Listening when the Lake Sings

What is the song of a lake? What is lake music?

Most noticeable, of course, is the waves. Combine their rhythm with the distant sound of power boat motors, all humming different pitches, like bagpipes. Then add in seagulls, squawking intermittently, and laughter from shady picnic tables where families have gathered to barbecue. Follow it up with the wind shaking and rustling the beach grass and the soft sound of sand moving beneath bare feet. Finally there are the foghorns, those melancholy harbingers of cool lake mist.

Then we know it’s time to go home.

In the winter it is a different song. There are no barbecues or boats, no bare feet walking across the sandy shore, no grasses waving, adding percussion. It is quieter. It is a hibernation song.

Yet, still the lake sings.

In early winter, when night comes, the air cools and a thin layer of ice forms on the surface of the lake. One  morning as I walked along a path near the harbor I heard a tinkling sound, like an uncountable number of small bells ringing. It took me a moment to notice it; it was so soft, so delicate. That thin layer of ice which had formed during the night was being broken up by the gentle wave action of the lake. The symphony I heard was millions of thin slivers of ice moving in rhythm with the waves.

I was being serenaded by the lake, and the ice was dancing to its own high-pitched, ethereal song of nature as it performed.

The ice reflected the rising sun, dazzling me with sparkling lights. The ore dock reflected the chorus back to me. It was a tune filled with such sweetness, such longing, that I felt the lake sensed there was only a short amount of time for it to sing.

And so it did.

Listening to the lake music I realized that I only have a brief window of opportunity to sing as well. And I decided that I would.

But that was not the lesson I took away from this experience…

I’ve thought of that lake song many times since. How is it that one moment can stay with us? One moment where nothing really exciting happened–except we were somewhere and something made us feel a certain way. I didn’t plan for the lake to influence me that day with its music; I was just out walking and enjoying the early morning sunshine. But it did influence me–because I was observant enough to notice the moment.

So often we pass by things that could help us, lost in thought, remembering what we need to do, planning how we’ll do it, or chastising ourselves for what we’ve forgotten. We’re focused on giving ourselves a hard time for not doing something every second of the day and not accomplishing more.

We’re preoccupied with those who’ve hurt us.

What are we missing? Life could be singing for us and we wouldn’t even hear it. Life could be coaxing us to sing our songs and we wouldn’t even know it.

I’m grateful I was an attentive audience for that lake song, because even though those notes are still out there somewhere, ringing forever outward into the vast expanse of space, they are also living on in my memory. For all I know I was the only person to hear the lake sing that morning. I’m sure by the afternoon the thin layer of ice had melted.

I wasn’t there to see it go. I didn’t want to tarnish the memory by hearing the music fade away. I remember it at the height of its beauty, with the sun shining down on a million glittering shards of ice, and a million watery voices singing the morning into being.