Blue Lake

“Blue Lake,” Friend, Aug.–Sept. 1979, 21

Blue Lake

A weary Indian family stepped out of the cool green forest and stood for a moment, savoring the incredible beauty of the place they had discovered. There before them sparkled a placid blue lake, cupped by gently sloping hills. A dense cover of stately evergreen trees protected the water from high winds and scented the clean air with their spicy fragrance. A medley of joyful birdsongs echoed about them. Ferns and delicate wild flowers carpeted a forest that was splashed with blooming trees.

The family watched a large silvery fish leap out of the water; then it shimmied down, sending circular ripples over the calm surface. Across the lake a doe and her spotted fawn quenched their thirst. The doe stared curiously for a few moments and then ignored the human intruders.

The man and woman smiled at each other and unstrapped their heavy backpacks. They helped remove smaller ones carried by the boy and girl.

“It’s the perfect place for our summer home,” Yellow Wolf said with satisfaction. “Game is plentiful and this bountiful land will supply all our needs if we treat it kindly.”

“Yes,” Brown Deer agreed, smiling. “I saw a bee tree for honey and stands of berry thickets. There are also herbs for medicine and cooking. After surviving such a hard winter, the children will grow sleek and well fed in this peaceful, happy place.”

Yellow Wolf and his son Long Pine set snares for small game, then fished for their supper while Brown Deer and Red Squirrel unpacked their belongings. The speckled fish were hungry and could have provided a mighty catch, but the fishermen stopped after catching four large ones for their evening meal.

After their tepee was erected, Brown Deer scooped out a pit for her cooking fire. The pit was safe from breezes that might blow embers into the forest and start a fire that could devastate the area and wildlife.

Red Squirrel was drawn to clumps of brilliant orange flowers growing near the trees. The watchful mother stopped her work momentarily. “Choose only one flower to pick,” she cautioned, “but you may gather many dried seedpods. We will sow them in other spots around the lake, to spread their beauty for those who may come here after we are gone.”

All summer the family lived in the beautiful place they would always remember. Careful to take only what they needed, they nurtured the land. Then the leaves began to change color and the air turned crisp and cold. A heavy frost wilted the orange flowers. “The creatures have reared their young. Bears are fat for their winter sleep, and the birds are winging south. We must leave, too, before the deep snows come and trap us here,” Yellow Wolf said sadly.

Brown Deer nodded and sighed with regret. The family had been very happy here. She and Red Squirrel began to pack for the long journey south where winters were not so harsh. It was sad to think that they would probably never see this place or ever camp here again.

Brown Deer filled in and smoothed her cooking pit last, but the fresh soil looked like an ugly scar in the earth. Yellow Wolf and Long Pine waited patiently as mother and daughter planted sod and ferns to cover it. When the Indian family vanished into the forest, there was no sign to show they had lived here for a whole summer.

Almost 200 years later another family came to Blue Lake. They backed their shiny trailer over the buried cooking pit. “Ugh! The water is so ugly and brown. Why is it named Blue Lake?” Debbie asked her brother, as they read the sign warning that the water was not safe for swimming.

“Who cares?” Robert retorted. He was eager to finish helping his father unload the boat so he could race his new trail bike up and down the barren hills. Soon the noise of it shattered the stillness. Clouds of yellow dust hung in the air as he rode tight circles where a lush forest once grew.

Other trailers pulled in and the area was soon overcrowded with campers.

The air bristled with the noise made by humans. There were no happy birdsongs, and no animals came to the lake to quench their thirst. Safe drinking water had to be carried from faucets many yards away.

Boat motors churned the smelly brown water into foam. Later the lake would be dappled with the white, floating corpses of unwanted fish caught for “sport” and then thrown away.

Trash cans overflowed, and other rubbish had been tossed or blown into the lake.

A small patch of spindly orange flowers bloomed under one of the few remaining trees. Debbie yanked up a handful by the roots, strewing fragile petals and leaves. She broke off the roots and crushed delicate stems as she forced them into a paper cup. Her mother smiled and placed them in the center of a scarred picnic table.

The wind gusted, making a low moaning sound—or was it the haunting sorrow of Yellow Wolf and his family?

Illustrated by Mike Eagle