jayellebee's Blog

September 7, 2010

Lake Lunacy

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 11:08 am

     Clear Lake is located 100 miles and a million light years north of the San Francisco Bay Area.  The drive to Lake County passes through the Napa Valley, courses over Mt. Saint Helena, and ends up far, far away.  All in just over two hours.

     My parents and grandparents built a compact summer cottage on the shores of Clear Lake in 1953.  Children with whom I modeled sand castles, skipped stones, swam, fished and daydreamed, are now introducing their grandchildren to these same pleasures on those same beaches.

     Oh, sure, some things have changed.  But the lake is still tinted algae green.  Each July the full moon erupts into the night sky, silhouetting bushes and trees atop the nearest hill.  And allowing imaginations to run amok is a revered art form.

     We teenagers conjured impossible, outlandish stories under starlit night skies, embellishing our fantasies between card games and water fights the next day.  We are Peter Pan-like Clear Lake kids, all of us now in our sixth decade, and still remember one tale as if we lived rather than invented the plot.

     One clear July night, before Neil Armstrong took his giant step, the full moon seemed larger than usual.  Had we stood atop the nearby hill, we could have tweaked the man in the moon’s nose.  Kissed his cheek, even.  And so, the lunacy began.

     “I don’t get the big deal about going to the moon,” one teen said, holding up a hand to shield his eyes from the rising glare.

     “Yeah,” his straight man agreed.  “Those NASA guys are workin’ way too hard.”

     “Say what?” I would’ve asked, had that phrase been invented yet.

     Somewhere, a phantom boat skimmed the lake, betrayed by the distant drone of its motor.  Minutes later the wake rolled under us, rocking our creaky wood pier like a giant cradle.  Wavelets spritzed the beach.

     “When the moon’s over us,” moonlight reflected off my friend’s grin, undermining his serious tone of voice, “NASA has to use all that power to push the rocket ship and astronauts up into the sky.  If they’d wait till the moon’s on the other side of the world, by China, Houston could just let the rocket fall down to the moon.”

     Warm summer air settled over us, fermenting our nonsense,.  There wasn’t even enough breeze to ruffle the cottonwood.  We all understood the logic.   If we had to look up at the moon, and China was on the other side of the planet, then anyone in China must have to look down at the moon.  How simple!

     “Sounds right,” I said, nodding.  “Even we could do a moon shot, if we lived in China.”

     Bullfrogs gurr-umphed.  A fish jumped, slapping the water with its tail.  One mallard scolded another.

     “We could take the kayak to China,” a deepening male voice suggested.

     “Why not?” the dis-embodied  fluorescent grin chimed in.  “We’ll run off the end of the pier, carrying the kayak, and jump into it before the bow hits the water.  Then we can paddle straight down through the lake, through the middle of the Earth, and keep going all the way to China.”

     No matter the leaky kayak was as sea worthy as a crumpled Dixie Cup.  No matter the little craft only held one passenger.  No matter any number of rational arguments could be lodged against our prattle.

     “Cool,” crooned a friend as she dangled a long leg over the edge of the pier.  “By the time we get to China, we’ll be traveling so fast we’ll fly right into the sky.  Then we can  use our paddles to steer the kayak down to the Sea of Tranquility.”

     “The moon is humungous.”  Someone’s arm stretched out, measuring lunar dimensions between thumb and forefinger.  “We can’t miss it.  A moon shot’s a gimme.”

     “Getting home will be a cinch,” an assuring voice opined.  “When the moon is over Clear Lake, we jump off, glide back to Earth, and splashdown in the cove.”

     We gave the kayak a pre-flight inspection the next afternoon.  We rehearsed running off the end of the pier in formation, carrying linked inner tubes in place of the fragile boat.  We synchronized our water-proof, invisible watches, and made plans to meet at the end of the pier at exactly 2:14 a.m. the next morning.  Paddles lined the pier’s railing, awaiting lift-off.

     Fast forward to the 21st century.  We friends gather each summer to witness the July full moon spring out of the bushes atop the nearest hill.  Someone invariably evaluates the suitability of the evening for a kayak moon shot.  Not one of us cracks a smile.  Some nonsense is serious business.

     A few summers ago, our then college-aged children occupied the same old creaky wood pier of our youth.  Their voices drifted across the water to us.  We listened, unabashed.  What foolishness would our offspring create?

     To our dismay, the earnest young people debated the relevance of philosophy and religion in the modern world.  My heavy heart sank like a stone in the lake I love.  Had the algae-mutated imagination gene skipped a generation?  What kind of parents were we?  Where, oh where, had we gone so wrong?

     Then, without warning, our children’s conversation hung a sharp left, careening at a rakish angle away from sanity. What would be the best way, they pondered, to attach a glow-in-the-dark stick to a catfish, thereby illuminating the lake bed at night?  We parents, my life-long friends and I, sighed in unison.  Perhaps, we thought, there was hope for the future leaders of the free world, after all.


1 Comment »

  1. Wonderful! Simply wonderful!

    Bee 🙂

    Comment by Bee Hylinski — September 7, 2010 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

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