If you’ve read my Abundance Post you know I’m big on vision boards. For me they come in many shapes and sizes. I had one vision board just for getting published. I also had framed “pictures” of what I wanted to accomplish with my writing. The first was a rejection letter. I viewed this like riding horses. I was told by my riding instructor I needed to fall off a horse at least 3 times before I could call myself an equestrian. It took me three years to be called an equestrian. It took me about as long to be called an author — only because it took me that long once I decided I wanted to be published to get up the courage to submit a manuscript. I now have a whole binder of rejection letters and I am very proud of every one of them. Each represents the courage it takes to put one of my inner pieces out into the world for judgment.
I have a couple of projects in the works. My son is starting his own publishing company and has accepted some of my short stories for an anthology. I am working with a hybrid publisher to publish a picture book.
But today — I actually can hold a book in my hands that has one of my short stories in it. As I read it — I of course wanted to edit it some more — but I guess that is something all authors have to get used to. The profits go to the Fulton Public Library and it is most fitting I think that today the library is celebrating Andrew Carnegie’s birthday (the man responsible for funding the building of our library — actually born 11/25).
If you like anthologies or stories about small towns or have some connection to Fulton, NY or just like to support local libraries — you can purchase the book by contacting the library 315-592-5159 or emailing the director Betty Maute at firstname.lastname@example.org. The books are $12 if you pick it up or add an additional $3 if it needs to be shipped. There are 41 short stories. And oh how times change — there is one story that speaks about ginseng being grown here and then shipped to China and apparently at one time we made the toilet paper to the stars.
Thanks to Betty who wrote the grant proposal to make this project possible. The local businesses and people who chipped in and especially to Jim Farfaglia for teaching the classes and editing and about a gazillion other things.
Some dreams take 15 minutes to manifest — some like mine — closer to 15 years — time does not matter — what matters is if it you hold the dream in your heart someday when the time is right the vision that you have held onto will take flight for the rest of the world to behold.
Here is my story if you’d like to read it:
Solace and Adventure by the Lake
Lake Neatahwanta – little lake by the big lake – has been a constant in my life. The grass-covered expanse where I now sit was Stevenson Beach not so many years ago. When I was a young girl I dug my toes in the hot sand and swam at the beach. I didn’t know it but I was learning as I played. My first earth science lessons began here. Land heats up quickly – but water warms slowly during the heat of the day. The opposite happens at night. The sand feels cool on your feet and the water warm. If you throw a stick in the water, the waves bring it back at an angle. If you want water to stay in your moat that surrounds your sand castle, it’s better to build near the shoreline. Otherwise the water keeps soaking in and you have to keep running back to the lake to fill your bucket back up.
After teaching science in Fulton for close to twenty years, mostly earth science, I could now explain that my play involved specific heat, long shore currents, porosity, and infiltration. But I’m glad I learned my science lessons “doing fieldwork” as scientists would call my out of classroom experience. The list of science terms mean nothing if they are not experienced. I hope someday playing in the sand or five-year olds doing field work – however you’d like to think of it – returns to the little lake by the big lake.
As a kid I didn’t realize how spoiled I was to have a lake in my hometown. I ate bullhead my family caught from Lake Neatahwanta. Swam here. Boated here. Skinny dipped for the first time here. I still remember the experience of a fish nibbling on my toes. The person standing next to me in the water probably does too. My shriek of surprise was probably a little loud.
What must it be like to exist in a town with no lake?
Unimaginable. This is the only word that comes to mind. Is a sunset over a bunch of buildings as breathtaking as the sunset reflecting off the calm waters? Does living in a desert compare to the fall foliage that rings almost the entire lake in the autumn? Do people in other places honk their horns when an especially beautiful display of fireworks explodes over the water? In the tropics do they miss putting little buildings on the frozen lake to catch fish? Or do they get to smile in awe at the fuzzy ducklings that bob on the swells?
Maybe everyone feels about the beauty of their hometown landscape as I do. I hope so. I would be sad if they didn’t live in an equally beautiful place.
Where would one go to see the beauty that I now see as I sit here on this spring morning? A great blue heron skims the water. Its wing span is greater than my height. The Canada geese and mallards drift about occasionally taking flight only to skid to a landing and start drifting about again. The ring-billed gulls soar and squawk looking for a free meal as always. I learned not to bring food around the gulls. When I was teaching I sometimes took my lunch breaks here at the lake. One day I hadn’t finished my sandwich before I made the turn for the lake. Four or five gulls lined the road in front of me. I thought they would move as I got closer, but I soon learned this was a road block and if I wanted to pass – the toll would be my sandwich. Just before I got to the birds a car came by. The winged marauders waited for the very last second before moving for the car. My sandwich was safe. My lesson learned. I made sure to finish my lunch before I went for my break.
