Monday, September 06, 2010

labor day dawns clear and beautiful in the mississippi valley; it may be hurricane season in the carolinas, and in the caribbean, but here, it's dry season, the air fresh and light, entirely missing the oppressive humidity that weighs on you like a backpack in the sultry summer. the kids get up eventually and go off, the little one first; they are called for by friends across town where people's kids get restless and they bug their parents to invite over other kids, and the parents relent because it makes the whole thing easier, with everyone occupied. but the little one comes back, and we find ourselves, mid-afternoon, beautiful day, nothing to do, going to the lake.

in the cool shade by the park diagonal sign, i gather up the towels, chair and sunblock and go in, using my ticket for the last time; i've won. you win, if you buy a discount ticket, and use all the punches. the place is empty, but the sun on the cliffs and on the water is stunning; it's a beautiful day. and the water is cold now; i'm not sure how it got that way; just weeks ago it was rising to meet the general august temperature, which was never below ninety. now, even the water is clear and beautiful, but on closer inspection, it has some of the leftovers from summer; a thin layer of oil that could be from a motor-boat, or could be from sun-block; a bit of seaweed suspended in murky brown stuff. we look for the turtle, but he's nowhere around; we splash around and swim for a while. the cool breeze comes off the lake; it's clearly fall. a couple of leaves fall gently, although the trees haven't changed colors; occasionally we see a leaf suspended in the water that looks somewhat like a fish, or maybe a frog, but it's not. we do see a real frog; he's small; he's the color of sand; he can barely be distinguished from the sand that he hops on, and if he detects any movement at all, he stops completely. shadows are long, so he detects lots of movement. the leaves also seem to be suspended in the air, as if they didn't really want to fall so quickly.

last day at the lake; it's closed tomorrow; it's a pretty thin crowd and it's getting cooler by the minute. friend of mine on the jersey shore used to say, labor day was the big day; the road back to new york city was bumper to bumper all day; the shore towns were virtually abandoned afterward, and that's how they liked them; only the people who lived there, remained behind. he painted a picture of mass exodus, so many people that they hardly got anywhere at all, but anyone with any sense would basically not be on that road at that moment. here, the parking lot, the beach, the road, virtually empty. we change clothes at the park diagonal sign and go back for an ice pop. a guy offers me a leftover ticket; he's got punches left. too late; we already swam.

the sun goes down slowly; soon enough, we'll be back at work. they had a pizza party, the work folks, and these things are generally good, as they welcome the new folks, and there are lots of them, and they allow a little social time in a schedule that has almost no social time built into it. but today, labor day, i couldn't do it. the lake was open; we are on the outer edge of town; going in, talking shop, just seemed impossible. i could do it, if you don't mention the oppressive work load. but that wasn't going to happen. instead, i watched the frog on the sand, in his camo, reacting to the shadows. out in the water, a snapping turtle, large head, seemed to show in the part where people swim, out of his usual buoyed-off pond. i'm not sure if that was him; some girls, out in the water, kind of made a shriek, and he ducked away and left again quickly. i don't know how the turtles would react to the cooler water, the cool wind off the lake, or even if they knew: the people will be gone tomorrow. on the road home, grasses by the road have gone to seed, turned brown, given the place a halloween look. the corn is brown, green and yellow all at once, dying to be harvested. the kid falls asleep in the back; the ice pop isn't enough to keep him going. the road is narrow, with no shoulders, but i can drive with the windows open; the cool breeze is a relief, and it will be tolerable again, at least until about may.


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