We didn’t expect to see anyone at the lake this morning, even though we went later than usual (because it was grey and cool). But a merganser just at where the water meets the sand and then another and another until there were 11. As we approached, they swam out, muttering a little, and then they drifted around the point. As I swam, there were small feathers on the surface of the lake, and still the shadows of mergansers as I moved through the water. The last day of August, water green with cedar light, a few feathers drifting, my arms muscular from a summer of swimming, and feet accustomed to the firm sand coming out. The seasons have their own memory of the lake: the year it froze in January, the return of the swallows in April, a canoe edging onto the rocks of the island in July, the cutthroat rising and entering the creek in October,
In late sun, the river and hills are beautiful,
The spring breeze bears the fragrance of flowers and grass.
The mud has thawed, and swallows fly around,
On the warm sand, mandarin ducks are sleeping.
If you were dreaming of pie, I told John as he prepared to head out to split firewood, well, you’re lucky because everything that could have gone wrong with the pie we are taking to friends tomorrow went wrong so I had to bake another. We’ll eat the failure after dinner tonight. Cutleaf blackberries, Merton Beauty apples, pastry too brown to give to anyone else. We will eat the one with two coyotes, faces to the stars, and a cascade of those around the edges, and our friends will cut the one with fish swimming head to tail, a gathering of stars in the centre.
The fish and dragons are still and silent, the autumn river cold,
A peaceful life in my homeland always in my thoughts.
Between the swim and the pie, I tried to figure out how to prepare an extended list of citations for a collection of my essays. Or rather I tried to figure out how to format the whole thing properly. The fonts clashed, the numerals were stubborn and wouldn’t accept the size I wanted for them, and I kept making sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I’m sure I did. I’d rather sit at my desk and listen to the maul splitting the dry fir, listen for the sound of fir cones tossed from the trees by squirrels beginning their hoards for winter. I’d rather remember how it felt to sit on lizhnyk in a place I never knew existed a year ago but now can’t stop thinking about, a ridge of mountain running the whole distance from my grandfather’s village in Bukovyna to my grandmother’s house in Moravia, a line connecting them before they knew each other. And how a century later I would look beyond and beyond, the Rybnytsia and the black Cheremosh rivers dividing in the mist, while musicians urged us to dance, drink a glass of horilka flavoured with mountain ginseng, because tomorrow, who knows what may come.
All day I sit by the river in my tower on the green hill.