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Lady of the lake By Tysun McMullan With John Stallone @tysun McMullan Photography

Many of you know that John Stallone and I have started a tradition of stand up paddle boarding on Lake Isabella every full moon. Each trip has been quite different. Sometimes the lake is super glassy and peaceful and sometimes gusty winds create whitecaps with substantial rolling breakers. No matter the condition, we have kept this tradition up for about a year now.

As we arrived at the North Fork this last full moon the atmosphere was chilly bright and unusually quiet. While donning our paddling gear I noticed a small flash of light in my peripheral vision. I didn't say anything to John and chocked it up to a glimmer from the moon. As I began to unload my SUP from the truck I heard “What the!”…and I turned to see John looking in the same direction from where I had seen the light.


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There was an unmistakable glow of light emanating from underneath the water about 100 yards out. I scanned the shoreline looking for someone with a flashlight or laser pointer. Nothing. We were alone out on the lakebed but this light was unmistakable. “It’s coming from underneath the water”, John said.. We were very quiet. We looked around trying to make sense of what must be some kind of optical illusion. The light is getting brighter and seems to be turning red. Chills.... It’s not going away. It literally looks as though someone is scuba diving and is shining a powerful flashlight towards the sky. Everyone knows that I am the only person stupid enough to scuba dive in the lake at night... We are both speechless except for a little nervous laughter. We look at each other and without hesitation know exactly where we are headed... We drop our boards in the water without taking our eyes off of the light that now seems to be pulsing. I’m digging in my dry-bag for my camera. Whatever this is, I’m going to get a photo of it. We are about 50 yards from the light now and we are still not talking. It seems to be moving but it’s hard to tell while paddling. Suddenly the light oscillates from white to bright red and seems to rise and levitate out of the water. We both freeze... Our paddles are still but we keep coasting in the direction of the light. I try to get a photo but end up with just a blurred frame of light.


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As we watch, the red light begins to vibrate rapidly and a large white orb starts to emerge from its base. We are still coasting towards the strange light which is now about 20 yards away. Both of us are speechless as the light takes on the unmistakable form of a body. As we get closer we can clearly see that the white orb is the figure of a woman....

We are both frozen but neither of us stop. 10 Yards now and we can clearly see her soft glowing eyes.. Her body is pulsing translucent white and glimmering like water droplets passing through a beam of sunlight. The light reminds me of a radio signal flickering, trying to stay within frequency. Her body is now floating on what seems to be a red platform of blurry light. Suddenly the light pulses and disappears with an explosive burst leaving a glowing ring of mist. John paddles slowly over to the spot where this vision had been and speaks into the mist of fading light. “Who are you?”. Nothing… Again John says calmly. “What do you want?”… Silence. John and I both stare at the spot where she had been. There’s a faint flickering under the water like fireflies in a dirty jar.


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When the red light re-appears rising from the water the white body of the woman slowly flickers to life. We are now about 3 yards away and we both stare at her, transfixed with a mixture of amazement and fear. I am busy trying to get my camera to record what I am seeing. Whenever I am nervous or scared for some reason my camera is my rock. I am griping the lens and trying to wrap my head around this. John asks her again. “Who are you? She whispers softly and my heart stops…. “I am not a “Who”. Silence.... “What are you then”, says John. There is a long pause. “I am a Spirit.... A spirit of the water and this lake is my home.” Her voice is soft yet metallic like the sound of a whirring top on a tin roof but somehow still silken and comforting... Her voice seems to float and settle upon our ears like a warm downy blanket. She continues.... “What you see now is a manifestation of pure radiant energy taking a shape for you to experience.” She explained that she is only revealing herself to us because it is important that her plea be heard. “For sixty years I have been under this water, it is my refuge.“ She explains that where we are floating now is normally an underwater forest teeming with Life. What looks to us like a grove of dead trees is usually a flourishing underwater playground for all the creatures and spirits of the lake.


