Echo Lake

March 18, 2008
By Avi Aizenman, Santa Cruz, CA

Every summer, my family and I would prepare a picnic, and drive five hours to Echo Lake, National Park in Hanover New Hampshire. The park, a national reserve, has a beautiful lake surrounded by tall noble mountains. All the pictures of Echo Lake on Google images feature the sun shining, however the sun rarely shone on Echo Lake when my family and I visited. As soon as my father passed the toll booth to enter the lake, it was like someone had pressed a mute button, stifling the rude noises surrounding daily life.

There were birds on the lake, temporary residents until it was time to migrate. We always bought bread to feed them, yet there was never a fight for the measly crumbs. The wildlife respected the silence over the park, but often the humans who visited did not. There is a piece of land jutting out into the lake on which there is a vertical pole, which has a small horn shaped like a cornucopia perched on the top. All visitors to the park visit this horn, disturbing the silence with silly laughter and nonsense yelled through it. Whoever named the lake named it well, for whatever was yelled through the horn echoed slowly, fading into the water and mountains. The wildlife became used to humans yelling nonsense into the horn, and shattering the peace. Occasionally, a few of the birds would look up in distaste, rather shocked by the ridiculous things blared through the horn.

The first time I went to Echo Lake I was small, yet I still owned the world. My father explained to me how the horn worked, and demonstrated by yelling "Abigushi!" into the horn. My nickname bounced back and forth, settling into gradual silence. I thought this was a hilarious game, I shrieked "daddy" and "Mommy look at meeeeee!" I was so selfish, ruining the silence. My mother always looked over and waved. I can see her in my mind's eye perfectly, a small women with her eyes closed sitting on a picnic blanket with the remains of a small feast before her. I was the world to her; she was never cross and always waved when I screamed her name. She laughed right along with me, as my words echoed over the hills.

On my second visit to the lake when my father and I were walking to the "echo-er" as I liked to call it, we passed a pair of lovers walking along. I was still confused by love, and being the eight-year-old I was, I had seen "love" in Disney movies, where people sang love songs to their sweethearts. Why weren’t these people singing love songs to each other? What made these people in love? Why did neither of them even glance my way as I walked by? I still thought I was the center of the world, cute in my Osh-kosh-bagosh jumper and goofy grin. After visiting the "echo-er," my family and I rented a paddle boat. My father and I paddled as my mother, heavily pregnant with my sister, sat in the back and laughed. Pregnancy suited her, I could see that even as the boat was tipped off balance with my mother's extra weight. As I glanced over at the "echo-er" I saw the two lovers. They were giggling and blaring nonsense into the horn that I could not hear or understand. The boy stepped up to the horn and yelled his final goodbye to the lake, which even I could hear. "Guess what? Guess what? I love you! I love you!" I could not see the girl's face or her reaction; her back was turned to me as she and the boy linked hands and walked away.

The sky threatened rain as we pulled into the dock, my mom gracefully stepping off the boat as I clumsily rolled off. I begged my dad for one last shout into the "echo-er." My begging won, even as the sky was boiling with clouds. My parents called me the energizer bunny, and I was full of untamed power as I raced ahead of my dad wanting to beat him in a race he didn’t know he was in. As I zoomed ahead, I pulled cat tail reeds through my hands, and felt the smooth silkiness of nature. I ran out of breath and slowed down wiping my sweaty hands on my jeans. My hands didn’t feel sweaty, they felt sticky like honey. There was blood on my hands as I looked down. Nothing hurt but I was scared, I never remembered bleeding like this, without pain. I flew back to my dad and showed him my hand, I couldn’t believe him when he said the cat tails had cut me. I never would have thought a beautiful object like the cat tails could have hurt me, but there the cattails stood, innocently blowing in the wind. My dad brought me back to the car as it started raining, I didn’t get to say goodbye to the lake on this trip. Between my dramatic tears and whimpering my parents bandaged my hands, and we drove away as the rain gushed down in torrents.

I went back to Echo Lake many times, but after the cattail visit, everything I said through the horn sounded and felt bloody and coppery. I have dreams of Echo Lake. I am always standing by the "echo-er," trying to think of the right words to say. As I am older in my dreams, I know there is something I can say that will make a beautiful sound, and will taste like honey. Although it lurks at the tip of my tongue, I can never quite spit it out.

The last time I visited the lake I was ten-years-old, I was saying a final goodbye to the lake before moving to California. I was scared of moving, making friends and of saying goodbye to my old life. I was determined to soak in the essence of the lake, till I could visit again. As I yelled my goodbye through the echoer, I realized that it's always nice to know that someone is there to reply, echoing back and forth into the silence, until the lake becomes mute once more.

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