We live near a gorgeous lake, perfect for swimming and for cutting the heat on a Michigan July afternoon.
The drive out there is filled with farmland and lacy patterns of light from overhanging trees. It's both restful and good for summer music and the path sends you on to the lake in the proper, vacation frame of mind.
When you arrive at the lake, you walk from a dusty parking lot to the sound of happy screams and the low murmur of adults, picnicking, the smells of grilling franks and burgers, and the sights of flashes of brightly-colored bathings suits flying in and out of the water and across the hill opposite. There is a sprayscape, which is the source of much of the screaming, and there are picnic benches available for both shade-lovers and sun-worshippers.
So in the midst of this idyll, I sit reading about the tortured souls in The Scarlet Letter - Dimmesdale, Chillingworth and Hester dance their tarantella of doom against the background of the bright sunshine and happy play, while my son and K splash through the water like dolphins.
I think I am being punished for assigning this to my students over the summer. It really was done as a favor, so they don't have to kill themselves deciphering this over the first weeks of the shortened semester, but it's not beach reading.
I guess that maybe if Dimmesdale and Hester had lakes in their lives, instead of the rocky shore of Boston harbor, and maybe if they had a few summer afternoons together, instead of the harsh ministrations of Chillingworth/Prynne, maybe things would have turned out differently.
Can't you just see Pearl, in a bright scarlet tankini with hot pink stripes, zipping in and out of the water and joining scores of children screaming in the spray?