Clear Skies, Deep Water

A Chautauqua Memoir

By Beth Peyton

Subjects: Memoir, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438451725, 202 pages, May 2014

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Table of contents

We Are Introduced to the Lake
Our Lake
Cowgirl’s Prayer
In a Town This Size
Lake Time
Summer of Changes
Barf Salad
Karaoke Night at the Casino
Falling Down

A memoir about loss, restoration, and finding home on a lake in western New York.


After a year of devastating personal and financial loss, Beth Peyton and her husband, Jeff, moved to the hamlet of Maple Springs, New York, on Chautauqua Lake to pick up the pieces of their lives, certain to be in a place that they loved and certain of nothing else. As they worked to restore a neglected old house, the community, the beauty of the lake, and the old-fashioned sensibility of the place comforted them. While Peyton's story traces the couple's progress toward recovery, it also includes tales of the silly, colorful, and warm characters who became their neighbors and friends. Whether it's the mystery of Emil and Betty's lost blue plate, dead bodies in the water, or memories of karaoke at the Village Casino, Clear Skies, Deep Water is a testament to the healing power of rituals, friendships, the beauty of the natural world, and the possibility of grace. Filled with nostalgia about an America that has slipped, or is slipping away, it will resonate with anyone who has searched for meaning and home.

Beth Peyton earned her MFA in creative writing from Carlow University, where she studied in both Pittsburgh and Ireland. She lives with her husband, Jeff Hunter, and her dog in western New York State. This is her first book.


"As [Peyton] relates each vignette, neatly contained in themed chapters, the rhythm of her storytelling has the soft pattern of waves hitting the shores of Lake Chautauqua. You can hear how quiet and close to nature it feels, living in a lakefront community. " — Fine Lifestyles

"…Beth Peyton takes readers on a heartwarming journey of healing and new beginnings in Clear Skies, Deep Water. " — Story Circle Book Reviews

"This beautiful memoir is about finding the place where you belong and having the courage to do something about it. At the bottom, it is about choosing to love. " — The Huffington Post

"With grace and poetry—and the warmth of a dear friend inviting you over for a cup of coffee—Peyton depicts human resilience, the beauty of the lake, and the humor and charm of life in a quintessential small town. She's crafted one of those books you just can't put down. " — Alison Juram D'Addieco, Carlow University

"The essence of the renewing power of life on Chautauqua Lake has been captured by [Beth Peyton]. " — Jamestown Post-Journal

"Clear Skies, Deep Water is a gentle, quietly moving memoir about the power of nature and community to heal and inspire. This is a writer's elegant and spirited love letter—to her husband, to a lake, and to a wonderfully quirky collection of characters; it shows how you can find a place you truly belong, no matter where you are in life or what you've been through. And if you don't already dip your buttered toast in your coffee, after reading this book, you'll be tempted to start. " — Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

"In prose as luminous and as poignant as moonlight on lake water, Beth Peyton has written a love song to life, marriage, and the healing power of place. Honest, tender, at times hilarious, this is a memoir to be read and savored again and again. " — Jane Candia Coleman, author of Mountain Time: A Western Memoir

"A perceptive and deeply sensitive human story. Beth Peyton's memoir is a paean to a unique place that, during a time of great sorrow and loss, provided the author and her husband with a sense of security, a measure of solace, and the promise of renewed possibilities. " — Michael Steinberg, author of Still Pitching: A Memoir