By the Lake



The crickets were so loud, I was certain, the boogie man could be right upon me before I’d know it. Still, the warmth and brightness of the campfire and my brother close by, made it hard to worry. I couldn’t camp out with all the other kids by the lake unless one of my older brother’s was with me. Mark and Eric were too much older and Chad’s friends too different, my brother Adam, too young, so usually it was my brother Cort. My mother never cut the grass, much to our neighbor’s dismay, so our lawn was the best on the lake to camp on. A rural vibe and more cushion for our beds. Even as I write this, I can smell the tallgrass, hyssop and selfheal that grew there. If I focus but a little, the head of a buttercup can be felt at the tip of my finger.

By nightfall, though, it was all warm glow and the smell of roasting marshmallows. I hardly remember what we spoke about all those summer nights. Yes, some ghost stories, but mostly we just goofed off. We had an old transister radio and in the early 70’s Three Dog Night’s, Shambala was hugely popular. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sing any better then, than now, but I certainly sang with heart. You could see the Milky Way then, as the world hadn’t turned on all its lights. I remember the first time I saw a satellite crossing the midnight sky. I didn’t know what it was and for hours we talked about space aliens and invasions. Someone kept singing the theme song to the Jetsons.

Our house was up on a hill and a wood separated it from the lake. My mother would hoot down to us to check in on how we were doing. Again, much to the chagrin of our neighbors who preferred well-manicured lawns and quiet, cordial discussion, sans hooting. She grew up on a farm. It was as natural to her as breathing and we could be a half mile off and know that sound. It was a comforting sound that brought a smile to your face. She never hooted like that out of anger. She only called this way when she was looking for you out of love.

I was often the only girl by the fire, thus the reason for my brother’s chaperone. The boys were honorable though. When I had to go to the bathroom they all kept their distance. They knew I was afraid of the dark and wouldn’t wonder far at all into the wood. I don’t remember wearing bug repellent, and yet, even by the lake I don’t remember being bit to death by mosquitos. Or it’s a testament to how easily we actually do forget momentary pain. Or maybe it was all the bats that flew throughout the night above our heads or the big sunnies, leaping into the air to catch them from the lake. I’m sure the frogs that sang to each other played their part.

When I feel empty or alone I need only travel a short distance in my mind to realize I am neither. I am so full of life and bounty it is a wonder I have any more room for anything new. Life inside me teems with children catching fireflies, boys wrestling down the side of a hill, the smell of fresh lake fish roasting in a pit, or a comic book shared by firelight. A billion lights could be turned on across the planet and still the iridescent beauty of a starry night lives on in me. I have lost nothing. I am a hoarder of beauty and innocence.

Dedicated to my friend, John Wilder, whose photograph of his east Texas cabin triggered a thousand memories of life within me. Thank you, my friend, for the unintended sojourn.

19 thoughts on “By the Lake

  1. Dear Noelle , your writing flowing like a river where I can feel that tall grass and the scent of it all ….your life is such a beautiful artful one , to ” be a hoarder of beauty and innocence ” is so glorious …I very much appreciate just ” who ” you are , filled with such light and inspiration …thank you , hugs and love , megxxx

    • What lovely things to say, my friend. Delighted with your visit. How are things with your own Amsterdam adventure? I can’t remember when you said you were leaving. I envy you time to paint, but also know what a challenge confronting our spiritual creative force can be. I send you much upliftment for all that is and is about to unfold.

  2. How I love your walk into summer nights at the lake. It evokes such warm feelings and connection. We are busy making camping plans for the summer with our kids, family and friends. I have come to my reader this morning looking for inspiration as I settle in to write my post and tribute Happy Box for none other than you….and here I found it in your work Noelle. Thank you for all that you add to my blogging experience and to my heart. Who doesn’t love Three Dog Night?

    • TDN rocks! I love that song, even today. Great lyrics:

      “Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
      With the rain in Shambala
      Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
      With the rain in Shambala”

      There is not a more cleansing rain. Huh, I’m thinking there is another writing piece or a Happy box in those lyrics, too!

