Big Banal Lake

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By Kevin Carrel Footer

The enormous lake, all 616 square kilometres of it, was, I declared, banal. How, I was asked, could a lake be “banal”? Wasn’t I mistaken, wouldn’t another word be better? But I stuck by my description because, explicable or not, it was true. Looking at the lake, I abhorred it, all 616 square kilometres. A vast, meaningless expanse of tarmac is what it was. Insignificant in all its vastness. It was a gut feeling.

Walking by its shores, my first impression was confirmed: it was lifeless in spite of the few fish feeding after sundown, in spite of the occasional pleasure boat that sped across in search of its home berth. Boats that were further out only seemed to hover out in the blue expanse attended by the dull whine of a motor that from time to time blew in on the wind. I had wandered along several kilometers of its shoreline and still I had found nothing good in it. Worse, I was certain that I never would.

Later I learned that the lake had been formed by the largest explosion to trouble earth in the last 5,000 years. Below the placid waters lay a rhyolitic vent, a direct conduit to the core of the earth and all its un-Godly power. The explosion around AD186 was so powerful that skies on the other side of the planet turned “red like blood.”

But this did not change my opinion of the slovenly body of water that floated out before me. This lake was not ominous but banal. Any remnant of its once-violent nature had been spent long ago in an ancient fury that few remembered. Today the lake lingered but could do nothing more than muster up some feeble waves from time to time.

Something in its genesis had spoiled that lake in the same way that man-made reservoirs cannot avoid being an affront to nature. There is something unnatural in the way that the earth slips into the water, something that betrays the union as artificial.

This lake was not man made, but the plethora of vacation homes, motor boats, and water skiers that were drawn to it were a subtle confirmation that I was not alone in my disregard. Such widespread disrespect comes from somewhere. And though the houses that lined its shores paid the lake a certain back-handed hommage in plate glass, they were otherwise an affront to something once mighty that had spent its essence.

I cannot explain why it is that I disliked that lake so intensely from the afternoon that I arrived at its shores and that the mention of it still arouses the same reaction. Something unexplained and perhaps unexplainable tipped me off: the lake, for me, remains banal.

My dislike may be irrational – but being irrational is not the same as being wrong.


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