Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Noodleology at Dream Lake

Jennifer floating on Dream Lake.  The water was silty this year from all the summer rain we have had in the region.  The house in the distance is rarely used.  So we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.
Some readers might recall that the getaway Jennifer and I planned last year to Dream Lake was overwhelmed by unexpected interference from our daughter. This year we took our daughter and her cool new boyfriend with us. For both Jennifer and I it was four days and three nights of relaxing off the grid. No cell phone. No iPad. No TV. Almost nothing, though some friends that joined us remained lightly connected and I used their devices to keep track of the Braves playing in Philadelphia.

Dream Lake is about 3 acres in size and is situated amidst the thick woods and large open fields of a rural area of northwestern South Carolina, where the state has rolling terrain. Jennifer and I spent several hours each day down at the dock the owners built on the small lake they made by damming up a spring-fed stream and the runoff into the valley from rains. She enjoyed floating out in the water as I did with several of our Dillo friends who made the trek up from Atlanta's urban jungle.  Ever since our DC trip Jennifer has been itching to get “away”, which meant no obligations, nothing to see or do, and a major water feature.  After about 20 minutes out on her float she announced that she had “arrived” at the “someplace else” she craved.  It doesn’t take long to reach that mental state when there is virtually no one else around and you have plenty of water in the Now.

It is a short walk from the cabin and along the edge of a 10-12 acre field through the pines and hardwoods down to the dock. There are various floats to choose from and even a canoe and fishing gear if you are so inclined. Over the course of a couple of days I got to try everything but my floatation of choice were the various styrofoam noodles that you can either bend and sit upon down in the water or place around your upper body in various ways. I preferred to sit on three noodles. That way my entire body was submerged in the water and therefore blocked from the sun's rays. Only my head and the top part of my shoulders stuck out of the water. My Panama hat shielded my face and most of try shoulders, so I didn't use any sun lotion or block. I detest using creams and lotions. Anyway, the plan worked. I floated for a long time out like that over the course of several sunny and hot afternoons without any lasting burn. When not in the water we dried ourselves in the shade of the sitting area built at the top of the dock. The slight breeze felt nice though the sun remained hot. Our bodies were chilled by Dream Lake so the heat did not seem as intense. Whenever the sun and humidity got a bit stifling you could hop back into the water for 15 minutes or so, get out and enjoy the refreshing summer air again.

After unloading our crammed full Cadillac, we were in the water within just a few minutes. The summer day was hot by the time we had made our 3-hour trip over there and the water was completely invigorating - warmed by the sun near the surface with pockets of very cold water further down. Dream Lake is filled with cool mountain water but it isn't so cold as to take your breath.  It was pretty silty, however, due to all the runoff from the plentiful rain we have had this summer.

I lost my glasses in the first couple of hours. I only really use them to drive and enjoy scenery. I don't need them to read though I often use cheapo reading glasses. Unfortunately, these particular spectacles were my "work" glasses so they were of quality and style. I was experimenting with various water noodle configurations when suddenly one length of styrofoam came lose as I was sitting on it and shot skyward knocking off my Panama hat. I reached over in the water to grab my hat and noticed I didn't have my glasses on. The noodle struck the side of my head as it erupted. Being styrofoam I barely felt it but it must have knocked my glasses cleanly off my head in a different direction from my hat. I looked around quickly but my glasses had already sank. We discussed briefly the possibility of trying to find them but I realized the water was dark and murky about 10-12 feet down. Finding those thin-style glasses in all that muck was not worth the effort. I joked with Clint that Dream Lake had taken my glasses as if to say: “Ok boy, you are here now. You don't need to see that far." Clint laughed.

My daughter and her boyfriend wanted to put up our large four-man tent shortly after we arrived. I cautioned against it as there was a chance of rain that afternoon. Still, it was bright and sunny and they got bored with hanging out at the dock so they shot back up the road to the cabin and had the tent set up just as Clint and I arrived back there. That was much later and Jennifer had already returned to the cabin to do stuff. It thundered on our way back up the path and when we arrived at the cabin, my daughter was putting the finishing touches on the tent. I laughed as I told her she was brave for setting up a tent in the middle of thunder and lightning. No sooner had I uttered those words than the wind blew strong and cool and the sky darkened. Large drops of rain fell haphazardly. I quickly made my way to a screened-in building across the driveway above the cabin's storm pit/cellar. Just as I arrived under its shelter the bottom fell out and it rained monsoon style for about 45 minutes.  Luckily, nothing had been placed in the tent yet.  Afterwards, I admired how well Clint’s fine backpacking tent had weathered the storm.  All dry inside.  His meditation cushion was drenched, however.  His gong was 2/3 filled with rainwater.  I dubbed it a waterlogged gong.

On the afternoon of our second day there Mark and I noticed a large insect flicking its wings on the surface of the water. It was actually coming toward us away from the grassy line of the bank. I thought that was odd and I used my legs in a running motion to glide with my noodles over toward the bug. As I approached the critter became so still on the water’s surface that I thought I had merely not seen it clearly (I no longer had my glasses after all) and that it was going to turn out to be a floating leaf. But I maintained my approach until I could see it clearly. It was a dragonfly or something like one. It had double bi-story wings but the top wing was missing on its right side. Perhaps the insect was incapable of lifting itself out of the water without all its wings. Its coloration was incredible. Bright green spots and iridescent blue were arrayed on its dark seemingly armored plate. By this time Mark and Jennifer were closing in along with Clint. It was at this precise moment that a fly landed on the head of the dragonfly. Instantly the floating insect's head turned 180 degrees and its mouth opened swallowing the fly. The last I saw of the fly, in the flash of a moment, were its eyes going down in closing jaws. It was an astonishing moment.  I extended my third noodle and the bug climbed aboard.  I took it back toward the dock while Jennifer got out and took some photos of it.

