Part precious metal, part pirate

Approach to the lighthouse on Fire Island
Approach (on foot) to the lighthouse on Fire Island

Had some post-dinner drinks with my friend Sarah last night. She’s in publishing, a fellow reader, so we talk books and exchange suggestions. One she told me about is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. She said it reminded her very much of House of Leaves, which I loved (so many frightful and strange dreams resulted). One difference she pointed out was that it doesn’t make one turn the book upside down or refer endlessly to the many indices for clarification (devices which my design geek self rather enjoyed, but my reading-in-bed-this-book-is-heavy self got annoyed by).

I told her about the book I am currently reading— re-reading, in fact. I read it the first time a number of summers ago at Fire Island: Lighthousekeeping, by Jeanette Winterson. As I’ve found with both novels I’ve read by Winterson, it’s beautiful in her harsh-soft-stark way. Cold truths delivered in a way that feels unexpectedly warm. Similar to Tove Jansson’s wistful sharpness, but with more lilt, more swirling. Similar, too, in some ways, to the wonderful Galore (another Sarah suggestion).

I remain about mid-way through Love in the Time of Cholera; yet another in the realm of magic realism, but wanted something a little airier for Summer. The opening line of Lighthousekeeping invites park reading, beach reading, outdoor garden by gas lantern reading: “My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part pirate.”

Durgerdam, Nederlands
Approach (on bicycle) to Durgerdam, Nederlands

These are both old photos, but they’re what summer feels like today, August about to pounce and pass way too quickly. All the months are doing it these days. As a child lucky enough to spend the whole of my first eleven summers on a small lake, I’m still always grasping at summer, wishing it to be longer. I was telling Zac about the cottage last night; remembering it in some detail for the first time in a few years. It was, in fact, on Silver Lake, so not entirely a non-sequitur here. No phone, no shower or bath (hadto bathe in the lake!); we did have a radio and a television (one must have priorities, and one also must live through the rainy days, too). Adults playing cards til late hours, kids out wandering in the dark, playing ghost in the graveyard, riding bikes, etc. Occasionally breaking into an abandoned cottage. Swimming every day of no rain. Roller skating at the rink down the lake on Saturdays, followed by sneaking a watch of the second feature at the drive-in. (Saw Scanners that way. Scary shit for a kid.) Our parents weren’t remiss, they just weren’t filled with the anxiety that a 24 hour news cycle cultivates. Also, it was a different time, a different place.

One of my favorite things was to take the canoe to the end of the lake where it got shallow and reedy, cattails, the calm, glass-smooth swamp where the water was crystal clear and the bottom velvet sand. I’d go out alone maybe an hour or so before dusk, stay awhile among the maze of shallow runnels, then notice it getting dark and row as fast as I could to get back before the mosquitoes attacked, and for the joy of speed— a canoe slicing through lake-still water. Such a pleasure. I miss  it.

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