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the lake


It is a deep glacier lake that has never warmed.  It gathers between two rows of mountains opening out eastward just over the summit. The best way to go in is all at once, preferably at a dead run, kicking up white plashes, and then plunge.  The shock of its cold is utter: you hear the molecules in your brain; you feel the raw gasp of your birth.  After a while, you get used to it.  Minnows flick in the clear, shallow water that laps the granite sand.  Underwater, fool’s gold shimmers through the shafts of sunlight disappearing into the blue depth that looms when you swim over the drop-off.  My mother would lay face-down on her beach towel emblazoned with a Hawaiian royal crest and the words, ua mau ke ea o ka aina ika dono.  “I don’t tan, I just burn,” she would say, applying a thin, sharply aromatic, dark liquid from a brown bottle bearing the word Skoal to her pink-and-white skin.  In time she would rise, put on her bathing cap and walk slowly into the water up to her thighs.  Then she’d sink forward in a graceful half-dive and swim far out, her red mouth breathing toward us, then away, her arms arching crisply up and down in an energetic and shapely crawl.