The day comes where you have to pull the boat out of the water. The difficulty lies in choosing the right day. If you wait too long, the lake might have a thin crust of ice on its surface, and your feet and hands will be chilled to the bone if you get them wet. If you pull the boats too early, you’ll know you’re depriving yourself of one last ride or one last afternoon with a line in the water. All the same, there’s no getting around it. The boat has to come ashore.
I am in the habit of waiting until the last minute of the last day. I pick a time when the lake is quiet, and the swimmers and boaters and fishermen have already packed their gear and gone home. The light has to possess that autumnal gold I find so relaxing, and I’m fine with it being cold as long as the sun is out.
I’ll sit on the cabin’s deck with a steaming cup of coffee and just watch the water. There are usually ducks splashing in the bay; and through the spindly undergrowth on my left I can see the shine of a painted turtle’s shell on a shoreline log. My thoughts are grim in the wake of losing my parents and my sister. My sister’s oldest son had turned his back on his cancer-stricken mother when she needed him the most. That dark stain on his soul can never be wiped clean. He marked himself, and that stain will follow him for the remainder of his life.
You learn who truly cares and who your friends are in the wake of grief. Friends and acquaintances always in sales-pitch mode appear quickly; and I discard them now. The northwoods have been my constant source of serenity for many decades. I find solace here; a release from the grief that has plagued our lives in recent years. There is always war somewhere on the planet. My cold-hearted and selfish nephew is but a symptom of a breed of fools who have refused to join the global village and ignored the benefits of promoting creativity over arrogance.
I take to the waters as a way of healing. I follow the dream-path of the old chiefs in the land of sky blue water; I linger in the tracks of the black bears foraging in the brush for berries. I follow the trail of pulp dreamers and the frontiersmen of yesteryear. I listen to the tall tales of fishermen and the sad tales of hunters. I track the eagle’s shadow across the sparkling whitecaps. I read a long book, turning the pages slowly. I dream of rivers and streams without end; sometimes I can hear their voices on the pine-scented wind and the past is so close I can almost touch it. When the frost is on the vine, I pull the boat out of the water and prepare for tomorrow.
In Memoria Thomas C. McNulty, Patricia McNulty and Janet Albright