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

Not from Huck's but from his buddy, Tom's, book
(first edition, loose in boards)



On this day of giving thanks (yesterday), let's be grateful for free speech and the opportunity to read and discuss whatever we want in America. (If you believe this, I've got a 1980 Ford Pinto you'd might like to buy. Runs great.)

A black grandmother and granddaughter have taken the Renton (Washington State) school district to court over the teaching of Huckleberry Finn, claiming it insults blacks by use of the N-word, which they say appears 215 times. They know; they counted. I wonder if they noticed anything else?

Never mind that "N-Jim" is the hero of the book, a man of deep moral wisdom and responsible behavior who serves as a mentor to his friend, young Huck, and the book is a plea for interracial understanding. We have come a long way since 1895, when the book was written. Some might say we have often traveled in the wrong direction.

A word may wound, but it can't kill. Only people and natural events can do that. Anger and hatred.

We can thank Seattle P-I writer Gregory Roberts for an article that points out the inherent racism in the two women's attack on literature and the school board. He doesn't say that racism is involved, but it is the natural conclusion that arises from the article.

And he is most circumspect. He uses the N-word as such throughout the article, but when he quotes the two women, who use the privileged word fully, he doesn't use the sanitized, compressed version. Which may have resulted from a long, intelligent editorial conference at the P-I.

Therefore, we get to hear the two black women's coinage, "niggerology." It is much richer and fuller than the modern politically correct version, and without Roberts's boldness we might never have learned it existed, at least in certain people's lexicons.

I am full of uncertainty, however, as to what it means.

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Stanley Kunitz, the poet, said Cézanne's apples were "impossible." Do you agree?


Stanley Kunitz is a wonderful poet and I hesitate to disagree with anything he says, even in poetic expression, but when in an early poem, "Postscript," he states, "A man can starve upon the golden-sweet/Impossible apples of Cézanne; a man/Can eagerly consult a woman's head/(Picasso's), but her slow and stupid eyes/Drink light in a vegetative apathy," I must.

My disagreement is minor, however. He's got a point, and a good one. And what he says about Picasso will hold water, too. It is a beautiful trope. He is not trying to diminish their art one bit, only amplify and relate to it. He succeeds.

The rest of his poem is excellent and can be found in either his Selected Poems or in his Complete. But for the record, I find Cézanne's apples highly possible.


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Where do old docks go when they die?



Well, they don't exactly disappear, for they still float. But they lose their moorage and go drifting (soulless) around the lake. They pause briefly here, they float slowly down the lake's middle, the take up temporary residence there, but never stay anywhere for long.

Since they no longer belong to anybody, they are—theoretically, at least—nobody's responsibility. And the dock's original owner shrugs his shoulders and replies, "Not mine, not any longer. Or to quote the immortal words of my next door neighbor, "Who do you think I am, the Lake Police?"

Of course there is no such thing as the Lake Police, and the city of Stanwood, six or seven miles away, will disclaim all responsibility for what goes on here. That leaves the State Patrol. To reach them you have call 911 and lie that it is an emergency, that is, a life is at stake. And then they may come and they may not. Today, tomorrow, never.

So the problem of this Flying Dutchman of a twenty-foot dock comprised of rotting cedar boards and nails and baling wire and scrubby plants continues its journey around the lake. Yesterday (when I photographed it) it was lightly moored next door. Today it is all mine. It has moved next door.

Someone of course should dismantle it, even though it is lodged in 18 inches of water. Cold water—about 40 degrees. Then this person should dismantle it with prybar and hammer. That person should then haul its timbers high on his beach and dry them out. Of course the wood will not be good for anything, so it will have to be burned. Burned next spring or summer.

I should probably do it. But, hey, I'm not the Lake Police. I know what. I'll ignore it, like everybody else does, and maybe the wind and waves will move it on to my neighbor who is not the Lake Police.

And so it goes. (I hope so.)

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The new dogwood has dropped about half its leaves.


A storm that presages winter is coming in; actually, it's been on its way for several days, with a biting wind and a crispness in the air that's new. And there has been mushy snowfall in some of the city's (Seattle's)suburbs and in the mountain passes enough show to open the ski-lifts and to bring out the snowboarders in droves.

Here at the lake we had a scrim of snow, and on the otter fountain, first, a paper-thin morning ice that shattered at the touch and floated away in sharp pieces. But yesterday the pieces were too thick to break with my fingertips and resisted all intrusion.

And today the storm is gathering. Always at this time of the year there is dread and happy expectation. You ask, How can the be both, at once? And I reply, Live and learn. By morning, when I intend to post this blog, I expect to have more to report on the course of the storm.

Meanwhile, enjoy the last leaves of the dogwood (Canadensis nutalli, if I remember correctly), for they are beautiful and, like all such things, ephemeral. In a few days the tree will be winter-bare.

Actually, the big snow storm proved to be a phony. It produced a little overnight rain and now the skies are clearing. More moisture is expected, but it will fall in the form of rain, which is normal.)

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