Book of Marvels
Tuesday, August 14, 2007


See the lake? See the mountains? Or only the moon, which rose like the fin of a golden fish behind the great black wave of mountains on the other side of the lake?

But the sun is out now. The mountains are illuminated, dark where the trees are thick, lighter at the top where the trees taper away and the wildflowers take over, white where the surface is gouged by roads or rockfall. As the sun moves across the sky, the contours of the mountain will change, dimensions will be revealed-- the seemingly flat mass of land rising out of the water will reveal itself as a collection of coves and points, valleys and ridges. The lake is intensely blue, rippled by wind and the wakes of a few speedboats. A sailing school is making its way past my house--nine red, white and blue sails tipped at various unhelpful angles--and someone in a little power boat zips between them, bleating orders through a megaphone.

I just got an email from my friend Linda who was here, at this same lake, until a few days ago. She told me that on her last day, she went hiking and kayaking. That's more physical activity than I've had here in two weeks.

I'm sure that I'll get to that hike or bike ride that I plan every night when I look at the stars (those meteors keep flickering around up there like fireflies on my lawn in Cleveland, no matter what the newspaper says about peak viewing times). Now that all the activities are over--the wedding, the funeral, the family reunion--I'm sure I'll start getting up early and riding my dad's old bike along his old twelve-mile route down the lake and back.

Or maybe not. I might just spend the rest of my time here doing what I did today. I took my coffee down to a chair by the lake-- in nightgown and bathrobe--and finished reading my book. Then put on the clothes I've been wearing for days and went back down to read the latest Oprah magazine. My only concern was the balance of sun and shadow. Enough sun to brighten the page, enough shadow to keep me cool. When I finish this post, I'll go back down and start reading "Jim the Boy," by Tony Earley-- a book I liked so much that I wound up giving it to my mother for a birthday two or maybe even three times.
I always feel a little guilty taking my pleasure this way when I'm on vacation. When the Lake Tahoe marketing people make their ads, they don't show pictures of people wearing their mother's bathrobe, sitting in frayed, faded, treacherous lawn chairs reading the Oprah magazine, rising only occasionally to clatter the lawnchair away from the shadow cast by the pines. They show them skiing or hiking or parasailing or rafting--the iconic vacation activities. I've done all those things (still dream about the parasailing) and I like doing them. An annoying, nagging part of me thinks I should be doing these things, since I can't do most of them in Cleveland. Isn't that what a vacation is supposed to be all about? Pushing yourself into the new?
But a few years ago, I realized that it was just fine to lie around reading, even if I'm in Paris or Kabul or Lake Tahoe. It's one of my greatest pleasures and one that I never allow myself during the day when I''m at home, when I could be working. At home, I could always be working. This is the downside of self-employment.
It's one of my perennial goals to read during the day at home--even on a weekday-- as if I were on vacation.
One last thought before I head back to my lawn chair, pehaps with a beer in hand: in addition to the ideas about daily hiking and biking and swimming that I brought to the lake, I also brought a new yoga dvd. I planned to dedicate part of every day to flexibility. My husband just dropped the dvd in my lap, still in its plastic covering. "When we get back home," he said, "you should store this next to your 'Conversational Dari' dvd-- it's in the same perfect condition."
Maybe tomorrow I'll break out the yoga before my bike ride. Maybe not.
Oh to enjoy the decadence of a relaxing vacation. Hope your week continues to be restful and pleasurable.
Yay vacation! Enjoy your books and do whatever you want. :)
It sounds like you know the meaning of vacation. Enjoy! Helen
It's interesting the way you start each new entry with a photo you have taken. This one is so black, with only part of the moon showing that it made me think about the recent news story about Mother Teresa. Did you read the Time article? Yes, that blackness reminds me of the dark night of more than 40 years that Mother Teresa experienced. I know very little of Mother Teresa. I am anxious to read the new book about her, Come Be My Light.

Hope all that flooding in the midwest didn't affect you.
I'm looking forward to your next post.
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