Cow Lake


The horizon stretched itself thin across the windshield, endless and unencumbered. It snaked to my right out the passenger window and I reached for it, smoothed it, as if it were a strand of hair out of place. My arm out the window was carried upwards by the car’s momentum and my hand became a fleshy crow against the clouds. I let myself float there a minute, musing. Then his voice broke the silence. When he was younger, his family had an exchange student from China who was overwhelmed by all the open space. How appropriate, I thought, that abundant space had made a kid from crowded Hong Kong uneasy. How funny that, as I sat passenger-side and wide-eyed, I empathized.

As the road funneled us forwards, filtering us through town and out into pastures, I leaned on his shoulder and watched the huge, placid sky through the sunroof, I pointed at horses, I took in big gulps of Eastern Washington air and audibly sighed them out. He smiled at my wonder and drummed, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my knee, to Radiohead oozing through the car speakers. A native, the vastness had swallowed him long ago, but I needed to savor every blade of wheatgrass, every inch of azure sky. I couldn’t help but be filled up, as perfume does a bottle.

When the narrow gravel road began shooting pebbles at the windshield and the car tires seemed unsure in their muddy tracks, he said that we were getting close. Hills came into view, and I squinted, trying to make out what was in the distance. We were looking for a lake, but I pushed the memory of a giant, grey Lake Washington out of my mind. We were looking for a country lake, for Cow Lake.

Sure enough, it appeared, a large puddle in the midst of low, grassy hills. He stopped the car and we got out, my brown leather boots squelching as they touched muddy ground.  From his description, I’d expected a pool of sooty water. While it may have been just that, all I could see, as it sat there frozen over and illuminated in the sun, was an intricate stained glass window or a piece of icy Venetian tile.

I meandered along the lakeshore, skipping in the dry grasses like a little girl and letting the cold wind bring out the rosiness in my cheeks. He lingered back from me awhile, perhaps musing on the day much as I was, or reminiscing about times spent swimming in the hot sun with his siblings. I smiled, thankful that my footprints would be left in the mud of his memories.

Suddenly desiring to meet his kind gaze and push a hay-bale blonde lock from his face, I turned back. Finding his outline in the distance, my walked turned to a run. Every pore drank in the sweetness of the day, and for a moment, I flew.


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