21 May 2017

The Lake

Sometimes, a song can sit in the deepest recesses of your mind for years, before surfacing  at exactly the right moment to hit you with its full force.
That's what happened to me with The Lake.
A lot of the best things are subconscious, spontaneous, unintended; such was mine and my sister's trip to The Lake. Because we didn't even know that we were going to The Lake, (we were headed elsewhere) and indeed we could easily have driven past it in blissful ignorance if my sister hadn't spotted something between the trees and if I hadn't pulled over.
The Lake was only 40 minutes away from where I live, and I'd never heard of it or seen it in all the years I've lived here. It's tucked away from the main road behind dense woodland, and around it is a stone quarry. The lake is probably manmade. But that's beside the point. Everything is beside the point; everything is extremely mundane and mortal beside The Lake.
Mortality: such was the theme of that very strange day. Before we left on our trip, my sister saw that a neighbour of ours was moving out, and that he'd put out a load of stuff in his front yard, including a human-sized skeleton. 
She wanted to check that our neighbour was definitely getting rid of all that stuff in his yard, because she really wanted the skeleton (two cupboards were labelled 'TO GO' but everything else was unmarked.) So we knocked on his door to check, and it transpired that he wasn't getting rid of any of those things at all and that he'd just laid them all out there for the time being.

'But you can keep Bone Jovi,' he added hastily, pointing at the skeleton.
So we took Bone Jovi home.

Bone Jovi didn't last very long in our superstitious household, and returned very quickly to our neighbour -- that same day. Which was just as well, because he probably didn't want to give it away and just ceded to us out of that awful plight which is British politeness.

And so, with these thoughts of life-sized skeletons, we drove past The Lake, which we didn't know was The Lake because it was hidden by forest, as I mentioned above. My sister pointed out what she thought was a ravine full of chalk, and we parked up nearby to have a look.

It was one of those views which does not reveal itself immediately, one which is almost purposefully hidden away and must be approached slowly, with the sense that a mystery is about to unravel.

The moment when I saw The Lake was like that moment in films where a character receives some unexpected news from another character and the latter keeps on talking but his/her speech is edited out and music starts up instead -- a 'steely melody.'

I didn't immediately make the connection with Antony and the Johnsons' Lake. It was a slow association that gradually grew in my mind and which was fully formed by the time we got home. And as these two experiences gradually became aligned, both were illuminated with a new and unutterable meaning.

A few days later, I still could not fathom why, in the night,

'My infant spirit would awake
To the terror of the lone lake'

...The infant spirit being not necessarily ignorance or lack of knowledge, but just a blinding, sickening vulnerability to the things out there -- to time, to spirits, to the world.

'Yet that terror was not fright
But a tremulous delight
And a feeling undefined
Springing from a darkened mind
Death was in that poisoned wave
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his dark imagining
Whose wildering thought could even make
An Eden of that dim lake'


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