My new novel is set on the waters and shores of Lake Champlain. This excerpt describes the thoughts and feelings of Malcombe Caulwell, the keeper of an inn that was once a lighthouse, as he walks along the shoreline of Burlington Bay.
.... Malcombe Caulwell walked every day, clambering over the rocks that lined the lake along the Cove. Always in sight of silver water, always in sight of the bone-white piled granite of the long breakwater built to keep the inner harbor safe from the storm-whipped winds and waters that in any season could come racing down the long, narrow waterway.
That single sailboat was still moored here today, rocking a bit on the waves, sails furled-up tight around the wooden boom, a trim and well-kept blue sloop that was always first and last in the water. Today, beneath a suddenly overcast sky, the boat’s usual brightwork seemed dull and old.
Descending from a boulder, Malcombe stepped onto the hard sand at water’s edge on
Waves, a foot high, maybe, hissed and plopped hollowly, bringing small
branches, even a few small wild apples, to rest for a while at the shoreline.
He stepped around a nest of beer bottles, a couple of used condoms that looked
like dead jellyfish lying spent in the sand. The power plant tower,
smoke-stained red-brown brick, rose to the south. Not belching smoke today, he
was glad to see. North Beach
Malcombe always did his best to see beyond the way the lake and shore were misused, disrespected. Not just nowadays, but all through history. His reading and research told him that. For all the sublime and transcendent power made manifest in this confluence of water, mountains, islands, stone, and sky that
revealed, there were also those darker things. Pollution from factories and
farms, the slicks of oil that eddied near the tanker piers and often broke
loose to wander, sometimes adding a sickening petroleum stench to the heat and
humidity of the dog days in August.
And the blood of battle on these waters: 1776 and Benedict Arnold’s fleet at Valcour, 1814, and Macdonough defeating the British at
… How many ghosts, how many
severed limbs, how much flesh and blood and bone under these deep waters, or
washed up against isolated stretches of shore? Not to mention the shipwrecks… Plattsburgh
At the place where the sand became a tiny rock-strewn beach, Malcombe stopped to skim a few flat stones. His best effort today lifted seven times; in the flat gray light there was an optical illusion suggesting that it might skip all the way across the water and actually reach those mountains.
Malcombe smiled, and a word came into his head. Solitude. Certainly not loneliness.
He never said it aloud anymore, but he knew what really kept him going, from day to day, either alone or as a provider of meals, conversation, and information to passing strangers, was nothing other than love.
Could you love the whole of a place, a lake, this shoreline for instance, like it was alive? Its past, present, future all flowing together into your heart, your imaginings, your…spirit?
Yes. He’d shared all this in words with Lauren in the years they’d had together; now it seemed that he quietly, simply lived it.
Back a few feet from shore now, and up along a higher path, Malcombe walked with the lake to one side and the railroad tracks, three lines of track straight-edging through a swath of cinder and a faint smell of creosote, to the other. From this vantage he could see the curve of the harbor, and beyond to the ancient iron railroad bridge that marked the entry to the old barge canal.
This was Malcombe Caulwell’s usual turnaround point, about a half hour out from the inn. Time now to head back, bake the single loaf he’d shaped and then left to rise one last time in the cool kitchen.
So he turned around, began walking back toward home. A juniper-scented wind came out of the north to meet him.
-Kevin Macneil Brown
THE LAKE OF LIVING WATER is available for purchase at
Also available in Kindle Edition :