www.cyberspacesolutionsinc.com

Bookmark and Share

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. 

Henry David Thoreau

 

            He remembered the jog down the dock that turned into a sprint as it shuddered and swayed under his weight.  He remembered the leap in the air and the way time stopped.  He relaxed his body in mid-air before he tensed to straighten and cut into the calm, clear water knife-like with barely a splash. 

            The water was cool and instantly he felt refreshed.  The New York summer’s humidity had been oppressive, but now the clean water buoyed him up.  The hours of sweat were instantly gone, and he drifted beneath the surface, languidly; his momentum carried him along, suspending him in another realm where his world was washed away.  He felt peace there; he always did.  It was a peace he felt nowhere else. 

            He smiled to himself as if he’d found a long lost secret of life.  But he’d never lost it; he just had to be reminded of it once in a while.  It was always the lake.  His lake.  He missed it when he was away.  He could lose himself there on the long, hot summer days like losing himself in music.  It brought a sense of balance, and it gave him life healing him in ways he never thought possible, some he wasn’t even aware of.  It was constant, unlike so many other things in his life.  It was stable and strong like he wanted to be.  It could be rough, cold, hard, and unforgiving too, and his mood changed with it and the seasons.  As he hauled himself out of the water onto the boat to stand dripping in the sunset, he turned and surveyed the picture he’d seen so many times.  A calm drifted over him, and his spirit felt alive.  Silently, he thanked his mother and father for raising him here.  He would always leave, but to the water and its song he would always return.

 

Along the ridge some fifty feet above the blue-green water, a line of cottages stood as they had for years overlooking the rolling hills that typified the landscape of the Finger Lakes region of Central New York.  The cottages, or camps as the locals called them, were set close together and lined both shores of the lake.  Some were homes and some were only used for the summer months.  Some sat further back in the trees, all but hidden by the dense foliage.  They were part of the scenery, and each had its own unique character.  Jake Taylor was home, and as he gazed into the clear water at the rocks and shale beneath the surface, he recalled the familiarity of it all, and it made him feel at ease.  More at ease than he’d felt for some time.  He could see the details of the bottom easily through the clear water.  He looked around him, particularly at two, thirty foot tall pine trees that draped over each side of his forty foot long deck.  He used them as landmarks when he travelled by water; they were the only two on the lakeside of the dirt road that ran behind his and the other camps.  Others dotted the hillside behind the dwellings.  It seemed to him that they’d been that tall since he was a child. 

He owned a camp left to him by his parents on the west side of Skaneateles Lake, just past Carpenter’s Falls, south of town some ten miles by boat.  There were twelve camps, including his, at the bottom of fire lane 16 that ran parallel to the lake.  Used primarily as summer dwellings, neighbors in the cottages reacquainted themselves with each other in a casual and comfortable familiarity.  They lived in different parts of the state and spent a good part of the hot and humid New York summers by the lake where the temperatures became somewhat bearable. 

            Leaning on the railing of the deck, he steered his gaze outward and across the water to the eastern side of the lake almost a mile away.  The shore grew back gradually, giving room for the cottages to be built close to the water and a little farther apart, and their detail was just as he’d remembered.  The lush green grass on the eastern shore set off the light green-yellows of the new leaves on the trees.  The late spring air was cool, and his eyes scanned the water, lazily watching it move slowly past his perch with a life of its own.  It was mesmerizing, and he missed its sound and feel when he was away.  Jake loved lazy days lying on the dock, letting the sound and the movement of the water just beneath him lulling him to sleep.  It felt as if he were floating and drifting along as he lay there watching himself.  It was peaceful sleep, as peaceful as how small children slept: safe without worries.  He hoped it would be that way again.  It has been too long since I’ve been home, he thought to himself.  Why did I stop coming back?  Oh yeah, a woman.  You’re such an idiot.  Promise you’ll think about things once in a while.  The recent events of his life in Colorado had made him question things, made him question himself.  The water sang its song to him again, and for a time the world and his head stopped its spinning as time all but stopped.  Being on the water was something altogether different, and he smiled at the prospect of being out on the lake again.  He liked calling Skaneateles Lake “his”.  It was part of him and every time he saw another body of water he couldn’t help but think of how they paled. 

He returned to his hometown of Skaneateles in mid May to catch the last part of spring.  The small New York town was established around 1830 and was a tourist attraction in the summer with a myriad of quaint shops, and restaurants, and bars; some were old historical landmarks like The Krebs, established in 1899.  Downtown Skaneateles was approximately four blocks long on Genesee Street, branching off on Jordan and Fennel Street.  The schools were only a few blocks away from that and everything seemed close by.  The homes grew farther apart as one travelled out of town into the country amidst forests and cornfields.  He was always amazed how many people squeezed themselves into the town on the weekend in the summer.  He was glad to have a camp outside of town.

Although it was a little early, he weathered the cold nights sleeping near the wood stove in a sleeping bag for warmth.  Most were camps like his; they had no insulation in them and were primarily used in the summer months into early fall before it got too cold.  He wanted to keep the structure the same and winterize it from the inside someday; someday, he thought.  He had time yet, he felt.  He felt that he’d put the brakes on his race through life now that he was home.  He hadn’t spent a summer at home in three years, only spending a long weekend or so and was glad to be on the lake after so long.  It was where he remembered being innocent, when life revolved around nothing but the water, girls, food, friends and drinking a few beers too many; not necessarily in that order.  Before he worried about life so intensely, he spent it on the lake, and he wanted to reclaim that part of him he had lost, or at least as much as he could.  Those days seemed to last forever.  They didn’t do that anymore.  There weren’t enough hours in the day and summer seemed like a memory before it started.

            Even when he was away, the lake held its power over him.  The old memories fought to stay alive, fighting with the newer, sadder ones.  In the end, the place was the same; it was old and held everyone’s lives together in one way or another.  His memories were just heavier to him at times.  In some ways he was glad his camp rested on the high hills of the western shore for the sunsets.  Out on the water he could see the sun set, and in that last hour sometimes, there wasn’t a lonelier place he could think of.  Except now, he thought to himself.  It’s not too far from taking the last run down and watching the sun go behind the mountains.  But the sun sank slowly on the long summer days and it was good too.  Good because there was less of a rush to live and because it was home, and he came here to heal his mind and body.

