Schroon

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It was the stars at Schroon Lake that reaffirmed my belief in God.

When I suddenly sat up in bed in the middle of the night, awoken by the relentless thud of each raindrop in the hurricane slamming against the roof with all the fury of a woman scorned, I was overcome with a sense of bliss. To lie there, smelling the rain of August, was heavenly. Not the Heaven that I’m supposed to love, the hackneyed, colorless one with puffy, overstuffed clouds and shimmery halos, but the Heaven that I do love, the heaven of a woman not yet scorned, but still in love – hearing him breathe in deep sleep through the cracked wooden wall in the pounding hurricane and the misty haze that was everywhere. I could see the darkness of his room through a hole in the wall and it made the darkness of my own room more natural – more hospitable, more welcoming. Just knowing he was there, breathing, loving me even in his sleep, even, especially, in the middle of the rain and the dirt and the rocky sand – that was Heaven to me. Heaven in upstate New York. Heaven in the middle of nowhere.

There was no better place to be in love than Schroon Lake, not for us. The river flowed so conveniently from the dock around the river shacks, pooled in front of the town beach, and rested quietly under the bridges where the spiders dangled from sweet-smelling webs in the willow trees. Nature seemed to cradle us in our canoe, me lying across the canoe while he paddled from the rear, one with the water. I opened my eyes only to see that my vaguest and my most specific dreams had come to life in front of me, and then I kissed him and the trees seemed to embrace us as if we were just two more tiny fish twisting nonchalantly through the cool, crisp waters beneath our bittersweet human feet. Sometimes I dipped my fingertips into the water and couldn’t help but revel in its softness, the way it welcomed my fingers like a silent forgiveness.

When the lightning relented, we paddled onto the dusty shore by evening-time, when the parents were worried about children who weren’t theirs, and the sun had grown tired of warning us. And the loons cooed as we ran between the raindrops, clutching the rocky ground and dashing over hilly yards knotted with roots and miniscule flowers, and I couldn’t help stopping to pick up a baby frog, but he told me to let it go. And my eyes misted over like the foggy lake horizon as I turned my back to the frog and ran to catch up with the trees over the hill.
The sun set like a yawning infant. His fingers entwined in mine like the vines that nimbly climbed the trees, which loomed above deserted cabins. I bent to marvel over the tiny tree growing in an almost-neighbor’s backyard. I became so engrossed in the tree, egged on by the warm buzz of the summer air and his love, that I didn’t notice that the whole field was full of these tiny trees, sheepishly sprouting buds, careful not to overwhelm anyone. But I, I was overwhelmed by these tiny trees, and my heart cried out as we meandered home.

At night the air was cool, and the kids ran free and barefoot with their cigarettes and sweaters. We held hands like an old married couple, like Alison Meer’s grandparents, who founded this whole place. They still smiled like seventeen-year-olds when they held hands on the beach, and we did the same; we felt the pads on each other’s fingers as eagerly as we skipped stones on the silent beach and sang on the river.

But it wasn’t just the nature of the place, the outdoor wonders. It was the nature of the people there, the nature of the air, the nature of him.

It was the nature of the Meers, whose wrinkled, soft faces glowed a little brighter when they talked about each other, or about the lake. It was the love and fierce pride that the lake brought out in everyone who set foot in it.

For it was only in the brilliantly gray rain that the grimy layers of life and chaos were erased and I could see, I could feel his nature. Every part of Schroon Lake – the town, the lake, the beach, the dirt roads – became him. He was a towering stocky tree with yesterday’s rain dripping from its leaves. He was the muscle of the river pounding through the valley and around the hills. He was the lightning storm that almost shocked me as I shivered on a tiny island in the middle of the lake.

One afternoon, after Hurricane Irene had settled somewhere further south of us, we pitter-pattered down to the quietly rocky Terra Alta beach and perched, sitting, on the steps, with the darkly clear water lapping at our calves. The hurricane had flooded the whole beach so that there was no sand to be seen, only the lake which went on forever, engulfing everything. It was so beautiful, even with the debris and ruined floats and dead fish in the water, and it was beautiful in that it allowed him to skip nimbly from one floating log to the next, like a young frog on lily pads.

And then at midnight we crept up to the abandoned tennis courts, a serene plateau atop the meandering, mumbling hills and amid the serious trees, and we lay side by side and looked at the stars. But we didn’t just look at the stars. We gazed at the stars, we strained to see every particle we could, we swirled their endless black-raspberry flavor over and over on the tips of our tongues. The stars looked at us. They tore us apart, grabbed at our seams; they nipped at the edges of what we felt and then, once we had kissed it sure, those magnificent swirls of stars and galaxies softly put us back together. And I cried into his shoulder about the meaning of life and the presence of God and how we could improve the world, but how could we ever improve nature?, because look at this place. And as my tears blurred the Milky Way, I thanked the stars in the clear air of Schroon Lake for everything. For their majesty, for the translucent light they reflected on the swollen lake, for their reassurance that God was there. God was there at Schroon Lake, in the stars, in the river, in the treetops and the raindrops, in the hot evenings and crisp nights and the tiny trees that shot up from the ground. God was there in the sun and the moon and the whistle of the wind on Schroon River, and God was there in the air when he told me he loved me, because for someone so beautiful, such a hurricane, such a force of nature as nature lives at Schroon Lake, to love me – that was an act of God.





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