He Dreams a Lake

He tests the waters on a rocky shore. Mountains loom around the lake. The lake is big enough around, but is it deep? That’s hard to tell.

Along the shore in places, the water bubbles from the clay in pits and runs in gleaming strands between the rocks and sand. The water steams into the winter air with a sulfuric smell. There is as well, on the far shores, a place where a glacier coming down hangs over the water. The water there is black and tends to green. The warmer waters are an opaque blue tending toward a deeper blue. But on the whole the surface of the lake is dark.

He enters the water, examining the edges of the lake and shivering. Snow is drifting magically down, vanishing on the surface of the lake. He enters farther, is submerged and waits, floating with his head above the water, drifting deliberate but slow toward the warmer regions rather than the cold. The day is windless winter.

He finds the hot water, and the scalding, but there’s also the tepid water and the shock of cold. In these regions he remains, learning the lake, the layout, feeling currents begin to take on patterns. And he drifts toward the clearer colder water, plunges down, and for the first time opens his eyes beneath the surface. Gradually he comes to understand the upper underworld of the lake, forgets to surface, unaware of the transformation taking place in him. He nudges the depths and darknesses and cold, sinking deeper.

Beings swim there of which the surface knows little or nothing, and secret plants grow. He comes among them and begins to understand those regions and their ways. Twilight reigns, but it is a mingled twilight as he finds, in which light comes down in colors: moving, distorted, various and enchanting. He learns to see the currents, with their temperatures, to feel the slight changes which ripple through the deep, and he is drawn to the mysteries of the unimaginable depths below. As he descends, he breathes those mysteries, becomes more a creature of the depths, until he comes to the sand at the bottom where hard shelled creature scurry or creep slowly, unimaginably rich in grains of undisputed wealth.

The surface of the lake is calm above. The snow falls on the blue and green without a ripple now, and the smoke rises into the windless winter air to mingle with the insubstantial clouds.

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