Jennifer took this shot of me as I used one of my three noodles to bring the injured dragonfly toward the dock.  Note my noodle floating technique...and the fact that my glasses are missing.  Doh!

Close-up of the dragonfly who seemed to prefer remaining on a noodle.
Late one night Jennifer and I found ourselves up with Billy, our attorney/musician Dillo friend, who has made himself into something of a smoothie guru. (A trendy thing among some Dillos. Clint has become another aspiring smoothie king.)  Billy was telling us how he had merged a couple of diets into his smoothie approach. The doors to the cabin were open and the windows were up to let the cool night air into the otherwise warm cabin. Somewhere, despite all the window and porch screens, a very large flying bug (a roach of some sort) started thumping into the wall and ceiling and making a great commotion in the kitchen. Jennifer was on the attack and wielded a kitchen knife against the noisy invader. She stabbed and banged the counter and made a major rattle while at one point gritting her teeth and allowing "you do not get to live!" Billy became a little uneasy as the assault continued and became even more chaotic. He left the kitchen area and joined me near the cabin's dining table as Jennifer slashed the poor bug. She brought me the antennae after she chopped it off the unfortunate creature, as a trophy I suppose. Afterwards we enjoyed Billy's chocolate flavored smoothie concoction.  Billy experienced a new found respect for the tenacity of my wife, well-known to me for many years. Most people, even Dillo friends, have never seen her quite that way.

Will and Denise came up with his elderly dog Bo for one afternoon. They hung out and enjoyed an evening meal with the group. Will and I ended up conversing about the use of UN attack helicopters in the Congo in response to recent threats by the Rwandan-backed terrorist group known as “M23” . The region has been very unstable for many years. I commented that there was no other war like it on the planet, with some 5 million dead. Will quickly added that if you stretched the time frame over the past 25 years - to include the genocide in Rwanda and other acts of violence in the region - the total dead is more like 10 million. Of course, when you get to that level of violence you are talking something around the caliber of the Eastern Front in World War Two, a subject I have posted about with great interest. We Dillos certainly goof-off a lot in our conversations. We have fun. But we also enjoy serious dialog with a bit more analysis than you are likely to find at most weekend getaways.

Mark and Eileen brought their three little dogs. Counting a couple of neighbor dogs that visited throughout our stay there were 8 or 9 canines roaming the premises, which of course led to several sporadic episodes of a bunch of dogs barking at sounds or newly arriving guests. Early sunrise seemed to be a popular time for all the dogs to bark and raise a ruckus, much to the dismay of some Dillos, tent-dwellers in particular. But, hey, we are dog friendly people.  Mark is a Dillo that likes to talk baseball, so we spoke a great deal about the Braves throughout our stay.  Eileen, the quintessential gourmet cook, made all sorts of tasty summertime treats for us. Lots of veggies and salads and some wonderful grilled pork.  She made sure we ventured beyond smoothie territory.

My daughter and her boyfriend claimed to have enjoyed themselves in spite of the usual Dillo camaraderie.  They swam less than the rest of us.  But they enjoyed the fact that the cabin had a TV and a modest movie collection.  They played cards and bocce ball with the group.  She enjoyed several cigars and I managed to teach her to blow her first smoke-ring which was a mild triumph.  She is growing up and able to party with her parents now – as uncool as we might sometimes seem.  Her boyfriend turned the Dillos on to some newer hip-hop music on the cabin's stereo.  A nice variation off Clint’s usual eclectic mix.
No Dillo weekend is quite complete without a game of Bocce.  Here Will makes a toss as Billy, Mark, and Clint look on.  We play crudely without the official court, al naturale.
From time to time during the extended weekend my thoughts inevitably drifted back to my glasses lying on the bottom of Dream Lake.  Clint claimed there were plenty of other pairs down there to keep them company.  It all came down to my lack of understanding and appreciation for noodleology, the special science of water floatation on styrofoam noodles.  There were several conversations among Dillos concerning how to achieve maximum effect with water noodles.  Billy arrived late in the initial conversation and mistakenly thought our reference to "the noodles" was "sexadelic" in nature, an awesome term he made up.
Clint, me, and Billy drying off in the shade after a dip in Dream Lake.  Noodles galore in the foreground, along with the top of a dog's head.  Plenty of dogs cohabitating with Dillos on this trip. 
Ultimately, it depends on the way you want to posture yourself.  Do you want to float upright? Recline? Rest your arms? There are many variations. But, quite obviously, at no time do you want your noodle to slip from under the surface and launch into the air. For that reason, I found it better to squeeze the noodles between my legs rather than to bend them and sit on them from side-to-side like a swing. Lesson learned. You won’t find much on noodleology if you google it.  Could it be that after all these years a new science was discovered at Dream Lake?  If so, it wouldn’t be the first time Dillo minds have gathered to create something innovative and different.  That’s kinda our thing.  As is just being out there on the water with no one else around.  Enjoying a summer day and realizing that you have arrived at someplace else.

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