Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana
When I was a child, my father often took me for long evening walks along the shore of a lake that was near our home. The two of us would quietly walk along the shore for hours, exploring the shallows for interesting shells and the small fish that swam there. Sometimes there was a strong wind and the white-capped waves would crash over the larger rocks and make a rhythmic sound that would echo in my head as I went to sleep that night. My father always found tiny rocks that were colorful and different from the rest. He would say, “Isn’t that pretty?” and would slip the special treasures into his pockets. We always brought them home for mother to admire. Then, I would reverently clean them and keep them beside my bed so I could remember the lake.
Being near that body of water gave us a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves and our lives there, and it brought us closer to one another. My father would often sit on a rock and quietly look out over the waves at the setting sun, and he would be completely at peace; completely himself. There was always a slight smile of satisfaction on his lips as he watched me play on the shore, and his eyes always smiled at me with a twinkle of complete confidence and joy. I learned more from him in those moments than I ever learned from books, or teachers, or any wisdom figures since then. On those walks by the shore at sunset, I learned how to be still and quiet, how to have reverence for nature, how to be at peace with myself and to know I am loved.
My father and mother at Lake Pontchartrain 1948. Long before me.
Now, when life gets turbulent, I sit quietly and close my eyes and remember my father sitting calmly on the shore of the lake at sunset with the warm breeze blowing through his hair, that slight smile of satisfaction on his lips, and the twinkle of love in his eyes. Then, I find my center again.
Post script: In 2013, after having been away from my hometown for many years, I visited my family there again. One afternoon, I took my young son to the same shoreline I used to visit so often with my father. I sat there on a large rock and watched my son explore the shoreline. I felt the breeze on my face and understood exactly what my father knew all those years ago.
Evan on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain 2013