essay ... image: lake vallecito colorado
A favorite place of ours to hang out is around lakes nestled up in Southern Californiaís eastern mountains, or inland along the southern coast of Oregon, or in the mountains of southwestern Colorado, or on the high plateaus in the Dixie National Forest. Early morning is always the best time for us, (Michele and me) especially when the surface of the lake is overhung with mist and the trees appear as brooding warriors.
As the day progresses the lake takes on various personalities. The interaction between wind, sun, and water can create an esoteric beauty that, while remaining undeniable in its magnificence, is often difficult to describe. I find it inspiring, too, how the surface of the lake always responds to the many forces around it, and often, when the weather changes, how the water can take on the personality of whatís influencing it. When the lake is calm its fun watching clouds drifting by on the specular surface of the water. An airliner fading in and out of view stretches and shrinks with surface tension and people appear as if theyíre in a carnival mirror. Strolling along the wooden bridge all of them appear as ghostly apparitions undulating against a backdrop of blue sky. A noisy flock of Canadian honkers are fast approaching now from the east, and I canít help chuckling at the humorous interaction, near the waterís edge, between hummingbirds and crows as they contend over the remains of a big mouth bass. A fishermanís line is routinely being cast out over the gunwale of his motorboat and small ripples from the lure spread out slowly in a pattern of concentric rings. I can see that the motor has developed an oil leak. I wonder if he knows that hydrocarbons never entirely commingle with water and that this type of pollution settles on the bottom eventually as a form of sludge and begins to change the lakes delicate ecosystem.
I adore lakes nestled in quaint verdant valleys, especially the ones surrounded by impregnable trees and alive with diversely colored wildflowers. I canít help but think, though, that when people visit a lake, they sometimes see only the surface of the water and whatís around it. Perhaps it never dawns on some that the real substance of the lake is beneath the surface. We have our surfaces too, that we are often conceited about, and spend way too much money on maintaining. And then thereís our facades, that part of us we feel comfortable sharing in public and want to be known by. But then, like the lake, thereís the substance of what really defines us that is often never shown or ever fully comprehended. The lake that is embraced from a safe distance becomes a much more challenging experience when one ventures in closer.
I am aware that all the surfaces in life have no depth. Ninety nine percent of the lakes heart and soul, its essence, is beneath the surface, and unless I make a concerted effort to dive in and go deeper I'll never know what that lake is all about. As long as the water is shallow, and I can make out what's going on underneath it, I sure feel safer. But when it gets deeper, and the water murkier, it becomes a bit more foreboding. Since I was very young, dark water has always provoked an inexplicable dread in me. I struggle with what may be lurking in the depths and what sorts of monsters are hiding and watching and waiting to pounce. All of us, Iím sure, develop peculiar fears in our lives, and when we embrace and feed those unfortunate feelings they never seem to go away.
Iím convinced now that I have to take the next step. So I'm going to dive in and swim down under the surface no matter how negative my initial assessment was. My big toe says the water is cold and, if the goose pimples on my butt are any indicator, I may need a wet suit to stay warm. Itís dark, so Iím assuming it must be deep. Maybe I shouldnít do this. But how else am I going to understand better? Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, here goes.....
K E R S P L A S H!
YIKES, it is cold.
My big toe was right.
Keeping my eyes closed brings me a kind of comfort but I canít go through the whole experience blinded to it, Iím sure that Iíd swim into a rock or be gnawed on by something. Donít laugh, itís true ! You just never know whoís, I mean, whatís, gonna sneak up when youíre vulnerable and try to screw you over.
Ok, my eyes are open and itís beautiful here.
What was that!?
What a cool fish.
You know I really expected something more threatening here. I suppose that imagining the worst can create some pretty nasty lasting imagery for some. And when we expect the worst, sometimes we can empower the very things we fear and defeat ourselves before we even try. But thatís not the case for me today. Maybe purposing to discover whatís good about it is a better approach than always worrying about what we think may not suit us.
Around me treasures glisten half buried on the sandy bottom. Just old beer cans and glass bottles Iím supposing but who cares, it still looks cool and stimulates my imagination. Treasures arenít always gold and diamonds you know, sometimes itís just the simple things that leave the lasting impressions. Whatever that is moving over there sure makes my stomach flop. I wonder if it could be the "gnarly oneĒ the fishermen always talk about. They say thereís a six foot catfish in this lake that no one can catch. Itís a nibbler, and a teaser, and they complain all the time because itís so doggone smart. They say, over the years, the bloody thing has eaten or stolen thousands of dollars worth of bait. And from what scuttlebutt Iíve heard, these ole boys want this thing on the wall, and theyíre willing to do anything to end its life and get the stature for having done so.
Good grief, what was that?!
Where did all those bubbles come from?
