To the Lake in Maryland


Deep Creek Lake in WinterDeep Creek Lake in WinterDeep Creek Lake in WinterTo The Lake

Deep Creek Lake in WinterThe lake. The words are simple yet promise escape and wonderment. In the western edge of Maryland, among former farms, sits Deep Creek Lake, and along its shore is my favorite spot on Earth. “Something there isn’t that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost once wrote about nature creating upheaval against rocks stacked upon its shoulders. I could not imagine a force so great as to disrupt a lake, whether manmade or not.

Hurricanes ravage the sea and change its slope, its shoreline, its very appearance only to return to stasis once fury subsides. Torrential rains spill rivers over their banks, the muddying flow surges, rattles and scars nearly everything in its path, only to crest, retreat and be absorbed. The tsunami – forget it, such wrath is indescribable. But somehow a lake holds greater dignity no matter how much water deluges upon it. Somewhere I am sure there are damns and floodgates that withstand the forces of nature which a lake harnesses, but my position and posture are of distance, removed to safe haven. Deep Creek holds all that I want in life – serenity, purpose, fulfillment. It is where I realized I had reached my goal of being a good parent. Kids splashed safely nearby in the still, shallow waters, unthreatened. I had come so far from my own fatherless childhood.

The dock swings and dances upon artificial waves – wakes from boats eclipsing some registered speed limit as if rules mean nothing. The bounce beats a rhythm unlike any salsa I could balance, unlike any mambo I could step. The pier is my skateboard, my waverider, a teeter-totter of surrender as I give into the waves, ride out their momentum, saunter. But these are only in my memory. The undulating rise and fall against gravity are remnants of last summer’s get-away to pure-air elevations of escape. The atmosphere is thin and cool, yet the sun is a mentor of patient guidance. Just wait! The heat will surface and the lake will absorb and the day will stretch on timelessly.

It has been promised to my kids that one of these years we will go to The DCL during the depths of winter just to look at the lake, to maybe skate if safety allows, and to finally feel summer in January. For memory pulls me toward the water as if a time machine were my transport. At home, in Pittsburgh, under a sharp, deep February chill, I think of the lake, of The Lake, of a place that beckons me and promises unabashed security.

No matter the season, I sense the water as it eluviates before me, a folding-fan’s open but creased flatness stretching deep to the west, my left, and reaching up and high to my right, the east. My secret favorite spot is shaped in the smiling rind of mauled-over watermelon, and its breadth is as broad as fields of Iowa corn rolling onto the horizon. Watching The Lake, my lake, must be what it means to stand at the farm and peer over the giant, heavenward stalks.

I stand on the shore, firmer, less ebullient than the dock, and cast a line or dip a toe into water that feels less like water and more like cool slips of syrup. The thickness isn’t slime, or muck, or year-upon-year of algae; rather it is a oneness with lake I have felt nowhere else. It is a cradle calling me home. I wish to die there.

About the Author: I am Dan Kirk, from Pittsburgh. I have been writing for over 25 years and finally decided in my 40s to get my MFA in Creative Writing. I earned that in 2013 from Chatham University. I mainly write fiction but enjoy creative non-fiction as well.

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