The shoreline of Pymatuning Lake is my place of peace, an escape from the overwhelming, the chaotic, and the messy. It is the constant in an unforgiving world. A place that held my hand through my parent’s divorce. My favorite spot was a narrow strip of land that jutted out into the water with just enough space for a worn picnic table. I’d sit there on its tabletop, feet planted firmly on the bench, elbows on my knees, hands folded, and eyes mesmerized on nature’s glory. The placid water’s invitation to stare at its glistening reflection of the sky and the trees and rocks that surrounded it. The wind brushed my face carrying the scent of mud and seaweed. Gulls cawed as they circled, and the honks of the Canadian geese echoed off the water as they floated along. That day, like many others, a few puffy clouds meandered across a baby blue background. It was quiet except for the gentle lapping of the water on the shore.
I was deep in thought about more things than I could keep track of. Life swirled like a tornado and all I could do was hold the door closed while the rest of the house blew away. I believed the answers were here, and if I listened long enough, they would reveal everything necessary for that moment. That is when it appeared out of the corner of my eye, a sparkle near some overhanging shrub. I leaned under the prickly branches and grabbed a clear bottle with a cork in the top and a rolled-up paper inside of it. Clear drops of water fell from it as I rolled it around in my hands, examining the paper inside. It was parchment, like from an old journal, with a red ribbon holding it like a scroll. Then I saw it. My eyes squinted into the fogged glass, wiping the bottle furiously, wondering if my eyes were deceiving me. But there it was, clear as day, in dark ink, neat, cursive letters spelling my name. I was baffled, bewildered, a sensation shot up my spine, leaving the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I ripped at the cork, pulling it free with a popping noise that startled a few geese nearby. Turning the bottle upside down, I tried to coax the paper from its captivity. After a few careful attempts, and with some persuasion from a cigarette-sized twig laying in the dirt, it slid out. Holding it for a moment, wondering if it should be opened at all, I cautiously untied the ribbon and placed it in my pocket. I unrolled the paper while walking back to my seat at the picnic table. I held it open with both hands examining what I could now see was a letter with no date or heading, only the opening salutation, Dear Douglas.
I shook my head in disbelief. How is this possible? Is this a prank? This doesn’t make any sense. The only thing to do was read each word. So I did.
If you have found this letter and are reading it, then maybe some of my theories were correct. I decided to write this and leave it at Pymatuning because I believed you would find it in your youth. I know this lake is your place of peace. I knew you would be here at some point, and that if the fates allowed, cause you to find this bottle. Let me try to explain my thought process by telling you about a time driving down a road. I had never been on this road before, but I could see the whole scene before we even rounded the bend. The house that appeared on the hill had all the features I knew it would. The long, gravel driveway leads to a green two-story house with a weather vane on the tallest peak. I had experienced this at some other time, but not up to this point in my current existence. The feeling that came with it was exhilarating and petrifying at the same time. With this being said, I had a theory that our souls possessed only one life that rotated through the universe’s circular motion leading us to the identical actions of our eternal human form. Hence the letter would reach you at this spot at some point in your young life. That is a lot to take in, but please don’t stop reading.
There is a lot I want to tell you, some things I need to tell you, other things I won’t tell you. First I’m going to reassure you. You will survive your parent’s divorce. I know it shook you to the core. Everything you knew and trusted disintegrated. That is not on you. That is on them. They were not trying to destroy your world, but just trying to figure out there’s. When we’re young we look to our parents like they know everything, but they don’t. Just like when you have children of your own, you will learn as you go. And you must constantly learn. I can not express this enough.
Don’t let hurt drag you from place to place controlling your circumstances. Figure out who you are, and what’s good for you. Honestly, we already know what's good for us. The best thing we can do is get out of our own way. Stop trying to be cool or tough or impress people. Instead, write and pray, and be kind. Laughter will naturally come to you and from you so use it graciously and as a blessing because it is.
When the time comes, take care of your responsibilities, and be grateful for them. You will find that life reflects how you view it.
There is more I want to tell you, so much more, but that wouldn't be fair. You’ll have a beautiful life, but not without tragedies and obstacles. I won’t tell you what happens, you’ll have to experience that on your own. Grief brings growth and strength. But here’s what I will say, don’t let your grief destroy you or the things you build. Don’t let temptation make you lose sight of what you have in front of you. Don’t let anything make you someone you’re not.
Doug here’s the key to the whole thing. Learn everything you can about yourself and how you think and why. If you need to get medicated, do it. It doesn’t hurt, it only helps. Harness the grandiose visions that drive you. But don’t let them steal away the moments that are in front of you. Let these times show you what is important, and what truly is grandiose in our lives. I watched too many marriages end because the grandiose visions got the best of them and they thought something else out there was better than what they had. They picture fairy tale romances from scenes in a movie when love strives in hard work and commitment. The grandiose vision needs to be of you holding your partner’s hand when they’re taking their last breaths, so they can pass to the next world knowing they had the sincerest love that life can offer. That is something to strive for. As I conclude, don’t be afraid. Embrace living. Seek the gifts that will help you solve the mystery.
Truly yours, Douglas Veverka
I stared at the lake as my mind raced to comprehend what I just read.