Reflections From an Ancient Lake

Today, as I walked on the beach at Bear Lake, I found a depression where the shells of a great many freshwater snails had been left behind by the receding water. Seeing them there brought to mind my youth when I lived in Dugway Utah. My wanderings in the desert there once brought me to a place where many sun-bleached fossils of tiny fresh-water snails mixed in with the sand. Having an interest in such things, I gathered some of them up to add to the gravel of my small aquarium. They became an important memory of my sister’s and my childhood.

Those fossil snails lived in Lake Bonneville, which formed during a wetter time in our planet’s history as the ice retreated from the last Ice Age. Several ancient remnants still exist of that huge body of water, including a super-salty inland sea with no outlet known as The Great Salt Lake, and a fresh-water lake further South called Utah Lake. Bear Lake where I visited today, though much older, sat just upstream from the shores of Lake Bonneville and endured even as most of the much larger Pleistocene pond faded away into the desert sand.

Over the years, my skin and my attitudes, like old rocks, have become worn and hardened by the sands of time. Adulthood, education, marriage, children and grandchildren have all moved through my life like the passage of seasons. Good times and bad, both joyful and sad.

I guess that makes this year one of the winters of my life. My oldest son, Dallin, passed with joy into heaven last December. I say with joy because he lived with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy for twenty-six years before heart-failure finally took him. I say that this is my winter, because in his departure from my life I can find little joy. After many years of caregiving a disabled child, I thought that I would be relieved at the lifting of that burden from my lifestyle and schedule, but instead that burden has descended onto my heart. His passing wasn’t a shock. We all knew that that day would come and that knowledge makes our grieving easier, but not easy.

I gathered up a bunch of those snail shells from the sandy shoreline of Bear Lake. I’ll clean them up and sprinkle them in Dallin’s aquarium that we built together in his room.

There, like the older fossil snail shells from my youth, they will make more old memories.

Perhaps they’ll also help make a new summer.


~ by Bill Housley on September 3, 2020.

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