As a child, I lay on the dock at my grandparents’ camp on Spaulding Lake, way up in northern Maine. The wood was old, weathered to grey by lake water, rain, sun, and long harsh winters. The sun soaked into the rough boards and they gave it back not like the blast of heat from pavement, but in a slow release like the soothing warmth of a hot water bottle on a cold day. The heat bled into every muscle of my body and left me limp, relaxed.
Laying there, I would put my eye to a crack and stare into the water a few inches below. It smelled of weeds and worms, fish and wet rocks; the mineral composition of the land that cupped it, as individual as a fingerprint. Every so often, a sunfish swam past, undulating side to side, passing through bars of sunlight and into shadow. The iridescent colors of its scales blazed and faded by turns as it swam — emerald to olive drab, sapphire to indigo, gold to brass. Its eye was a yellow circle, pirate’s gold drowned by centuries.
When I finished watching the fish, I would turn my face to the side and lay my ear against the crack to listen. The lake had many voices beneath that dock. It smacked the wood with a flat, open palm. It chuckled and clucked. It sucked; an odd, almost thumping sound. At times it made a two-fold noise, a ‘lap’ followed by a ‘dub,’ like a heart’s beat. That giant pulse (although the lake itself is small) pulled at my own heart, matching it like mother to child, connecting me to the Earth. The divide between us vanished. Often, it lulled me to sleep.
Last year, I returned to the lake after more than 30 years away. (Long story.) It was September and much of summer’s warmth had fled. Autumn comes early in the north country. The nights were cold, the mornings brisk. I walked out onto the dock (a different dock yes; Pop’s old one had long-ago succumbed to rot) and looked at the lake. Then I lay down, stretched out on the sun-bleached boards, and put my ear to the crack.
The lake spoke. It welcomed me home.