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Devil's Lake Dreamtime (Volume 94, May 30 - August 23, 2007)

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

Monday, July 9, 2007

I worked my ass off in the punishing heat and humidity all week, knowing I’d get to take Sunday off to go to Devil’s Lake. That was the hottest day. I think it hit 99 degrees here yesterday. It was very windy. We had our own version of the Santa Ana winds. I’ve never felt such a strong, hot wind before. I kind of liked it.

Michelle at Shadyside Kennel agreed to take Caramel and Boomer for the day. She has central air in the kennels so we figured Caramel would be happier anyway. And we didn’t want to rush.

We left here at 9:45 and got back after 8:00 last night. The horses were in all day and were not happy with me. I think they had a miserably hot, fly-filled day inside. The dogs did okay, except Caramel collapsed on his way out of the kennel. His hind leg just gives.

Ellis and I had a wonderful day. We recognized that Caramel will most likely never go to Devil’s Lake again. Our trip there in the spring was ruined when Ellis’ new car broke down. But Caramel’s gone downhill since that ill-fated attempt and now I don’t think he could even do the relatively easy walk we planned to do then. Certainly he can’t go there while it’s hot and I have no reason to think he’ll do anything but continue to decline physically. This knowledge makes me very sad. We missed the dogs’ presence a lot, but Devil’s Lake was magical as always and it was inevitably more relaxing not worrying about them. So, we were leisurely.

We stopped and watched Dennis Crahen’s new batch of yearling foals. I fell in love with a big, confident grulla colt — the only one to try the horse cookies I threw.

We went to Farm and Fleet. I bought fly spray, gardening gloves, work gloves, horse treats, a card and wrapping paper for Marilyn. We got a non-slip floor mat for Caramel to eat on. Ellis got universal transmission/hydraulic fluid for tractors. We never buy big bags of chocolate anymore.

We got lunch at Cousins Subs and ate at a shaded picnic table on the North Shore of the lake. There were whitecaps on the lake!

We swam. The water was clear. Even though the park was crowded, nothing is ever really crowded — part of Devil’s Lake’s magic. We had all kinds of room to swim. Not like Oak Street Beach, for example.

All day I kept having clear memories of childhood and summer. I thought of the lilac-colored two piece bathing suit with white polka dots and a sheer matching cover-up that I was so pleased with in sixth or seventh grade. My mom and I bought it. I proudly wore it into the living room to show my dad. He said, “It’s cute, but what’s the top for?” My face fell or I started crying as my mother said sharply, “Quentin! How can you be so insensitive?”

It’s true I was really slow to get boobs. (At this juncture, any number of men would find it really clever to say, “And you’re still waiting, aren’t you?”) (To which I would reply, “As many of your colleagues have pointed out, 'More than a mouthful is just waste material.' ")

Those summer days in Glen Ellyn, before my dad got sick…they were so perfect. We’d spend the day swimming at Glen Ayre. I’d punctuate my time in the water with visits to the fence to stare at Jan Katzburg’s horses.

We had so many meals of steaks cooked on the grill, or hamburgers, and corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. My dad’s specialty was black cows, aka root beer floats. Or else we’d have ice cream sandwiches for dessert, the kind you make yourself by putting a slab of ice cream (preferably mint chocolate chip) between two large sugar wafers. Or maybe we’d make s’mores.

One or two summers I spent most of my free time reading a book while sitting in our maple tree. I had no fort — only a convenient branch or two. I remember sitting up there reading, waiting for dinner to be ready. I could smell food grilling. It’s so hard to believe I ever had those happy, normal, prototypically middle-class suburban summer days, wrapped in the security of a family headed by two healthy, functioning parents. We had the best back yard in town.

All day yesterday I was half at Devil’s Lake; half back in my old yard in Glen Ellyn — more of the magic of Devil’s Lake.

In one way, yesterday was not an auspicious day to go to Devil’s Lake. The front page article of the Sunday paper had this title:


It was a huge, three-page article detailing the circumstances leading to 14 recent (last 12 years or so?) deaths or serious injuries. One guy sleepwalked off the cliffs and plunged to his death. Of course, many of the accidents occurred in the dark and involved alcohol. Almost none involved serious, trained rock climbers.

Part of our mission for the day was to scatter some of Don’s ashes. He loved Devil’s Lake. So, after we swam on the North Shore, we drove around to the South Shore. We went in the water on that end, where there were no whitecaps. Again, it seemed crowded but it never actually was.

