The breeze was cool, but it was warm enough to eat outside. We met at a restaurant with an outdoor patio and chose a table in the sun, a place where we could absorb warmth as we talked. After lunch, we slipped out underneath the pink and brown branches of a flowering tree and followed a side street down past little restaurants and shops to the lakefront.
It's a long narrow lake formed by glaciers, a lake considered sacred by the people native to this area. It's also the most polluted lake in North America. Swimming was banned here in 1940, the fish from the lake cannot be eaten, and the EPA reports on the toxins that lie at the bottom of the lake have numbers so ridiculously high that they seem like something out of a novel and not real life. And yet, despite all the damage caused by industrial dumping, Polluted Sacred Lake is still a lovely place to walk on a spring day.
As we meandered up the paved path, we passed runners, bikers, and parents with small children, everyone taking advantage of the sunshine. Poet Woman and I talked about relationships that had ended, about family members, about our marriages, and about our children; we were both analyzing the patterns and issues in our lives. Poet Woman laughed when she realized that she was telling me the same story she had told me the last time we walked the trail by this lake. How often the landscape dictates our topic of conversation: we each have a lifetime of memories embedded in the lakes and hills and woods of Snowstorm Region.
New leaves were unfolding on the trees that stood at the lake edge. We passed a harbor filled with empty docks that reached into the lake, and big puddles where the lake overlapped onto the grass. Christmas lights, unplugged but visible, still hung in some of the trees, gaudy electric decorations which annoyed both of us.
We each had a busy afternoon ahead of us, but we could not resist stopping when we came to an empty bench that faced the lake. The sun touched our faces, our arms, our hands. We kept talking about our long to-do lists but when it comes right down to it, few things can take priority over conversation with a close friend.
Polluted Sacred Lake