Kelso Lake, ON - Cassandra Hartmann

My Watermark is Kelso Lake, Ontario.

I’ve felt drawn to water for as long as I can remember; its softness spreading out on my skin, the way it touches the light, the certainty that it can devour anything. Many of the clearest memories I have of my childhood are of a situation where I was looking at water. This isn’t all that surprising since my parents were very into nature.

They were always taking us biking or on hikes or, when the weather permitted it, swimming in a lake. Most of the time, that was Lake Kelso. For those who are unfamiliar, Kelso is a conservation area near a town called Milton close to Lake Ontario.

The so called lake is actually a manmade reservoir that was created to control the flooding of Sixteen Mile Creek. It’s about a half hour drive, but my parents didn’t like pools much, and taking those out of the equation, that’s the closest place to swim. So every summer that’s where we’d go, as often as once a week. I can still see myself as a little girl, maybe twelve years old, standing in front of it, its waters murky and still, spread out beyond a bend in the land. I walk with sand under my feet until its cold touch wraps itself around my ankles. I let it pull me in, sometimes slowly, taking the time to feel it around my legs and waist and dirty fingers, until I pulled my head in and listen. Other times. I let myself fall, and thought of nothing but the shattered surface falling back onto me, enveloping me in everything it’s ever done. Then I would come up, suck in the fallow air, and throw myself back under.

The world is so much emptier. Empty of sound, of movement, of any touch but the water’s. It wraps itself around my hair, holds it there to melt into the sunshine. It’s so comforting to be suspended in life and in death. But I don’t stay there; I push myself forward, run my fingers through the chill, bend my legs against the pull of gravity. When I come up for breath, I’m jumping through dimensions, but I’ve been doing this for years, exactly this, and I can move with purpose. The tree line moves past on either side as the sun starts to set and spills its warmth across the dimming expanse. When I keep myself above to look, the ripples in the water are run through with sky. The beauty of water transcends everything I’ve ever seen. It is a great comfort to know that most of me is made of waves and rapids, that water has laid claim on all of us. I’m an intricate aquarium, nothing more, nothing less.

Everything I am is borrowed. The water carries me because it knows I will return it, someday soon, inevitably. When we look at water, we see ourselves. In every lonely trickle, every all-encompassing cascade. Nothing else has that kind of power over us. Nothing but the water.

Kelso Lake, ON
Bonnie McElhinny
Cassandra Hartmann

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