Oh... thatís a relief; itís just a motorboat on the surface. Ah Ö time to go up again for another breath.
You know, I learned today that it's not so easy confronting the unknown and getting out of our comfort zones. Everything seems in slow motion down here under the water and I can move in ways that I never could on the surface. My aches and pains have all but vanished and, even though itís a pain having to go up to the surface all the time to get a breath, I still have a reassuring peace that the process is eventually going to give me a kind of wisdom that will change me for the better.
Diffused sunlight, filtering down through the water, soothes me and also gives me hope that we always look up to the light and not down. I know the light will guide me back to a familiar world, and what I felt safe looking at from a distance just isnít a threat any longer, especially since Iíve gotten ďwetĒ under the surface. Being involved more closely offers me much more than just interacting superficially. Iím convinced now that Iím going to have to find some way to stay down here longer. I want to understand and appreciate this wonderfully mysterious world under the surface a lot better.
Maybe Iíll buy a scuba tank!
richard lloyd cederberg
Site: A Monumental Journey Novels
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"water, people, and six foot catfish..."
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|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by Diana Legun (Reader)
|I like how you take us shyly into the introduction to your lake. First you give us a look at the surface, with what it has to offer and you keep in present tense, which gives us the presence of now. It is as though you have us next to you this way. Your mention of our 'appearance fixation' was definitely not lost on me; and how would it be were we to only care about what lies underneath in one another? Beautiful thought. Beautiful wish. You made this a multidimensional read -- humor, apprehension, appreciation, joy and discovery. I know the bodies of water's 'various personalities' of which you speak; living on piers over Hood Canal, WA for three years gave my husband and me the visions of these personalities; we called them the 'many faces of Hood Canal'. Enjoyable piece of writing is this. ~~ Diana|
|Reviewed by Michael Hollingsworth
|The lake is Like meeting and trying to get to know someone, unless you dive in and make the effort to get below the surface you may miss completely the inner beauty.|
|Reviewed by J Howard
|and there can be "something more threatening,"... beware....in our Oklahoma lakes, gar are rampant...and i wouldn't want to come eye ball to eye with one.|
|Reviewed by Morgan Merriweather
|this is a great essay and you know, all color is lost after 30ft. It's a magical world. ~ Morgan|
|Reviewed by Joy Hale
|A wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed! I'd like to see that catfish!! I spent a wonderful summer one year with family; my brother-in-law taught me how to scuba dive and he had a wet suit for me to borrow. While underwater, exploring the lakes in the area, I felt like I had entered a foreign world that amazed me as I marveled at the treasures found below. I share the excitement you have written about for it was a wonderful, exciting adventure. Thanks for reminding me how I spent one of the best summers of my life!
Joy L. Hale
|Reviewed by Christine Tsen
|I so enjoyed reading this. Your writing has a wonderful sense of wonder. We do have to celebrate journeying farther and farther on into the mystery. Thanks Richard :)|
|Reviewed by Douglas Bentley
|After reading I must confess I was envious and jealous.
But you know Richard, I've had just as good of times.
I just have to dive down and pluck them out of my mind.
Thanks for shining a light into the underground memories that bind.
|Reviewed by Kimmy Van Kooten
|I say!... if your really up to facing some spooky dark waters, jump into one of our Florida lakes! Your pretty much lunch for the wading gator sunning on the old Cypress log. Water Moccasins aren't fun to swim with either. Your beautiful, cool, lake sounds much more safer, old friend. I purr at catfish! LOL! :) The Merriest Christmas and Happy New Year!!! 2012, here we come!! Keep up the scribbling...avoid any nibbling! :)
Love and Peace~
|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|Being a skinny little twerp, I learned to swim underwater for swimming on top. I always went with my eyes open, even when they smarted from algae or acid in the water. Not fearful, but curious as to what I would see.
Too often, I have found waterways to be used as dumps where what was unseen under the surface was okay. It was never okay with me and I remember reporting tires thrown in the local stream as disgrace to the local paper forty years ago.
But what you are diving into is deeperĖunseen worlds. Hence your fascination with fantasy as another world to explore. There are places, such as those LSD provides, that I have chosen not to go. Am I fearful? Perhaps. But I don't think so, just cautious. I do visit my dreams and they become sources for some of my best stories. I believe I do not have to live the life of the criminal to write about one. So there are places I simply will not go. And, my common sense tells me not to dive into murky, oily, waters because I'm a likely get my head on a piece of rusty steel or develop a flesh eating bacteria from its grimy midst.
Fortunately, there are still pristine waters that you describe where my only fear is hyperthermia from frigid icy runoff.
Very thought-provoking. Especially why old-timers like my grandfather always loved to catch the biggest catfish (oldest), claim victory, and eat them. I prefer catch and release if you have to conquer old fish.
richard lloyd cederberg