The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
― Natalie Babbitt,Tuck Everlasting
Apart from such visits, for the first time in her life Eliza was truly alone. In the beginning, unfamiliar sounds, nocturnal sounds, disturbed her, but as the days passed she came to know them: soft-pawed animals under the eaves, the ticking of the warming range, floorboards shivering in the cooling nights. And there were unexpected benefits to her solitary life: alone in the cottage, Eliza discovered that the characters from her fairy tales became bolder. She found fairies playing in the spiders’ webs, insects whispering incantations on the windowsills, fire sprites spitting and hissing in the range. Sometimes in the afternoons, Eliza would sit on the rocking chair listening to them. And late at night, when they were all asleep, she would spin their stories into her own tales.
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
Quiet people always know more than they seem. Although very normal, their inner world is by default fronted mysterious and therefore assumed weird. Never underestimate the social awareness and sense of reality in a quiet person; they are some of the most observant, absorbent persons of all.
― Criss Jami, Healology
Every day since waking up in the hospital I’ve wanted to die, but watching that man sink below the waves, I feel something inside me rise up. A Dragon doesn’t surrender. A Dragon fights fate. This is not some loud, roaring feeling. It feels more like someone blew on an ember and found a slight orange glow. I have to hang on to my life—however ruined and useless. Mama’s voice comes floating to me, reciting one of her favorite sayings, “There is no catastrophe except death; one cannot be poorer than a beggar.” I want—need—to do something braver and finer than dying.
―Lisa See,Shanghai Girls
Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras
People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two lovers, but this, too, was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel — before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away.
―Zadie Smith, On Beauty
It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.
Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.
We classify everything by our own experience. How do we keep this natural self-centeredness from blinding us to new things?
Ru, the Magic Subaru and The Dragon, our home for four weeks
This summer my husband and I took our small RV camper, aka The Dragon, on a journey through state and national parks, spending a month traveling from Texas through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas. We saw so many wonderful places, which you will be seeing in photographs on the website over the next few months. Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Custer State Park, Devil’s Tower, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain… There are more on the list just as worthy and beautiful; it was an impressive lineup. But there was one small state park that was the surprise of the trip: Lake Scott in Kansas.
Kansas. I use this word even when speaking of places not in Kansas to describe land that isn’t exactly flat, and certainly not ugly. It’s a step or two above Texas Panhandle, which is completely flat, except where it isn’t–and that’s another post. In general, for me, Kansas means anything barely rolling, green and well…boring. The kind of land that makes for great farmland, but lacks any distinguishing feature. We’d seen some in Oklahoma, some in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Kansas (or maybe Colorado or Nebraska…)
This particular evening we were staying in Kansas proper, and we didn’t have hopes for interesting scenery. The GPS and road signage told us we were a mile away from Lake Scott State Park, slugging it out with the wind, which we had been fighting since we left the Rocky Mountains earlier in the day, over a prairie that had precious few trees and seemed to be getting flatter by the minute. Lake Scott? How could anything like that hide out here. We reached the turn off and left the main road. My heart was sinking. And then a surprise happened. The park road descended into a canyon, shattering the illusion of flatland.
Lake Scott lies in Ladder Creek Canyon. The area was used as a hide out by a small band of Native Americans who left Taos Pueblo in New Mexico in the late 1600s, fed up with colonial Spanish rule. They stayed here for ten years, until the Spanish found them and took them back to Taos. There are ruins of their tiny pueblo here, called El Cuartelejo, the Far Quarter. It’s easy to see why they chose this site: consistent water supply and a landscape that favors secrecy. We set up camp, trying our best to not be overcome by the pungent smell of marijuana coming from somewhere in the campground. Marijuana, or “pot”, is now legal in neighboring Colorado, so it wasn’t surprising that someone was taking advantage of that secretive quality so present at Lake Scott to enjoy the last of their cache.
Lake Scott in the late evening
We were only staying the one night, our last night in the camper before returning to my brother’s house in Oklahoma City to retrieve the cats and go home. Lake Scott is a very pretty spot, especially at sunset, when we arrived, and even more so at sunrise. In fact, at sunrise it became magical, in a way that didn’t require pot or any other recreational drug.
Into the Morning Light
Front Row Seat
I didn’t plan to get up just before dawn. We hadn’t made it out of the camper in the early hours once during the whole trip. But nature had something special this morning. I awoke to the calls of Canada Geese, rudely berating each other and scuffling right outside the camper. I dressed quietly and followed them, keeping my distance as I didn’t want to get bitten. They formed a jaunty and excited procession heading in the direction of Lake Scott. I dawdled behind as they slipped one by one into the waters, changing from awkward and vulgar beasts into creatures of extreme elegance. The sun was still struggling to get over the rim of Ladder Creek Canyon, so the light was gentle. I sat and listened.
Cloudy Dawn over Lake Scott, #1
Between geese and insects, the Lake was far from quiet, and yet there was something very peaceful about it. Then the light show got started.
from Dawn Sequence
I realized how easy it would have been to miss this road, this place, this moment. I had to make several choices that took me away from the views I expected to see and put me here.
How humbling to realize that this fantastic beauty goes on every day, while we humans are getting ready for work, thinking we are the center of the universe. And all of this happens in, of all places, Kansas!
from Dawn Sequence
Want to see more? Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing my photography sets from Lake Scott as the week goes on.