Lake Katherine creates peaceful example of change

The removal of a great natural environment introduces introspection


Cap McLiney, Assistant Opinion Editor

Whenever I am on Wake Forest University’s campus, one of my favorite things to do is to take a stroll over to Reynolda Village. I know I am not alone in taking this pleasure as I always see so many other students as I walk under the shade of the remarkably tall tees that comprise the shady wood along the path. I tend to find myself with my neck cocked back like a turkey in the rain as I gaze up at their long trunks, which seem to stretch up higher than any skyscraper I’ve ever seen. I really don’t think we have any trees as tall and skinny in Kansas as there are in North Carolina.

Anyway, on my walk, I always stop in the clearing made by the stone bridge above the waterfall and the field. I love the sound of the crashing water below. On a sunny day, I always try to picture myself doing homework on the bench next to the serene pool of water, which seems to be taking a deep breath after its big tumble from above. After trying to find any fish or turtles in the brown, churned-up spill zone (I still have yet to spot any), I turn around and look out at the expanse of glorious Lake Katherine.

Now, perhaps some of you would like to say to me, “Cap, there’s no lake on the other side of the waterfall bridge. In fact, you are a complete idiot if you think there is one there.” And to that I would respond, “Ah, but there is.” Or, at least, there was.

Maybe everyone knows this, but over a century ago, there really used to be an expansive lake that sat below the Reynolda House. The quaint little boathouse on the old shore is indicative of the fact that people used to recreate in the body of water and take in its splendor. Over time, however, it sounds like it grew to be quite expensive to maintain the manmade structure sustained by the dam at which I marvel during my walks. So, instead of drudging out the lake however frequently was necessary, Lake Katherine slowly filled in to what she is today. Trees filled in where there once were ripples, and now trickling streams pass on through.

For some, this tale may seem to be a tragic one. If you would like a good lake near campus to jump into on a hot summer day, then maybe it really is. But for me, the reason I adore gazing out at Lake Katherine is the question that it provokes: How are we going to handle change when it confronts us? When our lake dries up, what remains?

Today, Lake Katherine is now a wetland preserve that harbors innumerable species of animal and plant life which otherwise would not be able to live there given the old expanse of water. The message that I hear when I look at the foliage and creeks that are now Lake Katherine is really one of ultimate optimism. She is a reminder that unplanned changes can — and often do — yield marvelous results.

As we all are enduring this era of the pandemic, it is critical that we find sources of inspiration that encourage us. Even if we experience fundamental change such as Lake Katherine’s, our existence can still result in something extraordinarily positive. Take a deep breath, go on a walk and soak up all that Lake Katherine is and was so that you too can find the peace that is felt in her presence.