Many times I have walked along this shore – looking for solace and joy when I was feeling heartbreak or frustration or boredom. For close to 20 years, when I wasn’t actually working, I took whatever chance I could get to look out a window at G. Ray Bodley High School. Looking out the faculty room window was the first time I saw a bald eagle in the wild. I’ve watched a sea plane land and osprey hunt. One of my favorite moments was when I looked out in the late fall and was confused how the lake had frozen over so soon. A flock of snow geese had stopped over on their southerly migration, so numerous and so tightly packed it looked as if they were an island of snow and ice.
My favorite winter memory was when I was very little and my older brother and two cousins took me sledding at Recreation Park. Today the hill they pushed me down seems so very small. But there is still only a very short beach before you are over the frozen lake. In my memory I kept going and going and going until I was in the middle of the lake. I remember screaming and refusing to get off the sled – and all three of my ‘trusted’ relatives yelling for me to get off and walk back. When they finally got me off the lake and back to my grandparent’s house on Oak Street, my mom obviously asked what is wrong with Colleen – since I was now a blathering idiot. My two cousins immediately lied and said it was the storm coming in. My brother at least hesitated before he lied. It may not sound more like a nightmare than a cherished memory. But it was fun – until it wasn’t – and I did figure out that the older kids weren’t all that brave like I’d always thought. None of them sled all the way out onto the lake.
In fall there is no more beautiful place to be. The leaves change color and reflect off the lake reminding me why I have never left this area. Sunny every day and 75°F may sound inviting to some in the southerly climes especially if Fulton is making the national news for the most snowfall at the same time. But losing the beauty of the lake in fall would be like losing one of my senses. The amber, orange and red hues glow from the trees and their mirror images paint the water with their beauty. If only this magnificent sight could last a few weeks longer. But too soon the leaves have wafted to the ground and the lake freezes over again. Shacks for ice fishing replace boats and people throwing bread to the ducks. As much as I love the beauty of the trees, I always enjoyed the short time in the spring when I could look from my classroom and without the leaves yet in bloom and have a perfect view of the lake.
Many festivals have I enjoyed by the lake. Memorial Day Salute, Cracker Barrel Fair, Chocolate Festival and the Jazz Festival but there is one that stands out to me. Fulton was predominately settled by Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants. But one festival meant more than just the yummy fried bread dough and cool rides. One festival stands out vividly in my memory. Many years ago a gathering of Native Americans came here for a powwow.
In my youth, I sometimes sat by lake and wondered what it was like before the buildings and roads. Before all that, there were Native American encampments. I used to imagine what it was like to sit here with just a natural landscape. To sit here with people that revered the land as a way of life. As I sit here now, I hear the birds chirp AND the trucks on Broadway. I see the birds AND the power lines. I smell the goose droppings AND car exhaust. To me the powwow was stepping back to a time when people lived in unison with the land – there were teepees, drums, dances and bison to eat – and a little of my ponderings became reality.
My one regret from youth is I have never swum across the lake – my mom used to tell me the story of how my dad swam all the way across as a teenager. When I first sat down today to write, I thought how the lake looked exactly like when I was a child – and probably how it looked to my dad when he was a child. But then I got hungry and went to Bullhead Point for a hotdog. I stood at the gazebo at the end of the dock and the earth science teacher in me came out. As the sun’s rays bounced off the surface, water evaporated into the sky. Large cumulus clouds drifted so low overhead they looked as if I could jump up and touch them. Somewhere in a different part of the state or maybe in a different country – the lake-cloud forming in front of me – would shed its rain and the cycle would start all over again.
The water I swam in as a kid could have once been Michelangelo’s tears, a glacier in Antarctica or dinosaur pee. Probably not one single drop of water that is now called Lake Neatahwanta is the same as the drops that now make up the lake before me. But I know that if we unclog her springs and dredge her lake bed to its original depth and rebalance the amount of fish to plants – each water droplet no matter where it has traveled to – will return to replenish our lake for generations of children to squish their toes in the sand and screech when a fish nibbles their toes.