E. B. White

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Why is the lake described as "a holy spot" in E.B. White's essay "Once More to the Lake"?

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The lake E.B. White describes in this essay is a "holy spot" for him because, in coming back to it, he is effectively enacting a sort of pilgrimage with his son, a journey to a place where White and his family once enjoyed an idyllic holiday. White's memories of the lake are very fond, and "from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine." White's descriptions of why the vacation was such a "success" are sparse: he remembers the "early mornings, when the lake is cool and motionless," the "wet woods," "the long shadows of the pine" and the "stillness of the cathedral" that was the lake. It is clear that the lake has established itself in his mental landscape as an important place, perhaps not because the lake itself is truly "unique," but because of what it symbolizes: a childhood summer with his father and "the placidity of a lake in the woods." The lake is like an oasis from modern, adult life.

It is particularly notable that White wants to take his son there as his son has "seen lily pads only from train windows." He is eager for his son to experience what he once did: the quietude of nature and the places which, "to a child at least, seemed infinitely remote and primeval." He wants to recreate his "precious" memories with his son, but with himself now in the position of the father, ensuring that the illusion of the lake as a peaceful spot for a retreat will endure for them both.

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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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