It is a quiet morning here at Lake Waccamaw, as Garrison Keillor narrates in my head. Sandy is still snuggled under the covers, since we switched roles and I kept HIM awake with MY snoring last night. Mornings here are full of birdsong and soft pastels melding the water and sky.

I made myself a huge pot of coffee and sat down on the glider on the screened porch, where I type this now. There is a small grassy lawn up to the point where the landscape dips down into a sandy beach for several feet before meeting a shallow, tea-colored, clear lake. On the other side of the crest of this tiny hill, I see a peculiar bird’s head appear, look at me, and lift off, huge wings flapping several feet wide. I make my way down to the beach, where I find a fairly large dead turtle on its back and a huge gar fish, torn in half, but what is left is about two feet long. The toothy beak of this fish alone is about six inches long. At first I wonder if it might be a small alligator, but the fish scales give it away.

Does it say something about me that I covet the turtle shell and skull of this gar, and that I’m enjoying watching the vultures fly in? But I will get a shovel and deposit the bodies into the canal across the road from the house, where they will be gobbled up by snapping turtles and alligators. In a little while. The vultures are fascinating.

Yes, we swim in the lake. Most large critters stay away from the clear area in front of the lake house, due to a concerted effort to keep the lily pads out of the area. They can find much better eating in the canal, where we’ve regularly seen alligators 10-12 feet long. Still, the vigorous comeback of these alligators in the last couple of decades has made me much more cautious. No more night swimming for me, and I keep a sharp eye out when walking for anything moving. When I hear a noise that sounds sort of like an outboard motor starting up, I assume that there is a big gator nearby.

Yet this is one of the most peaceful places that I know. This is the place where I rejuvenate my soul. It is full of family memories and friendly ghosts. There is a natural spring trickling nearby and hummingbirds hover and I saw a big red-headed woodpecker tackle a locust tree that my Great Aunt Pauline planted back in the early 1950s. I am grateful that I am able to come to this place and breathe, even if the smell of the paper mill and dead fish made it difficult last night. It reminds me that it still exists in the real world, and these imperfections will soon pass if I am patient.