            Peace pervaded Skaneateles Lake in the summers from town at the north end to Glen Haven at the south, and he could hear the sounds of boats droning in the distance, with people and children playing, yelling, having fun in the water, and everywhere in between.  Some fished, water skied, or wake boarded, and some just went at a slow booze cruising speed down the lake.  Some had boats that went fast, some had pontoon boats that had no speed to speak of, but everyone was going to and staying on or near the water.  Needs became simple:  swimming, eating, drinking, and putting on sunscreen.  No one needed to be anywhere else when they were there; it just didn’t matter.  The water and the people involved with it were in constant motion and all of it was alive.  It differed from the hustle and bustle of the city; the water revived them each time they entered it, and they left with the feeling of life and a languid sense of purpose; he sometimes felt outside it all watching it happen, alone.  He remembered being in high school and then in college and the freedom he felt when summer came and he and friends got out on the water in their boats.  What a place to grow up, he thought.  Dad knew what he was doing living here. 

            Jake enjoyed the same feelings along with the familiarity of his hometown.  He was more at ease with himself and the people around him.  He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, and he hoped that would lead to having to prove less to himself.  It was a small town, much like many that dotted the state, and it simplified things for him; he knew he needed that.  He had let his life get too complicated, and he didn’t like the person he had become.  He felt he was too soft when he needed strength, and he cursed his emotional side.  It had left him open for the same heartache he felt he’d finally recovered from.  Whether he liked it or not, it was who he was.  He was still healing, he knew.  He didn’t mind being alone, but he didn’t like being lonely.  The Rocky Mountains made him feel small, and he knew where to go.  He wasn’t cured just yet, but home was as good a place as any to heal and ground himself again.

The morning came, and it looked like a perfect day without a cloud around.  A good omen, he thought.  He packed the boat with the cooler and his provisions and his guitar.  After he ate, he drove up to the Williams’, hitched the boat to his truck, and made his way to the boat launch.  Being before the season, the launch was close to deserted with no wait.  He went through the procedure like he’d done it the day before.  He backed the trailer into the water so that the boat could float when he let it off.  He stopped and he went back to the trailer and let out the line that hooked it to the crank, pushing the boat off the rubber rollers.  Before it cleared the trailer, he walked into the water and grabbed the bow line.  He shivered at how cold it was, and he stepped back and unhooked the boat, walked it the rest of the way out and then over to the dock.  His excitement grew as he hopped out of the water and tied the boat off and ran to park the truck.  The moment of truth, he said to himself as he jumped back in the boat to start it.  He pulled the throttle out, disconnecting it from the gears and pumped it twice to put some gas into the engine, turned the key, and the engine caught and turned over like it was brand new. 

“Yeah baby!” he exclaimed aloud as he clapped his hands loudly once and gave a double fist pump into the air.  The engine purred softly without a hitch, and he could tell it would run fine.  He had wondered about it with the three year lay off.  It was an eighteen foot Starcraft with a 190 inboard-outboard engine.  It wasn’t as fast as others on the lake, but it was enough for him.  It got up to almost forty miles per hour and could pull a skier his weight easily.  It was off-white with a simple blue stripe that started at the bow and ran to the stern.  It ended there in a kind of star emblem and the name of the company.  It was simple and plain, and besides his camp and guitar, one of his prized possessions.  He untied the bow and stern lines, jumped into the bow as he pushed off into open water, and put the boat into gear, backing it out slow and easy.  The air became cooler lifting off the deeper water as he moved out and away from the launch.  He resisted the temptation to gun it and go as fast as possible since he knew it would take a few trips before the engine was broken in.  It needed time to warm up to being run at higher rpm’s from sitting dormant for such a long time.  He sat on the back of the driver seat looking out over the bow and the lake in front of him.  He absently noticed he was smiling.  This is good.  I never know how I’ve missed this until I’m out here.  There was no wind, and the water was like a piece of glass spread from shore to shore.  He’d done this with his father countless times over the years, but he loved it more now.

He loved looking at the homes on the shores and hillsides of the lake as he passed by, and his whim would take him back and forth between the shores as he took a slow, easy pace toward the southern end.  Each was unique and had their own history, their own stories to be told of countless summer days.  He shut his eyes, and could hear and see the people playing in the water and on the shore.  If one didn’t know it, the places looked deserted and lifeless due to their age.  New York winters were cold and harsh, and they weathered the places and the people who lived there. 

            But summer and the lake brought the old places life, and that life would return soon; it was always to the lake everyone would return.  As he looked back to their pasts, he knew the truth; the summer life now was no different.  People did the same things they’d been doing years before.  They boated, barbecued, laughed, lived, built bonfires on the shore, played music, ate s’mores, and drank, and partied all day and night.  His parents participated in a weekend “search party” that happened maybe twice a month in July and August.  One or two couples and some friends would head out somewhere on the lake in the morning and park while they waited for ten or twelve other couples and friends to find them and join the party.  Some would meet on the water to “search” together.  Someone always knew the destination, and by the early afternoon the party was found and in full swing.  A different group would start it the next time.  It was their version of a good old fashioned booze cruise, and it lasted deep into the hot summer evenings.  Jake was even commissioned as early as fifteen to drive a boat home on more than one occasion for someone who couldn’t. Generations continued their own traditions, and it was the same year after year, but it didn’t matter.  The life was relaxing and prepared them for whatever lay ahead in their normal life, and they survived the winter to get back there regardless of the length of their stay.  Every summer, the lake gave life back as sure as the sunrise. 

After a while he opened another beer and headed for the east side of the lake as he drew even with his camp.  He liked to head home up the west side, and his course would take him to the end where he’d turn north again.  The time passed slow which was rare for him, and he enjoyed it taking in the sights and sounds so familiar to him but with a newness from being away so long.  He reached Glen Haven at the southern end of the lake around three thirty and began to head back home.  He steered close to the shore to look at the some of the oldest camps on the lake.  They sat on Glen Haven Road that left 41a at New Hope, a small town that wasn’t much more than a crossroads and hadn’t ever really changed from the time the houses were originally built.  The road cut through the fields and woods to run right by the lake.  Camps were on both sides of the road, and pine and maple trees filled the landscape.  He loved the last place on the water.  It sat across the road back in by the trees on the steep hillside.  It was small and dark brown/maroon blending in easily with the scenery.  The small lawn was already lush green, and a boat was already tied to the concrete dock on the lakeside.  It seemed isolated from the rest of the world.  It’s so quiet and peaceful here, he thought.  It looks like it hasn’t been touched in years, and it’s so different from downtown Skaneateles.  I’m not sure which belongs here more. 

