Saturday, October 6, 2012

Early Fall on the Lake

Every day, the New Jersey lake I live on looks different. As used as I am to seeing the same familiar stages of a season, every year there is something that I have never seen, or noticed, before.
I sit on my dock looking to the west, where brilliant sunsets stage performances, but it is nearly seven in the morning and the sun has only been up a half hour. The light makes the white trim on the west bank house shine as though lit up. My side of the lake will be in shade until at least noon, so huddled in hoodie and jeans I use a mug of steaming coffee to make the slight chill bearable. Usually a book, sometimes a laptop as my diversion, I watch lone fishermen soak their bait.
This particular morning, I see something that I haven’t noticed in the thirty-two years I’ve lived here. This time of year, pollen dropping from the trees, forms a green skim on the surface of the lake. Since the water moves west to east at slightly less than a half mile an hour, it drifts past my dock and I can take inventory of the objects that have joined the stream—a child’s plastic shovel, a volleyball from the main beach, a submerged branch with one stick straight up, breaking the surface. In the distance a wedge of geese scrape the tree tops of the mountain on the north horizon, skirting my lake with its protective swans.
This morning in the center of all this, a fish had leaped clear out of the water—bass, trout, or perch, I’m not sure. The concentric waves that break from his leap form the pollen skim into a swirl that reminds me of a far galaxy on a clear night sky, and I wonder, once again, why I have never seen anything like that before.
galaxy swirl

There is one lone fishing boat at the east end of the lake and I see him slowly making his way to the swirl, so I bound up the slate path to my house and quickly retrieve my camera. By the time I return, the boat is just a few yards off the swirl, so I hurriedly take my pictures.
Later, a large swan behind my back, a few docks down, is diving for vegetation on the lake bottom. His motion sends concentric circles that radiate under my dock and make ripples that race towards the eastward movement of the water. Fall signaling brown leaves slowly bob and I am reminded that my days on the dock will be limited. I try to push the thought out of my mind, knowing that soon it may be too cold to do this, one of my personal pleasures. Sometime later, I will replace this routine with tying on my ice skates, progressing to the lake’s next seasonal stage.

Our swans with their tiny ones.

Erskine Lake in early fall

Sunset in summer

Black ice awaiting skaters

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