“The Afternoon Reflections among Nymphéas”: Chain O’Lakes, Albion, Indiana
By Sana Szewczyk
I place one of my aching hands in the cold water as the silver canoe floats in the sea of water lilies, the elusive white petals of perfection, the yellow succulent petals of eccentricity. I look through luscious green leaves into the water as it reflects the light, at first shimmering and then slowly blinding me, into the emerald abyss of the kettle lake beneath us. The water lilies are a pure personification of Claude Monet’s vision of the nymphéas, flowers so delicate as if just made by the tree fairies out of the clouds and sunrays. I allow myself a moment of silence, which is broken only by the sound of our paddles stroking the unperturbed surface of the waters, the hiss of the water lilies’ large ripe leaves and long stalks colliding with each other as they twist and coil around us, and the early afternoon call of the warbler in the nearby willows. I watch the large silent turtle resting in the sun on a moss covered log partially submerged in the vegetation.
Suddenly, I am free of decision making, not remembering what day it is, Thursday or Friday, and not really worrying about the passing time, just lost in that quiet moment. “I could paddle through these meandering emerald channels and silver lakes, forever,” my sister whispers from the front of the canoe, my three year old son, Maxwell, fast asleep in her lap wrapped in a “Lightening McQueen” towel, the spongy gold fish crackers scattered around him on the bottom of the canoe, next to my fuzzy white and orange Llasa Apso, her big brown eyes watching me from underneath the seat.
My younger sister coming to visit my little family in Indiana always makes me think of the beginning of our journey and our childhood in Poland. Now, it seems like such a long time ago. Both of my parents working so hard even as they were sucked into the vortex of global political changes, the country rebuilding after regaining its independence form the communist government and surviving the long period of martial law. I always thought: how exactly do you have a normal life if you are born into a post-war world? I often think about my grandfather, my mother’s father, who was forced to go to Germany to “work” in horrible conditions on a farm for four years without pay and unable to see his family, “happy” just to stay alive.
The years of work caused the health of both he and my grandmother to deteriorate rapidly and they passed away at a relatively early age. I never knew either of them. As the oldest of the grandchildren, I was born several years after they were both gone. I always felt like the relationship was something that was taken away from me and my siblings. For me, freedom and independence is the ability to work hard, to never stop learning, have a fulfilling job, have a family to love and support, to discover the world in the small ways, and to help each other. Although I have moved away from my homeland in order to live in a place of freedom and independence, it is important that my parents are able to be grandparents to my two children, Max and Makenzie, which is something that I never got to experience. All the times when we were hungry, eating fried onions with white rice to get us through the end of the month, the times when we were bullied, lonely, or mistreated because we did not want to give in to the misery caused by the conditions we lived in and were labeled as “different,” these times made us stronger so that today my husband, Justin, and I can invite my sister to go with us and take our pop-up camper and drive over to a state park with breathtaking views, help our children and two dogs into the canoe, and slowly paddle up the emerald rivers and through the silver lakes, and finally feel free and talk about the past just for a moment to remind ourselves how lucky and independent we really are.
About the Author: Sana Szewczyk, a native of Poland, earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Linguistics from Indiana University and MBA in Human Resources Management from Indiana Institute of Technology. Her stories have appeared in over sixty publications. Her first collection of stories, “Under a Ginkgo Tree & Other Stories,” was released in February 2012. She lives in Indiana with her husband and two children.
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