The path around the lake is a bit overgrown, but navigable. I wonder whose feet last hiked this trail. What were they hoping to find here at the lake, nestled in the mountain meadows? This path is not new; scuff marks from countless boots have worn a soft pathway in the alpine meadow, gently leading around the deep blue-green water of the lake. I am alone here with the only sounds being my feet, as they lead me along to my favorite spot and nature, doing its thing. Birds call and snicker to each other as I pass by, dipping and darting over the water as they snip up the buzzing, whirring insects that make the lake and tall grasses their home. Parts of the path are cool and shady, winding along under the forest canopy; then sneaking out into the open meadow with wildflowers nodding and swaying, as the breeze passes through, sighing through the canopy, and stirring my hair.
The banks of the lake are home to such diverse life, with the nooks and hollows filled with myriad water skippers, boatmen, pollywogs and tiny fish, darting and spying, as I lean down to get a closer look. How can one lake hold the life of so many creatures and plants in its watery, silty hands? Carefully kneeling, I notice the lake rushes rustle and shiver, as a creature makes its way though the slippery murk at the edge of the lake. It is totally immersed in the tall, wet grasses; hunting, watching, doing what it was meant to do. Is it a muskrat? I become as still as I can and quietly watch and wait…then yes, I see its long brown body gracefully dip under water. Bubbles breaking on the lake’s surface give away how swift he can swim, as he heads to his den in the lake bank. I have a feeling I will be carefully watched.
Moving again along the path, I pass by a cold and deep looking spot, right along the edge of the lake. There is an old, long since fallen pine tree along the banks and I wonder what fish may live in that deeper, dark part. Has a fellow hiker ever cast her fishing line in, hoping to hook a big trout? Looking carefully around the fallen pine, I notice a shallower area with sunlight filtering through the trees and spot a large crawdad, his orangey-red pincher motionless. Has it spotted me? Finding a long, slim stick, I gently submerge the tip and try to touch that claw. It is too fast for me and darts under part of the fallen pine. I smile and tell it I am sorry for disturbing its rest and get up to move along the path.
My destination on the lake is coming up soon. Just a couple more twisty turns under a low hanging branch and up and over some high raised roots and I am there. My spot is at the edge of the meadow that curves and moves along the edges of the lake. There is a sweet little mountain stream that winds its way down the slopes and forest floor, and feeds into this lake. I love this place the most. Swinging off my light backpack, I bring out what I need to get comfy here. A thick blanket, water, some vittles and my book, that probably will not be cracked open. The blanket is large enough to accommodate the various positions I may choose, as I sit, lie, stretch out and soak up my spot. The babbling, chatter of the stream as it flows, dips and rushes past forest debris, rocks and flowering plants makes me happy. It is cheerful, chatty and constant, yet completely soothes and refreshes my tired soul, as it chips away the debris of life. It leaves a tender, slightly raw place inside that revels in the solitude of nature, babbling streams, throaty frogs and cricket symphonies; gossipy, scolding birds, slithery, earthy sounds and the busy, buzzing insects. And the smells, oh the smells! Earthy, fresh and that distinctive lake smell – part mud, part plant, part fishy, part flowers and pine. It smells new, yet ancient, all at once and it is lovely.
I got an early start this morning, so have most of the afternoon ahead of me to be still, listen, daydream and let some of the heaviness go. I have needed this for a while. I am ready to soak in whatever the Creator has for me here by the lake. My mind wanders to Psalm 23, “…He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.” Renewal. Yes.
The wind has begun to sigh and whisper through the trees, as it will in the late afternoons. My signal that the sun is starting its trek to the west and sunset will soon be here. Packing up, I take another long look at the stream and the lake, drinking in my afternoon of peace and restoration. Heading back along the trail, I smile and speak aloud, ”It is well, it is well, with my soul!”