Sweet are the waters

Girls' laughter fills the late afternoon, flying in the face of gathering storm clouds. Kristen and Alison are playing in the lake, shrieking and tumbling together with the rubber float bobbing between them. Apart from the girls, the beach is deserted and still. But sweet are the waters of Mazinaw: tiny waves are wings in the girls' voices rising in the young wind; now in their limbs' wild bloom - in flurry and fling and floundering morning begins again. I've never known such daring to live within sheer delight . . .

Meanwhile, across the lake the distant rain is a beaded curtain advancing quickly this way. Here on the shore I shout and point. And two monarch butterflies dart out of my hair down over the water. The dark lines etching the mosaic of their wings make soft and clear the gold they bear in this shadowed moment.

I hold my breath. No, it's not because these teen-age cries sickle the sunless air obliviously. Not even because it's my daughter and her friend. It's really what's happening between them. Their joy is making its own light . . . as the rain sweeps over us, as the two demented butterflies flit back up to my hair.

I peer through the diagonal day. The colors run across the years. . . . Almost out of my memory's reach, two young deaf-mutes gesture and smile in a lost summer. Their fingers are words whose fluttering wings cup and loop meanings like young girls whose action is water's, whose light is love's. O leap and laugh in a fallen cloud! Are two dreams made in a time-warp one?

Or does it really matter which? There is no guilt, there is no wrong, when joy is stainless, genuine, shared like this.

The rain stops as innocently as it began. In the lake's lull, in the wet silence, all things breathing, tender, slight, strange become unaccountably clear and beautiful. ''There lives the dearest freshness deep down,'' Hopkins wrote.

I look again.

Now Kristen's lovely, streaming face comes suddenly close as she runs across the sand to where I am.

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