I spent last week in northern Minnesota with my parents and granddaughter Emily. It was a restful week of days on the lake, a basement art studio, and numerous conversations about loons. Even with the concentration of humanity surrounding the lake, wildlife is everywhere. The loon’s nest just offshore from my parents’ cabin, was a hub of activity, which included a couple of eagles hovering above the nest on high branches. The last morning I was there I noticed a dozen shells by a hole on the side of the road that looked like burst open pingpong balls. I’m pretty certain they were turtle eggs. I never saw the turtles but I’m guessing they are now enjoying their new lives in the murky pond water nearby.
The wildlife opportunities were immense, as was a decision by my dad that continues to tug at my heart. Since I was about twelve, my dad and I have shared a love for sailing. He built his own boat, which we sailed in a muddy Kansas reservoir during my teen years. We also had a sailfish, a one-person boat he assembled. I can’t remember when he bought his current sailboat, a “C” scow, but I know we sailed it for at least 30 years. During those three decades, we’ve had some invigorating and heart-pounding experiences on that boat. Sometimes there were others who joined us in our sails, often it was just the two of us. Sailing with my dad was a highlight of each summer and we adopted the “what happens on the boat stays on the boat” policy. Each day I was in Minnesota we were on the lookout for the perfect wind. Just a sail or two was enough of a fix for me to make it through another year of living in the dry desert.
Three years ago, not only the winds but the sailing itself shifted. The boat seemed to be more and more of a challenge to manage safely. My two years of personal health issues left me hardly at the top of my game. Everything about the boat seemed harder. The last time we sailed, my two granddaughters joined us and we were all glad to return our feet safely to the dock that day. My dad persisted in putting the boat in the water each year until this one.
For a variety of reasons, he came to the decision that it was time to give his boat away. The morning we talked about it was one of the saddest times I can remember. I assured him that our sailing memories were among my most precious of the last five decades. I knew he felt the same way when he said of his boat, “I feel like I’m losing a good friend.” As I watched him paint matching numbers on the mast supports and prepare his boat for someone else, I felt the essence of change, the one constant of life. Just as I grasped the tiller during our decades of sailing, there are many memories to hold on to from this chapter of our shared lives.
On my last walk to the dock the morning we left, I noticed my dad had pulled his canoe down to the dock readying it for use. It made my heart feel happy, thinking of him out in his canoe. Maybe next year we’ll refine our canoeing skills together. There’s more than one way to be on a lake.