Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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and s-integrator

Paperback with laminated cover

I don't know.

You buy a new paperback book and read about three pages into it. The telephone rings. When you come back, the little laminate cover has rolled back like the lid on a can of sardines.

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Sumi Painting

In America, from time to time Buddhism becomes fashionable. This is probably the best time to eschew it. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. It may be the time when we need it most.

What is the difference, for instance, between resignation and acceptance? Ah, Buddha knows. Unfortunately nobody else seems to. And we suffer a great cultural loss.

I try to avoid deep thoughts in this blog, but occasionally one intrudes and its persistence cannot be escaped. We are hated around the world, even in Britain, whose government sides with us in our actions in the Middle East. First Afghanistan, then .Iraq, and next, seemingly, Iran.
What is the average American citizen, who has educated himself to political causes and their attendant realities, suppose to do? As the Dalai Lama recently told us, Why protest, when the decision had already been made? That is futility that can lead to frustration on a massive scale.

How does one tell the difference between apathy and resignation, then? And how do the pollsters recognize any difference? And how does one know himself which is the governing attitude? That is, am I being apathetic or resigned to what I cannot change?

I don't think there has been any time in my personal history when I have felt less in control. It must have been a naive illusion that, in the past, I could exercise even a small degree of control over what will happen in the world political arena. I recall with muted joy the Eisenhower Years and the early days of the war in Viet Nam, when the country was sorely divided, pro and con. The cons found a voice and their protest was noisy and sometimes violent.

If we measure the results of past wars and military actions and see the post-hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq with clear vision, we must wonder what we are doing there in the first place. It is possible to have a dream where innocent people from both those countries accost us from a shallow sleep, and ask, "Why? What did I ever do to you?"

If you can find an answer that will let you go back to sleep, please email it to me. I need one, too.

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In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, at the end of June we have predictable days, but I keep forgetting their particular nature and, each year again, I have to experience them anew to truly value them.

They begin with dense morning fog, and even if their is a bit of a breeze it does nothing to dispense the fog, which will wear away by forenoon. It looks like the start of a cloudy day, with everything a depressing gray.

Today there is a ruffle on the lake. Birds flit in and out along of their routes and take up their accustomed perches. A couple of the unwanted domestic ducks arrive next door and waddle their way to my lawn, eating grass seed along the buffer on the inside of the blue rushes.

The air is cool—down into the low fifties. But pretty soon now, unless I have read the signs wrong, and the weather man with all his Doppler equipment doesn't know what he is talking about, or measuring, the sun will begin to make its dim presence felt. The sky will yellow by degrees, the temperature rise into the low sixties. In my opinion this will be the perfect time of day.

It is transitional, which means it is not long-lasting. Soon a strong, pre-July sun will push through and the temperature soar. It will reach 80 again today. Rarely does it exceed that. And the afternoon will be splendidly warm and bright.

Now, if only the trout will begin to hit again. Yesterday, a beauty, was slow. The tiny bass are swarming in the shallows, the bluegills nesting again in freshly scrubbed sites. Only at near dark, while the Mariners were losing to the World Champ Angels, did I manage to catch one.

That rainbow redeemed the day by fighting well, though it was less than a foot in length. A short fishing excursion is the perfect way to close such a day.

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Typical bluegill, a sunfish

I have two black Labs, one a male, one a female; they are brother and sister. They are as different as, well, night and night.

The male, Biff, is by nature a hunter. Too bad, I do not hunt. But I fish, and Biff decided, long ago, that it is the next best thing. So, on a beautiful sunny day at the end of June, when I go out to the end of my dock to fish for trout, Biff is arrested at the shoreline and proceeds no further.

A small bluegill is on the nest of small stones right where I draw my aluminum boat up on shore. (I tend not to use it, these days, because a bluegill or two has made its home in the shade that its stern provides. The nest of small stones is immediately adjacent, and with all the blue rushes along the shore now there is plenty of cover for he, or she, to maneuver, under the false assumption that it is protected from view, or else is out of harm's way.

Wrong! The fact that Biff and I can easily see him (as well the case may be, for it is the male who guards the nest after spawning) seems to make no difference to him. He is secure in his, er, belief. He moves in and out of the nesting area with aplomb. And Biff, more than I, watches, fascinated.

This is, remember, the dog who will dive into the water, unless restrained, to retrieve a trout being brought to the dock, and rarely misses catching it with his soft mouth, after which I order him to drop it, and separate it from the hook, and carry it back to deeper water for release.

So he is used to watching fish. This is something he and I can do by the long minute. I can't say hour, but hour may be the correct word for his attention span. I share it, but not for so long.

What better thing is there for man and dog to do, on a very warm summer's day, than look deep into the shallow water and study the ways of a bluegill in its environment?

Name me one.

