The deck at the end of the walkway was it. There was nothing else, nothing left to explore, nowhere left to go, nothing left to see, or do. I’d walked out to the deck, the walkway just above the surface of the lake, and sat down.
“Is this all there is?” That’s the voice I kept hearing in my head. “Is this all there is?” I knew what it meant. It was the most obvious question I’d ever heard, really. “Is this all there is?”
I remember my mother, when I was in 10th grade, only 15 years old, “Do you have a plan for your life?” It was the same way with everyone. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” “What are you going to do for a living?”
The walkway was a straight line, maybe 100 feet long. It started at the edge of the lake, and extended straight out. At the end of it was the deck. I remember the guy at the lodge desk explaining, “This is one of the best features of the hotel. You can go out at night, under the stars, and the moon, and sit on the deck, and watch the stars, and the lake, and forget everything.”
My room was on the second floor of the building, its windows looked out over the lake. I could open the curtains with the lights out, and stay inside, and watch the lake from there. Like most people did. Sitting on the deck, I could see them, standing in the windows, or sitting in the chairs they’d pulled over to the windows.
They couldn’t feel the breeze. Hear the birds, frogs, crickets, or anything else. They were in the sealed environments of their rooms. Safe. Secure. With everything controlled. Planned. Organized.
On that deck I found myself thinking about limits to life, and how we make those limits. How we stop growing, exploring, learning, and settle into a single place, and never leave. Like walking to the deck on that walkway. A one way trip, with a known ending. Predictable. Safe.
If you stayed on that walkway, and that deck, you’d never touch the water of the lake. You could stick your feet or hands into the water, reaching over the edge. Almost no one ever did. If you stayed on that course, stuck with that plan, you’d never reach the other side of the lake. The walkway didn’t go that far. You’d never see what was hidden among the trees way over there. And those distant hills would remain distant hills.
If you stayed on that walkway, eventually you’d learn everything about it. Where to step to make something squeak. Where to step to be silent. What the walk was like in the rain. Perhaps, someday, you’d carry a chair out to the deck, and sit there. Or a computer, notebook, or book. Maybe you’d wander out with an easel, and paints, and try to paint the view.
But you’d always be on that same path. That same walkway. That same deck. Sometimes, there might be clouds, so you couldn’t see the stars. Sometimes, there might be smoke from a fire somewhere. Perhaps, one night it might be raining, with lightning, and you’d stay inside.
But always, the path would be the same. The walk would be the same. The end point would be the same. Nothing would ever change.
Then, I wondered, what would happen if you got a canoe, carried it out to the deck, put it on the water, and climbed into it. Would that break the rules? What would happen? Or, perhaps, you could carry that canoe to somewhere along the shore, and put it on the lake there, and climb into it.
In that canoe, you could cross the lake. Or go all the way around it, seeing the entire shore up close. You could pick a place on that shore, and land the canoe, get out, and explore.
You could change. You could grow. You could do something different.
Instead of walking the same path every day, to the same destination, and the same result.
Perhaps that’s why whoever build the walkway and the deck built them. To remind people. To remind us. To remind me. That I didn’t have to settle for the same path every day. The same endpoint. The same story.
That instead, I could make my own path, change where the journey went, and end up someplace new, someplace different. Maybe it wouldn’t be safe. Maybe it would be better. Maybe it wouldn’t. And that didn’t matter. What mattered was, I didn’t have to walk the same path every day, endlessly. I could leave the well worn, well traveled path. And try something different.
I spent the night staring at the stars, and the surface of the lake. I’d found what I’d been searching for. What I’d been missing for years. A single word.
It was past time that I did. “And I wonder. What will I find on the far side of the lake?”
It’s week 109 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.