Things change, but…
It’s quiet, a quiet filled with the sounds of insects in the brush, waves lapping the shoreline, a soft breeze in the trees and the raucous sounds of the crow colony that lives somewhere near the ravine that runs down the hill from Pine Grove to the lake. I stand on the deck taking it all in. The end of summer.
Today I am beginning the ritual of closing the cottage. My 32nd year at this. Most of the other cottagers have completed the autumnal ablutions, but I am at point one. I will strip the beds and clear the cupboards of perishable goods. The refrigerator and the basket where we keep the potato chips will remain until later.
On Sunday I will return with all of the bedding clean to be stored in the old metal cabinet in the store room. I’ve lined the shelves in this ancient piece with scented papers, distinctly opposite to its appearance but so in line with the fantasy life that I live at the cottage.
The clean linens will join the beautiful table cloths that I rarely am called on to use and the lovely napkins that harken back to more elegant ideas and times. It is both a place where I live and where I have built a childlike fantasy of grace and never-was.
Out on the deck in the soft October day I can easily recall other October days when the children and I would walk the then wide shore line of this most pristine of lakes searching for beach glass and kindling. Our perambulations would take us several miles south, past small cottages and large holdings alike, our happy voices echoing in the air as we gathered our treasures.
The beach glass from those walks sits in cups and bowls along the walls of what were the children’s rooms. Some of it became the top of a small porch table. People use plastic bottles now. Beach glass seems to be now a premium antiquity. Things change.
There are no children today to walk along the beach and the mother who accompanied them will, if she decides to walk, have to take her cane with her now to steady a failing hip over the uneven shores. Things change.
In those long ago days, we could safely drink the water out of the lake. Whether that is still possible is a serious question these days as strange foam blankets the water and blue green algae has taken hold. As we wring out hands over this change, I add my voice to those who demand to know why and how to bring the pristine waters back.
This is not the fantasy of embroidered table cloths and childhood visions of cottages, it is a clear and present demand that we protect our environment and in particular the one thing that shouldn’t change — the lake.
Things change. Yes. But changes to the purity of the lake’s waters are not acceptable.
The silence of the day should not be the measure of response to these assaults on something as basic as a 17 mile lake, touted as one of the cleanest lakes in the United States.
While those in the “know” tell us that the foam on the lake is natural, I wonder why this “natural” has only recently made an appearance.
We have watched these waters for over 30 years and for most of that time, there was no foam. We’ve never seen blue-green algae in those crystal clear waters. There have been other hot, very hot summers with little breezes and there were no cyanobacteria blooms on the lake. Why now? A recent expert told a group in Skaneateles that runoff from two big storms dumped nitrogen and phosphorus into the lake in amounts that supported the growth of the algae.
It has rained heavily before.
Closing the cottage becomes a more bittersweet effort as the years pass, but one that must be done.
I am more careful now, leaving notes should someone else have to open the cottage next summer. I’ve left lists of where things are, with the same precaution in mind. It is one of those things that you do to ensure the future.
As clean as my linens, my refrigerator and cupboards, the floors and dressers are, as carefully as we store the outside furniture and put the ragged garden to bed, none of this will change the lake.
Who will leave notes to the future about caring for the lake?
Perhaps I should ask the crows if they have any ideas about how to fix the lake.