A reminder to those of you jumping onto my blog posts at this juncture: In early March, I drove to the far north reaches of the Highland Lakes area of Texas for a week of solitude and writing. I’ve been posting some of my journal entries here, on a loosely based schedule, since then. The following entry was written the morning March 2, 2010, Texas Independence Day….the day Texas fought for and won independence from Mexico.
The bad weather the proprietor mentioned yesterday blew in with a vengeance last night. Wind howled and whistled through the bare tree limbs that cup the roof of my lake cabin. The electric heaters were turned up full force and still, I was cold to the bone. When my hands grew stiff, I gave up trying to type and decided to read instead. Misery, pure misery. I couldn’t help but think of the 1846 Donner Party trapped in the Rocky Mountains for months, in blizzard conditions, without food. I’m a sissy. My Texas roots must not go so far back as I thought for surely, those who fought for independence were a brave lot as they faced the Mexican army at Goliad, the Alamo, and finally on the prairie shores of the San Jacinto River a few miles from where I grew up.
My gift for the morning though, came when I sat with my cup of coffee and looked out toward the frosty lake. Perched in the same tree that howled all night, was a strikingly gorgeous blue bird. His chest was dark cinnamon red. He flicked from twig to twig as if trying to show me how the sun glinted and sparkled on his bright and beautiful blue shoulders.
As if that hadn’t been gift enough for starting a clean-slatted morning, a fox trotted by my window pretty as you please. She had a mouse clinched in her teeth. Breakfast for the kiddos, I thought. Across the way wind chimes clanged in a left over breeze from last night’s storm. It was time for me to get back to writing.
Early this morning two men launched a small boat in a cove to the north. I watched through my binoculars to see if they planned to fish or hunt ducks. A glimpse of their struggles with rods and reels told me they were fishermen. Old Fools, I said to myself. A strong southwest wind had whipped the lake until it looked like meringue on a chocolate pie. I sipped my coffee, looked over at my compass for the hundredth time since I checked into the little cabin by the lake, and then punched my laptop “On” button.
By late afternoon, cabin fever had set in. My hips felt locked into a sitting position and I ached for movement and fresh air. I bundled up for a walk to the water’s edge and along the way bumped into the proprietor. I asked him about a good place to walk fast and vigorous. He pointed to a trail, adding that bad weather was coming. I also asked about the low lake water level and he said it was up sixteen feet but still over eighteen feet below normal level. I was dumbfounded. He looked away and squeezed his eyes when I asked how bad the drought had been on his business. “Two years now,” he said, “we’ve been all but deserted, even in the summer months.”
I watched the ground as I walked and thought – lake bed – unseen, under water, in dark depths for decades. Granite rocks, driftwood and bits of fresh water clams lay about in tufts of bright green clover. In tall reeds along a hidden cove I heard ducks feeding at the shore line. The sound reminded me of mumbling old men. I parted the reeds slowly, quietly for a better look. Several mallards were scattered throughout countless coots and two huge and terribly awkward looking white pelicans, made all the more ugly by the grace of the mallards with their iridescent green heads and beautifully arched necks. A coot took flight, then several more and in a flash they all rose – hundreds of them – from the water, and it was as if a 747 passed over my head.