens, momentarily frustrating Shary Duff. But in a flash, she had accepted it and was laughing about it.
Cottonwood is part of lake living, after all.
And Duff has learned how to enjoy each moment as it’s given to her, refusing to be bogged down with things out of her control.
“The lake makes you pause to be thankful,” Duff said. “We don’t have a lot of lakes in Ohio, and we’re blessed.”
Duff, 58, is an Indian Lake area native, although she didn’t grow up on the water. She married and raised two children on O’Connor’s Point, moving to the waterfront 40 years ago. She enjoyed her former Bellefontaine business, Peach Tree Books & Co.
But when her time in business came to an end, and she and her husband agreed to an amicable divorce after 35 years, her health was affected by the huge changes she was experiencing. At her son’s insistence, she attended a Deepak Chopra seminar on meditation — and over time learned to relax, be thankful and have a positive attitude while coming to understand God. (Read her book, “How to Rock the World When You Get Rocked,” to learn more.)
Duff left the area for a few years, but returned to help care for her parents. When she was house shopping, being on the water was a must. At first glance, she fell in love with her current home — technically on a channel — and has lived there about three years. The house is only 8 years old, and she loved the floorplan. It was originally done in a lodge style, which doesn’t match her personality.
“We kind of facelifted it,” she said, explaining that is what happens every day at the lake. The property once had an old fishing cottage on it, which is typical around Indian Lake.
“You buy a cottage or a house and you renovate it. That’s part of the fun,” she said, explaining the lake is ringed by developments to suit anyone’s budget. If you don’t want to buy, you can camp out for a weekend.
The vaulted ceiling in the living room on the main level allows for a virtual wall of windows that opens to the lake. The backyard is made comfortable with red Adirondack furniture and a firepit for cozy conversation.
“I have fires three nights a week,” she said.
Bedrooms include a child’s dream bedroom devoted to her grandson, who comes over often, and an “Indian Lake” room decorated with fireworks and Americana.
The basement also opens up to the lake, allowing for views from almost everywhere in the house. Downstairs oozes comfort, with its family oriented large dining room table and wine cellar-themed nook. Since she lives there year-round, she also appreciates winter.
“My favorite time here is winter,” Duff said. “It’s absolutely as beautiful here in the winter.”
Duff’s interest in home decor, fueled by her former business, translates to Waterford crystal and checkerboard MacKenzie-Childs ceramics mixed with more affordable items from Hobby Lobby and Frontgate.
“That’s fun about decorating,” she said. “But nothing’s more fun than hearing the kids laugh.”
Her interest in home decor does not come close to her interest in the idea of the home — that it is a comfortable place to share time with her beloved friends and family.
Duff, quick to kick off her shoes and curl her feet up on the sofa, glows when talking about her experiences.
“I’ll yell (hello) to the fishermen (across the channel in the park),” she said. “I’ll take cookies over. The Amish were there one day and I took stuff over. … This is about picnicking again with families, where you bring the Jell-o and the potato salad and the hamburgers for the grill.”
She is impressed with lake preservation efforts. The Indian Lake Watershed Project was started more than 25 years ago, according to 32-year-old Logan County Commissioner Dustin Wickersham, and a group effort has helped reduce runoff to control algae and generally work to keep the lake clean using a variety of methods. So far, so good. The 5,400-acre lake does have some undesirable blue-green algae in it, but it’s being kept in check, Wickersham explained as a dredger growled in the background.
“That would be my wish and my dream that the lake would be preserved at this level for my great-grandchildren,” Duff said. “Indian Lake is about family. It’s the cleanest-cut best way to spend time for a family. … It makes you think America is not dying.
“It’s my home and my tribe. There’s something about the sunsets and the water. It’s the good Midwest farm community that we all gravitate back here.”