I grew up with gills.
My parents put me in this lake where they now have a lakeside cottage, when I was just a few months old. My father held me in the palm of his hand and swam around with me while my mother looked on anxiously at her first baby’s first swim. They way they tell it, I relaxed so much that I fell asleep in the water, and stayed asleep, even after they brought me out, then changed my diaper.
Water cleanses, purifies, restores, relaxes, and heals. When I feel parched inside myself; when I’ve been bruised by turmoil; when I’m tightly wound; when I’m worn out; I go here to restore myself. I sleep deeply. I stare out the glass front of our house and watch the sunshine bathe the water and the trees in waves of light. I sit on the deck and pray while the birds sing, hidden, high above me, and my mother’s flowers sway on their tall stems next to me. I bathe in the fresh, cold water and wash everything else away, except my most essential, best self.
Here, at this lake called Billington Sea, after the pilgrim who “discovered” it, I not only swim, but I also learned several water sports. As a young person, I water skied behind my dad’s “big boat,” even learning to ski slalom (on one ski). I remember clearly the sensation of freedom, as I slid across the water in wide arcs like a snow skier, and the stomach flipping excitement of taking to the air when jumping the wake.
Although I never learned to catch the wind myself, we had a sailboat to silently glide over the rippled, mirrored dark surface of Billington Sea. Especially wonderful sails happened in the typically fiery, New England autumn leaf season when the lake became crowded with waterfowl heading south. As a major stop on Atlantic flyway, our lake hosts both large numbers of Canada geese and wild swans.
Birds thrive here. A pair of bald eagles fly with such strength and speed across our cove. Just a few beats of their wide wings cause them to cover vast amounts of sky. (They are too quick to capture with my camera.) Hidden snowy egrets stalk the shadowy underbrush along the shore.
Dragon flies flit and skip over the top of the water, landing on any available surface. A feather floating. My big toe, painted cherry red for summer. Some are small and delicate. Some are so large the hum of their wings would drown out the buzzing of a bumble bee.
On the bottom, they nest inside their circle of seaweed. They swish around, protecting their private domain.
My father’s dock has traditionally been our place to hang out and socialize in the summer.
Here my mother and I share confidences in the early morning sunshine while wearing floppy hats and holding books we never crack. Here we all sunbathe on fresh smelling, velvety towels. Here we enjoy cocktails and snacks together from turquoise, deep blue, fushia, and pale pink plastic ware.
Here’s the recipe which I created by melding ideas from two different shows on the cooking channel (one for a watermelon dessert, the other for watermelon martinis).
4 cups cubed watermelon
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Mint sprigs (several)
1 Tbsp spoon fresh, peeled ginger
4 oz vodka (or more)
- Put the water in a small pot to boil over high heat. Add the sugar, ginger, and mint. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let cool. (This delicious, flavored simple syrup adds a special depth to cubed melon or fresh berries.)
- Meanwhile, put the watermelon in a blender or food processor, and whir it together until it has turned to mush.
- Strain this watermelon mush into a serving pitcher (or bowl first if it’s easier).
- Combine strained watermelon juice, vodka, and about a third to a half cup of simple syrup in your serving pitcher. (You can adjust the syrup to your desired level of sweetness. Also make as free with the vodka as you like.)
Although we drank ours right away, and everyone was soon looking for more, I’m sure you can make this ahead and chill it in advance( if you have company coming.)
Where is your someplace special? I’d love to hear about it.
Wishing you every blessing,