I pulled off the road and onto a widened patch of pavement that overlooked Lake Yellowstone. When my daughter and I had gotten out of the car and walked to the edge of the overlook, I said, “That’s it,” and I may have actually gestured out at the lake, as if I had some part in putting it there.
“It’s big,” Elle said, without the awe in her voice that I hoped to hear.
“It’s not like any other lake,” I said–this time without the gesture. “The Lodge is straight across, hidden by trees, but you can see the Lake Hotel and the marina down the shoreline to the east. The Fishing-Bridge campgrounds but are off to the west.”
“I don’t see it like you,” Elle said, and I looked from the lake to where my daughter was standing next to me. “I see the lake right now but you don’t.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s the same time for me as for you.”
“When you look at the lake, you see all the things from twenty years ago. You see ghosts.”
I looked back out over the water to make sure that I wasn’t seeing anything spectral. After a moment, I said, “I don’t see any ghosts.”
“When you look at the lake you remember the time when you were in a boat with your friends during a storm and just barely didn’t drown; and the day at the Fishing Bridge campgrounds when you were supposed to sweep a giant parking lot but instead laid along the lake and watched herons; and you can see the fires you and your friends built in a cove along the lake after the lodge had closed for the night.”
“That doesn’t make all of those people ghosts. Most of them are probably still alive.”
“I don’t mean that they’re actually dead. I mean that even though that time is over, you can still see it, the way some people see ghosts.”
“So I came back here to visit ghosts” I asked.
“Yes,” Elle said. “Including the ghost of you back then.”