Memories sitting by Highland Lake

By Peter C. Berry

Guest Writer

They visited the lake often in good weather and sat in their folding chairs at the water’s edge under a clump of white birch trees, she with her knitting and he with his book, and they took great pleasure in the peacefulness of the surroundings and the familiar view up the lake. In the end, it was her favorite place.

He remembers when they retired; he bought a canoe and they paddled around the lake many times until she grew fearful of the water; then they sat under the birches in her favorite place nearly every summer afternoon; and she was content in that tranquil environment.

Sitting alone now, his thoughts are of her as watercraft of all sizes come and go from the nearby launching area and a family of Canada geese, mindful of the danger the boats present, raft close to the rocky shore, a dozen goslings well protected by vigilant parents. The sounds of children playing penetrate the funk he has fallen into and he looks across the wide grassy lakefront with its picnic tables and busy swing-set to the crowded swimming area beyond and memories of a different kind emerge.

He remembers when he was a child playing with his younger brothers on this same beach and taking swimming lessons, beginning at age four and on up through the years. He and his friends could swim like fish and they learned how to dive from the board at the end of the dock. He remembered how one year the boys would go off the board and duck under when the girl in the black bathing suit dove in because sometimes her top would slip to her waist.

He recalled those glorious summer days when he and several kids swam to Little Island. They began this journey by diving off the board and swimming under water to Big Hippo then on to the flagpole for a short rest before the long pull to the island. There was very little boat traffic then and on the return journey they swam across the lake to Kramer’s float and waited there until Mr. Kramer politely informed them that the float was for his guests only. Back at the beach after their swim, they lounged on the warm grass as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Older still, he took lifesaving lessons and learned to empty water from an overturned canoe and to make water wings from a pair of pants.

Then, there was the one day each summer when Mum and Dad came to the beach. He and his brothers lined up on the diving board and yelled, “Dad, Dad, Dad,” until he looked their way then they performed perfect jackknifes or swan dives or back flips then hurried back to the board and yelled, “Mum, Mum, Mum, watch this” and started the process all over again and kept this up until there was no one watching.

After school started and swimming ceased, he remembers eating ears of corn and sometimes a fat trout roasted over an open fire in the picnic area, near the fish rearing pool and in the dead of winter, he recalls watching men with long pick poles maneuver blocks of ice cut from the very spot where the geese now floated.

Then one day, he is standing on the beach with her and their kids are on the diving board shouting “Mum, Dad, watch this” and they watch until the kids are exhausted and come shivering to the towels held out to them.

Today, sitting alone, he watches a woman in an orange cap swimming up the lake accompanied by another woman in a kayak. He observes this pair until they are lost in the haze beyond the island. The breeze off the water is cooling, the geese have made it safely across the lake, and the boats come and go. A ray of sunlight slices through the overcast and turns the shadowy water at the far shore into a sparkling string of lights

He sits alone at the water’s edge under the white birch trees, her favorite place, and after a long look up the lake he picks up his book.

Peter and his wife, Ruth Jane, were married for 59 years when he lost her on Dec. 20, 2012.

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