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At Home On The Lake


Lake San Cristobal

On those days when I am not sleeping in, I like to get up before anyone else. Between 5 and 6 am is a good time. Go on, move your butt. The other animals are already up, of course, and you can hear them unobtrusively getting about their breakfast. The chipmunks seem surprised, sometimes, to see me.

Coffee tastes better outside, sitting on the bluff. Cools off quickly, though.

It's quiet. The lake is glassy smooth beneath the intermittent mist, except for the occasional dimple and splash of gulping fish. The short stuttering cry of a waterbird is startlingly clear from across the lake, and there's squeaks and twitters from tiny swallows flittering about the cliffs. Around 6:30, geese begin their first circling touch-and-goes down on the marsh end of the lake, honking encouragement to each other. They are by far the noisiest animals here.

Besides us, that is. There is no comparison.

Around 7am a boat appears off to the right below, silently ambitious, trolling along, the small V of its passage half hidden by the fog.

Slowly, as the air continues to clear and brighten, you begin to hear a scattered chorus of hacking coughs and spitting around the campground, and a groan or three in the background, followed by the muffled bump and clatter of breakfast.

Not much talking, right at first.

But you know the day's begun in earnest when generators begin to serenade each other, and soon after there is, always, a diesel clatter somewhere.

What animals? What birds? There are none here. But there are plenty of people around, and they have their own sort of charm.

Don't they?

After a bit I went to breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner in town, and sat out on the back deck, where I was entertained by the sight of a young father being trained by his 17 month old daughter. He'd get one mouthful of pancake, then "Olivia! Come back here, honey. Don't pick that up. Olivia. Don't touch that." Then he was up, and chasing after her. Over and over and over. She was a charmer, leaning back calmly and waving up at anyone who came out of the back door. She was repeatedly fascinated by a couple of recumbent bicycles leaning against the railing. I was kind of fascinated myself. The Barcolounger of bicycles.

Mom was off hiking this morning with a friend. He was an off-road biker, and they were taking turns with Olivia, renting a condo at the foot of the lake. Olivia was in constant motion, and obviously more than a match for the pair of them. He didn't stand a chance alone. He was her personal climbing wall.

I said, "You've got quite a handful there."

He laughed, "Yeah. But she's worth it. Aren't you, Olivia?"

She smiled with her whole face and grabbed the forkful of food he was holding in front of her. Then she beamed over at me and waved with her other hand.

I don't doubt it for a minute.

I got rained out the second night I was here, but I've made a habit of having a campfire every night I can. I stopped at a woodlot in La Veda on the way up, and filled up every available space with wood, and I'm gradually working my way through it. Usually some temporary neighbor will come up and share it with me. One guy from Colorado Springs showed up with his wife and a cold 6 pack of home made Christmas Ale. Flavored with ginger and other stuff. Usually I don't care for it when people muck up beer with flavorings, but this stuff was good. Kind of a hot aftertaste. I broke out the wood and guacamole, they brought the chips and beer, and a good time was had by all.

Fell in with a professional photographer from Austin night before last, who wanted to put his tent temporarily on the bluff near my trailer, so he could take a picture against the lake and mountains. I told him he could spend the night there if he wanted. He was a campfire addict also, and his father a Captain of Texas Rangers. He had some stories. And to my surprise, so did I.

Last night I was alone, though with a campfire you are never quite alone. Somewhere into my second Turkey and coke, I realized why I'd rather watch a fire than TV. Campfires encourage a longer attention span. One measured in logs, rather than soundbites. You can dream long thoughts of your very own, down there in the flames.

And you can go pee off a cliff in the moonlight without missing a thing.

See you later. I need some more cliff time.


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