This Labor Day, I spent some precious moments immersed in the immense reservoir that is Lake Lanier. While submerged, I enjoyed the company of the previously introduced canine, Tallulah, who becomes more at ease in the water with every visit, provided sticks and tennis balls abound. The only drawback during this lovely, if brief, excursion into Lanier's shallow bathwater was, well, the rest of the world.
From our vantage point on an island (these days more a drought-borne peninsula), Tallulah and I floated, treaded, and dog-paddled for a short while until it seemed we were totally surrounded by humanity, each being executing his or her willful right to relaxation. The irony of the scene was that very relaxation that all sought simultaneously was what was keeping me and countless others from achieving any real serenity. Mindfulness surely would have served me well at that moment but for my inexperience with 'wet zazen', or zazen of any sort.
The people seemed to come from almost all directions by water. First, the mosquito-like buzz-bys of personal watercraft, the Sea-doo jetski, made their aural assaults. The crafts' operators, ranging from middle-aged and pot-bellied to pre-pubescent and thoughtless, were clearly oblivious of others in the lake or on its shores. Even hugging the cracked and dried shoreline, Tallulah and I were whipped by the jetskis' roiling wakes, testing my patience for Southern boaters, rattling the doggy's fragile aqua-confidence.
The auditory barrage continued throughout our swim, at times rising to a multi-octave cacophony of inboard cigarette boat rumblings, pontoon boat whirrs, and partybarges zooming sluggishly on the now turbulent lake. Skiers and wakeboarders sliced through the green water and red clay murk, led by Mastercrafts and rust buckets alike. Any calm, any inclining of peace was engulfed on all sides by an obnoxious echoing of wakes, the fumes of the carbon-burning-maniacs, the day off, drunken hollers of all who dedicated themselves to recreation on that holiday. Bobbing there, keeping on the surface to stay visible, I felt like a duck might, one who'd found its way to a cooling puddle centered in a vast empty concrete field, threatened with every webbed kick by the aluminum giants taking flight all around.
Regardless of class, race, creed, or social standing, those on the lake that day must have at least noticed the extent to which our 'good times' were affecting the environment around us. So, by the end of the weekend, the lake and all its struggling native creatures had the chance to drink in the rainbow oil slicks and litter strewn all about, gifts from its patrons on that very free day in the heart of a very free land. It is fitting though that a man-made, fingery "lake" such as Lanier should be so ecologically tortured by the very same folks who drink it up, feed their lawns, and wash their clothes and bodies with it daily. Even in times of scarcity, it is remote to think that we might cherish the natural elements. Instead, we manipulate the Earth's forms, turn valleys into lakebeds, and proceed to rape the rains of better years with machines made for the pleasure of men who behave more like parasites.
Still, with all the distractions, the dip was a cooling one and I can now say that the time spent was well-spent. Tallulah would agree that the trip was worthwhile, hot as it was that day, although she'd prefer a more placid scenario in which to master her paddling technique.