Dear Lac Saint-Louis,
It is no exaggeration to say that you have saved my life. Walking beside you, taking in your ever-changing beauty, has rescued me from the sorrow of living in a house where someone I love is in chronic pain. It is a pain caused by a disease that neither he nor I (nor, it seems, anyone in the medical profession) can cure. It is a pain that is probably going to get worse, not better. It is a pain that dominates every aspect of our lives, as it dictates what can and can no longer be done, and has done its best to change us in many ways. So, when I am by your side, dear lake, my mind is distracted by the sight of your wide expanse of water that is sometimes blue, often gray, or bright white in winter.
In April, I watch your flowing water reclaim the space the ice has taken, snaking in little rivulets to the shore, where piles of ice shingles gather, pushed by water that has been freed by the sun.
Through spring, I watch your waters rise, often to dangerous heights, spilling onto the road and tilting the trunks of ancient trees.
In summer, you turn into a sea and I imagine you back in the 20s and 30s when people from the city would come out on the train from the city to bathe in you. My own grandmother was one of them. She’d come with friends from Rosemount on the Lachine train, packing a picnic for the day. I imagine them in their long-legged swim suits, swimming in you, everything around them the same, except for the Mercier Bridge stretching like a smudge in the distance to the east, and the newer highway 30 bridge to the west.
In the fall, I watch the winds whip you into an Atlantic fury, your waves so high they spray my feet when I sit on the swings in Valois Bay Park to watch you.
And then winter comes and the ice slowly closes over you once again, gray and choppy at first, then eventually turning into a sea of white.
Each time I walk, I think how lucky I am to live so close to you. I can reach your banks in 7 minutes, and within 30 walk a good distance around you. In that time, I’ll pass several benches and swings, but I don’t often stop. I like to move beside you; I like to see you moving beside me, your waters in constant motion, even when you appear still as a glass table top. I know that, underneath, you are roiling, connected to vast waterways – the Lachine Rapids and the St. Lawrence River to the east, the St. Lawrence Seaway to the west.
If I could slip into you like a fish I would swim to Nova Scotia, where my only child was born, then back up to Kingston, where my father died in a hospital beside Lake Ontario to the east. You are part of my family’s history. You are part of my personal history as I use you to help me through these tough times.
So, thank you Lac Saint-Louis. You’re cheaper than therapy and healthier than drugs. For as long as you will allow me, I will continue to walk beside you. Spray me as often as you like; it reminds me you’re near.