Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Walk In The Woods (Part 2)

Image courtesy: Jim Pater

(Part 1 is here if you’re interested.)

We’re through the gate. The trees rise high—a wall of grey-brown trunks. The path takes you down a hill, cut by logs set on an angle to shunt the rain aside. At the bottom starts a long series of platforms, boards on top, Styrofoam underneath. At the end is a broader section for the dock proper, perhaps twelve by fifteen feet, the edges encased in a white rubber that will crack, fade, and peel as it ages.

Image courtesy: Velo Steve

A smallish dock on a tiny inlet of Lake Hartwell, and we’re the only house to take advantage of our location this way. Ten years is a long time to live somewhere—not a record-breaker by any means, but long enough to infuse this dock with memories from every emotional hue of the rainbow.

In the beginning, there was joy. The water in those years ran high, maybe six feet or more off the end. My sister and I would run, our feet slapping on the sun-warmed boards as our white spitz took the pleasure of turning wolf, snapping at our heals while we dashed off the end and took the plunge. Back flips were perfected. Sunfish nibbled on small toes.

Image courtesy: J.W.Photography

Later, there was adventure. A small powerboat made its summer home snugged up to the dock’s side. Long rides on the lake were an evening treat. The best part was turning into the wakes of larger boats and the bone-rattling thuds as our smaller boat rode those waves. Our mother took up water-skiing.

As I grew older, the rain levels fell. Many times the inlet's water was reduced to a tiny nest of streams lost among the green marsh grass that grew high and spiky. The summer sun revealed fat clamshells. As a teenager, I would perch on the ladder, pushed by the absence of water several feet higher than the dock, and listen to the mud pop and the crickets sing and ponder my place in the confusing mess that is junior high.

Image courtesy: David Hoffman

Sadly, one of the last memories of this sanctuary is terror. I’m walking down the long platform with the August sun roasting my head. My feet are bare. The space between the boards is half an inch. I hear a rustle under my feet and look down between them.

Image courtesy: Simon Hucko

Inches below my soles, a nest of water mocassins writhe and stir, disturbed by my footsteps. I don’t know which way to run.

Image courtesy: Hunter-Desportes

Another time I’m still on the path, just about to step on the platform, when the leaves next to my feet start to churn. It’s two of them this time—big ones as thick as my arm and at least five feet long. I jump, certain their fangs will find my legs. I’m just too close this time.

In my dreams, they always get me. In real life, I managed to get away. How about you? Are there places from your past and/or childhood that show up in your dreams?


  1. Seeing a water mocassin in the wild is scary - I've done it once while in the water!
    And I've always had a recurring dream that I need to call someone but either can't remember the number or the buttons don't work. Not sure where it came from in my past though.

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