There’s nothing like a quiet lake in the still of autumn


Work was fine. I encountered a person who was on some kind of drugs where she could talk intelligently and clearly, but couldn’t walk at all. We ended up calling the police to check on her after she left because she went across the street and sat on the sidewalk in front of the bulk barn for 15 minutes and didn’t move at all. I knew she wasn’t drunk because she only had 3 beer in 4 hours. So one of the managers and I went to check on her and she was like, “I’m fine and I am just reading the paper” (pretty sure road pavement isn’t a paper). She got up to walk away and took one step and fell on her face and repeated that for a while. Anyways, it made for an interesting shift. The end.

So, that was my little sister’s Thanksgiving. We didn’t do a big family Thanksgiving this year because she had to work, my mom picked up and moved out west, and, as I mentioned, I spent the holiday with my girlfriend’s family way out in the sticks. I’m not sure if her mother likes me so much that she was constantly feeding me in an effort to make me so fat that other women won’t try to steal me from her daughter, or if she hates me so much she’s planning to force-feed me until I explode, like a goose being turned into pâté de foie gras.

But we did briefly escape. It was a beautiful mid-October afternoon, and the brilliant blaze of the autumn foliage burned nearly as hot as the Indian summer sun. The agrestic quiet was broken only by the rustling of the leaves at our feet and the sudden skirr of a partridge flushed out of hiding as we walked down a dirt road to the enormous crater of an old, abandoned hematite mine, now a very deep lake. With our only company the turkey vultures circling above, we stood at the edge and gazed at the glittering blue water hundreds of feet below. Then an old German couple walked by. We returned their smile as they passed, then hit them across the back of the head with large rocks, filled their pockets with the loose stones lining the edge of the pit, then rolled them over the edge and sank them in the still, anonymous depths of the silent lake below. Good times. Old mines will keep secrets.

Okay, I admit it: I made up some of the previous paragraph. For one thing, it was a magnetite mine, not a hematite mine.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is that there’s nothing like a quiet lake on the Canadian Shield in the still of autumn, and I remembered this story about one time about fourteen years ago. In my second year of university, my housemate Kat was dating this guy named Dave who grew up not far from me, in Gananoque. Dave used to work for the provincial park at Charleston Lake, where I used to go cliff-jumping with my friend Scott. Dave said the lake water was so clean you could (and he did) row out in the middle of it, dip a glass in it, and drink it. Dave’s family had a cottage up there, and when he, Kat, and I went up that fall to close it down for the season, the lake water was as still as it was clean. Normally, it would be abuzz with motorboats, but the only things to be heard were a dog’s barking carrying across the water and Dave playing Skydiggers songs on his acoustic guitar.

(A brief aside: In those days, Dave was a fan covering Skydiggers songs. These days, he’s got lead singer Andy Maize doing guest vocals on his album, so that’s turned out nicely. Back then, he’d recently opened for the band at a local music festival, and when the Skydiggers played at A.J.’s Hangar in Kingston, we went to see them. I wormed my way up to the very front, and I got absolutely drenched in sweat. Some of it was mine, but a lot of it was flying right off Andy Maize, who was up there working hard under the hot lights. After the show, Dave got us backstage to meet the band, and the first, only, and stupidest thing I said to Andy Maize was, “Hey, you sweated all over me.” He apologized and didn’t offer me a beer. A few weeks after this, I started dating this girl, and it turned out she’d actually been at that show and recognized me from there. She’d originally noticed me, she said, because I was so sweaty. And then I explained at length that it wasn’t actually my sweat, but I don’t think she ever quite believed me.)

Anyway, it seemed we had the whole lake and the whole park to ourselves, so we took a walk along the nature trails. Kat and Dave were the moony-eyed couple, so they just strolled along holding hands while I traipsed on ahead. “Tra-la-la!” I sang, skipping through the leaves, panting a little as we climbed uphill to a rocky lookout point. I stopped short as I entered the clearing and nearly stumbled across a naked couple lying under a blanket atop the cliff, with a panorama of glittering blue water stretching majestically behind them. They’d thought they’d had the whole lake and the whole park to themselves too, I guess.

“Why, hikers,” I exclaimed. “I’m surprised!”

“No,” they replied. “It is we who are surprised. You are astonished.”

Okay, I admit it: That last part actually is supposed to have happened when the lexicographer Noah Webster was discovered by his wife in an intimate embrace with his maid. What actually happened in my case was that, after a goggle-eyed pause, I said I was just going to return back the way I came, and the male half of the couple thanked me, as his tumescence no doubt subsided. But it was pretty astonishing for me and surprising for them.

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