9.29.2006,9:10 PM
Day Thirteen: The Lake

The Lake

I woke early with the sounds of geese and other birds, the sun barely rising. Even before contemplating the question, I decided to spend the day here by the lake. I’ve had an urge to find and camp by a lake all summer, and here I am. I’m staying another day before I complete this trip.

The neighbors offer me freshly brewed coffee and we chat for awhile, commenting how peaceful the night was. I asked if they heard coyotes; “Yup, do every night.”
I didn’t dream them after all.

I grab the camera, book and laptop along with my trusty coffee mug and find a chair on the dock over the lake water.

Sitting here suspended over the lake on a deck of wood, the only substance separating me and the water below, I rock with the waves. I watched with a smile as a flock of geese flew overhead in their V-formation, a duck floating on the water surface, the rising sunlight reflecting off the tips of the waves, fish quickly darting their mouths above the water surface to catch insects and generating circles of ripples in their aftermath, hawks gliding overhead watching for fish with an occasional call to their mates or youngsters to follow. Such solitude this body of water and surrounding life bestows upon a weary body and heart. And sets the mind in motion.

What is it about water that draw us like magnets? It’s not only that it provides us with our most required element ensuring survival of our bodies. There is a pull like metal to a magnet, as if our spirit and soul were unresistingly drawn to water. Perhaps it is a primal urge to return to our ancient origins, the water, before our gills gave way to lungs extracting oxygen from air rather than the water we existed in.

To imagine this lake as a huge bowl of nearly infinite molecules of dihydrogen oxide in such a concentrated form, and the realization of the commonality that nearly every living thing (debating a scientific and philosophical definition of ‘life’ is opening a can of scorpions) on this planet shares this substance: water. It runs in our veins, in our brains, stems and leaves, in everything we are. And we would die without it. Buy that is not the only explanation we are drawn to water like a magnet.

Bodies of water, the cradle of life, also feeds our spirits and soul. These cradles of water provide us with food, but they are are also sensory ticklers. The sounds of the waves slapping boats or rocks, ocean waves crashing against sandy shores or exploding against craggy cliffs, the roar of the wild ocean in a storm, or the sounds of rain as they fall drop by drop, ripples spreading out and overlapping each other.

The rising sun reflected in the still waters that seem laced with shadows of tree limbs on the shore; the rich colors of a sunset, painting bottoms of clouds with stark shades of red which is reflected in the satin water below. The white and brown froth of ocean waves as they crash and leave it on the sand like a parting gift.

And the smells; the odors of fish, seaweed, rotting wood, algae, and salty tidal pools. These smells compete with shoreline trees and shrubs and dart away quickly with a strong wind.

These bodies of water are another living world we seldom explore except to harvest from. As living creatures, we all need water to survive. Yet we debase that resource by all fathomable ways of polluting it. Even most animals don’t defecate in their food. Why do we, the most advanced animals, continue to pollute our food and water resources? I’m still trying to understand an explanation for that.

All resources can provide other than sustenance. Our water resources serve as sources of recreation as well as drinking and cleaning. We as humans are capable of preserving and conserving our natural resources for all creatures on this planet, not just ourselves.

As advanced animals with abilities to predict, reason, and act in accord with the predictable future, we would be expected to assume a role of stewardship of all natural resources on this planet, sharing with all creatures in this global habitat. Yet we inexcusably fail.

I don’t claim to be an environmentalist, but a realist. Yet I am not enshrouded and blinded with a homocentric perspective, either. The reality is we don’t have exclusive rights on this planet’s resources, and to survive in the long run, we all have to share everything here. Success depends on preservation coupled with wise use of all of these resources. Let’s have some respect for each other and all the other living and non-living things around us. Let’s find a balance for all of us.

We can continue to enjoy the recreational offerings of and extract our subsistence from our environment while being stewards and preserving it for others and future generations. It starts with individuals, each of us taking responsibility and doing our part. Multiply that by ten, by hundreds, by thousands and the impact exponentially grows.

The wind picks up and waves slap the dock and shore, boats creak at their moors, and waves flicker the reflection of the sun as it climbs in the sky, warming my stiff and chilled body. The smell of algae and fish is a perfume I’ve not sampled in many years.

Breathing deeply and turning my face to the sun, I am content to sit here in silence, alone with the voice inside my head narrating my thoughts. Memories of the lakes in Maine and Oregon flood my mind: floating aimlessly in my canoe on deserted Maine lakes, reading a book or occasionally slipping into the water over the side; sitting on by the side of Scott Lake at the foot of the Three Sisters mountains in the Cascade Mountain Range, listening and rejoicing in the call of the loons floating on the water surface in the twilight; shedding clothing in the night to swim in the silence and mystery of the lakes under a full moon; standing ankle-deep in cold ocean water in awe, embracing the cold, powerful and salty gusts of Pacific wind; or searching tide pools for anemones, starfish and shellfish in frothy Atlantic waters.

Perhaps I’m a water nymph, a creature not yet broken my primeval ties to the water, unable to resist the magnetic pull to the lakes and ocean. They turn me inside out, the barricades of everyday life give way to the thoughts inside my head and I try to capture them before they flee into the air and mental cobwebs.

I come to the water to escape, to remember that part of me, to rejuvenate the closeness with everything else around me, humility restored, peace of mind and spirit replenished. Here is where life began in its simplest form, this is what we all have in common: water. Coming from the desert where our most crucial element for survival is sparse, where life forms have evolved to extract and conserve every molecule of water, the dichotomy of its proliferance here reminds me that every thing on this planet can survive. If we don’t destroy it. It’s a matter of what works, and that is all that evolution is: an adaptation to what works and endures.

Let’s all evolve together. In balance.

The Night

The neighbors and their neighbors invited me to dinner of camp stew and crackers. A humble but delicious and welcomed meal. The campfire invoked more stories from around the ring, before the dancing flames lulled me nearly into sleep. Excusing myself and thanking them again for their hospitality, I retired to my tent and sleeping bags for another night's sleep by the lake.

I could have stayed there indefinately, even in my small two-person tent. Even Whee seems a part of the entire surroundings, with my hand towel and washcloth draped over the handlebars, Camelbac hanging upside down to dry from the clutch lever, the two side cases serving as my dresser. I type the end of this entry sitting at the nearby concrete and stone picnic table with my headlamp illuminating the screen and the keyboard backlit by the ingenuity of Mac engineers.

Time to pack the laptop in it's case and crawl into my humble little home on the side of this lake. With regret,
in the morning I pack for the last time and end this journey. I never expected to be filled with such sadness at the end of it all.

It feels as though it has only begun
And I want to keep going,
Riding on these travels with Whee,
Me and my shadow.
posted by Macrobe
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