It’s a bloody hot day in Nashville, a Wednesday, the kind of day where walking the 50 or so feet from your kitchen door to the mailbox means beads of sweat forming fast on your forehead and upper lip. Tim and I are inside, working, I at my laptop on the dining room table, he from his computer on the sofa. When I look up from the article I’m writing, I see him straight ahead; when I turn to the right, it’s all blue skies and beating sunshine above our front yard.
I want to be sitting in the grass, I want to be having a picnic, I want to be sipping lemonade while rocking on a giant front porch.
Then I remember the heat, and I change my mind: I want to go swimming.
“What time is it?” I say to Tim. He tells me it’s half past noon. “Too bad,” I answer back. “Wish we had time to go to the lake.”
And then we look at each other from across our freelance perches, and he says what we’re both thinking: oh yeah, we do.
So we finish our work and throw some towels in a bag and drive 20 minutes to Percy Priest, the manmade lake that makes Nashville feel a little less landlocked. We haven’t been there since last summer, when we were still engaged, on a Saturday that was loud and crowded and earned me a sunburn on my back.
Today it’s quiet, just a few dozen people grilling or swimming or soaking up sun. We stretch our blanket out in the green grass, sandy shores ahead of us, the smell of charcoal in the air. We step into the water and it’s warm, like a bathtub, and I don’t have to shudder when I dip my toes in first.
We’re only there two hours, but it’s two hours that feels a million miles from life—a few hours that feels like a summer vacation in the middle of the day. We walk, hand in hand, to the water; come back to the blanket to dry off; go back to the water; come back to the blanket. It’s so peaceful, so relaxing, so like Wisconsin or Florida.
I finish the book I’ve been reading, “Writing Down the Bones“, in which Natalie Goldberg talks about one of her favorite writing prompts for students: to talk about a time when you were happy. She says this is worth doing because,
“Stories stay with us … Our stories are important … To begin with, write like you talk, nothing fancy. This will help you get started.”
I look up from where I’m laying on my stomach, elbows propping me up, and a little girl runs past us in her bathing suit. I hear voices laughing in the water. I see Tim laying next to me, a smile on his face. We go back into the lake, and the way I talk to him, while we’re standing together, water coming just above our shoulders, minnows swimming past our feet, is with a breathless, “This is so fun!”
We come home, taking showers and sweeping up sand and unpacking our towels, and we make frozen yogurt. It tastes like soft serve—the kind I used to get at places like TCBY, perfect for piling high with toppings like fruit and coconut and nuts, perfect for eating on the couch with your husband after an afternoon at the lake.
And I want to tell you here, the way I’d tell you if we were talking, how much I like this day, how much I love laying by the water on a weekday, surrounded by forests and swimmers and picnic tables.
But then I think about Natalie Goldberg and about writing how we talk, and all that comes out is “It was wonderful!” and “I love this” and “This is so fun!” So then I think, you know, sometimes, maybe that’s exactly right.