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The lake house 

The Observer got to the lake over the weekend, courtesy of some friends who rented a place on the water.

It was a beautiful spot to spend the weekend: a large and secluded home with a wide veranda, perched at the head of a sloping lawn that dropped straight into the water. The secluded part worried Spouse, weaned on one too many movies where The Killer rises from Camp Crystal Lake to seek his bloody, umpteenth revenge on cavorting teens. She's been a city girl long enough that the woods outside the streetlights give her fits, surely packed as they are with cannibal hillbillies and Hellish Things. The Observer, sadly, had to remind our Beloved that we've aged out of the slasher movie victim demographic and are well past any reliable shenanigans that might attract the attentions of a walking, phallic object-wielding metaphor for the dire consequences of high school debauchery and pre-marital sex. Anything we might get up to these days is decidedly post-marital.

With attacks by Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers not forthcoming, we survived the night, only to wake in the dark on Sunday, our back protesting at the unfamiliar mattress. Unable to go back to sleep, we fixed some coffee and padded down the to the boat dock in bare feet. There was a chair there, and we sat, facing the blush of the dawn at the edge of the lake. As we sipped and sat, the light came up over the next hour like the lights in a movie house, the crickets giving way to morning birds.

It was chilly, and tendrils of vapor rose from the water, the glass surface of the lake painted orange and blue and black, reflecting the trees down to the last leaf and needle, a mirror broken only occasionally by a fish rising to the surface to taste the foreign air. Every bullseye of ripples pushed out bigger and bigger until they were stilled. Crows called from the pines on the far shore, echoing other crows, speaking bird languages, a bird telegraph that had been ping-ponging around that land since before the distant dam blocked the Ouachita and created the lake, before the tranquil river rose from its ancient bed to fill the valleys and hollows and subsume the world up to the very spot where The Observer was sitting.

Staring out over the water, we thought to try what we'd heard Buddhists do, which is to attempt to clear their minds of all thought. We tried, but the buzz of consciousness always pushed through — most often the thought that what we were experiencing wasn't actually nonthought, just the thought of blackness, of still water, of the somethingness of trying to will oneself to think of nothingness, which isn't really nothingness at all. We had to take a long drag off the coffee at that one, and accept the fact that we probably wouldn't make a very good Buddhist. We are, as a whole, too greedy for moments like sitting there, watching the sun come up, to ever attain Nirvana, even if we actually wanted to quit being reincarnated into this world so full of beautiful suffering and lovely despair, days at the lake and good dogs, decent beers and serviceable cheese platters, kisses, kittens and splashing fish.

We watched the daylight of Sept. 10, 2017, come on, the only 9/10/17 that will ever be, as unique as a fingerprint. We sipped our coffee and pondered life's mysteries, as Dear Old Pa always said he was doing when we asked him what he was doing in a chair out at the end of his boat dock on Lake Conway in the dawn, and we came to see his wisdom. Our cup drained, we rose and turned and trudged back up the dew-wet hill toward the sleeping house full of friends. And as we did, we wondered just who in the hell could own a place on the water and grow so tired of it that it just became another thing to rent, all those irreplaceable dawns sold off to strangers like me, as if money were worth more.

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