Not Natural

It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was swimming at Slim Point with Abbie, and Laurie was on a walk led by someone who was relating nature to the poems of Emily Dickinson. Actually, I wasn’t swimming. I was knee-deep in the water, watching Abbie and looking up at the hills across the lake, marveling at the beauty of the day, the quiet.

But then, I heard a rumble, not like thunder, more like drums, from the south end of the lake, closer, louder, like drummers beating the very air, the beats crashing together, and there they were: two B-52 bombers, as low as the hilltops, flying right up the center of Lake George. Huge, roaring, painted a matte color that made its own darkness, blotting out every other sound and thought.

They were on their way to Plattsburgh Air Force Base, across from Lake Champlain. This was during the Gulf War, and I had just read in the New York Times that people in England, who lived near the American bases, were calling the B-52s “BUFs.” The Times had not told me what BUF stood for. But looking at the two right in front of me I heard my voice say, “What big, ugly…” And then I knew what BUF stood for. It was the perfect description.

We watched until they were gone and the sound had faded. It had probably lasted 10 seconds. Later, Laurie told me that she had been on the lake shore and that it was a very un-Emily Dickinson moment. Plattsburgh AFB closed in 1995, so I’m fairly sure this was a once in a Silver Bay lifetime experience.


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