He drove on and came to his camp around four thirty, and he stopped the boat out towards the middle surveying everything from the water.  He began thinking of a melody of a song he was working on that kept echoing in his head.  He liked that feeling.  The song had potential if he could hear the melody when he wasn’t actually playing.  It was such a touchy thing for him sometimes, but he knew if he played enough, he could create something he liked.  He threw out more than he kept, and if it stayed with him after, it was promising.  He cut the engine, letting the boat drift wherever the lake would take it.  Without the wind it lolled gently with the water, and he turned to pick up the guitar.  He didn’t worry about the words.  Sometimes they could get in the way if he pushed it.  If the melody is right, the words would come, he said to himself.  So he just played.

            The sounds brought to him the vision of her face and her long, brown hair blowing in the breeze of a Colorado sunset as she looked down smiling to gracefully pull a strand back behind her ear.  The picture haunted him and he couldn’t say why.  She was beautiful to be sure, but there was something more.  Too bad, he thought.  We just met, and we went our separate ways.  He smiled, even laughed a little.  It was probably too good to be true, he mused fatalistically.  After the last one, I shouldn’t be worrying about seeing anyone. 

He played for longer than he thought and noticed the sun was setting, and it brought back old memories.  Sometimes at twilight he would return to his camp early.  He felt like he fooled the sun and the day dying on him too soon, leaving him longing for things that were not his to have.  Its light still bathed the eastern shore brightly and then softer after it retreated into the horizon.  His home was left in a half light by which one could easily see, and he watched the shadows creep up the hills across the water.  The sun may have set, but the light remained to keep the day alive.   Jake spoke to his guitar and raised his beer on the days he felt good: “I have fooled the sun again.” On other days, he would float by himself in his boat as the water and the world grew darker, playing his guitar as the sun became a ball of orange, red, and purple fire making the sky its easel.  Jake saw the sunset a living thing that tried desperately not to let the day end.  Or maybe that was just him.  Sitting on the water felt so good when he wasn’t feeling lonely; he just wasn’t ready for it to stop.  He laughed at his somewhat futile search for some type of balance.  The sunsets in Colorado were amazing, but being on the water in New York was no less beautiful for him.  The moon would rise trying to take over the sky as the last light of day held on.  Unable to see his writing any longer, he would put away his guitar and head home knowing who would ultimately win the battle at dusk.  Today was one of those days he felt like heading in before the sun left the sky.

He started up the boat, and drove into his dock.  He pulled in and dropped off his guitar, cooler, and t-shirt.  It was still warm out and even a little humid.  He remembered it now as he felt sweat bead up on his forehead while he clipped the two lines from his mooring buoy to the ring on the bow of his boat.  Very different from Colorado, he mused.  He looked down at the water.  So calm and so peaceful like a window into another world but so connected to this one, he thought to himself.  It was enticing, but he knew it would be ice cold. 

At its deepest, Skaneateles Lake was just over three hundred feet and was spring fed by a large aquifer beneath making it very clean and very cold.  It took into July sometimes for it to warm up to bearable swimming temperature.  He smiled knowing how the cold would sting, but he didn’t own a dinghy to take the boat in, so swimming it was.  He had borrowed the neighbors’ to put the mooring in.  He always felt like a kid again when he and his friends all bet to see who’d be the first to go in.  A simple challenge, but one they played at least half way seriously, and it made him laugh now as he anticipated his plunge.  Just go; do it.  He stepped up, and in one motion leapt high off the gunwale, arced out over the water and dropped through its surface quickly, like someone dropping a metal shaft in smooth and fast.  The cold took his breath and he gasped as he exploded back to the surface.  He swam hard for the dock; his long smooth strokes pulled him effortlessly along while the water stung like a thousand needles.  He reached the dock and hauled himself out of the water in one fluid motion like it was part of his last stroke.  He breathed deep and looked back like he’d achieved an age old rite of passage once more. 

The sun had set more that he’d thought, and he turned his mind toward getting the truck back before it got too dark.  It was a little over five miles to the boat launch from his camp but a necessary evil for the first boat ride.  He changed into dry shorts, still shivering a little, put some jeans and a long sleeved shirt in a pack, brought his mountain bike out, and began his ascent of the hill up to route 41a.  Being a mountain biker in Colorado, Jake chose to pick his way through the woods instead of riding up the fire lane to the main road.  He’d done it before, and although there was no formal trail, he found his way easily in the approaching dusk.  He reached the main road with a good sweat and pulled out on the flat pavement.  The road undulated with the rolling hills of the countryside, and the air was cool and thick with dew in the country.  Farms sprung up here and there with corn fields lining the road for miles. 

            He always remarked the difference of the landscapes in New York and Colorado.  One so dense, almost overgrown in places; the other was dry and sparse and even harsh in its jagged vastness.  There was a mood created by both, and both places had become part of his life; he hated choosing between the water and the mountains.  He knew which would always win. 

            He reached the boat launch, and cruised down the long entrance road to his truck and threw his bike in the back.  He put his jeans on over his shorts and decided to head into town to see who was around.  He wanted to see Andy Collins, an old high school friend who bartended at The Sherwood, and anyone else who might be straggling about.  Andy and Jake were water skiing buddies from years before, and since they both worked at night, they had all day to ski and boat around the lake.  They were brothers in arms and inseparable during the summers in college. 

He was excited to see old friends and catch up on what he’d missed from being away.  Skaneateles was a small town and the people were creatures of habit.  There were four places that anyone who wanted to go out at night would be, and one could find them at any given time in one of them if they waited long enough.  And at the end of the evening almost everyone who didn’t go home went to Morris’s Bar and Grill, or the Café, as it was nicknamed.  Jake had bartended there during and after college before he left for the winters in Colorado, and he knew locals of all ages and walks of life.  Some people never left Skaneateles.  They didn’t need to know anything else.  It was a good place with solid roots.  Locals suffered the long, cold winters and sporadic weather for two good months of summer and always the lake.  It washed it all away, and as people’s moods mirrored the seasons, it seemed like life was renewed. 

