From the Back Roads

Sabbitical Day Four

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.