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

'Nuff said?


Why do I live in the country, on a small lowland lake? Every time I try to answer this self-imposed question I come up with a different answer.

For today's considerate (?) reply, I simply offer William Steig's response to the conditions of modern living. Of course he lived (he's recently deceased) in NYC for much of his life and drew (excellently) his cartoons that addressed the problem that exists for many of us.

Of course I wouldn't mind a visit to NYC, so long as it was short, like my last one, fifty years ago. It lasted about two weeks, and I got to hear Miles in person, plus Diz and Sara Vaughn.

But the lake is where I will always return, for so long as I can.

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Well, frak me, we're under attack!
(A direct quote, or at least the first three words are.)



Language is dynamic. It is ever-changing, always adapting to new times and circumstances in order to keep its meaning fresh and clear. And the use of obscenities is constantly recharging its batteries, often circumventing prohibitions and what might be considered bad taste. So it slightly disguises itself, but remains unmistakable.

Language, I love you. Anybody watch Sci-Fi's TV broadcast of the remake of Battlestar Galactica? Come on, own up. We're all friends here.
A new coinage of an old obscenity made its humble, hilarious way forward last night. First time heard, it rang on the ears like a cheap gong: "Frak."

I thought I had been there before. WWII over, a young Harvard grad named Norman Mailer, faced with the ubiquity of the word "fuck" in Army parlance (it hasn't changed any) came up with "fug" to satisfy his editors at Reinhart and Company in NYC, who were worried about censorship and obscenity.

The year? 1948. The book was The Naked and The Dead.

We've come a long way, baby. Or have we? Only a short distance, when the producers of Galactica felt the need for a sugar-coated euphemism for the word we hear daily on the street as an intensifier for so many dull nouns, verbs, and adverbs.

It is a meaningless word and has lost all its snap. But it is never heard on conservative TV channels, which now number in the hundreds. And of course not on network TV. Not even the side channels. Maybe on the movie channels, but probably then only in the late hours, when quasi-porn is permitted.

This tells us a lot about ourselves as a society, what is premitted, what is not allowed to be said.

Not until Monday past, and again last night. I broke out laughing. I mean, you can say "frak" but you can't say "fuck." Who says? (Or doesn't say?)

Ah, well, frak him!

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Snow geese in rather sparse formation

You drive out along on Fir Island Road on the Skagit Flats, at this time of the year, and you expect to encounter snow geese. And you invariably do.

On Sunday, the day after the celebration in LaConner for Dead Poet Robert Sund, my wife and I drove back to that tiny arts city and, sure enough, the first field we came to was burdened with snowlike white. But they were swans—a mix of tundra and trumpeter, wallowing in the mud; the young are still gray already, but the mature birds are bright white, white as snow geese.

"But where are the snows?" I asked somewhat plaintively, as though swans were not enough. She shrugged that she did not know.

We passed a house and barn and came to the next huge field, one that in the summer grew grain. And there they were—hundreds, perhaps thousands— of snow geese.

Swans may pack a field, but they maintain an interval between each. Bigger to start with, perhaps they require more space as proud individuals. Not so the geese, which pack themselves familiarly into a denser area. They are a more social bird. And—these, anyway—do not wallow in mud, as do the swans.

Glad to see them, the different species back for the winter, each in its own space. As it always has been and always shall be, with a little good environmental luck and treatment.

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Asks a question, does he?

Buffleheads add their odd punctuation to the lake, early this morning, looking very much like commas strung out from the shoreline, while further out double-tufted cormorants form question marks.

When one of them neatly inverts in the water to search for a fishy breakfast, the string of words that is the lake looks like a Spanish interrogatory sentence.

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Artist's (my) version of idyllic lake setting


There is a man who wrote a book, and he got it exactly right. He is Robert W. Knight and the book is A House on the Water, Taunton, 224 pages, $34.95. I have never seen it, but I know what he is getting at and I am in complete accord.

It is a picture book, and pictures will convince where words will not. It is a visual survey of house from Maine to California, Florida to Washington, that are built on water because their owners would not live any other way.

Water is as important to their life style as air is. And if you don't limit yourself to small lakes, as I seemingly have, it includes saltwater residences and those on rivers. (I also own a river-front home, albeit with an old, fully functionable mobile home on it, and a fifty-foot porch from which I can watch the Stillaguamish river tumble by. So rivers are a favorite of mine.)

So I am probably as much an authority as Mr. Knight is, and I respect him, peer to peer, and wish him well.

I would ask you, as he would, why you don't live on water, or as close to it as you can get? For us there is not other way.

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