Monday, August 16, 2004

AUGUST 8, 2004

It rained during the night. This morning we prayed: "O, Great God of Canada, thank you for the moisture, which lessens our worry of fire. Now we ask you for sunshine."

It misted all the day.

We made two portages and had a long paddle.

It all blends together. "Was today the day we had to put the canoe over the beaver dam?" I asked at supper. "No, that was yesterday," they said.

We have had two hard days on the water and I have come nearly to the limit of my endurace. I think I will have to work out harder if I'm going to keep up this extreme relaxation.

Ellie has been paddling with Anne these past days, mother and daughter, with nine-year-old Andrew between them. Ellie is a trooper; she keeps leaning into her work - stroke, stroke, stroke. How many twelve-year-old girls have such knowledge as she gains here? How many have such a relationship with their mothers as Ellie does with that woman steering her canoeing?

At least for the last four or five miles today the wind was at our back. It would have been a much harder paddle against the wind.

We had baked northern for supper, that Philip caught, a big one, stuffed with onions and a small-mouth bass that Andrew caught. Plus macaroni and cheese, in case the fishing had not been successful, and "fiesta corn bread" that was really skillet-fried, in the shape of pancakes, with corn and salsa in it. We had a side of Mary's hummus that she'd dried at home and reconstituted here; it was very good with the mac and cheese, with the fiesta corn bread, with the fish. I suppose the garlic in the hummus gave a little something extra to the camp food. We are out of crackers.

I don't care how hard the ground feels, I am going to sleep tonight.



At the Second Cup Cafe and Pastries, there are six tables set up for four diners; one table set up for two; two tables set up for eight; and one table set up for sixteen. The As the Bladder Fills Club sits at the table set for sixteen. Between 8:00-9:00 a.m. every day, it's their table. There is a plaque on the wall that says the Kiwanis meets at the Second Cup at 7:00 a.m. every Friday; there's another plaque on the wall, a little more home-made, with the image of a toilet on it, indicating that the As the Bladder Fills Club meets here, too, every day, 8:00-9:00 a.m.

Claude Gripp and Jack Benn are the first two fellows to sit down with their coffee this morning. I join them, and soon Ivan Burgess joins them too.

Jack likes to fish up near Flin Flon, Manitoba, and I've been to Flin Flon a couple of times. We're talking about the town, about Inge Bjornson, who outfits on Neso Lake up there and has written a book about his antics and adventures in the wilderness.

Ivan is talking to someone else who has settled in with us; he's explaining "When I was a kid, we had more fun getting ready to do something than we ever did doing it."

Linton Lull has joined us. "My favorite Burgess story," he says, "is about Ivan in school. They were teaching the kids music. The teacher gave each kid a rhythm instrument to play - drums, cymbals, sticks, and so on. Ivan was so poor they just gave him one stick."

I don't know why Ivan draws so much fire. Maybe it's because he gives it back as good as he gets. And his jab is like a paper cut - so clean you don't notice until you see the blood.

"When I die," Ivan says, "If they don't put green signs out by the highway that say 'Boyhood Home of Ivan Burgess,' then I've been a complete failure."

To be continued....


AUGUST 14, 1998

Respect, I think, comes to the fellow who earns it. Sure, these folks will give you the benefit of the doubt to start off, but don't misconstrue that to mean they're not watching you. You screw up, you slip in their eyes and must recover one hard piece at a time. You screw up, you re-earn respect only grudgingly. The folk memory is forever. Especially with issues of trust. If you've earned mistrust, it's near impossible to climb out of that box - how will they know for sure you won't slip again.

It's not that these folks can't deal with uncertainty. The farmers amongst them face uncertainty every time they put seed in the ground. Will it rain? Will it hail? Will the selling price be high enough to cover the cost of producing?

The issue may not be that you betrayed them so much as they didn't see it coming. Now if they put you over into the column of uncertainty, along with drought and hail and fire, they can deal with your failure. Of course, you might imagine how much drought and hail and fire are loved by farmers, and how much your betrayal might be loved as well.

Is it the same, every one of these August mornings - moisture on the windshield, haze in the distance, blue sky, still pond? What will I see to comment on in an endlessly repeating cycle? Is this week of August an emblem for the whole idea of watching a piece of ground from year to year - it will all be an endless repetition of cycles before I am done.

Except maybe for the jet rumbling overhead this morning, August 14, 1998, 7:23 a.m. CDT. The sound rolls away into the distance. I would believe it left O'Hare in Chicago and is heading for the Twin Cities, by the way the sound has crossed the sky. The jet's passengers have moved half that distance and I'm not even out of the driveway yet.

A lovely haze of a daze of a day, out in the country. A haze considerably heavier than yesterday's.

It is surprising to me how quickly the corn ground has been worked. One of those fields taken recently is plowed already.

Off in the distant haze, a spray plane drops down to skim just above a field. It is working dangerously close to high power lines. At times it seems to stand on a wing tip. You've got to love to fly to do a job that dangerous and dirty. But look who's calling the kettle black - I go in to my work, which might not be to that fellow's liking at all.

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