Early on a weekday morning, Forked Run Lake is still as glass with little plumes of mist rising above the water. We paddle the length of the lake and far up the headwaters without seeing another person or boat--and in fact the only other sign of civilization is the helicopter that zips over hours later as we head back to the boat ramp.
It's a little lake and not too far away but somehow we've never been there before. The narrow lake winds between low hills and stretches into cozy coves, and the headwaters meander through marshy wetlands and curve past overhanging rocks and trees. At one point we have to maneuver beneath a massive cedar tree, its feathery needles stretching across the narrow stream and filtering out the hot sun. No wonder they call it the Shade River.
We welcome the shade--we've been experiencing oven-like temperatures lately with lots of humidity, but storms are in the forecast for the next few days so we decided to set out early to beat the heat. All morning we have the lake to ourselves; we see kingfishers and a few ducks and plenty of swallows and what may be a muskrat, but mostly we're accompanied by waterstriders, dragonflies, and a deep, restful silence.
I need that kind of silence. This week I've finished an article and submitted it to a journal, written a syllabus, started research on my next writing project, picked blackberries, pulled weeds, made carnitas and guacamole and black-bean soup, and spent so much time pecking away at the edges of a whole bunch of projects that I feel as if my brain is heading in twenty directions at once. On the lake it feels good to move slowly and smoothly in one direction, meandering upstream with no particular purpose before turning around and heading back down.
Now I'm so relaxed that I may just drift off in the middle of a sentence, sliding smoothly into the Shade River of my dreams.