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June 23, 2005



(I know, this is a happy post, but it casts a shadow.)

Some of my best memories of Boston were of my daily summer swims in Walden Pond. I'd go after work with my friends and we'd swim for hours, right into the evenings when nighthawks would wing over the water. When diving, the sunlight would spear into the green murk and perch would swim past our outstretched hands. I'd never realized that I could get so strong or that skinny dipping could be so much fun (people just don't go swimming in lakes here in Japan). When I met my girlfriend at the time one of the first things she did was challenge me to a swim in Walden in late March, when ice still rimmed the shores. It was my introduction to swimming in frigid waters, which physically changed my views of my relationship to the physical world and also made me a lot more vigorous. I've never been happier with my body since, and I miss the freedom that I found in lake swimming.

Such happy memories of my own childhood summers evoked by this lovely post - thanks, Beth!

I always wanted to grow up on a lake - in fact, that was the road not travelled, in a sense, because we lived on a lakeshore property in central Maine until I was five. But then we moved to a mountaintop farm in PA and I grew up in the woods. And in point of fact what I long for most from that place in Maine was not the lake, which had scary leeches, but the long-abandoned top pasture full of bare rock and low, flat junipers - that Canadian Shield look. I love that.

You write, "I'm feeling like I should write a long post, illustrated with photographs, under the title of 'Where I Came From and Why I Am the Way that I Am.'" Isn't there a sense in which everything we write is a substitution for what we feel we *really* need to write? Or is that feeling just the inevitable byproduct of living with Protestant guilt? In any case, the results are often far better than we thought we could manage. (Probably a lesson there about grace, or something.)

Yes, happy childhood memories of running wild along river, through forest and over mountain in the Isle of Man. You brought back the very stones between my toes and the mud in all its squishiness.

And how lovely to give that to another child too.

Growing up closer to the coast, and going often in the summer, I'm still somewhat more of a sea-loving than lake-loving person. But the joys of natural setting are similar - the smell, the slime(!), the creatures in/on the rocks, the feel of sand/silt between the toes, the boundless water, the hours exploring. I do also have some fond memories of lakes - so much quieter and calmer than the ocean! - the stillness and sense of enclosure. Lakes give more of a sense of being in a private little world apart from the outside. The ocean opens up and is more daunting, too big to feel entirely safe.

That's so true, Leslee - a lake is its own world, and each one feels different.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.