BY: JACOB WARD
crater lake, oregon
Water is, at its most daunting, at its least enticing, a living, raven substance; more closely resembling the frightened expulsion of a tentacled sea monster than the stuff of bathtubs and beer. Step toward the edge. Well, step is ambitious. Take quarter steps with your leading foot, scooting the other in skeptical pursuit, until you can look down upon this boiling inkwell. The wind is moving — west to east, yes, but up and down too, and at a ridiculous speed. You feel the way a birthday candle must when Peter, the snotty just-turned-eleven year-old, sneezes during the wishing and the extinguishing. If you are wearing shorts the wind will surely hike them into a rumpled diaper thing. Do not let this distract you. You are too close to what instinct warns is self-ruin and doom. The word instinct has a habit of seeming peripheral, like a third member of the Moral Shoulder Society. But at this edge, amidst the wind and the waves, instinct manifests itself in the belly. It turns like a centrifuge, hurling oatmeal and Clif Bars to the perimeter of your stomach, leaving the Busch Light to gyrate alone in the center. The temperature is forty degrees and the sun retreated from threatening clouds hours before you crept onto this otherwise awesome, but shitty, granite boulder. Sure, Crater Lake makes for a nice postcard in June, July, and August. But there is a reason why tourists don’t flock here in October. But you are here in October. And you are standing on this otherwise awesome, but shitty, granite boulder on the edge of the lake, 1,000 feet below the crater rim. The waves are now four feet tall and rhythmic. Your shirt is gone, maybe your shorts too. The wind has an exaggerated effect on your nipples. The centrifuge in your gut is wobbling in distress. The universe is telling you “find a down jacket, drink a beer, stay put.” And then you remember Rule of The Road #2: Don’t Be a Weenie.