Breaking the Seal

by Susan Larson

We knew the lake as children, ate whitefish
caught in cold early morning nets, fish fried
over wood coals in the cottage kitchen.

We saw the lake as children, skirted the shore
to climb the fire tower and seal the door
against bears, trundling through the grass below.

We felt the lake as children, easing feet
over sharp rocks, dashing through Siberian
waters, sword-like on our sensitive skin.

We stand, no longer children, in sadness
on warm sand, where once we picnicked at dusk,
campfire blazing against the Northern night.

We gather as adults in bright daylight,
passing among us the square pasteboard box,
lifting the seal to peer at its contents.

We shake it in turns, freeing the gray grains
into the vast blue-green Lake Superior,
cold, agate-edged, our brother’s resting place.

Susan Larson returned to Spruce Pine after a 15-year career as a fundraiser at UNC Greensboro. Prior to that, she was instrumental in starting and shaping the Toe River Arts Council, which serves Mitchell and Yancey counties. Born and educated in the Midwest, she has lived in Mitchell County longer than anywhere else.

About Breaking the Seal — When I was very young, my two brothers and I spent summers with family friends who lived in a cottage in an abandoned Coast Guard Station on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My middle brother counted that time and place as the happiest in his life.