            Jake was one of those who had to go away and experience life elsewhere to come back and feel the effect of the town again.  It was always home for him despite the circumstances and hint of sadness attached to it.  There was no way to think about home without the thought of them.  There was also a limit to how much bad weather he could take.  He decided it was time to try a new place and Colorado offered a different attraction; sunshine and skiing were a big part of that.  Most people had a misconception about the weather in Colorado.  In New York the sun seemed to disappear for eight months.  Of course it snowed in Colorado, but the sun shown quite often as well.  She was there somewhere, he thought.  Time to get that girl out of your head.  That’s doing you no good at all.  He knew it was a good decision to return home despite the bad memories.  There were so many good ones, and he chose to focus on them.  He convinced himself he wasn’t running from anything.

            The building that was The Sherwood Inn had stood where it was overlooking Clift Park and the lake downtown since 1807 with various renovations and changes.  The outside was a blue-gray that Jake felt fit the normal cloudy weather.  The walls were mostly windows of small four by four squares.  They reminded him of little places that dotted the small seaport towns in Massachusetts or Cape Cod.  They contained the same windows facing the sea to see ships returning home.  Inside had an old rustic feel to it, with oak floors that creaked with age and five foot wooden partitions for the tables.  Jake made his way into the bar area and saw Andy actively serving drinks to the crowd that was steadily growing.  It was Friday night, and there was a contingency that liked to go out early and get home early.  It was around 5:30, and the regulars were at their normal spots like clockwork.

            “What do I have to do to get a drink in this place, screw the bartender?”

            “No fucking way,” Andy replied without turning around.  In dramatic fashion, he stopped what he was doing, turned down the music, and exclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen!  It is officially summer.  Our favorite local to hate, Jake Taylor, has returned home after many years abroad.  Drinks are double the price and twice the size!”  A cheer went up as Andy finished and subsided into laughter.  I am definitely home, Jake thought.  Andy made his way over with a beer and a big smile, and put out his hand.

            “Damned good to see you Jake.  It’s been way too long.  And it never hurts to screw the bartender.  I’d just prefer her to be a little better looking than you.”

            “Are you saying I’m not good looking?  Wait until you’ve had a few.  Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers.  How have you been brother?”

            “You are kind of cute, come to think of it.  I’m great.  Same old shit here, but you know how it is.  Have you got camp set up?”

            “Yeah.  Put the boat in earlier today.  I just got off the water.”

            “Nice.  So we’ll be on the water tomorrow?”

            “Damned straight.”  While Andy tended to the bar, he returned off and on and caught up as if Jake had never left.  Three years is a long time, Jake said to himself.  Let’s not do that again.  This feels so right sometimes.  Home feels right.  I’m starting to move with the water again instead of against it.

            “By the way,” Jake said, “I’m playing at the Bluewater tomorrow night.  Start spreading the word.”

            “Oh, man.  I can’t wait.  I haven’t heard you play in forever.  Consider it done.”

            “Tell some women, will ya?  I don’t want to play for a bunch of drunk guys screaming for ‘Free Bird’ all night.”  Andy laughed.

  “I’ll try, but you’ve broken just about everyone’s heart I know.  It’s tough to find someone you haven’t been with.”

            “Bull shit.  I haven’t broken a heart in at least a month, and I’ve been gone long enough for the old ones to mend.  They should be ready for another round of heartbreaking by now.”

            “I’ll see what I can do.  Just save me one this time.”

            “Have I ever let you down?  Don’t answer that.”  They laughed.  Good friends’ entertainment was cheap but worth every penny.  “But don’t tell Jenny Spencer.  She’s been in love with me since the fifth grade, and she’s got to understand it just ain’t gonna happen.”

            “She was asking about you last week.”

            “Oh, geez.”

            “She still loves you.”

            “Wonderful.”

            “It might be because I told her you’ve always loved her or something like that.  I’m not sure though.  I think I was drunk.  So if you see her--” Andy let his voice trail off with a melodramatic shrug of his shoulders.

            “I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you,” Jake pointed at Andy and winked.

            “You wouldn’t.”

            “You know, I would.  What are friends for?”

            “Damn you, Taylor.” 

            “Too late, my friend,” Jake said as he took another swig.  “Too late.”  Andy turned to serve the locals, and Jake turned to look outside.  There was a light breeze as the last rays from the sun of a dying day glittered off the ripples on the lake.  He was glad he was with an old friend.  His gaze rested aimlessly on the scene and the people passing by in front of The Sherwood.  Three women walked by, and he caught a glimpse of one that looked unbelievably like the woman he’d just met in Boulder.  Not even possible, he thought as he shook his head.  Why do you do that?  You have to stop thinking about her too.  Timing is everything and you aren’t following a girl around anytime soon.  You’re too damned broken.  It really looked like her though.  The wind changed, blowing her hair into her face, and she casually put it a strand behind her ear and then she was out of his view.  The hair on the back of his neck stood up.  That’s too weird, he thought.  There’s no way she’s in New York.  His thoughts came back to the bar as one of the three girls turned to talk before they were out of view, and he thought it might be his long time friend Jessica Martin.

            “You seen Martin lately?” he asked absently.

            “Every once in a while.  She’s busy with her restaurant, but she should be having her first party this or next Sunday.”

            “I think I just saw her.  I’ll try and catch up with her later.”  His thoughts returned to the girl from Colorado.  Inside, he wanted it to be her.  He had only caught a glimpse of a woman walking with two others, but it made his heart beat faster.  What was it about her?  Why do you always act this way?  You know how it ends when you do.  You always fall so damned easy and fast.  You barely got to know her, idiot.  You are incapable of change.  You give your heart like that again, the same thing’s going to happen.  She’ll leave after you smother her, and you’ll be left with nothing but a shitload of pain and another scar on your heart to show for it.  There’s something about her, though.  It felt like she could see more of me.  All of me.  Even the part I keep hidden.  And she looked like she was fine with it.  Kind of surreal.  Why else would I still be thinking about her?  Because you’re stupid.  Dude, she lives in Colorado.  Get a grip.  Jake finished berating himself, shook his head, and asked Andy for another beer. 

            “It’s right in front of you,” Andy said, laughing.  “Get that woman out of your head.”

            His ribbing was more accurate than he knew.

 

 

 

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. 

