Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Final Visit

The last time I went to the lake, the meadow was flooded from unseasonal summer rain and you could not walk down by the main trail without sinking knee deep in the water and soft earth. I walked instead to the higher ground and left the road there, picking my way through the thickets until I reached the pebbly point just beyond the meadow that had once been like home. On the point, I found bear scat, black and full of berries and leaves and swarming with flies. I paused to listen, feeling like an intruder. Not feeling at home at all. Or after all. An unseen woodpecker tapped on the bark of a hollow tree trunk. Thunk, thunk, thunk. There was no other sound. The lake itself was still and silent, flat as glass. Nothing moved except for the flies. There should have been voices, laughter, the crackling of a fire, sudden trout breaking the surface of the water, casting expanding rings in their wake, but there was nothing. I walked along the shore and found no frogs or salamanders. On the far side of the lake, I could see where the forest fire of two years ago had burned, straight down the slope from the point of the initial lightning strike and then roughly following the course of the trail which led to the south end of the lake and thence tumbled down through the old growth, descending six miles and more to the sands of the Reservation. It had left a scar, still bare, still raw, and it would persist, I thought, for many years to come. That part of things would never be the same again. Where the meadow met the lake, the ground was raised, ending in stone shelves that dipped to the water like smooth toenails. A gray tree trunk, long dead, eternal, rose from a cleft between the rocks and one cheek of its smooth grey face was pocked by an abandoned hornet hive. I sat on the stone, feet in the water, imagined a different world, another time. I had once thought that things would never change. Hanging on the side of the rock, clinging to a miniature forest of nearly microscopic, just barely green-grey lichen was the husk of a cricket, the shell of its former self. Though paper thin, fragile as parchment, the shell retained, in fine detail, the form of the original creature, which had climbed out through its own mouth and lived now, somewhere, anew. It had left this testimony, dryly whispered, the evidence of itself no more.

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