The tree, the rock, the boys

Denzel and Nicholas in their river otter phase.  (Photo:  Susan Waters)

Denzel and Nicholas in their river otter phase. (Photo: Susan Waters)

This week, I took my son Nicholas and one of his friends, Denzel, to a swimming rock near our home in Saranac Lake.

It was a beautiful, languid late-afternoon.  The lake was empty.  We plunged in and bobbed around, washing away the day’s stickiness.

When I first came to the Adirondacks, the rock where we swam had a proud, sweeping white pine arcing over the water.

People sometimes rigged a rope swing in its branches and the three of us would flail out into the sky before crashing down into the cold.

Some years ago, a storm up-ended the pine, tipping it violently into the lake.

For a time, the swimming hole was a mess of mud and tangled roots and branches.

All those rough edges have been smoothed away with time.  The thick trunk of the tree lies wedged next to the rock, burnished by seasons of wind, rain, snow and ice.  The rock is clear.

The boys, too, have changed over the years that I’ve been bringing them to this place.  They were tiny river otters once, spry and delight-filled.

Now they are twenty- and seventeen-years-old, respectively.  They are both young men, both taller than me, remarkably self-aware, filled now with the more complicated delight of their expanding worlds.

This is, I think, what I have loved most about spending these years in the Adirondacks.  A new awareness of time, of places and people who are the same and profoundly different from one season to the next, sometimes from one hour of day to the next.

Bobbing in the water, I took real pleasure in measuring my own passage against this spot.  I was a boy once, right?  And then I was a young man, a young father.

It may sound melancholy, but I also found myself relating to that grand, powerful tree.  Even such a creature as that is reduced by time, reshaped.  Eventually, it will vanish entirely, merging back into the lake, into the air.

And so, of course, will I.  Strange, isn’t it, to think that even the rock itself is making this journey with us?

It too has changed imperceptibly, smoothed and worn away just a tiny fraction by the bare feet of those boys leaping into cool water.


6 Comments on “The tree, the rock, the boys”

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  1. George Nagle says:

    Beautiful. Thank you, Brian.

  2. Peter Hahn says:

    We call that “teenager rock”.

  3. Carol says:

    Yes, beautiful, Brian. As the parent of growing/grown children, I especially appreciate your reflections. Thanks.

  4. Bob Falesch says:

    The lyricism in this writing is remarkable.

  5. Thank you, Brian. This was a beautiful piece and at almost 72 years old I can relate to what you are saying about the passing of time; and that the passing of time changes everyone and everything.

  6. Nora Buckley says:

    Thank you. Heartfelt and beautiful, they grow up so quickly.

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