Tuesday, May 31, 2005

This is Now

You all are so patient with me. I'm off gallivanting around northwest Ontario acting like a backwoods fisherman and you're still checking in to this feeble little talkbox. I appreciate it. Since I rarely transmit the bono vox I hope for, I'm virtually agog, swimming in the good graces of my readers.

So let me tell you a little bit about the big fishing trip. Eight guys, two cabins, fish, beer, boats, motors, beer, and fish. And a 30-pound fried turkey along with the 10-gallon stainless steel turkey fryer and its accessories, 10 gallons of oil and a propane tank. Did I mention eight guys?

The fishing was mediocre. We arrived at South Bay Lodge approximately 4 weeks after ice out, meaning the northern pike had already spawned, released all their aggressions, and headed for deeper water. Hence, the fast, barracuda-like topwater action in the shallows was not happening. What was happening was--at least for me--two days of 6 in which 8 or 10 hours in a 12-foot V-hull Lund with a 15-horse Yamaha and a delightful-smelling fellow man was worth it for the fish. The other 4 days were tolerable, of course, because I wasn't sitting here. By sitting here I mean sitting in this chair in this climate-controlled box or any other chair in any other climate-controlled box staring at a CRT, mind wandering to cool waters and white pines.

So the fishing was mediocre, but the guys were cool. Until the 8th day, when I had had enough of 7 other guys. It's inevitable.

A few highlights.

Two days in a row we watched an adult bald eagle focus on our shore-lunch spot from the top of a pine about 200 meters away on a tiny island (one of hundreds or even thousands dotting this 14,000-acre lake complex). After we packed up--full of northerns and lake trout, fried onions and potatoes, and pork and beans--and puttered away, he swept down, corn-yellow talons extended, and--whap!--took the largest northern pike carcass. Not five minutes later (both days), we came upon a female moose swimming--head high and chest above water--between an island and shore, maybe 600 meters distant. The second day a tiny calf accompanied her, no more than a few weeks old. She was encouraging it, swimming ahead a few meters, turning around and proding it with her nose. Incredible.

Revving the motor too much in reverse almost sent my uncle and me down a shallow waterfall at a portage lake. It was a smooth move on my part. Luckily, my brother, my cousin and I, submerged up to our necks in 53-degree water, were able to pull the boat upstream onto some rocks. There's always an adventure.

Catching northerns and walleye, one after another under the big waterfall at Premier, the portage lake, was enlivening in only a way a fisherman might understand. Rapalas and jigs.

Fishing with my cousin--with whom I was nothing but impressed on so many levels, having now gotten to know him as an adult--for lakers in the rain while the sun was setting, casting an ethereal mist-rainbow of soft light, was fantastic.

Being with my uncle when he laughed so hard he could hardly stand it was great.

My brother's jokes and stories--as always--elevated me.

I had some good conversations in the boats, and some less-serious but more rambunctious ones back at camp in the evenings. What I found most interesting is that--and I'm always surprised about this even though I've experienced it so many times--men love talking about penises. The penis is very, very funny, I know. But there's something about the fishing and the beer and the Italian beef that brings out the penis drama, the penis mythology, in all men. Sure, we talked about women, and cars, and cooking meat. And work and kids. And outlandish stories that my brother and my cousin and I delve out to push the humor boundaries. But no religion, and no politics. It was nice, actually, although somewhat empty in the deep end. (But so what. So much of what bloggers like me write about is so inconsequential in the day-to-day and, I think, in the great expanse.)

There were lots of family stories; I'm always taken with those.

Speaking of family, I was running today at lunch and realized I was 32 years old. Not that I didn't know that already. But realizing that was something else. Making it real. Incorporating that fact into the reality I experience with my senses. Fabricating it out of me parts that are usually in storage in my internal back shed.

So, that got me thinking (and what doesn't, as my boisterous friend AJM said this morning over at Do Justly, where he's putting the radical back in radical right): where do I stand in the family? And I don't mean my family, my wife, our daughter, our dog, me. I mean the family, the crucible which forged so much of my metal: my people, my line.

Let me give you some perspective. I was the first son, the first grandson, the first nephew, the first of my generation. As such, I was privileged to carry weight and break ice, grow up early, make my bones, make my way pushing against authority and absorbing all the good stuff the adults let me see, hear, taste, and know. All the big stories, the drama, the disclosures, the human stuff.

Nowadays, there are others who are or were married. There are other children other than mine. I'm no longer the first.

But having been the first leaves me out there in the expanses. You need binoculars to see me now. Because I've always gone my own way. And, as much as I have heart-tugging, warm-washed waves of memories of home, of my wonderful childhood, of my family, I still live 1000 miles away.

That doesn't mean I don't care or that I don't feel like I have a part to play. Our family is close. Sometimes anxiously close. Oft-times complex in our linkages and shared feelings. And I feel a responsibility, still. With one of three of my brothers living near me, I am often at ease. And my wife and her family are here. So I am at home. But there are times I long for the old home nonetheless. And there are responsibilities I must deal with now, as an adult.

And that brings me to my main point: In so many ways that old Home I sometimes pine for does not exist.

Most of the people do, though. And I love them. And the streets are still there. Although now they're connected to busier streets. And there are so many people I don't know. It's hard leaving a small farm town when you're 17 and coming back to it year after year as it grows into a suburb.

But my visions of yesterday are so full of color and depth and--this is key--so full of wonder because I was a child. I'm no longer a child, as much as that little rascal thrives in me. So now, and over the years of my adulthood, I have c0me to realize that my dreams are mine only because I choose to keep them alive.

Realization--this same making real of what I spoke--has completely set in. The fallibility of the adults. The idiosyncrasies that were once charming or willfully ignored or symbols of the greatness of adulthood are now profound and pronounced. The full goods and the full bads and the full-on gray areas of personality are so clear. The child in me turns away looking for warm sunset lakes and popsicles, but the adult in me sees it all for what it is.

Now, this is all pretty depressing stuff. I know that. What I cannot fail to mention, though, is that with the darkness comes a new light. A brighter, clearer, more powerful one. That is, knowing my family for who they really are--not just what I hoped or wanted them to be--is so much better. Maybe a lot of the charm has worn off, but what has replaced it is a rich understanding of the world and a rich appreciation for the power of family to uplift even me, a 32-year old son, grandson, and nephew.

I only hope my daughter will know the charm I knew for so many years, and, like I do now, keep it in her heart.


Blogger ajmac said...

That, as we say back in Maine, is good stuff. I too have found that, as the natural wonder of childhood wears off and the warts become visible on the faces of those we say we love, real love becomes possible. That is, the real love that takes people as they are, not as we imagine them to be.

4:37 PM  

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