Mountains and Molehills: A Vacation Diary
[Excerpts (and additions) from the (handwritten!) diary I kept on vacation. All links to go photos taken on said vacation. This will probably be five or six parts, so if you're not interested you might want to skip the next 24 hours or so around here. Part 1 here.]
It's a bit strange for a claustrophobic to hate open spaces, isn't it? But I do. Put me in a boat in the middle of the ocean or a field that seems to go on forever and I'll be in deep panic mode within seconds. I just hate not being able to see the end of something. It's why long car rides find me anxious towards the end of the ride; I know the finish line is up ahead, but until I can see it, it's almost like I can't breathe until I get there.
This lake isn't exactly wide open space; I can look ahead or behind me and see either side, both dotted with homes and docks and boats. To the left is the closer end that tightens up with a beaver damn (though in all my years coming to this lake I've never seen a beaver and I'm starting to think that they only existed in the minds of my older cousins), which narrows into a tiny patch of land, that opens up into a tangle of streams, leading out to Trout Brook Road (which is nothing more than dirt and gravel carved out of the mountain). It is in this spot that I tread soft ground, marveling at the way the bed of moss springs up and down as I press my feet upon it and then suddenly I am sinking, my right foot being sucked downward into muck and mud and who knows what else and as I panic (quicksand! death!) I move my left foot back and find refuge on a thick tree root. My daughter grabs one hand, my husband the other and they pull. My foot and leg come out of the swampy dirt with a puckering sound, leaving my sneaker behind. The phrase "nature abhors a vacuum" runs through my mind as the space where my foot was fills with spongy, wet dirt. My husband manages to tug my sneaker to safety and we collapse in fits of laughter in the nearby, dry field; me, laughing at myself and the way I screamed "Help, I'm going doooooooooown!" and the other two laughing more at me than with me, which was ok as I'm sure it looked funny from their point of view.
Our laughter echoes through the mountains and I remember being seven or eight years old, standing in almost the same spot, shouting out "Hello!" just to hear my voice reverberate through the woods and over the lake.
Anyhow, back to the lake. To the right, the lake opens up and stretches out far enough so you can't see the end. I know it's there, I know that the end is made to look like a beach, with a sandy shore and deck chairs, and there's a dock just bobbing up and down in the middle of the lake "beach" and it all gathers and rides out under a wooden bridge, where a waterfall spills the remains of the lake out into a wide, rock-strewn stream.
When we were small, we chased each other out to the dock and took turns diving off into the murk of the lake. I was braver then than I am now; even though I've always had a fear of water, I made a show of not being afraid back then. What would my cousins think if I refused to swim or jump or dive? So I swam with the fish and salamanders, my legs often getting tangled up in underwater vines or caught up in lily pads and I would scream as if snakes were wrapping themselves around me. Back by the house, where the water wasn't as clear as it was by the beach, I would don my red canvas tennis sneakers before stepping into the lake. Just gently putting your foot into the water, lightly stepping on the muddy bottom, would cause a smoky uproot of whatever dreck lay on the bottom of Lake Muskoday. How did I ever swim in that? Where is that bravery now? Now, I look at the lake and see a monster ready to swallow me up. I see water without end. I see depths unknown, dark, dangerous waters filled with, what? Trout? Newts? It doesn't matter. It's water and it's dark and when I'm out there in the paddle boat, holding on for dear life, my family nearly in tears laughing at my abject terror of a freaking lake, it may as well be a five headed, forked tongue, fire-breathing dragon. That's what an open space is, in my mind. That's what the depth of water is, a never ending lake or ocean, a giant field, a road with exits far and few between all are. How odd is that it is the same monster as a closed, dark closet, a crowded elevator or any tight, confined space? The mind is a mysterious thing.
All photos (uploaded so far, I took 555) here.
[more to come]