the lake

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the lake

I can almost feel the whisper of the breeze and the sun play against my skin when I think about it.

I can almost hear the lap of the water against the sun-bleached dock.

In high school it was all I could do to leave. My sister and I complained about being so far out of town. How, while our friends could so easily meet up, we were stranded on these 10 acres off country back roads.

Now I dream about going back. Those couple times a year I do, I lament leaving.

Back before the house stood on the hillside overlooking the lake, we lived in a converted Dodge bus on the property and bathed in its water. I usually cried through those bathing sessions. As I dipped under to rinse off, visions of flesh-eating pike darting at my feet haunted me. At that time, the sunfish still darted in shallow parts over the yellow silt that makes up its floor. The pike were much more interested in them than my toes.

Now, swimming in the lake is a luxury found on vacation time. We spend hours there, leaving only to go make sandwiches, until dusk settles in over the sky. My parent’s yellow lab wines and jumps in after anyone taking a dip. The grandchildren, decked in life jackets, toss in noodles that ultimately need rescuing from the marshy shores.

The beauty of a northern summer is the sun lingers long past dinnertime. Reeds bend in the breeze and blue herons make cameos after the dog has settled into a spot on the floating dock. The hills that tuck the lake into its spot provide a buffer from the outside. Previous summer rains trim the lake in green.

Even as the nearby town morphs and grows and draws flocks of tourists, the lake seems preserved in time, its waves glinting in the sun. A haven from the outside busyness I once sought after, and now seek to avoid.


the mess left over

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I woke up to a trail of ants coursing from the ceiling into a sink full of unwashed dishes.

This is when I pay for the past weekend, I thought.

I never was able to have fun at low speeds. It is all or nothing. From zero to 60. I pack it in in strings of events I shouldn’t have time for. Now-a-days, it is a healthy kind. That wasn’t always so.

The past three days were each 12 hours straight of sunshine, live music, tens of thousands of people, heat, serving sandwiches and dancing. My heels are cracked and black. My lungs are full of dust. I’m sunburned. I’m drained. A headache from dehydration pools at my temples. Sometimes fun is exhausting.

It’s nearly 1 p.m. and I’m still in my pajamas. I feel as though the past three days, as ideal as they were at the time, have sucked the energy from me. I’m suddenly looking forward to resuming the normal patterns of eat, work, eat, gym, eat, sleep.

While I was away, my home sat by neglected. I’m still not unpacked from my trip to Denver the previous weekend. My room is a regalia of clean and dirty laundry, draped over baskets and drying racks and in piles on the floor. I’m dreading having to sort that out. My kitchen table and its matching chairs have become a dumping ground for unopened mail and an unpacked backpack and stray clothing and a pile of shoes. I didn’t pay my rent. A vase of dead flowers sits on my fireplace. My floor needs sweeping. My plants need watering. I’m out of milk, toilet paper and coffee. Of the three, coffee is the one I miss the most.

A long list of responsibilities and obligations keep surfacing in my mind, one at a time.

And then there is that pile of dishes. The one that beckoned the ants from the outside in. I beat them back with a can of Raid, only to find them in the doorways of my cabinets. Ants really like cereal.

We’ve had it out before, and I thought I had won. But it only takes three days of a whirlwind music festival for them to find a jackpot in my kitchen, in the mess left over.

bottled summer

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This is what 15,000 people look like.

The meadow has been re-carpeted, the grass tucked away under a multitude of colors. It’s all bare feet and dresses and sweaters and blankets.

There’s something unifying about music. One would think so many people commingled in such a small space would hold the lot of them one trip or shove from a riot. Instead, people dance and smile and weave among each other.

There’s the girl who lies on her back, her arm over her eyes, seemingly oblivious to the throng that tucks her in on all sides. There is the group hopping and waving their arms in the air. There is the guy with shaggy hair and a dog to match. There is the girl on her boyfriend’s shoulders. There is the guy in the Abercrombie hat with his back to the stage, looking for someone to make eye contact with.

People hop from the foot-sized patches of grass between blankets. No one gets annoyed when someone stops to look up at the stage. Everyone simultaneously does their own thing, and somehow it all fits together.

They sing in one voice, songs that everybody knows.

It’s puzzling that this is possible in a group so infinitely different.

The performers feel it and capitalize on it. They encourage sing-a-longs and extort cheers in between bass solos. They play covers when they have a full quivers of their own music.

The sun shines warmer in this pocket, warmer than elsewhere in the city, where the wind has more direct access. A girl with dark curls rolls up her pants. The worst thing about her day is that she’s not wearing shorts.

The last chord rings in a mass exodus, when everything goes back to normal. There’s jostling on the subway and arguing on cell phones. But some still hum the notes the singer coached them in.

For a few hours, they had bottled summer, and the memory of the taste is still sweet.


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The sun for me is like a drug.

Maybe because I spent so many years in withdrawal.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and the sun is in its full garb of yellow glory. I lay with my eyes half open, its heat melting all tension from my shoulders.

My thoughts thaw into a nonsensical puddle. The breeze patters a silent drum beat on my back. The murmur of conversation beside me fades into distant horizons. I feel blades of grass looping through my toes.

Only a week ago, we were ducking under umbrellas and huddling under  blankets snatched from their neat folds on couches. Mini rivers divided the roads and sidewalks. Summer seemed like a myth while winter held onto its reign.

A friend’s child asked her if it is almost Christmas.

But Sunday gave us hope. Hope of flip-flops and shorts. Hope of barbecues on patios. Hope of driving with the windows down with the radio blaring.

Suddenly, summer seems like a possibility instead of a hope.

I feel the energy that the rain robbed of me oozing back in breaths. All else fades into shapelessness in the glare of the light. My world, overexposed, seems so much more manageable without shadows or shading.

I close my eyes and watch it fade into semiconsciousness with me.