Henry David Thoreau

 

            He remembered the jog down the dock that turned into a sprint as it shuddered and swayed under his weight.  He remembered the leap in the air and the way time stopped.  He relaxed his body in mid-air before he tensed to straighten and cut into the calm, clear water knife-like with barely a splash. 

            The water was cool and instantly he felt refreshed.  The New York summer’s humidity had been oppressive, but now the clean water buoyed him up.  The hours of sweat were instantly gone, and he drifted beneath the surface, languidly; his momentum carried him along, suspending him in another realm where his world was washed away.  He felt peace there; he always did.  It was a peace he felt nowhere else. 

            He smiled to himself as if he’d found a long lost secret of life.  But he’d never lost it; he just had to be reminded of it once in a while.  It was always the lake.  His lake.  He missed it when he was away.  He could lose himself there on the long, hot summer days like losing himself in music.  It brought a sense of balance, and it gave him life healing him in ways he never thought possible, some he wasn’t even aware of.  It was constant, unlike so many other things in his life.  It was stable and strong like he wanted to be.  It could be rough, cold, hard, and unforgiving too, and his mood changed with it and the seasons.  As he hauled himself out of the water onto the boat to stand dripping in the sunset, he turned and surveyed the picture he’d seen so many times.  A calm drifted over him, and his spirit felt alive.  Silently, he thanked his mother and father for raising him here.  He would always leave, but to the water and its song he would always return.

 

Along the ridge some fifty feet above the blue-green water, a line of cottages stood as they had for years overlooking the rolling hills that typified the landscape of the Finger Lakes region of Central New York.  The cottages, or camps as the locals called them, were set close together and lined both shores of the lake.  Some were homes and some were only used for the summer months.  Some sat further back in the trees, all but hidden by the dense foliage.  They were part of the scenery, and each had its own unique character.  Jake Taylor was home, and as he gazed into the clear water at the rocks and shale beneath the surface, he recalled the familiarity of it all, and it made him feel at ease.  More at ease than he’d felt for some time.  He could see the details of the bottom easily through the clear water.  He looked around him, particularly at two, thirty foot tall pine trees that draped over each side of his forty foot long deck.  He used them as landmarks when he travelled by water; they were the only two on the lakeside of the dirt road that ran behind his and the other camps.  Others dotted the hillside behind the dwellings.  It seemed to him that they’d been that tall since he was a child. 

He owned a camp left to him by his parents on the west side of Skaneateles Lake, just past Carpenter’s Falls, south of town some ten miles by boat.  There were twelve camps, including his, at the bottom of fire lane 16 that ran parallel to the lake.  Used primarily as summer dwellings, neighbors in the cottages reacquainted themselves with each other in a casual and comfortable familiarity.  They lived in different parts of the state and spent a good part of the hot and humid New York summers by the lake where the temperatures became somewhat bearable. 

            Leaning on the railing of the deck, he steered his gaze outward and across the water to the eastern side of the lake almost a mile away.  The shore grew back gradually, giving room for the cottages to be built close to the water and a little farther apart, and their detail was just as he’d remembered.  The lush green grass on the eastern shore set off the light green-yellows of the new leaves on the trees.  The late spring air was cool, and his eyes scanned the water, lazily watching it move slowly past his perch with a life of its own.  It was mesmerizing, and he missed its sound and feel when he was away.  Jake loved lazy days lying on the dock, letting the sound and the movement of the water just beneath him lulling him to sleep.  It felt as if he were floating and drifting along as he lay there watching himself.  It was peaceful sleep, as peaceful as how small children slept: safe without worries.  He hoped it would be that way again.  It has been too long since I’ve been home, he thought to himself.  Why did I stop coming back?  Oh yeah, a woman.  You’re such an idiot.  Promise you’ll think about things once in a while.  The recent events of his life in Colorado had made him question things, made him question himself.  The water sang its song to him again, and for a time the world and his head stopped its spinning as time all but stopped.  Being on the water was something altogether different, and he smiled at the prospect of being out on the lake again.  He liked calling Skaneateles Lake “his”.  It was part of him and every time he saw another body of water he couldn’t help but think of how they paled. 

He returned to his hometown of Skaneateles in mid May to catch the last part of spring.  The small New York town was established around 1830 and was a tourist attraction in the summer with a myriad of quaint shops, and restaurants, and bars; some were old historical landmarks like The Krebs, established in 1899.  Downtown Skaneateles was approximately four blocks long on Genesee Street, branching off on Jordan and Fennel Street.  The schools were only a few blocks away from that and everything seemed close by.  The homes grew farther apart as one travelled out of town into the country amidst forests and cornfields.  He was always amazed how many people squeezed themselves into the town on the weekend in the summer.  He was glad to have a camp outside of town.

Although it was a little early, he weathered the cold nights sleeping near the wood stove in a sleeping bag for warmth.  Most were camps like his; they had no insulation in them and were primarily used in the summer months into early fall before it got too cold.  He wanted to keep the structure the same and winterize it from the inside someday; someday, he thought.  He had time yet, he felt.  He felt that he’d put the brakes on his race through life now that he was home.  He hadn’t spent a summer at home in three years, only spending a long weekend or so and was glad to be on the lake after so long.  It was where he remembered being innocent, when life revolved around nothing but the water, girls, food, friends and drinking a few beers too many; not necessarily in that order.  Before he worried about life so intensely, he spent it on the lake, and he wanted to reclaim that part of him he had lost, or at least as much as he could.  Those days seemed to last forever.  They didn’t do that anymore.  There weren’t enough hours in the day and summer seemed like a memory before it started.

            Even when he was away, the lake held its power over him.  The old memories fought to stay alive, fighting with the newer, sadder ones.  In the end, the place was the same; it was old and held everyone’s lives together in one way or another.  His memories were just heavier to him at times.  In some ways he was glad his camp rested on the high hills of the western shore for the sunsets.  Out on the water he could see the sun set, and in that last hour sometimes, there wasn’t a lonelier place he could think of.  Except now, he thought to himself.  It’s not too far from taking the last run down and watching the sun go behind the mountains.  But the sun sank slowly on the long summer days and it was good too.  Good because there was less of a rush to live and because it was home, and he came here to heal his mind and body.