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Typical rooftop satellite dish, and other visual litter

One world indeed!

Yesterday my wife found she could not access her email account; the ISP wouldn't recognize her password. Since I am her "host" on our satellite dish for our DSL connection, I immediately phoned the technical assistance line.

The techie was barely understandable over the phone, for she had a heavy accent. Well, I am used to this now, for various Hispanics men (or women) the phones, and they are often in Florida, but not necessarily so.

I struggled to understand her brand of English, and to worsen matters she would speaking alarmingly fast at moments when it was critical that I understand her correctly and perform on my end a series of precise technical maneuvers. And since my wife's and my computers are on different floors on our house on the lake, this necessitated me dashing up and own stairs and across the full length of the house to get from one machine to another.

And there were brief waits on the line for me to pick up one phone and put down another, and for the techie and me to have short, personal conversations. Such as, "Where did you acquire that delightful accent (that I am unable most of the time to understand)?"

"India," she replied, quite clearly.

"And," asked I, "is English then your second language?"

She explained that she had grown up speaking English in school in India but her primary language was a dialect of Hindi. Ah, thought I; that partly explains my difficulties in understanding her. I also learned, or almost learned, her given name, but quickly forgot it when I realized that I had missed a couple of key letters.

Finally a new password was given us for my wife's account and I punched it in, sent her a test message that finally was accepted, and we were done. I was reluctant to depart from my new quick friendship with the woman from India, and asked, finally:

"And what office do you work out of now—one in Florida?"

"India," she said.

She still doesn't understand me, I thought, and what I am asking.

Condescendingly I continued: "No, I'm not asking where you are from, but where you are presently."

"India," she repeated, foolishly I thought.

"You are not on a telephone . . . in India," I said.

She assured me she was.

"You mean, I am speaking on the phone to someone in India?" I said, incredulously, for I am a paraochial American. "Right now?"

She laughed and assured me I was.

Gosh, and it was just your ordinary 1-866 prefixed phone number, I marveled. I asked her a few more questions about where she was and the countryside. Politely, cheerfully, she answered.

What a small world it is we live in, one circled ceaselessly by babbling satellite dishes.

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Late June brings roses and promising buds in profusion

Summer now, the days are beginning to get microscopically shorter. I taunt my wife with this dire news and am only slightly ashamed over doing it. There is an attendant sadness that comes with the fact. And, if I want to be even meaner, I tell her I can already smell autumn in the air. Of course I can't.

Two goldfinches at the feeder this early morning, they are quick to take flight upon out arrival. Hey, you guys, you are the Official State Bird. Is that any way to act around two of your, er, sponsors?

Few people fishing the lake over the weekend, but the trout continue to hit sparsely. It is a long wait between strikes. DF&W may have made a supplementary plant of rainbows, but it is unlikely. If they have a thousand or so trout left over, this may be one of the places the new resident fish biologist might dump them simply because he knows me.

On the other hand this may be egocentricism at its worst. Yet there seem to be more trout in the lake and many of them seem smaller than the ones from a month ago. And there are no more big ones coming to my hook, after number 16 a week ago.

But I think the answer is, people don't really like to eat trout, and wives and mothers don't like to see a bunch of uncleaned dead fish brought home as proof of the angler's prowess. So more and more fishers are practicing catch and release. They bring home only big smiles.

Which makes the fishing last longer and is much more enjoyable to do.

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Life here at twilight and back-reflected light

What's it like, living on a small, lowland lake? Well, that is the subject of this blog, even though we may get pretty far afield, sometimes.

Small is the key word. It has both its charms and its drawbacks. A minute ago, out on the dock, fishing a bit, I heard the sort of voice one hears in public places nowadays, more and more. It is the voice of someone speaking into a cell phone.

It is very much like a mad man talking to himself in public, but a little more coherent and organized.

On a little lake like this one, sounds carry. You don't need a basket! People all around the large perimeter can hear nearly every word you say, when you step outside, I guess for better reception and perhaps transmission.

Now, I am deaf as a stone. Two stones. So I can't hear every word. But I can hear enough to get the general drift. And the guy is talking in what I'd call "moderate tones." I mean, he is in no way shouting.

Now, maybe everywhere today people can hear one-sided conversations this easily, but I think they can be overheard better on a lake. There is something about a lake that makes sounds . . . carry. A small party becomes a large one, especially late at night. And a large party becomes horrendous.

And perhaps I've implied (or you've inferred) that the neighbors on a small lake are idyllic, kindly, beneficent. Not true. We have two families not speaking to us. We aren't quite sure why not. The fact that both families are employed in the public school system on the high school level might why this conduct is deemed socially acceptable.

But enough of this kind of stuff. We gotta save a few things for a later day. Even though we ourselves are not exactly saints. ("Later day saints"?)

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