The lake is calm and still in the cold morning air. The warm muggy days of August are gone and September brings fall to our island early this year. I can’t quite see my breath, but at some point during the night a chill crept into the boathouse. I smell smoke, which means someone has lit a fire at the old cottage. My husband is down below on the dock, just about to have his morning swim. He’s quick to jump in and out again. Over the last week the cold nights have caused the temperature of the lake to drop rapidly. Our kayak slides quietly over the water. We decide to circle a large island with a forest of dense trees on its north shore. The surface of the lake is like glass, a transparent window to the hidden world below us. I snuggle against my husband as he paddles. His strong arms surround me and I can feel his stomach muscles tighten as the kayak moves over the water. We glide and listen to the morning sounds. A train whistle in the distance, the constant hum of traffic far away. A fish jumps near a rock close to shore, startling us back to our current surroundings. The chickadees call, their song echoes through the forest. Suddenly there is a commotion a short distance ahead of us. A huge turkey vulture leaps up from the water’s edge and flies to a tree further off. We pass by a dead beaver, bloated and rocking against the fallen logs on the shore. I think of this lake in the winter, of the cold winds and crushing ice. The shoreline is littered with fallen trees, broken stumps and twisted branches. Huge cedars lean out from the land, their branches reaching for precious sunlight. Lake Rosseau seems harmless in the soft light of dawn, yet the tree stumps and weathered rocks show its hidden strength. A large tree lies fallen, its branches stick out of the water and block our path. We steer around it and move on to the south end of the island where cottages are built up. Most of the cottages are quiet, their occupants still sleeping. We pass a woman reading on her dock and try not to disturb her but she smiles and comments on the beauty of our kayak. Its polished wood surface and elegant frame took my husband months build. As we paddle, a crow flies so low that we hear its wings beat. We continue our journey around the island. A monstrous orange cottage looms over us. It ruins the grandness of the large rock it sits on. I wonder about the kind of person who would build something so ugly. My guess is a middle-aged man, probably the kind who fills a quiet restaurant with loud boasting. My guess is that he came from a farm and made a fortune in the stock market. But he desperately wants attention. We reach the boathouse of the monstrosity and a man stands on the balcony pissing into the lake. My husband whispers that the man will be embarrassed when he sees us. I can’t help thinking that he’s pissing into the drinking water of every cottage on the lake. It is now almost lunch time. The wind has picked up and the sun makes the lake shimmer with activity. It reminds me of September 14, 1999 the day my father died. I remember the cold early morning when I drove to the hospital to sit at his bedside. I could see Lake Ontario from his hospital room. I remember the horizon lighting up with dawn and the black arches of seagulls in the clear sky. I can still feel the worry, the weight of it and knowing that so much would be lost. I had a thousand questions I still needed to ask him. I remember the peace that filled the room as the sunrose and the moment I looked up at the lake and knew he was gone even before he stopped breathing. I remember thinking he was out there in the sunlight that glistened on the water. I’d felt left behind. I thought about how beautiful the day was, the blue sky and sunshine twinkling on the lake. My father taught me to reach out into the world and find comfort in its beauty. I will always remember. I remember another sunny September day. The morning was beautiful and busy with people scurrying to work. I remember the sight of the planes crashing into the twin towers. I remember the weight that seemed to sit like a heavy invisible burden on the shoulders of everyone I looked at; and the fear, so obvious in the children. I remember the sorrow, the anger and the huge loss and I feel the sorrow again. Tears glide smoothly, like our kayak, without making a sound. I search for meaning, as if there is a secret to life that is out there, at the horizon. Sorrow has a way of magnifying happiness. Do I feel more now than I once did. Happiness doesn’t come from being so busy you forget to listen to the sound of the earth breathing. I haven’t found it in the rush of our current culture. Although a movie or melody can cause an immediate smile, it doesn’t last or travel deep inside me. I’ve searched for happiness in people, in games and in music. They all have an impact on me, but what I’ve discovered is that happiness is in me. Sometimes it’s hidden,sometimes it gets buried in sad circumstances, but at other times it’s out front leading the way.


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