PROSE: At the Lake by Ronnie Angel Pope

Georgia O’Keeffe – Lake George (formerly Reflection Seascape), (1922)

Writer and Artist, Ronnie Angel Pope, is currently based in Cardiff. Her work considers themes of pilgrimage and the ‘honoring’ of place, whist crafting narrative surrounding the inanimate world and its interaction with the human sphere. This exploration of a co-dependent relationship between the ‘human’ and ‘the other’ is done so with emphasis on the narrative voice as ‘observer’ and/or ‘visitor’. She often cites Italo Calvino, Jean-Luc Godard, Iain Sinclair, and Angela Carter as places to draw wisdom from.

She was sat in the shade on a bench before a sprawling display of hammers and sickles; great posters glued onto walls of exposed plaster. It was nearing midday, and having just arrived, she walked her bags across the gravel of the small main square, and washed her face in the fountain. Her dress of pastel cotton moved gently in the breeze, and the males who smoked cigars gazed onwards. At this point in the day, the sun was high, so most of the locals and the visiting wealth had propped their town bikes against the racing-green railings, and headed into nearby bars to play cards and converse quietly. The terrazzo floors of these haunts prompted the wooden soles of men’s dress shoes and even the straw wedges of women’s espadrilles to slip slightly and sing out in cacophony. In a town where anonymity was most likely to be tangible, for she was much older now, the floor somehow made this prospect unimaginable. The sound of the coming and going of feet was as familiar as the waxing and waning of the high and low seasons.

It had been winter the last time that she had visited, and she could not have imagined that she would have been so grateful for the sharpness of the lemon over fine ice and the dusty electric fans through the doorways off of the square. The way in which the artificial breeze caressed her forehead, and as she lifted the curtain of her hair, the way it caught the nape of her neck. Yearning for a body of cool water, she recalled seeing signs that gave directions to the lakes where she had skated so many years ago. Dwelling on the possibilities surrounding this thought for a while, she slid a few euros on to the tarnishing silver plate at the bar, smiled with reserved appreciation, and carried her belongings out of the door.

At the lake’s edge she unfolded a large square of white muslin, placed upon it was one slim volume of The History of Stones, and a portable radio, which she tuned to a station that was playing Erik Satie’s 5th Gnossienne (Modéré). Decidedly, she removed her watch, setting it face-upwards on the thin gauze of fabric. It was safe beneath the watchful eye of a deciduous Larch. The water was clear, impossibly gentle, with healthy copper stones. Her feet edged towards it. With intent, she removed her dress and submerged her shoulders.

Floating in thought, she sensed how close she was to the mountains. The very water that held her had flowed from them, through the roots of evergreens, bypassing mountain huts and stretched of meadow. She could taste the violets. Each summer, many families, like hers, would emigrate from the city, and find solace in the woodblock floor and vast space that the houses here provided. The younger children, who were now in their twenties, would read with their aunts and uncles near the forests, tend to the orchards, eat fresh pasta and look for empty barn spaces. This year, she’d chosen to turn up unannounced after gathering together the plane fare.

Swimming ashore, she dried quickly in the sun, pulled on her clothing, and asked the opinion of her watch. The afternoon was gaining pace, and she wanted to reach the house in time to flour her hands with her family, and chop the herbs. Taking the back way, the path through the trees, she knelt down to pick some fennel. She nibbled at it as she walked home.