May 1, 2012

The Lake

My appreciation for place comes most directly from my parents, but I also have to thank Grandpa and Grandma Longstreet for scouting out the piece of southwestern Minnesota lake land that has become the one consistent spot on earth I've returned to since the year I was born. I visit Lake Shetek and Keeley Island and the Longstreet Lot less now that I'm older and farther away and--that too-easy word--busy. But its greens and blues and laughs and grill-roasted turkey dinners feel no less vivid.

My essay "The Lake," out this month in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, is a long-time coming. A long time, pre-me. It's a thank you letter, really. So: Grandpa Bud, I imagine your face with the smile I would have witnessed had you lived to meet me, and Grandma Mar, I miss you so much and sense the pressure of your hand around my wrist.

Keeley Island, Lake Shetek, MN

16 comments:

  1. Emily:

    ..."sense the pressure of your hand around my wrist." What a magnificent sensory image. Love you on the stump, in your cut-offs, waiting with your blue ski-jacket on, and "piloting" the speedboat. You belong to that place. You become your family's memories. Keep making them.

    Richard

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    1. Thanks, Richard. Memories are funny things, aren't they. If they don't shore up inside of someone, they're gone. As I grow older and as it becomes harder to see my far-flung extended family, my childhood memories of them and us and those summer become even more precious.

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  2. Congratulations, Emily. Great article! I so identify with all those great memories of The Lake. My attachment to water leans toward rivers -- the St. Croix in particular -- where I continue exploring and wondering as I did as a boy.
    Love your writing!

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    1. If I could pick up the people and places dearest to me and move them somewhere, the banks of the St. Croix would be an "elsewhere" location I'd consider quite seriously. Such a beautiful area. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

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  3. Congratulations on the essay, Emily...it's beautiful! And I felt it ringing "in my ears like a promise"...like a promise of place in our memories, and in the here and now. I loved it.

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    1. Thanks, Erin. I wrote this over two years ago, and knew of it's eventual publication in MCV since November of 2010, so I'm glad all that waiting can now be a memory, too. :) So glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. Emily once again a moving story that will bring back fond memories of being a child at the lake in Minnesota. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Of course, Anon. Thanks for the kind comment. My grandma experienced the debility of dementia in the last few years of her life, so I hope I'm able to get moments like these down now and use them through the rest of my days as anchors and wings.

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  5. Congratulations, Emily. So wonderful to read about a prairie lake in your poetic writing style that is so engaging.

    I'm familiar with the Lake Shetek bible camp, only because my younger siblings attended. Not me, though. No money for me to attend.

    Next time I'm visiting my oldest brother in Westbrook, I may need to drive over to Lake Shetek. Had a class reunion once there at, I think, Key Largo.

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    1. Thanks, Audrey.

      I'm familiar with the bible camp because...it sits right next door to the lot! The campers always seem to be having fun across the fence, so it's too bad you missed that. And yes, Key Largo: the place I remember all my older cousins sneaking over to after it got dark. :)

      Lovely area of the state. With your appreciation for prairies, I'm sure you'd like it.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this essay Emily, a sweet childhood memory cushioned in now adult thought. It is so, so nice that you have this connection. We all need a place we came from in the natural world. Perhaps this is yours!

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    1. I think it is, Bill. I hope I'm able to go back and visit for years and years. Thanks for reading!

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  7. Emily what a beautiful story and how well you captured each moment with your words. As I read about "The Lake" I tried to think back in time with my family: mom, dad and 2 sisters - special places and events. Thank you for giving me that, something I'd somehow forgotten.

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    1. Vicki, I'm so pleased that these memories helped you remember some of yours. That, I think, is where the power of stories becomes evident and necessary. Glad you're here!

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  8. Great article, I also can identify. My wife and I both had parents that enjoyed the Lake. We now have our own cabin up on the Range. Your thought and words seem to sum up our feelings. Thank you for sharing!!!

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    1. Gary,

      Thanks so much for leaving me this note. The essay seems to have resonated with many people around Minnesota, and I love hearing from some of them. Just yesterday I received a letter from an 80 year old woman down in Slayton. Lakes really do connect us, don't they? All best to you and your family! I hope you're enjoying your home on the range this Memorial Day weekend!

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