lacustrine

What a delight to live in a lovely lacustrine location, to scud across a glinting harbour and land on an island as though leaping from lily pad to lily pad, to look at leaves in lagoons and reflections in ponds…

Certainly, instead of lacustrine (or lacustrian or lacustral, both less-common synonyms, and all three said with the stress on the cus), we could just say lake attributively. But while lake comes from the same lacus as lacustrine, it lacks a little something. A couple of syllables, yes, but also the sense of belonging, of inhabitation. 

A lake house is a house at a lake, but a lacustrine house, should you wish to call one that, is one that is somehow part of the lake, involved in its ecosystem. A lacustrine plant is a member of the polis of the lake – or, perhaps, of the lagoon. (A lagoon is a lake-like bit of the sea – or, as we use it in Toronto by the islands, a sub-lake of a lake – between the mainland and the vast open water, set apart by some earthy barrier, literally a lacuna, since lagoon is lacuna in English country clothing, by way of Italy and France. And lacuna is also from lacus, so a lily in a lagoon is literally lacustrine.)

There are lacustrine plants, lacustrine animals, lacustrine layers of sediment. All are not just on or in or under the lake, like cars on a road or trains in a tunnel; they are members of the family that is the lake. A large city on a lake, on the other hand – and that’s “on” as in “on the edge of” rather than “floating on” – often tries to keep itself separate from the lake, to keep the lake as an ornament like a lawn, to be looked at and to increase property values but not to be a member of. But if we’re honest, if we reflect on the subject, we can’t live without it; we cycle our water from it and back into it, our weather is affected by it, and we – at least some of us – are bodily into it and out of it often enough. Life is at least a little different when you are of a lake, when you are not just a lake city but a lacustrine one.

2 responses to “lacustrine

  1. Hell James, Lovely pics! It’s been many years since I’ve been on Toronto Island. There were still residents there at that time (1970s, early 80s). Never saw the lagoon. Where on the island are they; say from the ferry docks? Thanks!

    • There still are residents—quite a few of them on Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island, and that really helps keep the island as it should be, because there are people there who have a sense of belonging. The lagoons (whether it’s one or many is another question) are between the big long outer barrier island and the smaller inner islands. If you get off the ferry at Centre Island and walk past Centreville to the Centre Pier by the bike rentals, you will go over a bridge that crosses the main one – it’s sometimes called a pond or a channel. There are others off that one.

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