There is the obvious first one, the one the suburb I grew up in is named for. If you left my childhood house on a bike and turned right, then right, then left (and stopped for your best friend on the way) and then right and went about a mile, you’d hit it. The beach was slightly rocky and the strip of sand along the edge disappeared in rainier years, but if you went at night or after summer vacation was over you could climb up the lifeguard stand and scan the water for imaginary swimmers.
On the other side of town was a slightly smaller, prettier lake with an island in the middle. A boy who was a couple grades ahead of me lived in the single house on the island, and every Christmas he held a debate team party that required us to walk out across the ice. His house had a bearskin rug and a room draped with black curtains and a huge movie screen. I was scared to walk across the frozen lake, but I made it, each time. Maybe it was overcoming that fear that made it so easy to sit next to my debate team crush in that movie room and let our knees press together, as if rejection or icy waters didn’t exist below.
There was the lake at summer camp, and the lakes where friends’ families had cabins, each dotted with docks and boats and the occasional jet ski. I canoed on these lakes and swam in them. Some lakes gave me swimmers itch or a deep fear of leeches. In the sand along the shore I buried my legs and arms, marveling at how cool it could be underneath when the sand on top nearly scorched the bottom of my feet. Later I would stretch my teenage body along towels and brush grains of sand from my skin as I turned upward toward the sun.
Up North, as we say, there is the largest, coldest, Greatest lake. It has been the unlikely destination of a Spring Break road trip, the background of my niece’s first summer and always there, a steadfast horizon melting into water.
There is the lake closest to my mother’s house, one of the many that makes our city the City of Lakes. It is shaped a little like a cherry, with a skinny stem atop a rounder bottom. I’ve walked around it a hundred times if I’ve walked around it once, and there are bends in the path that make me wince even in memory after we spent a difficult summer circling it once a day.
Not that the lake minded. I threw every disappointment and angst that I could against the surface and it continued to lap quietly. Kayakers slid past. Ducks landed.
There is always a lake, freezing in winter, rippling in the summer, reflecting sky and bits of life back at us.
Margaret is a writer living and working in Minneapolis, MN – The Land of 10,000 Lakes. You can find more from Margaret at her tumblr, on twitter, and on instagram. She is also writing about the new HBO show, The Leftovers, at The Stake.