There I was, back for more. It was dark again, anticipation vibrating on the air. But this time, we would not be pray to the landscape’s snares. Knowing our truck was no match for its careless clout, we deferred to it and parked on the other side of the soft terrain. We waited with our accoutrements of survival and leisure to be picked up and carried across that hungry sand whose only worthy opponent was a piece of advanced engineering, of which we did not quite have.
As we arrived at the human space carved into the shore, all sense of separation between nature and self left me under that sky, facing that expansive body that with its reflectivity that all but erased the dividing line between the true stars and the lie. As I tried to recalibrate my soul to this new setting—out here, you need not try so hard to subsist, I told it—I could not bring myself to bait my line or eat one of the sandwiches I carefully prepared. I could not do anything but settle down and face the leviathan sleeping underneath that stirred the waves into unpredictable patterns as it rolled over onto its side, bored with our awed attention.
I sat there, taking in the cooling air and peace, and suddenly gone was the stress and phone-holding-induced tension in my neck; gone was its complimentary pressure headache in the base of my skull. As I finally baited my line with the eager, squirming worm liberated of its soil cell, gone was the irritation that had perched on my shoulders, incessantly pecking whenever my guard was down.
The water was so low, we had to wade out in it for a decent cast. The murkiness of the lake that only reached our ankles, and soon thereafter our knees, was disconcerting in its illusion, like looking into a puddle in the street and seeing the infinite reaches of the sky but not the pavement very close beneath. As we walked on the surface like insects made for treading the top without breaking through, and the mucky silt that formed the bottom grasped and sucked at my feet, gone was the pain of a developing bone spur on the ball of my foot from the constant donning of high heels. Or perhaps, gone was just my propensity to hypochondria, because out there, away from all the anxiety induced by civilization and clocks, we were in our most natural state of being. Plugged into that collective unconscious of all entities composed of atoms and the divine, we knew this was our source and the end to which we would return our borrowed atoms of matter and mind, as we shared in the acknowledgement of the mother archetype, “the mysterious root of all growth and change the love that means homecoming, shelter, and the long silence from which everything beings and in which everything ends.”^
We all understood, simultaneously and equally, that we were in the presence of something great, something sacred. Things that cannot be explained but with theories, like why some fish take my bait and others don’t, and still other things that can be explained by science: The water, cold at the shore where the wind chills it, and warm ankle-deep with the heat the sun lent it, and certainly colder out in the farther reaches, the deepest depths where the sun never was able to force its way through.
After we had slogged back to camp through the muck, splashing along the way, we sat down with cold beers, poles secured. It grew so quiet that over the gently lapping water, all that could be heard were the distant, almost imperceptible sounds of a Spanish crooner across the lake and the faint hum of air, as though being blown over a bottle’s mouth, as the wind passed through the trees jutting apocalyptically from the surface. Everything about this experience writ here in past tense, with the –ed suffix of gone, passed, expired, but the feelings, they followed me all the way back home.
^ Jung, C. G., The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. New York: Princeton UP, 1990. 92.