06-18 Sarah Raplee – WHY PSYCHIC AGENTS?

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Left My Youth at the Bottom of Mirror Lake

By Courtney Pierce

I write comedy with a literary flair. My humor side flows from years of real-life gaffs, colorful relationships, and embarrassing situations. But the literary side of me germinated in the bud of youth, when my imagination was free and untethered. One of those literary awakenings took place in 1968 at Mirror Lake, a picture-perfect oasis tucked beyond the trees in Tuftenboro, New Hampshire. This was―and still is―a special place, not only for its secluded beauty but for the snapshot of time it holds in its waters. 

I was nine.

My sisters and I spent summers at my grandparents’ farm in Tuftenboro, without television, computers, or retail stores to distract us. Dad stayed behind in Boston for work. Mom needed a summer break too. Days were quiet. Nights were dark. Sporadic sightings of the Northern Lights decorated the blackness like a lava lamp. The phone in the dining room was one of those hand-crank models mounted on the dining room wall, the kind where you still had to tell a nosy woman your business before connecting. Armed with Nancy Drew books, a portable 8-track player with a radio, a rubber mask, and a snorkel tube, I started a summer sprinkled with Miracle-Gro.

I spent nearly every day at Mirror Lake, about a two-mile glide in my grandfather’s butter-yellow Impala convertible. Tapes of John Denver and Judy Collins held a revered place in the tote of survival gear. My two-year-old sister remained with Mom; my twelve-year-old sister was who knew where. Parental supervision was . . . well . . . non-existent.

June started with morning dew and chilly breezes that gave me goosebumps until the midday sun warmed the sand. The call and answer of loons echoed in the trees. The woodsy scent of evergreens, maples, and birches wreathed the lazy waves that shimmered like Christmas tinsel. Minnows gathered at my feet in water so clear that I could make out the details of tiny spots on their bodies. They’d scatter on my trek to toward the steep drop, where I'd stop before the water turned cold. Here I remained, unaware of Cold Wars, race riots, love-ins, and sit-ins.

In July, my imagination bloomed as the water warmed to the temperature of a tepid bath. I became a treasure hunter, hoping to be the first to spot the glint of a magic coin, catch the sparkle of a lost diamond, or discover a new species of lake-dweller. But my most astonishing find in the sand was a pair of flowered underpants. At first, I thought the discovery somewhat gross. But they became an awakening.

By August, my lake fantasies swirled with questions of what touch beneath the warm water would do to my skin, fueled by my curiosity of how those darned underpants got to the lake bottom. John Denver crooned about “Rocky Mountain highs” to ignite my inner detective. At the drugstore in Wolfeboro, I bought a bottle Skinny Dip cologne to splash myself with lemony fragrance before wading into the lake. The water carried the scent of me. My long blond hair stretched and floated, weightless like a Breck shampoo commercial. I pictured myself with soft body curves awaiting invisible hands. New. Delicious. And completely consuming.

By the end of that summer, the leaves had started to turn. Yellow discs fluttered to the sand like mini parachutes, as if I, too, were jumping out of a plane without my youth as a tandem partner. I never left those fantasies behind. 

We fiction writers pepper our prose with real moments, secret ones that reveal our innermost thoughts of a moment in time. That’s why Mirror Lake, and the memories that lurk in its depths, made it into Chapter 16 of my new novel Indigo Lake. I revisited that experience through my fifty-seven-year-old character, Olivia Novak.

I’ve often wondered how many pairs of underpants were shed in Mirror Lake. I know of at least two that are still embedded in the sand: the flowered ones I found when I was nine, and the red polka-dot numbers I left there six years later. I wore Skinny Dip. He wore Brut.

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of thirty-seven years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Courtney has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. She is also a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is active with Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, She Writes, and Sisters in Crime. Her books have received the Self-E library selection seal of excellence.

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's latest trilogy about the Dushane sisters The first entry, The Executrix, tells the story of three middle-age sisters who find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. The book gives them a whole new view of their mother. Is it fiction? . . . or truth? Sibling blood becomes thicker than baggage when Mom becomes larger in death than she was in life.
Indigo Lake, the second helping of the Dushane Sisters Trilogy, is due next month in March, 2016. More laughs, more tears . . . and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

Visit Courtney's website at 
courtney-pierce.com. Her books can be purchased at Windtree PressAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, and at several independent bookstores in the Portland area.


Maggie Lynch said...

What an amazing memory, and you brought it into clear focus with your description. I can see that your upbringing provided you with a youth of independent exploration and, evidently, little fear. Thanks for sharing this!

Liz Flaherty said...

A lovely post!

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for a glimpse into another place and time. I do remember Skinny Dip cologne along with the music. So glad you brought that time and place forward into Indigo Lake.

Courtney Pierce said...

Thanks all! It was so much fun to revisit that memory. I had fun, too, weaving it into my new book. Talk about sensory!