            Peace pervaded Skaneateles Lake in the summers from town at the north end to Glen Haven at the south, and he could hear the sounds of boats droning in the distance, with people and children playing, yelling, having fun in the water, and everywhere in between.  Some fished, water skied, or wake boarded, and some just went at a slow booze cruising speed down the lake.  Some had boats that went fast, some had pontoon boats that had no speed to speak of, but everyone was going to and staying on or near the water.  Needs became simple:  swimming, eating, drinking, and putting on sunscreen.  No one needed to be anywhere else when they were there; it just didn’t matter.  The water and the people involved with it were in constant motion and all of it was alive.  It differed from the hustle and bustle of the city; the water revived them each time they entered it, and they left with the feeling of life and a languid sense of purpose; he sometimes felt outside it all watching it happen, alone.  He remembered being in high school and then in college and the freedom he felt when summer came and he and friends got out on the water in their boats.  What a place to grow up, he thought.  Dad knew what he was doing living here. 

            Jake enjoyed the same feelings along with the familiarity of his hometown.  He was more at ease with himself and the people around him.  He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, and he hoped that would lead to having to prove less to himself.  It was a small town, much like many that dotted the state, and it simplified things for him; he knew he needed that.  He had let his life get too complicated, and he didn’t like the person he had become.  He felt he was too soft when he needed strength, and he cursed his emotional side.  It had left him open for the same heartache he felt he’d finally recovered from.  Whether he liked it or not, it was who he was.  He was still healing, he knew.  He didn’t mind being alone, but he didn’t like being lonely.  The Rocky Mountains made him feel small, and he knew where to go.  He wasn’t cured just yet, but home was as good a place as any to heal and ground himself again.

The morning came, and it looked like a perfect day without a cloud around.  A good omen, he thought.  He packed the boat with the cooler and his provisions and his guitar.  After he ate, he drove up to the Williams’, hitched the boat to his truck, and made his way to the boat launch.  Being before the season, the launch was close to deserted with no wait.  He went through the procedure like he’d done it the day before.  He backed the trailer into the water so that the boat could float when he let it off.  He stopped and he went back to the trailer and let out the line that hooked it to the crank, pushing the boat off the rubber rollers.  Before it cleared the trailer, he walked into the water and grabbed the bow line.  He shivered at how cold it was, and he stepped back and unhooked the boat, walked it the rest of the way out and then over to the dock.  His excitement grew as he hopped out of the water and tied the boat off and ran to park the truck.  The moment of truth, he said to himself as he jumped back in the boat to start it.  He pulled the throttle out, disconnecting it from the gears and pumped it twice to put some gas into the engine, turned the key, and the engine caught and turned over like it was brand new. 

“Yeah baby!” he exclaimed aloud as he clapped his hands loudly once and gave a double fist pump into the air.  The engine purred softly without a hitch, and he could tell it would run fine.  He had wondered about it with the three year lay off.  It was an eighteen foot Starcraft with a 190 inboard-outboard engine.  It wasn’t as fast as others on the lake, but it was enough for him.  It got up to almost forty miles per hour and could pull a skier his weight easily.  It was off-white with a simple blue stripe that started at the bow and ran to the stern.  It ended there in a kind of star emblem and the name of the company.  It was simple and plain, and besides his camp and guitar, one of his prized possessions.  He untied the bow and stern lines, jumped into the bow as he pushed off into open water, and put the boat into gear, backing it out slow and easy.  The air became cooler lifting off the deeper water as he moved out and away from the launch.  He resisted the temptation to gun it and go as fast as possible since he knew it would take a few trips before the engine was broken in.  It needed time to warm up to being run at higher rpm’s from sitting dormant for such a long time.  He sat on the back of the driver seat looking out over the bow and the lake in front of him.  He absently noticed he was smiling.  This is good.  I never know how I’ve missed this until I’m out here.  There was no wind, and the water was like a piece of glass spread from shore to shore.  He’d done this with his father countless times over the years, but he loved it more now.

He loved looking at the homes on the shores and hillsides of the lake as he passed by, and his whim would take him back and forth between the shores as he took a slow, easy pace toward the southern end.  Each was unique and had their own history, their own stories to be told of countless summer days.  He shut his eyes, and could hear and see the people playing in the water and on the shore.  If one didn’t know it, the places looked deserted and lifeless due to their age.  New York winters were cold and harsh, and they weathered the places and the people who lived there. 

            But summer and the lake brought the old places life, and that life would return soon; it was always to the lake everyone would return.  As he looked back to their pasts, he knew the truth; the summer life now was no different.  People did the same things they’d been doing years before.  They boated, barbecued, laughed, lived, built bonfires on the shore, played music, ate s’mores, and drank, and partied all day and night.  His parents participated in a weekend “search party” that happened maybe twice a month in July and August.  One or two couples and some friends would head out somewhere on the lake in the morning and park while they waited for ten or twelve other couples and friends to find them and join the party.  Some would meet on the water to “search” together.  Someone always knew the destination, and by the early afternoon the party was found and in full swing.  A different group would start it the next time.  It was their version of a good old fashioned booze cruise, and it lasted deep into the hot summer evenings.  Jake was even commissioned as early as fifteen to drive a boat home on more than one occasion for someone who couldn’t. Generations continued their own traditions, and it was the same year after year, but it didn’t matter.  The life was relaxing and prepared them for whatever lay ahead in their normal life, and they survived the winter to get back there regardless of the length of their stay.  Every summer, the lake gave life back as sure as the sunrise. 

After a while he opened another beer and headed for the east side of the lake as he drew even with his camp.  He liked to head home up the west side, and his course would take him to the end where he’d turn north again.  The time passed slow which was rare for him, and he enjoyed it taking in the sights and sounds so familiar to him but with a newness from being away so long.  He reached Glen Haven at the southern end of the lake around three thirty and began to head back home.  He steered close to the shore to look at the some of the oldest camps on the lake.  They sat on Glen Haven Road that left 41a at New Hope, a small town that wasn’t much more than a crossroads and hadn’t ever really changed from the time the houses were originally built.  The road cut through the fields and woods to run right by the lake.  Camps were on both sides of the road, and pine and maple trees filled the landscape.  He loved the last place on the water.  It sat across the road back in by the trees on the steep hillside.  It was small and dark brown/maroon blending in easily with the scenery.  The small lawn was already lush green, and a boat was already tied to the concrete dock on the lakeside.  It seemed isolated from the rest of the world.  It’s so quiet and peaceful here, he thought.  It looks like it hasn’t been touched in years, and it’s so different from downtown Skaneateles.  I’m not sure which belongs here more. 