We started hiking at 3:00. We found the perfect spot, right on the edge of the bluffs, from which to release Don’s ashes. The rocks there formed a sort of natural altar. To the right, a magnificent white pine reached into the sky. Two raptors circled in front of us. Ellis said a few words, choked up, and threw his good friend’s ashes. The huge wind dispersed them instantly. Ellis broke down, mildly, for several minutes.

But we both felt Don’s presence all over the day, strongly. Ellis said it was the first time he started to feel better since Don died. Devil’s Lake is such a spiritual vortex — why wouldn’t Don’s spirit want to be released there?

We walked for almost two hours. Then we swam again.

It must have been before our hike that we had another magical experience.

I was floating while Ellis held my feet. Suddenly I remembered him towing me around the lake that way after I hurt my shoulder, back in “ought-one.”

I was lost in a reverie when Ellis said, “There’s a dragonfly on your nose!” Once he pointed it out, I could actually feel the dragonfly’s tiny little feet on my nose! If I closed one eye, I could see one blurry wing! My nose, the island.

This little guy sat on my nose for at least 45 seconds before Ellis scared him by leaning in too close. He was various blues, according to Ellis. I wonder how long he would have sat there if Ellis had ignored him. I loved that moment. I was quite flattered.

Of course I looked up Dragonfly in the Animal Medicine book when we got home. Dragonflies have to do with illusion.

“ Dragonfly medicine is of the dreamtime and the illusionary facade we accept as physical reality.

…Dragonfly is the essence of the winds of change, the messages of wisdom and enlightenment, and the communications from the elemental world.

…Dragonfly medicine always beckons you to seek out the parts of your habits which you need to change…if you feel the need for change, call on Dragonfly to guide you through the mists of illusion to the pathway of transformation.

…Follow Dragonfly to the place inside your body where magic is still alive, and drink deeply of its power. This strength belongs to you. It is the power of becoming the illusion. This ability is ever changing, and contains within it the knowledge that you are creating it all. ”

We stayed at the lake until 5:30. We went from there to a really good Chinese restaurant and got food to go. Then, back to Farm and Fleet to buy some half-priced flowers. We didn’t realize they closed at 6:00 so I only grabbed a couple perennials and one annual.

We stopped at Peck’s. I got grapes, green beans, blueberries and eight ears of local corn, our first local corn of the season. We’ll have it tonight.

We both stayed up fairly late. Then it was a bizarre night.

In the middle of the night Caramel’s panting woke me up. I turned on the light to turn on the A/C and discovered Ellis was gone.

I was so annoyed that he was sleeping in the guest bed. Phil and Sarah last slept in it. They’ll be back the week-end after next. Now I have to change the bed. I already asked Ellis not to sleep in there. He was restless and hot and turned the ceiling fan on high.

I returned to my room and fell into a partial sleep state. Then I thought I heard Ellis’ bed thumping. I thought he was masturbating so I went in there to yell at him — why is he doing that when he has a wife who would be more than happy to have sex with him? I said this to him, angrily, then noticed the young, blonde man, rather reptilian-looking, with blue eyes, lying naked next to him in the bed.

I was totally stricken with the import of what I was seeing. I returned to my room for the second time, slammed the door and felt my world crumbling around me. Oh god, it was true after all. He was gay all this time. I was afraid to leave the room. I was utterly defeated.

I thought Ellis would come after me. Instead, in a short while I heard them both go downstairs, laughing. I heard Ellis say, “I was ready to start partying anyway.” They left. It was 3:00 in the morning!

I lay there in a daze. How could I not know this man at all?? I saw it all — the divorce, the betrayal, the anger, future poverty, the loss of the farm and my animals.

I heard people. People were coming over. Word had gotten out — Val finally knew. Gay guys arrived; then women. Two women sought me out, women I’d never seen before. Friends of Ellis; part of his secret double life.

I didn’t think it could get any worse until they started speaking kindly to me. That’s when I understood that Ellis had sent them to see if I was all right. This bit of compassion meant that our relationship was actually going to end. Soon.

Eventually I heard Ellis. He came into the bedroom. “El, did you masturbate last night?” I asked, confused. “No,” he said, laughing.

“Oh my god. I had this dream…”

He leaned over and kissed the side of my head. “That was your dream, not mine.”

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