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Summer Lake Hot Springs pond


Another Summer, Summer Lake

In winter the lake spreads white and dreamlike, frozen starkly still and achingly beautiful against bluest sky. In summer the lake recedes leaving white salted pan, crazed like a jigsaw puzzle. Daytime heat ripples off the baked barren shore in mirages, an illusion of lake, full.

At Summer Lake Inn you mingle with other guests at twilight over barbeque and if you’re lucky, a neighbor gal might arrive wearing shorts and cowboy boots, gun still smoking from killing a rattler. When dark descends, take a flashlight and find your way to the solar path — discreet lamps in the sand guiding the way until you reach the wide expanse of saltpan. There, the moon is bright enough for you to frolic like an idiot, dancing with your niece or your own shadow. The two of you can walk and walk toward what you know is the lake, but all you see is a black abyss before you. There is a point where suddenly, simultaneously, the brackish mud absorbs all the light and an illusion of not lake nor chasm, but wall, rises before you. You both jump back, scream and run, reveling once again in the safety of light. White sand, moonlit.

Later, while you’re brother is in the hot tub and your niece is asleep, you think you will read yourself to sleep but really you are too excited about the alarm going off at two a.m. or three to get up for the Plaides show. And then you think, no I shall lie here under covers, but you can’t because you must gather the comforter and lie outside on the chaise lounges with your now wide-awake niece on the deck and ooh and ahh and shout at falling stars. Wherein you wake your brother who joins you.

And you fall asleep finally back in bed, but open an eye at dawn to see the sun shooting across the basin, a gleam of blue lake amid whitest shores, golden rose sky. And then you sleep until it is time to rise, find a cowboy breakfast a few miles down the road at Summer Lake Lodge and back for an hour or two of reading, a hot tub soak, and scrabble under the shade of the leafy trees.

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