He drove on and came to his camp around four thirty, and he stopped the boat out towards the middle surveying everything from the water.  He began thinking of a melody of a song he was working on that kept echoing in his head.  He liked that feeling.  The song had potential if he could hear the melody when he wasn’t actually playing.  It was such a touchy thing for him sometimes, but he knew if he played enough, he could create something he liked.  He threw out more than he kept, and if it stayed with him after, it was promising.  He cut the engine, letting the boat drift wherever the lake would take it.  Without the wind it lolled gently with the water, and he turned to pick up the guitar.  He didn’t worry about the words.  Sometimes they could get in the way if he pushed it.  If the melody is right, the words would come, he said to himself.  So he just played.

            The sounds brought to him the vision of her face and her long, brown hair blowing in the breeze of a Colorado sunset as she looked down smiling to gracefully pull a strand back behind her ear.  The picture haunted him and he couldn’t say why.  She was beautiful to be sure, but there was something more.  Too bad, he thought.  We just met, and we went our separate ways.  He smiled, even laughed a little.  It was probably too good to be true, he mused fatalistically.  After the last one, I shouldn’t be worrying about seeing anyone. 

He played for longer than he thought and noticed the sun was setting, and it brought back old memories.  Sometimes at twilight he would return to his camp early.  He felt like he fooled the sun and the day dying on him too soon, leaving him longing for things that were not his to have.  Its light still bathed the eastern shore brightly and then softer after it retreated into the horizon.  His home was left in a half light by which one could easily see, and he watched the shadows creep up the hills across the water.  The sun may have set, but the light remained to keep the day alive.   Jake spoke to his guitar and raised his beer on the days he felt good: “I have fooled the sun again.” On other days, he would float by himself in his boat as the water and the world grew darker, playing his guitar as the sun became a ball of orange, red, and purple fire making the sky its easel.  Jake saw the sunset a living thing that tried desperately not to let the day end.  Or maybe that was just him.  Sitting on the water felt so good when he wasn’t feeling lonely; he just wasn’t ready for it to stop.  He laughed at his somewhat futile search for some type of balance.  The sunsets in Colorado were amazing, but being on the water in New York was no less beautiful for him.  The moon would rise trying to take over the sky as the last light of day held on.  Unable to see his writing any longer, he would put away his guitar and head home knowing who would ultimately win the battle at dusk.  Today was one of those days he felt like heading in before the sun left the sky.

He started up the boat, and drove into his dock.  He pulled in and dropped off his guitar, cooler, and t-shirt.  It was still warm out and even a little humid.  He remembered it now as he felt sweat bead up on his forehead while he clipped the two lines from his mooring buoy to the ring on the bow of his boat.  Very different from Colorado, he mused.  He looked down at the water.  So calm and so peaceful like a window into another world but so connected to this one, he thought to himself.  It was enticing, but he knew it would be ice cold. 

At its deepest, Skaneateles Lake was just over three hundred feet and was spring fed by a large aquifer beneath making it very clean and very cold.  It took into July sometimes for it to warm up to bearable swimming temperature.  He smiled knowing how the cold would sting, but he didn’t own a dinghy to take the boat in, so swimming it was.  He had borrowed the neighbors’ to put the mooring in.  He always felt like a kid again when he and his friends all bet to see who’d be the first to go in.  A simple challenge, but one they played at least half way seriously, and it made him laugh now as he anticipated his plunge.  Just go; do it.  He stepped up, and in one motion leapt high off the gunwale, arced out over the water and dropped through its surface quickly, like someone dropping a metal shaft in smooth and fast.  The cold took his breath and he gasped as he exploded back to the surface.  He swam hard for the dock; his long smooth strokes pulled him effortlessly along while the water stung like a thousand needles.  He reached the dock and hauled himself out of the water in one fluid motion like it was part of his last stroke.  He breathed deep and looked back like he’d achieved an age old rite of passage once more. 

The sun had set more that he’d thought, and he turned his mind toward getting the truck back before it got too dark.  It was a little over five miles to the boat launch from his camp but a necessary evil for the first boat ride.  He changed into dry shorts, still shivering a little, put some jeans and a long sleeved shirt in a pack, brought his mountain bike out, and began his ascent of the hill up to route 41a.  Being a mountain biker in Colorado, Jake chose to pick his way through the woods instead of riding up the fire lane to the main road.  He’d done it before, and although there was no formal trail, he found his way easily in the approaching dusk.  He reached the main road with a good sweat and pulled out on the flat pavement.  The road undulated with the rolling hills of the countryside, and the air was cool and thick with dew in the country.  Farms sprung up here and there with corn fields lining the road for miles. 

            He always remarked the difference of the landscapes in New York and Colorado.  One so dense, almost overgrown in places; the other was dry and sparse and even harsh in its jagged vastness.  There was a mood created by both, and both places had become part of his life; he hated choosing between the water and the mountains.  He knew which would always win. 

            He reached the boat launch, and cruised down the long entrance road to his truck and threw his bike in the back.  He put his jeans on over his shorts and decided to head into town to see who was around.  He wanted to see Andy Collins, an old high school friend who bartended at The Sherwood, and anyone else who might be straggling about.  Andy and Jake were water skiing buddies from years before, and since they both worked at night, they had all day to ski and boat around the lake.  They were brothers in arms and inseparable during the summers in college. 

He was excited to see old friends and catch up on what he’d missed from being away.  Skaneateles was a small town and the people were creatures of habit.  There were four places that anyone who wanted to go out at night would be, and one could find them at any given time in one of them if they waited long enough.  And at the end of the evening almost everyone who didn’t go home went to Morris’s Bar and Grill, or the Café, as it was nicknamed.  Jake had bartended there during and after college before he left for the winters in Colorado, and he knew locals of all ages and walks of life.  Some people never left Skaneateles.  They didn’t need to know anything else.  It was a good place with solid roots.  Locals suffered the long, cold winters and sporadic weather for two good months of summer and always the lake.  It washed it all away, and as people’s moods mirrored the seasons, it seemed like life was renewed. 

