Lakes and life
I am having a tough week. Several sleepless nights, lots of stress. If you have read my blog since the beginning, you’ll know I do this. When stress and anxiety get to me, I can’t sleep. I used to take a lot of prescription drugs to overcome this and related issues. However, what I’m not sure I have shared on this blog is that I almost completely overcame this problem about a year and a half ago. I learned how to deal with my stress in some positive ways and learned how to get a good night’s sleep even when there were worries in my life. (Someday, I’ll share the answers, but this isn’t the day.)
So, this recent run of sleeplessness is now out of the ordinary for me. I sleep like a rock, every night, without medication, and I’m ticked off when I am disturbed from my lovely rest. But not this week. If I detailed for you all that is going on, I bet you would wonder how anyone with all of that stress could ever sleep again! But I will, eventually.
This morning, after waking up too early and not sleeping enough, I decided to start my day by taking in some nature from my deck, which has a beautiful and peaceful lake view in a quiet (albeit tiny bit ratty) old neighborhood.
It’s shaping up to be a gorgeous day here. When I first sat down, the morning sun was shining into my eyes. I didn’t mind – it’s been a long winter and I appreciated the light. But the direct light made it hard to see for a while and I could do little more than listen to the birds in the trees, the squirrels shuffling around in the leaves and some ducks splashing in the lake.
When the sun shifted a bit and I could see, I started watching the lake. This is one of my favorite past times. I have always been drawn to living on water, even though I’m just a mediocre swimmer and I’m not at all a fisher, boater, canoe-er or any other water-sportsperson. But I am fascinated by water – the beauty and power; the ability to sustain and destroy; the ever-changing qualities of lakes, streams and oceans; and the wildlife that is attracted by this necessity of life.
My lake looks different every day and I always stop to take in the differences. This time of the year is awesome, as the changes happen fast and furious, and my view is clear before the leaves fill the trees and block my line of sight a bit more than I would like.
Right now, the lake is muddy, churned up by a recent rain. When you are up on it, the water is gross – just a typical Indiana springtime lake. Further away, the picture is prettier, but I know the differences in the water and I can see the discoloration. I know the mud is there.
If it doesn’t rain here or upstream for a few days, this will change. The mud will settle. The view from my house will become a darker blue, rather than the dark brown it is now. As the summer goes along, the color will evolve into a green and sometimes become red from algae growth. Then, DNR will treat the lake (to bring it back from the imbalance caused by farm chemical run-off) and it will be a bright bluish-green from the chemicals. After a wild storm, the lake will be a furious mix of red and green — clay churned up from the bottom and algae growing in the water. In the winter, if it isn’t frozen over and white with snow, it will be almost black from a distance, but completely clear if you are near the water, looking into it.
Like all things, in the spring, new life starts to make it’s appearance on the lake, becoming fully alive by summer. In the fall, it feels like every living thing alternates between hurriedly preparing for winter and leisurely enjoying the fading warmth. In winter, it’s nearly dead – save for a few geese and heron. The turtles, snakes, fish and muskrats go wherever those critters go; the deer, fox and coyote make only an occasional appearance when hunger and lack of cover fail them. But now, the geese are making their nests and laying eggs, soon to hatch. They will teach their goslings to swim, then fly, then migrate. And next spring, it will start all over again.
On cloudless days, the water sparkles from the sunshine. As I sat there this morning, the light display was spectacular. When you view a new diamond ring up close — perhaps under a loupe — you see brilliant, multi-faceted points of light. Thousands of little bits of light — so much like diamonds it’s hard not to make that comparison — were dancing atop the muddy water of the lake.
I watched the play of this light on the water and noticed how the sparkling moved in the direction the water moves. The lake is stream fed, so the water is always gently moving south, unless winds are kicking it in other directions. When a mallard duck cut through a patch of the sparkles in the opposite direction the water was flowing, it had a trail of glitter following it.
Maybe it’s silly, but this light show was making me giddy, child-like – the feeling you get lying on the ground watching clouds or walking into a balloon-filled room. Patches of these little twinkles were moving about on the lake and I was enjoying following them with my eyes or trying to predict where they might appear next.
I was having fun — feeling happier than I had in a week or longer. But then, suddenly, it all disappeared.
The lake went flat. Either the light wind shifted or the sun moved a bit in the sky and my glittering light show was gone. My giddiness faded away. I was bummed. I sat staring at the lake trying to find any spot where the light was flickering away, but there was none. It was just a dumb muddy brown lake.
I had that feeling of disappointment where the voice inside of you says, “well, that must be a sign to get off my butt and get moving with my day.” I ignored that voice. I didn’t want my day to start yet.
So I sat, trying to find a duck or squirrel to entertain me or hoping to see a fish flop into the air. It all seemed so blah after my own personal natural fireworks display.
And then, in a snap, the lake was on FIRE. Before, there had been large patches of dancing light. But now, every bit of the surface exploded with tiny bits of light. I actually gasped out loud. It was so instantly brilliant that I had to squint (with sunglasses) to let my eyes adjust.
This grand finale went on for 15 or 20 infinite seconds and as the glitter started to fade, I realized I had been holding my breath. I had been so surprised by the encore that I forgot to breathe. I wish you could have been there. I don’t think any number of words could describe it.
Call it God. Call it spirit. Call it an “a-ha” moment. But I knew this was a little life lesson for me.
Life is muddy. It just is. Sometimes it settles down and you can see clearly – almost to the bottom. Then a storm kicks up and you have to deal with it.
But it goes on, with or without you. The colors change. The geese have babies and the babies fly away. The view is different every day, even if you never move an inch.
And if you pay attention, there are little light shows all around you — displays of brilliance, self-created or natural. It’s the child who proudly shares her artistic creations or tells you a new joke that’s actually funny; it’s the flowers pushing their way through the packed dirt; it’s a minor accomplishment on the job in the midst of too many tasks to count; it’s knowing you are loved, even if it’s just your mom telling you this. 🙂
But if you are counting on something external to make you happy, your happiness will be quickly yanked away when that thing quits. So, you must create these moments, look for them, see what is in front you, appreciate all that are inside of you.
When you least expect it, a spectacular display will fall into your life. You have to cherish it, hold your breath and take it all in. You must savor the light show and burn it to memory, so that it is accessible after the next big rain, when the water is churned up, gross and stinky, and the sky is filled with so many clouds you aren’t sure what time of day it is. You can remember the fabulous moments and appreciate the muddy, stinky ones for what they are — necessary moments in the cycle of life. Without the ugly, how could we ever see the beauty?
This moment is all we have. Live in it.