On Sundays I take more time at the lake and get there early enough I have it all to myself. There’s a rock on the shore where I sit and a Corona beer bottle cap a few feet below the water that changes position every week. Today a guy appeared with a canoe and paddled off to the far end of the lake; I wondered if he had a fishing pole hidden in there and was planning to drop his line in the water out of sight. A fish flopped in the air and arced itself backwards, a duck paddled by and dunked itself. It made me think of that canoe my parents had, growing up. A long, aluminum boat we used to take out to Leaser Lake. We didn’t fish, we just paddled around coves to see what we could see—often, snakes swimming by with their heads just above the water, kind of creepy. My mom was afraid of snakes and she’d jerk away upon seeing one, rock the boat, and we’d all scream. We took our two rabbits out on Leaser Lake the day we released them, letting them out of their cage and onto an island shore with a brief goodbye, then paddled away. The guy and his canoe had disappeared, and the water lapped the shore. Though we’re in the suburbs, it can feel like I’m in the wild now with no one around. I can’t believe we took that canoe on top of our VW bug, it doesn’t make sense. Or where my parents would have stored it since we lived in a two-bedroom apartment and they didn’t have much in the way of storage for the residents. It was just a basement with some coin-operated laundry machines and individual storage units separated by chicken wire. The basement was scary as hell, growing up. How the light came through and made shadows, how the pipes made funny sounds and creaked. Chasing each other through there, exiting out the side door and up the concrete steps. Going back to that apartment as an adult, taking my kids there for our annual visit back East. Best for me to make those trips alone, instead. Looping the perimeter of the different units, through the field where I used to kick the soccer ball with my dad. That tree I used to climb, gone. All of it so much smaller. Maybe it’s a profound sense of loss, going back like that: the expanse between the then and the now, that open space across a body of water, unable to see the far side. Knowing it was there once, insisting upon it. Not sure if it’s even real, though. And wondering the same about ourselves.
Image by John William Waterhouse, Echo and Narcissus (Wiki Commons)