“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”
― Rachel Carson
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, April 22, 2000
Out of Shape
Daingerfield State Park has a beautiful little lake at its center. The deep forest comes right down to the shore making the water look like a little cup of crystal in the greenery. It is lined with little coves covered in the green disks of lily pads. These were blooming with giant white explosions of water flowers. There is a swimming area marked off with a couple of foam buoys and a wooden platform floating out in the middle of the lake.
It was barely warm enough to swim and we spent a good part of the days sitting on the shore or throwing tennis balls for the Giant Killer Dog, while Nick swam. He would paddle out to the platform and climb up, pace back and forth, shivering in the cool breeze, until he was rested enough to swim back. He is so skinny it hurts sometimes to look at him.
The concession was open for the weekend and they had paddle boats for rent. Somewhere I have a photo album with a picture of a paddle boat I rented as a child. It was an elaborate all-steel affair, two torpedo shaped pontoons, a high bench seat, bicycle style pedals and a chain transmission to a real, visible paddle and a steering wheel. Today, paddle boats aren’t as well made. They are plastic and foam, bright molded-in colors, low-slung, a bent pipe with wooden pedals directly driving a completely enclosed paddle assembly. They are steered with a little pipe sticking up behind the seats.
Still, Nick wanted to rent one, so we paid our seven dollars and put on the ubiquitous red life vests, tattered and moldy-smelling, marked S, M, or L with fading Magic Marker. The boat was a bit too big for him and too small for me, making for inefficient propulsion. I am in such bad shape, my legs burned terribly as soon as we moved away from the dock. I could only paddle for a few minutes before I’d have to give up and take a rest. It took us what seemed like a long time to move across the lake (although we never completely used up our rented hour).
The breeze was light and the lake was even more beautiful from the center. Nicholas said, “Everything is blue or green, the only colors.” He pointed out how tall the forest was, it undulated into the distance, up from the water, and you couldn’t tell where the real hills were or where the trees were simply tending to be taller or shorter. Ducks and geese floated around looking for handouts. Black turtles sunned themselves on logs in the center of the lily pad seas, plopping into the water to swim away, sticking their heads out to peer out at us if we paddled too close.
When we looked down into the calm water with the sun at our backs we could see shafts of yellow and green extending downward, pulsing with the gentle waves. The trick of perspective made the water look miles deep, cold and clean.
Even with my legs burning, the sun heating up the uncomfortable clumsy life jacket, it was a pretty nice way to spend an hour and seven dollars.
When we reached shore, the kids shot some baskets at a hoop above the parking lot and hooted around in the playground for awhile. I examined some immature bald cypress trees growing in the shallow water and decided, for sure, that I was given an incorrect tree for my front yard. It is definitely a pine and not a cypress.
Nick, Candy, and The Giant Killer Dog drove back to the campsite while Lee wanted to walk back with me along the trail – a bit of a shortcut as opposed to the park road.
“Let’s race them!” Lee shouted, and took off along the trail.
It’s true, that in your mind’s eye, you see yourself as you were when you were… maybe sixteen years old. I could see myself running down that trail with Lee. I couldn’t do it. A few hundred yards and I was out of breath, side splitting, slowing to a walk. The MiniVan made it back to the campsite before Lee and I did.
But not by much.
And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:
from The London Magazine