Experimental, December 18, 2012
By Richard Grunert
Completed December 18, 2012
The day had started slow. It was a Tuesday, and I was visiting home for Christmas. My father was still at work that day and my brother was still at school, leaving the house empty save for my stepsister and I. By noon she'd been on the phone for three hours, arguing the possibility of her boyfriend loudly on speaker phone about an alleged child of his. This made for a dreadful reading environment and led me to the decision that the best thing I could do that morning was take a walk.
I slipped out the door and made my way down to the shore. The snow hadn't begun to fall yet, but the beaches of Lake Champlain were firmly packed by a cold, light drizzle from the thick gray clouds above. The beach stretched out far in both directions, each end curving on the horizon into a circular bay. A three-foot long pool of water separated where I stood from a shoal embattled with the gentle waves, slicing it off from the rest of the shore like a ring of onion skin. I stepped back, ran, and cleared the distance across to it; it would be much more fun to walk on. Turning south, I proceeded, following the path of a runner's footsteps in the sand.
In the distance before me the shoal curved sharply right, ending at a cliff face of a rocky peninsula that made up the southern end of the bay. Looking left a row of houses lined the beach, each with a massive boathouse upon a concrete platform leveled to exactly where the water level would be in spring; staging areas for the rich men's toys.
I soon found the pool alive with quacking of ducks. Families of them floated in the water, snapping up the tiny fish trapped below. As I approached they quickly fled, preferring to battle the oncoming waves of the lake than my passing footsteps. Behind me they quickly regrouped and resumed the feast.
The tracks of a dog joined those of the runner in the wet sand. He started out slow, but quickly picked up pace as the paw prints stretched further and further apart. I followed them to the end of the beach, and a few times I had to jump over tiny breaks in the shoal where the lake had forced itself across. Here the rocks intersected the sand at a right angle, jutting far out into the water. Atop this stretched a tall forest and path that I was determined to follow to it's end. At the water's apex sat half-sunk an ancient blue rowing boat, rotted with weather and time. I lit a cigarette and wondered about it's past: It must have been very nice once, with vibrant paint and spotless white seats; now the former was faded and the latter rotten; disgusting.
As it turned out, a wet day like this turned out not the be the best time to ascend the muddy path to the top. I slipped and fell, soaking my jeans with mud. Thankfully someone had had the foresight to wire a rope around the protruding trees, but even this was hard to hold on to in the rain. Eventually, I made it to the top and proceeded down the narrow path through the woods.
Slick rocks like the knuckles of a giant protruded frequently along my way. While the leafy trees were all barren, many pines resided in this part of the forest, and even at this late time in the year my path was clad in hood of modest verdure. To my right I found a seat carved from an old stump and I stopped to examine it. The marks in the wood revealed it had been fashioned with nothing but a small knife, maybe even a pocket knife. Filled with holes, tiny insects slithered about, making one last futile effort to find shelter before the oncoming freeze. I wondered what they must think of this time of the year; everything they've known is rotting and their forest home is changing. It all must be very shocking to them, something like the end of the world. The rumbling scream of a passing jet dragged me kicking back into reality.
Bzzzzzzt. Was that a bee? Where there still bees in December? I looked around but couldn't find the source. The path got narrower and soon I reached the end. A gray slab formed a precipice over the crashing waves below. I lit a joint, the thick white smoke curled out into the air. The serenity of the cliff lulled me into a sort of trance, and I stood there in the rain for a time that I can't remember.
Soon I turned home, and the way back was much harder (especially the hill, I almost slipped twice!) than the way there, but it was also much more fun.