Thursday, September 23, 2004

Lake Martin

The first time we went to Lafayette, Louisiana to look for Cajun music, we went to to the Acadian Village. They had a Cajun band and dancing that afternoon and it was really fun. The dancers were good, and we tapped our feet to the music and wished we knew how to do what they were doing. Acadian Village has homes like Cajuns would have lived in 100 years ago, when they were mostly rice farmers. After being pushed out of Nova Scotia by the English in the late 1700's, the Cajuns resettled a part of Louisiana that made for a very hard life. Their music documents their sadness and their struggles, as well as their joie de vivre. As we left one of these small houses, a man in overalls sitting idly on the porch, told us about Lake Martin. Lake Martin is not a big tourist site, and seems almost to be a secret. It isn't even on the maps. It is in the middle of country fields and dirt roads about 10 miles out of town halfway to Breaux Bridge. We finally found it. Few people are there. It is a big blue lake with true Louisiana swamp all around it, cyprus trees dripping with tentacles of silver moss. The water on the edges under the trees is green with scum and we watched nutrias, which are like little muskrats. I took this picture of a great blue heron there. George thought it was amazing that I had even seen this bird, since he is so well camoflaged. We saw several herons, and spent a long time staring at the swamp through our binoculars to see signs of life. The first time we were there it was May and the trees were full of spoonbills, who build their nests there. We heard later that this lake is the largest nesting area for spoonbills in the country. I wouldn't doubt it. The trees were thick with them, like clumps of cotton candy. They are flamingo pink and white, and very large. They were hovering around their nests and we could see the little white heads of the babies popping up. The colony settled in those trees was amazing and we spend hours just driving around the lake and watching them. We never miss going back to Lake Martin now. Every time we visit that part of the country we make several trips there, taking a picnic and enjoying the solitude and the creatures that live there. Last December, we saw a 12 foot aligator lazily sunning not far from the road. He was not green. He was gray, like clay mud. He didn't have a care whether we were there or not, didn't even notice us, and we weren't that far away. I think he knew that he belonged there and we did not. Lake Martin is one of my favorite places. And we know about it only because a stranger in overalls sized us up as people who would love Lake Martin as much as he does.... and we do.