Thursday, November 01, 2007

Unemployable Feathers

Lakes hold a special fascination for the dry.
The subtle lapping water, often carrying leaves and pine needles with it, the delicacy of the wetness, which is not at all like the pulverizing crush and spray of the ocean, coyly invites one to join it in its gentle pulse. Lake plants, growing richly but stopping inches below the surface, cluster by the rocks and in submerged gardens which can be best discovered with a submerged foot.
There are days when the partched air rattles the cane curtains and dust balls scatter over the newly swept patios.The corners of my mouth hurt. I don't need much convincing. The lake is audible. Water striders are practicing their moves in pairs by the roots of the shrubs by the water's edge.
Most people would prefer cautiously wetting their feet, imagining that the feet would convey a sense of what a more complete immersion would be, but I prefer the whole body approach. I step back. I make sure there are no floating branches or hidden rocks. I slick back my hair. A hot breeze eggs me on. I rise. I straighten out.
But I do not sink. I am repelled like oil off the surface of the lake, as if it were made of rubber.
The force of it bends my nose. I reach my hand into the water to use as a salve. Oddly, I hold a palm full of water like a melted ball. As I squeeze it, it acquires a clay-like texture and weight, which is not unpleasant. I found that I was floating away from the shore, which would be disturbing if I thought I were going to sink, but I rather felt that the situation was under control. The mass in my hand became birdlike. It grew down, a beak, and a tiny pulsing heart. Claws scrabbled at the ball of my thumb. Gently, I released the bird, and blew life into its feathers, whereupon it passed away, flopping over the water's surface. Now I was alone. I also had lost sight of the shore and the sky was a uniform mottled gray.