Bathed in serenity and sunset

The water pump in Julia's house is broken.

Yep, that's right, I've traveled nearly 400 stinky, sweaty miles on a bus from pollution-ridden New York City to humid rural Maine, and her water pump's not working. The toilet now resides near the treeline of Jules's property. The sink? Over by the wild lupines. And the shower? Oh, the shower no longer exists, thank you for asking. For the next three days (it's a holiday weekend), please consider the backyard your bathroom.

Still, I'm in Maine, it's summertime, and I'm out of the city for a while: Life isn't all that bad. I bite back the minor complaints and grin.

But after a night out at the local lobster shack (where we get so much fish juice on us that the cat spends the night curled up between us), and a day spent hiking in the sticky sea air of Monhegan Island, my friend and I are thoroughly ripe.

We smell.

The dogs on the ferry back to the mainland from Monhegan eyeball us, putting their noses cautiously up in the air and then raising their eyebrows when they discover the source of the scent. "Oh my!" they must be thinking. "So humans roll around in smelly stuff, too!"

Jules and I are desperate. We drive home and pick up some biodegradable shampoo and a big bar of soap. We pull up to an old logging road that strikes off through the woods just as the sun drops behind the trees.

It's getting dark, especially in the woods, but Jules has walked this path more times than she can count.

The path opens up on what I have to call Jules's Lake - she's been swimming here since she was a baby. The water level is higher today than it's ever been, from the recent rains that swept the Northeast. She can't really see where she used to jump off. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less.

She says that there're usually two or three other people at the lake, but at this late hour, there isn't anyone. We pull off our swimsuits and dive into cool, clean lake water.

We soap and shampoo and float and swim. I am sitting on a rock with my bottom submerged in the lake (I never want to leave), scrubbing the dirt out from between my toes, when Jules hisses and pokes me. She points to our left, where a gaggle of geese is nosing through the rushes, looking for food.

They honk quietly to themselves, and Jules and I giggle behind our hands at the discordant sounds.

I crawl out from the lake, quietly, as the geese make their way toward us, gossiping among themselves. They take quite a while to float over - nearly the entire sunset. And as they pass our rock, where we are sitting very, very still, the geese in the lead, who are swimming in tight formation, turn their heads lazily to observe the two featherless beings on the shore.

The juveniles in the gaggle, who are floating uncertainly behind the leaders and straggle out of formation frequently, pay us no mind.

The geese continue on their way, out of our line of sight. As the last goose crosses the sunset, I slip back into the lake and swim a little way out, doing some oblivious floating of my own.

I think contentedly that there's really no good reason for a water pump when you can have a lake.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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