Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

April 23, 2004. On a lake in Virginia.

Iíve stopped in the country for a few days, enjoying the calm and quiet of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was going to head into West Virginia, to places Iíve never seen, but I was waylaid by a quiet campsite on a lake, surrounded by water and wooded hills. Philpott Lake is one of many man-made reservoirs, the kind I feel obliged to oppose as a good environmentalist Ė the produce of a power-happy society controlling nature for its own ends, damming mountain streams for their energy, destroying valleys, and sometimes towns with them.

But from my perch by the side of the lake, it is hard to be critical. Itís lovely here, a shimmering expanse of blue winding among the hills, spidery tentacles of water waving through what once were valleys, hillsides converted to steep banks painted with deep green pine and rhododendron and air-brushed with white dogwood blossoms.

I took my kayak out on the lake in the morning, the only sound the quiet splash and scrape of my paddle in the water. A few miles up I wedged the boat between branches on the shore and floated out into the lake without it. For some lost, unclocked period I drifted in the water, not a soul in sight, watching the morning unfold. Total calm.

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