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On a fishing trip to a lake in Maine with his young son, as the author recalls his own childhood summers at the same lake, he inevitably begins to see himself in his son and is jolted into awareness of his own mortality. This evocative essay, then, deals with time: its delightful past, its pleasant present, and its tragic future—when the author finally acknowledges its passing. The essay, nostalgic and affectionate in tone, is nevertheless a bit sad and peaceful, much like a reverie, as if White somehow needs to reconnect with the lake before it’s too late, before he, too, passes on. Some of his descriptive words for the lake, “this holy spot,” “cool and motionless,” “sweet outdoors,” and “the stillness of the cathedral” (2), show that White viewed the lake as a nearly sacred place, undisturbed and natural; he seems to have respected the lake to the point of holding it in awe. In paragraph 3, the phrase “remote and primeval” reinforces this impression, as if to say that the lake is prehistoric, without the imprint of people, a thought that foreshadows the essay’s ending with a shock of recognition: “suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.”
The best way to answer this question is to read The Essays of E.B. White, because White's writing is all about the visceral reaction of living. He describes nature with a mixture of awe and acceptance common to writers of a certain age. His essays about his farm, the death of his beloved pig, his dog, the chickens, hurricane season, and so on all reflect his deep respect for the mechanics of nature. The lake becomes a metaphor for life, just as all natural phenomena do in his writing. The lake is sacred because it represents life and childhood and change and endings. Nature transcends humanity, he seems to say, because it was here before us and it will be here when we're long gone. We try to "control" nature, but thinking we can control such a powerful force is both childish and unnecessary.
E.B. White certainly followed in the transcental ideology of American writers (Emerson, Thoreau) who viewed nature with awe and respect.
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