      Where will you be camping? I used to live in Seattle and visit Vancouver often, so just curious. Can’t wait to see the Happy Box! Blessings my dear friend.

      • Just checked out their website. Looks awesome. I love family camping trips. I don’t like sightseeing with family. I like finding a cool place to plant ourselves so we can enjoy each other in a nice environment. This looks like a wonderful place to enjoy each other. Blessings to the journey.

      • Camping is the best. Away from technology, connecting with nature, forest yoga and swinging in the hammock. I agree 100%, best to chill with family. Thanks Noelle! Blessings and hugs, Lisa🌸🌸💖

  3. What a wonderful childhood. I love how you phrase it – “A billion lights could be turned on across the planet and still the iridescent beauty of a starry night lives on in me.” I’m lucky to live in a small village here in Japan and be able to enjoy those starry night skies. It will sound so strange but I never realised the night sky is actually blue not black until I lived here – it felt like all those years I’d been painting the picture wrong in my mind. Your mum sounds like a wonderful lady – I love her nonchalance about the lawn and what the neighbours thought; she sounds like she was very connected and had a strong sense of self. I also love your version of hoarding – maybe that was a gift she gave you, too 😀 Thank you for sharing the beauty and innocence that live in your heart with us and touching our lives and hearts, too. Sending you warmest wishes for the week ahead.

    • Thanks for your note. My mother was most definitely a unique person. She was, oddly enough, also a hoarder of ‘stuff’. Each of her seven children developed a sense of how much clutter is too much. Some keep a lot, while others are spartans. I think for myself I lean toward minimalist, but I loved how you mentioned it was a gift she gave me. I think all seven of us have struggled with the choices she made for living, and yet, in a single sentence you just reminded me that it was, in fact, a gift. Perfect note for me today. Thank you. Oh and yes, the sky is a beautiful, rich, midnight blue. I have to be in the mountains though, to full appreciate that. Here in Denver there are too many lights. It just looks black.

      A small village in Japan? Just curious, what has brought you there, if you don’t mind my asking?

      • Well, it’s funny you should ask. I was only saying at the weekend to the friend of a friend that I seem to have drifted through my life rather than really imposing my will on it. I mean I did make the decision to come, but it was more that I wanted to try living in a country with a culture very different from my own (the UK) when I finished university and I didn’t mind so much where. One of my mum’s friend’s daughters had been to Japan and liked it, and then the JET program (which I originally came over on) had a recruitment talk at my uni I think – thinking about it now it really was synchronicity in action. I only ever intended to stay a year or two and here I still am sixteen years later. But I think it was all meant to be and I’m in the right place – I have been blessed greatly in myriad ways since I have been here, including the area of growth.

        I don’t know much about Denver I’m afraid, except for the line in the Joan Baez song…

        I loved hearing about your mum, both in this post and in your reply to my post on clearing. I do apologize that it took me so long to reply to that one; I’m finding it hard to fit everything into my days. There are the things I have to do and the things I feel called to do and want to do, and then I am not so good at setting boundaries and oftentimes feel I have squandered my time by falling in with the flow of others rather than my own divine flow if that makes any sense to you.

      • How does that old quote go, “Life is what happens on your way to somewhere else.” Sounds to me your life has proven an extraordinary adventure while you thought you were on your way to somewhere else. Love your sense of adventure. And it sounds like your life is the same as everyone else’s in bigger cities. You intend one path and somehow we get distracted down a thousand other roads. I posted on FB recently how embarrassing it was to realize how much time I had just wasted watching cute baby animal videos! And if that is not enough, there is my full time job which takes a great deal of time away from other passions and pursuits!

    • Such a blessing…. NOW…. when I was young, I’m not sure I thought the same! They are good friends now and such an essential part of my thinking on family. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Thank you, my friend. I hate to bemoan today as being different or lesser than decades past, but I do feel fortunate that I was raised in woods and on lakes. Feels like such a richer upbringing than through video games and electronic devices.

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