            Jake was one of those who had to go away and experience life elsewhere to come back and feel the effect of the town again.  It was always home for him despite the circumstances and hint of sadness attached to it.  There was no way to think about home without the thought of them.  There was also a limit to how much bad weather he could take.  He decided it was time to try a new place and Colorado offered a different attraction; sunshine and skiing were a big part of that.  Most people had a misconception about the weather in Colorado.  In New York the sun seemed to disappear for eight months.  Of course it snowed in Colorado, but the sun shown quite often as well.  She was there somewhere, he thought.  Time to get that girl out of your head.  That’s doing you no good at all.  He knew it was a good decision to return home despite the bad memories.  There were so many good ones, and he chose to focus on them.  He convinced himself he wasn’t running from anything.

            The building that was The Sherwood Inn had stood where it was overlooking Clift Park and the lake downtown since 1807 with various renovations and changes.  The outside was a blue-gray that Jake felt fit the normal cloudy weather.  The walls were mostly windows of small four by four squares.  They reminded him of little places that dotted the small seaport towns in Massachusetts or Cape Cod.  They contained the same windows facing the sea to see ships returning home.  Inside had an old rustic feel to it, with oak floors that creaked with age and five foot wooden partitions for the tables.  Jake made his way into the bar area and saw Andy actively serving drinks to the crowd that was steadily growing.  It was Friday night, and there was a contingency that liked to go out early and get home early.  It was around 5:30, and the regulars were at their normal spots like clockwork.

            “What do I have to do to get a drink in this place, screw the bartender?”

            “No fucking way,” Andy replied without turning around.  In dramatic fashion, he stopped what he was doing, turned down the music, and exclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen!  It is officially summer.  Our favorite local to hate, Jake Taylor, has returned home after many years abroad.  Drinks are double the price and twice the size!”  A cheer went up as Andy finished and subsided into laughter.  I am definitely home, Jake thought.  Andy made his way over with a beer and a big smile, and put out his hand.

            “Damned good to see you Jake.  It’s been way too long.  And it never hurts to screw the bartender.  I’d just prefer her to be a little better looking than you.”

            “Are you saying I’m not good looking?  Wait until you’ve had a few.  Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers.  How have you been brother?”

            “You are kind of cute, come to think of it.  I’m great.  Same old shit here, but you know how it is.  Have you got camp set up?”

            “Yeah.  Put the boat in earlier today.  I just got off the water.”

            “Nice.  So we’ll be on the water tomorrow?”

            “Damned straight.”  While Andy tended to the bar, he returned off and on and caught up as if Jake had never left.  Three years is a long time, Jake said to himself.  Let’s not do that again.  This feels so right sometimes.  Home feels right.  I’m starting to move with the water again instead of against it.

            “By the way,” Jake said, “I’m playing at the Bluewater tomorrow night.  Start spreading the word.”

            “Oh, man.  I can’t wait.  I haven’t heard you play in forever.  Consider it done.”

            “Tell some women, will ya?  I don’t want to play for a bunch of drunk guys screaming for ‘Free Bird’ all night.”  Andy laughed.

  “I’ll try, but you’ve broken just about everyone’s heart I know.  It’s tough to find someone you haven’t been with.”

            “Bull shit.  I haven’t broken a heart in at least a month, and I’ve been gone long enough for the old ones to mend.  They should be ready for another round of heartbreaking by now.”

            “I’ll see what I can do.  Just save me one this time.”

            “Have I ever let you down?  Don’t answer that.”  They laughed.  Good friends’ entertainment was cheap but worth every penny.  “But don’t tell Jenny Spencer.  She’s been in love with me since the fifth grade, and she’s got to understand it just ain’t gonna happen.”

            “She was asking about you last week.”

            “Oh, geez.”

            “She still loves you.”

            “Wonderful.”

            “It might be because I told her you’ve always loved her or something like that.  I’m not sure though.  I think I was drunk.  So if you see her--” Andy let his voice trail off with a melodramatic shrug of his shoulders.

            “I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you,” Jake pointed at Andy and winked.

            “You wouldn’t.”

            “You know, I would.  What are friends for?”

            “Damn you, Taylor.” 

            “Too late, my friend,” Jake said as he took another swig.  “Too late.”  Andy turned to serve the locals, and Jake turned to look outside.  There was a light breeze as the last rays from the sun of a dying day glittered off the ripples on the lake.  He was glad he was with an old friend.  His gaze rested aimlessly on the scene and the people passing by in front of The Sherwood.  Three women walked by, and he caught a glimpse of one that looked unbelievably like the woman he’d just met in Boulder.  Not even possible, he thought as he shook his head.  Why do you do that?  You have to stop thinking about her too.  Timing is everything and you aren’t following a girl around anytime soon.  You’re too damned broken.  It really looked like her though.  The wind changed, blowing her hair into her face, and she casually put it a strand behind her ear and then she was out of his view.  The hair on the back of his neck stood up.  That’s too weird, he thought.  There’s no way she’s in New York.  His thoughts came back to the bar as one of the three girls turned to talk before they were out of view, and he thought it might be his long time friend Jessica Martin.

            “You seen Martin lately?” he asked absently.

            “Every once in a while.  She’s busy with her restaurant, but she should be having her first party this or next Sunday.”

            “I think I just saw her.  I’ll try and catch up with her later.”  His thoughts returned to the girl from Colorado.  Inside, he wanted it to be her.  He had only caught a glimpse of a woman walking with two others, but it made his heart beat faster.  What was it about her?  Why do you always act this way?  You know how it ends when you do.  You always fall so damned easy and fast.  You barely got to know her, idiot.  You are incapable of change.  You give your heart like that again, the same thing’s going to happen.  She’ll leave after you smother her, and you’ll be left with nothing but a shitload of pain and another scar on your heart to show for it.  There’s something about her, though.  It felt like she could see more of me.  All of me.  Even the part I keep hidden.  And she looked like she was fine with it.  Kind of surreal.  Why else would I still be thinking about her?  Because you’re stupid.  Dude, she lives in Colorado.  Get a grip.  Jake finished berating himself, shook his head, and asked Andy for another beer. 

            “It’s right in front of you,” Andy said, laughing.  “Get that woman out of your head.”

            His ribbing was more accurate than he knew.

 

 

 

www.cyberspacesolutionsinc.com
 
Admin Register
 
www.cyberspacesolutionsinc.com www.cyberspacesolutionsinc.com www.cyberspacesolutionsinc.com