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She explained that when this land was covered by this water, many “Land dwelling Spirits” perished. But some embraced the water and transmuted into “Water Spirits.” She continued..…”This water is not like any other water. It has traveled a long way through many magical places and with each mile it has gained power and energy that is essential to the existence of the spirits that live within this lake. Now, as the water is receding they are stuck in a state of limbo between land and water. She continued to explain that if the lake continues to disappear most of the water spirits will perish. At this point John and I had sat down on our boards with our feet in the water and our mouths agape. Not by choice. Our legs simply could not hold us. The weight of this experience seemed to push us down and sitting seemed to be the only option. The whole time she is speaking she is hovering a few inches above the water moving restlessly as if the air is thick and uncomfortable for her. As she weaves between us and the protruding trees she comes very close to us and we feel a tingling in our feet, as if thousands of little fish are frolicking between our toes. The water is also strangely warm and serene. As she passes between us we can feel the emanation from the red glowing form that carries her across the water. Every few minutes she simply vaporizes and the red light becomes black, leaving a curious haze in its place.


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Some time would pass and she would re-appear, rising from the water with the red glow seeming to hold her aloft. We could feel a tingling sensation with a discharge of heat clearly coming from the glow of red... She went on to explain that her essence needs this water to exist and that she can only spend a few minutes out of the water at a time. This, she explains is why this water it is so important to her and the other spirits and creatures of the lake. I snapped photos as unobtrusively as possible while John explained to her that our existence depended on the water as well. We who live and work near this lake are water people and our life and livelihood depend completely on the water that flows from these mountains. She said, “I know this well and I have followed you on each of your full moon paddles. I have listened to your concerns about the water and that is why I am revealing myself to you now and have chosen you to be my messengers on the land. She said if we accept we will be her “Warriors of the Water”. John and I looked at each other and proclaimed, in unison, that we accepted!!! With that she raised her pellucid hands and touched each of our foreheads. As she made contact with our heads she vaporized leaving two drops of water that trickled down our faces like tears.


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We looked at each other dumfounded. John said, “Is that it? is she gone?” I said, “I hope not I don't think I got the shot.” Then suddenly she re-appeared saying that she just had to recharge.. “You know that whole water energy recharging thing I just explained to you...” “Oh yes yes got it John said. “we just thought, you know there was a lot of drama just then and well, it would have been a great exit with all the glowing an..” Shush....She interrupts john and speaks with a little hesitance in her voice obviously wondering if she had chosen the right guys to be her “Water Warriors”. “I haven't told you what needs to be done.... “Do I get to have a sword?”, I asked. John told me to shut up and listen as he punched my arm. “I just have allw..” “Shush” John whispered interrupting me.... At this point she proceeded to lay out her plea. “On the next full moon you must gather all of your river friends and paddle to that island”. She pointed to a small island in the distance. “There you will build a bonfire. At the stroke of midnight you must all look to the sky and proclaim, “Adducet super aquas!!!!” (I later learned that this means “Bring on the Water” in latin) And then you must all cast your under garments into the fire!!!” John and I looked at each other.... and said, “Really?” we kind of thought that was a river guide jok... “NO”, she interrupted, “ This is a VERY important step. It is all about the ritual and the COLLECTIVE WILL!!!! THIS MUST BE DONE! IT IS OUR ONLY HOPE!!!!” And with that the water around us began to bubble and her diaphanous body quadrupled in size and brightness blinding us and engulfing us. It felt as though my blood was boiling like the water around us... I was gripped with fear, feeling as though my own body might burst... I looked up into the light and watched as it seemed to tremble and move slowly through our bodies and back into the roiling water. At that point the boiling turned to more of a simmer and then seemed to die out altogether. Just before all of the glowing mist had melted away it started to rain. Not a regular rain. It came down in sheets and was warm and sweet. Just as fast as the rain came it vanished. The night was silent again and the water gently reflected the bright fall moon. I started fiddling with my camera again thinking she may reappear and John stopped me. “I don't think she's coming back bro and it seems that we have a mission...” I put my camera away and took what felt like the first breath I had taken since she appeared. “Umm, John. I said. I still don’t see why I can’t have a sword?” “You can have a sword Ty.” John said as we paddled slowly toward the shore. “You can have a sword......”


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©Tysun McMullan Photography

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Lady of the lake