Created | Updated Feb 14, 2009
I sit by the edge of the lake, reading a book and feeling the wind on my hair. A spider creeps across my book. It is such a small beast, so fragile - one of those tan things that look like a clump of dander blown onto the pages. If I closed my book now, and crushed it, there would be no knowing that it had once existed at all; its body is so fragile, it would dissolve into dust, leaving only a small smear of yellowish body fluid that would be indistinguishable from the print of a dirty finger. It creeps awkwardly, looking a little drunk, or like it keeps getting stuck to the page – one foot, then two more, then another, very slowly.
I do close my book, because I do not like spiders. This small thing did not frighten me because it was too fragile, too awkward; it moved too slowly. It was still a spider, though, and so it dies – a small, fragile, inconsequential death, a death like that of most of the things which pass out of this world. I wonder if it had been happy with its life.
I pull my knees up near my chin, taking care, out of long habit, to tuck my skirt in such a way that the ducks cannot see up it, for they are the only others here on this quiet evening. I stare out at the lake, smelling the wind, watching the sun grow larger and more beautifully orange. I like orange. It is funny that as the sun goes down each night, it looks like a dying flame, ember-orange as night swallows the sky, when really it is not going out at all, but staying the same, just as it always has. It is no wonder that the Egyptians said that the sun died every evening and was reborn every morning. We know better now, but no amount of knowledge will ever extinguish the wonder men feel as they watch the perfectly ordinary miracles of the world – winter and spring, dusk and dawn, dry spells followed by a long rain, and the sun following that.
Another spider scuttles across the ground in front of me, dragging its egg sac behind it. This one is larger and darker, and it moves faster, with a purpose. Spiders are beautiful, in their way. I have watched one for hours as it built its web. It was amazing, but then I had to kill it. This spider I cannot kill, because it frightens me. So I scramble away and stand up, feeling nauseous.
I begin walking along the shore of this lake. Something has frightened the ducks on the other end in the reeds. They are quacking and making a fuss, but they do not fly away. The danger must not be too terrible. It is long past mating season, and egg laying season, and egg watching season. All of the baby ducks are grown, and it is almost time to fly south. Two ducks fly out onto the water, and I see what it was that frightened them. A squirrel scampers behind them, down to the water's edge and drinks a bit, then washes its face. Such a silly thing to be afraid of. Squirrels don't eat ducks.
The wind is whispering in my ear. All it says is, "Seeeeeeeeeeeehhh…" and I don't know what it means. My hair is blowing behind me, and my skirt is billowing out like that of a girl on the cover of a romance novel, one of the softer ones, where she is not bent backwards over the arm of a too-muscular fellow with his shirt untied and her dress is not ripping from the tension of her breasts on the fabric. Of course, the only thing missing in this romance-novel cover is the too-muscular man, rowing his boat or running through the reeds to get to me. This doesn't bother me. I prefer to be alone.
As the sun finishes its long descent of the skies, disappearing at last beneath the flat landscape, the moon is just beginning his. The wind blows cold, and I wrap my arms around me to keep the gusts from icing my organs. I can feel my own heartbeat, and I imagine that I can follow the blood with my inner eye as it races through my arteries, under pressure, spreading warmth and nourishment all through my body.
I am not really thinking of anything, standing here by the edge of my lake. Thoughts float in and out of my head, passing away unheeded, for I am not listening to them. I am listening to the wind, because it is talking to me again. "Hseeeeeeeehhh…" it says, "Fhorhhhhhhyooouuuuuu…" I wonder what I should see, what is for me. I never understand the wind. I still listen, though. I hope someday to understand, for something as widely travelled and as old as the wind must know something that I would like to know.
A little toy canoe floats out of the reeds, freed by their motion, blown by the wind and moved by its little waves on the lake. It is made of bark, sewn together by some loving mother for her boy, who lost it in the reeds and left it. As it nears me, I see that it is not a toy boat at all, but a real canoe, big enough for me to sit in. I don't understand how it could have hidden in those cattails on the lake, or how it is even able to float on the shallow water, for this is a very small lake, little more than a pond.
I see that a mist has risen from the ground, and I cannot see the other edge of the pond. "Sssseeeeehh…" says the wind, "Thhhiiihhhsssssssss…" and I understand. I am not wearing shoes, so I just lift up my skirt so it doesn't get wet as I wade to the boat. The water is freezing, and I can't feel my feet anymore. I scramble into the boat awkwardly, splashing and almost upsetting it. I am very glad that the too-muscular man is not here to see me now. The boat continues to float toward the shore, until it bumps into the sand and stops. I want to cry. I was being foolish, to believe in fairy boats that take people to marvellous places where they have wonderful and beautiful adventures. "Fffayyyyyhhh…?" asks the wind. I hang my head, not wanting to get out of the boat, not wanting to let go of my childish dream. Looking down like this, I notice the oar lying in the bottom of the boat, and I understand. "Hhhsssseeee…"
I turn to the middle of the lake and begin rowing, toward the mist. "Hhhhhhyyesssss…" Suddenly I am afraid. What if I never come back? What if nothing happens, and I reach the other shore? What if, what if, what if…and I enter the mist.