THE SADDEST THING —– TOTALLY NON-POLITICAL

Part of the reason for the Oklahoma City stop on my “World Tour” was to do new research for a thriller that an agent wants me to re-write. And I knew exactly how it would start.

“In the thick, early-morning mist that clung to the water of Lake Hefner, a sailboat was anchored offshore. From the deck, an invisible figure with night vision glasses watched as the play that had been so intricately orchestrated was about to begin just north of the lighthouse.”

 

And that’s where the problems began. I drove to beautiful Lake Hefner, camera in hand to take pictures of the the lighthouse, the lively restaurants perched just south of it,  the marinas that flanked it, along with the boats on trailers just south of the restaurants, and to get pictures of focal points from the north and south sides of the lake so Abbi could send me the zip drive stored in the front cover of the finished manuscript that will be Castles in Quicksand is stored. Then, from Peggy’s in Denver or wherever my life leads me from here, I could work on the re-write, get it to the agent, and start the rounds of pre-publication re-writing. I was stoked.

As I turned off the freeway at the Lake Hefner exit, my heart started sinking, and it hasn’t stopped.

The light house is fine. End of story.

I knew Bahama Breeze had closed, but Pearl’s wasn’t there anymore either. Now, there’s construction of what looks like will be office buildings where they used to be. There’s an almost-visible sign that says “We’ll Be Back” for the Red Rock. There are a couple of restaurants there, but they have no personality.

Some of my most pleasant afternoon/evenings were spent sitting alone on the outside deck of Pearl’s, having a cocktail and nice dinner, and watching the sailboats flit through the waves. The wakes they created made waves lap up against the rocks below the restaurant. I could close my eyes and feel what I pretended was  ocean breeze. The sea birds that had found their way to Hefner provided the musical overtones.

But the restaurants’ absence was just the beginning. The once-filled marina between the restaurants and the lighthouse was almost empty. The boats that were still in slips looked like they were balancing on sludge. The water level was below the painted bases of the boat that mandated the necessary water level for manipulating the live-aboards out into the lake.

I walked around the children’s park for more heartbreak. The seawall is about 10′ high — that’s an estimate — I couldn’t climb down the rocks to look up and get a good judgment.

My thoughts went back to when Bill and I were looking for a home in Oklahoma City and went to see a house just across Hefner Road on the north side (dam) side of Lake Hefner. Since it’s a man-made lake, the road is higher than the street on the other side of it.  We loved the house, but looked behind it to see a wall that we knew was the dam with a paved road atop it.  That wall (this is strictly from memory; Bill and I haven’t been together for over 20 years) was about three times higher than the house.

The realtor saw the look in our eyes and told us not to worry. That the dam for Lake Hefner had been designed with a run-off system so if it ever got too high, we’d be safe. After re-assuring us she told us that, of course, we would need to get flood insurance. That wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

The water level was well below the sea wall, and had been for some time. If I could have gotten down the rocks to the base of what used to be the lake, I could have easily walked about 20-30 feet in places where terns were standing. Dry land that used to be under at least 8 – 10 feet of water. I thought about going to Liberty Park on the south side of the lake to see how far I could walk out, but by then I was crying.  I looked out across the lake to see one lone sailboat, wind in its sails, skimming the water. But how could they possibly know where the lake was deep enough with the water so low?  Most of those lovely homes/cabin cruises/sailboats are now up on trailers, looking as forlorn as they did the day after the tornado swept across the lake and either capsized or moved them onto the land. Broken. Displaced. Destroyed. No longer able to bring the peace to their owners that they gave just the day before.

And then, I thought of the people who lived on Ski Island. This is a quiet housing development just west of Hefner with a causeway into the lake. Most houses have docks attached to the property and a boat waiting for a day of fun. I wondered if their boats were sitting on the silt of the lake bottom, too.

Lake Hefner gave me so many memories — of the time when we discovered a parent of one of Abbi’s friends was a child molester. I heard about it the night before all hell broke loose because I was on the Board of Trustees, but didn’t know how to address it with her. Then, the next morning, she heard it on the news on our way to school. She asked why people were talking bad about him. I pulled over, we sat by the lake, and talked for — don’t have any idea how long. She had stayed at their house numerous nights. I had visited them unannounced to pick up his daughter. There were no signs. Abbi spent so long telling me how much she liked him…that he showed them kid movies, never came in his daughter’s room at night except to see if they were asleep, took them to fun places like indoor carnivals and spent the day with them. Such a horrible situation brought us one of our closest moments.

And there were those evenings I just wanted to be in touch with water. I’d sit on the banks to read, or have a drink at a restaurant, or just park my car in the area north of the commercial/lighthouse area where people camped out for the night and listen to the waves. I’d smell the food they were preparing,  barely hear their muffled conversation that joined the night-time cooing ofbirds……all my stress would leave.

Or use it as a center for social get togethers — we loved Bahama Breeze, and that’s where my friends and I — or Abbi’s friends would meet for dinner. Away from the maddening crowd.  Good food, good drinks, great company, and the most peaceful place in town.

Or watching the parade of boats. Or taking our new pledges to the park for bonding after bid day.

I wanted to walk down every street around the lake, pull out the water hoses, and turn on the water — figured by the time they caught me, I might be able to get the water level back up — if even enough to reach the sea wall…..or get myself arrested. Not a good option.

So, when I close my eyes to see Lake Hefner, I get the same feeling as when I think of the house I love. It’s not mine anymore.There was such a long battle to build this man-made recreation area, and now, the city is doing nothing to maintain it.

I’ll have to write a new beginning to Castles, but that’s no big deal compared to the hole in my heart that’s as deep as the absence of water in this once-beautiful lake.

But today, from Peggy’s living room in Littleton, I wish you well. The Jewish New Year has just begun, but like so many things Jewish, it’s not quite what it seems. We’re really two weeks into a month and no where close to our real New Year, but that’s a celebration with a different name.  But my Rosh Hashana wish for you, my friends, is a year filled with good health, prosperity, good friends, good luck, and all the best life has to offer. And may we have peace.

Until tomorrow, be safe out there. You’re important to me.