In the summer
we would go down to the lake, hidden away in the mountains
like a secret world all of its own. We had a small cabin
there, it was not much but it was more of a hom
e to me than the place we lived the rest of the year. I looked forward to those summers more than anything else in my life, the isolation of the place made me feel truly free
in a way that a busy city never could.
The lake was down a short path from the cabin. We had a small dock and an old row boat bobbed on the end of it's line. As soon as we got to the cabin, I ran down the path to the dock for a quick swim in the lake. This summer, the lake was on fire. Green flames licked up toward the sky, bobbing up and down on the waves. I didn't think much of it at the time, though it would haunt me in later years.
For the entire time I was there, the lake was on fire. I frequently took the boat out, never once getting burned by the flames. I guess it never occured to me that it should be dangerous, so it wasn't. Often I would swim several feet under water, looking at the flames above me for hours. When you forget that you need to breath, it is easy not to. Down there, under the fiery surface, I would talk with the fish for hours. They would swim along side me, telling me about their adventures in the lake. We never spoke about the fire, why would we?
At night I would lay in the boat, looking up at the soft glow of the moon while the gentle green flames flickered around me. The effect was hypnotic and I always dreaded when the sun began to rise in the morning, stealing the beautiful night away from me. I would go back to the cabin and sleep in my dark room, waiting for the night to come once again.
I've been back to the lake many times since then, but the flames were never there. As I grew older and found my place in the world, I still made the journey at times to remind myself of where I had come from. But it was all different. When I swim in the lake, I find I need to surface every few minutes for air. The fish no longer have anything to say, and the nights are cold and unwelcome. Sometimes, I wonder if any of it was real, but not for long. The eyes of a child see the world in a different way, a way that is quickly forgotten as we grow older. It was as real as anything else in my life, and that's all I need to know.