Springfield Lake, NS - Sean Flinn
My Watermark is Springfield Lake, Nova Scotia.
The lake is small and shallow, a drop of water on paper. The island is a grain of rice, slightly distended.
We tried to cross it, the lake’s lone island. But we always gave up, getting as far as the ruins of an old camp our grandfathers – three brothers – and great aunt, along with some friends, built in the ‘30s. They were in their twenties. The clearing, an old stone foundation, the base of a chimney, remained.
There were failed attempts to walk around the island, following its perimeter, the outer edge where land met water. The rocks – large, flat and slippery, or small and jagged – forced us to abandon the trek, turning back the way we came.
Many island projects were never completed. (We were going to build our own camp there.) It didn’t matter. The island kept drawing us back from the mainland. Our grandfathers (the three brothers) and grandmothers, our great aunt and great uncle, each had a place, up and down the shore from one another, the western shoreline.
There was a sunken rowboat off the southern tip of the island, its form recognizable in spite of its muddy green shade. The wreck was subject of many theories and stories. At the other end of the island, the northern tip, a small beach led to shallow water, a sandy floor, then a steep slope into deep water – the dropoff. Like coming down a mountain, or the steps of a temple, you walked this descent slowly, timing your exhalations, feeling the weight of your body return, ignoring the collapsing pressure in your chest.
At times, later, I’d fantasize about not coming back up, but walking the whole way down and out along the bottom of the lake – not just touching bottom but walking along it, mapping its every contour, its entire area, with the soles of my feet. Looking up from below: recording how the light changed when it came down the water column, or, at night, how far down the loon swam (and listening for whether it sang its arpeggios during a dive). The swimmer’s body, the boat’s keel: all would be appreciated from this new perspective. I’d go find the deepest part of the lake and just stand there.
It was about 20 feet at its deepest, a depth found not far from that north point of the island, from what I recall being told years and years ago. Its dimensions have been verified and posted. There are maps and aerial photos. Every once in awhile I’ll review the numbers and look at the maps and photos of a lake I haven’t been to in more than 10 years. And that was just an afternoon’s visit. The cottage my grandparents bought in 1953 had been sold in 1994. But I can still see it clearly, and can help you see it too. I just need a drop of water, piece of paper and a single grain of rice.