Part of Liquid State: The science, art and wonder of water in Canada, an occasional series about one of the nation's most magnificent resources. Lorna Crozier is a Governor-General’s Award-wining poet.
Trout, Canoe, Devil’s Lake. If you didn’t know you were in the lake country of southeastern Ontario, the signs of the lanes along the quiet road would tell you. The place you’ve come to is a rural retreat called Wintergreen. You’ve been here before, attracted by that compound name, the surprise of winter and green dovetailed together. It’s hopeful, you said to your friend, and so Canadian.
For a week, you’ve been with her at her Waterford cottage, 20 minutes from Wintergreen. She is ill. You’ve been teaching yourself not to waste your time by crying when she is near. The next few days she’ll spend with her grandson who’s come from Montreal before the start of school. This will be their final visit. Before you return to your vigil, what you want to do at Wintergreen is to see the moon in the lake outside the lodge.
It’s not the lake of clear water at the end of the forest trail but the one 20 metres or so from the front door, and it’s sheltered by a ragged collar of poplars. The shores are muddy and speared with rushes, the mosquitoes loud. Even at the end of August, their buzz muffles the high piccolos of the crickets, which keep playing until daylight disappears. Maybe they won’t stop tonight. The sky will be lit by a blue moon, a rarity that won’t reappear for two more years. How many people all over Earth will count this lunar twin as the last one they’ll see?
You’re not sure why you’ve chosen this lake — no one has even bothered to name it. If it were located in southwest Saskatchewan, where you grew up and where water is scarce, you’d find it on a map. It would be called Antelope or Mud or Bulrush. Here, there are no swimmers, no docks, no canoes. Its reason for being rests entirely in itself — in the frogs who mate there, the ducks who nest, in the insect larvae, in the leeches and cattails and water striders. In the algae that thickens and greens.
In gumboots and a hat with a veil, you’ll be ready for the moon and the moon in the water. How the two go together. When the world came into being, if the sun demanded deserts and meadows flagrant with flowers, the moon summoned water. Did its longing come from its lack of it, its lunar seas of dust, the absence of rain? Or did it ask for water, water, water from vanity, from loneliness? It wanted to see at least itself in millions of sloughs, lakes and rivers. It wanted to leave a luminous trail someone might follow across the sea.
You stir your hand in the lake. It no longer incubates what was born in its shallows and on the long stems of its reeds. It’s becoming cold and dense. The blue moon will not warm it. Like the body of your friend whose skin grows more transparent as she comes close to disappearing from your life, the lake, as well, is changing. A few months from now, the long fall over, you’ll return alone to watch it perform its slow, deliberate miracle of turning into ice.