words & images anastasia miari
A place can take on a bigger meaning when you’re in a relationship. What becomes your special place is chanced upon, a lucky find that is defined by a moment that will probably stay with you forever. You’re in the throes of romance and everything takes on a glow. Even on a gray and drizzly day in England’s perpetually wet Lake District, all is kaleidoscopic.
Five years ago, impatient and living with an open and honest passion that I’ll probably never abandon, I asked you to take a trip with me. You had never been to the Lake District. It was the stuff of my childhood. We had known each other a total of six weeks when we took a train from Manchester and watched the British countryside fly by the window—muted greens and grays—May in the North.
Windermere welcomed us with the quaint charm of a small town. We practically danced down the hill from the station. We had printed off a map of directions, soggy and wet from the rain, which led to a B&B with a four-poster bed that we would refer to for years to come. We never did get the chance to sleep in a four- poster bed again.
We were adventurous on day one. We took a trip across a lake in the pouring rain, huddled close to one another in the near-empty ferry that traced a tired old route to and from that bit of land across Lake Windermere. The windows fogged up. You held my hand. And so we sat, cocooned in our steamy condensation. On the other side, you forced me to abandon the trail I had known. Instead of following the safe road around the lake, we climbed up into evergreens, muddying our boots in the rich earth as we left imprints behind us. We were there.
We laughed. I laughed hard when you tripped over a fallen stump. It was the first time I’d seen you get angry with me. But the sun briefly broke through the trees, and our path led out onto a lush valley overlooking the vast lake. On we pressed. I talked incessantly. We did bits, skits that were to become a relationship staple. I learned about your family. Each piece of the puzzle you gave away in that expanse of green gave me a triumphant feeling. Getting to know you was like solving a mystery.
You picked up a stone and insisted on holding onto it for the entire journey. The superstition behind this completely eluded me but you said it would bring good luck to your friend if you held onto it until the end. It struck me as sweet. We didn’t have a destination in mind. We hiked uphill, past fields of frolicking lambs and sleepy slate villages. We joked the houses were our own; that we were off for a walk before returning to a cooked-roast dinner in our rambling country mansion on a hill. We had high hopes.
Stopping for sandwiches instead, you insisted we swing from a battered old tire suspended over the precipice of a hill, rocks littered beneath. I was eager to please. And so we swung from that hill and you pushed my boundaries without realizing it - something of a trend, where we are concerned.
But as it is known to do in those parts, the rain bore on. It soaked through my coat as we ran for shelter under the densest collection of trees we could find. By this point, we’d walked our way out of town. The sound of rain was the only sound. Everything was perfectly still and alive at the same moment.
I could feel my cheeks were on fire from the thrashing rain as we walked on through the trees, enshrined by the fresh earthy smell released by fat raindrops colliding with peat. I was ahead of you when we found the lake. I paused and you stopped behind me. It was smaller than Windermere, surrounded by trees—its only visitors a pair of mallards gliding across the water, paying little attention to the onslaught from on high.
My heart beat loudly in my ears as I felt you put your arm over my shoulder and across my chest to pull me close to you. I felt your head rest on mine and my insides all but exploded—a tumult, a cyclone—on the very edge of this lake. I let a hot tear glide over my cheek, the salt suffusing with rainwater. I had finally found you, and you, me, but three months without each other lay ahead.
Since then, we have visited Esthwaite Lake a total of five times. It became our pilgrimage. We have seen it in the bright blue days of summer and perhaps on the most dark and dismal day of December. It too, saw us metamorphose. We fell in love by that lake and on our worst days, thoughts of that special place would keep us afloat. Who’s to say if we will ever see Esthwaite again. Making the trip without you would be worse than never having stumbled upon it in the first place. It remains for now, like much of what has passed, locked in memory.