Monday, April 20, 2009
Lakeside living brings back childhood memories Living by water brings calm to adult routine
Reflections of the clouds and trees are among the many pleasures of lakeside life.
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel April 20, 2009)
For 34 of my 57 years, I've lived next to lakes. On countless mornings, I've watched a steamy mist rise over still water. In the evenings, I've enjoyed the play of color in a lake's glassy surface as the sun sinks toward the horizon. I've listened to the rhythm of raindrops intruding upon a lake's flat surface and admired the reflection of clouds on its ripples. I've seen ospreys soar overhead, ducks swim by and herons stalk fish along the shoreline. My sense of self is interwoven with the ways of water.
I grew up in Yardley, Pa., by Silver Lake, although "Brown Lake" would have been a more appropriate moniker. The 10-acre mud-bottom pond was about 25 feet in front of the house my parents bought when I was an infant. I have no idea why my parents chose that particular place to live. My father couldn't swim, and neither of them ever expressed an interest in water activities. I, however, was enthralled from the start by Silver Lake's many charms.
Every day for my first 17 years, I ate my morning meal in the kitchen next to picture windows overlooking the water. How my mind wandered as I crunched spoonfuls of raisin bran and avoided drinking my milk. I watched the wind blow across the lake's surface and imagined myself being swept away to other places, other times.
Silver Lake gave me freedom. In winter, I skated across its bumpy ice. In summer, I swam in its muddy waters. I waded in its shallows and waited patiently for sunfish to swim into my cupped hands. They always did, and after holding them close for the briefest of moments I always let them go. Their urge to live was too strong to ignore.
On my 13th birthday, my parents gave me a small aluminum rowboat, and after that I proceeded to spend as much time as possible in that boat on the lake. Most of the time I rowed, but sometimes I put the oars down and simply let the wind carry me along from one end of the lake to the other. I drifted along both mentally and physically. My perspective changed when I was on water. Instead of being a child inside my parents' house, I was an adventurer on a quest — far enough away to feel separate and whole, yet close enough still to go home for supper.
I moved away from Yardley when I went to college and, although my parents remained there for several more years, I met my husband while still an undergraduate, and we rarely returned. It wasn't until Ralph and I moved to our current property 17 years ago that I realized how much a part of me those memories of Silver Lake had become.
Our home now is also by a small lake, about the same size as the one in Yardley. Both homes are close to the water with ever-changing, expansive views. In Yardley, I watched Canada geese fly overhead. In Florida, I see sandhill cranes, ibises, wood storks and herons silhouetted against the sky. In my Lake County pond, sunfish don't dot the shallows, but plenty of bass do. I sit in the kitchen eating my own home-cooked meals — no longer accompanied by the dreaded glass of milk — watching with delight as birds fill their stomachs with tasty treats plucked from the water.
I'll never tire of living by water. No matter how many times I gaze over a lake's shimmering surface, there's always something different to see.
For my first 17 years, wave after wave of gentle persistence shaped me into the person I eventually became. It took a while, but for the past 17 years, I've returned to a place very similar to my childhood home. There's a symmetry in how things worked out. They say you can never return to your youth, but in a way, I have. Thanks to lakeside living, I've gone back in time. Water — that most basic of elements — is mine for the taking, and I take it in gratefully every chance I get.