Waldo Lake is east of Eugene, Oregon, out Highway 58, past the dammed up waters of Dexter Reservoir, beyond the forlorn former logging town of Oakridge. We are celebrating Mary’s birthday, a dozen of us moving across the still waters in a flotilla of canoes and kayaks, paddling across the surface where we can look down fifty feet and see the clear shape of rocks and the ripples in the sand as though they were an arm’s length away. The waters are the color of cobalt, of the disappearing glaciers, of Mexican blown glass, absorbing the hue of the half-dome of sky above. The waters are deep and pure, some of the purest in the world. Ultraoligotrophic is the word that scientists use to describe this type of water that borders on sterile, unable to support much life because of its lack of organic material. A bit of plant life clings to the rocks, but aside from that there are only trout that are stocked every other year and a few gulls, one lone grebe floating in the a life-size Zen painting we have stepped into, through.
We stop along one bank on the far side of the lake to take our second swim of the day in the ice cold waters that make us yelp into the silence. Along the shore, a swath of forest burned more than a decade ago at first appears as a cluster of gray-washed trunks of dead trees. But I walk up into the trees to pee, going farther than i need to just to soak in the solitary silence, and up close, the land is bursting back into being. Green plants reach up from the black coal remains and life begins again.
The water I can see through the dead trees is beautiful, achingly beautiful, but it is also in some way empty. Life depends on an organic mess to survive, on fire and muck to create the breeding ground for resurrection.