July 23, 2010
How provincial we humans are. We may read history, travel the world, learn a foreign language, and study international cultures, but we can still find ourselves surprised when we realize that not everyone sees the world as we do.
For nearly 50 years (minus one month and 5 days) I have been coming to this lake. I stay here at the point, near the narrows, and I have been gazing out upon one prospect all of my life. There is Mt. Morris, and Big Tupper Ski Area on its slopes. That is the lake view.
Certainly I have been all around the lake on boats, but those were always daytime, traveling, passing vistas in my limited brain. When I sit on someone else’s porch on another part of the lake, it feels strange to me to imagine that their prospect is the lake view, like mine – for all of their lives on the lake.
As I paddled across the big bay this morning Mt. Morris slowly disappeared from view, other mountains appeared that I consider only occasional players on the scene, new angles on the curves of each bay and cove emerge, and yet there is another boathouse and dock – someone’s daily prospect, their lake, their view, their home front. And it is altogether unfamiliar to me. At least, it is not home.
Then I listened to the splash of several fish leaping for their breakfast on the surface of the lake. I actually saw two of them twisting in the air in their brief flight above water. So much life – lifetimes of lives are carrying on underneath me. Fish, mussels, leeches, crayfish, and various creatures that spend parts of their lives in the lake see the world above water as an entirely different element.
I saw a beautiful hawk with a nobly curved beak fly over as I approached the quiet outlet of the lake. The waters are so still in that meandering way that you have to look twice to distinguish protruding logs and branches from their own reflections. They create beautiful symmetry – some of nature’s finest artwork.
In the shallows of the outlet I startled a great blue heron who spread his vast wings and hauled himself heavily into the air, long legs dangling and then slowly folding underneath him. The birds’ prospect over the lake from above is an enviable one. How do I look from above – leaving my small wake and trails of tiny dwindling whirlpools from my paddle? Don’t you sometimes wish you could be in several places at once, like a team of cameramen?
Then on my return I heard an airplane. It was a small one, but very high in the sky. It is the first sign of a waking human I have seen on any of my lake mornings. What does that pilot see? A vast carpet of trees and hills below, dotted by lakes just beginning to sparkle in the light of the rising sun. My tiny kayak in the middle of one lake is…nothing.