Wildlife

Three Deer.

It’s not a cabin in the woods, but now and again, we get our share of deer to add to the groundhogs, chipmunks, squirrels, and birds. It does remind me of how quiet our place is compared to where we were living. Far less urban, though not rural by any means.

Finding Rhythms

An island on still water shot from a boat

I got to the reservoir at about 7:30 AM on Saturday. The water was glassy. There was no wind. But there were plenty of trucks and cars parked in the lot. The people at the park were predominantly men. That’s about as far as one could go when describing them. It looked like a random sample of men who live in Ohio.

Some of the trucks were badly beaten and old. Some were brand new SUVs. The boats were a mix of cheap kayaks, grandparent garage canoes, beaten row boats, and highly rigged bass boats with new electric motors. The rods were everything from improvised garage sale finds to some very high end carbon fiber setups from Orvis. And here we were at the reservoir. A body of water that is an equalizer in the way that only a park can be.

There were a few groups of two men – never more than two – standing and sipping coffee from paper cups or mugs while slowly dragging on cigarettes in the silence of the morning. No one spoke above what was necessary to communicate with their fishing buddy. I slipped into the water and wondered if anyone else was seeing what I saw.

No one can travel safely in the USA right now. A significant percentage of people wouldn’t have the means even if they could. So we gather what we have at hand and come to the water. We push off, paddle, and cast. I’m not sure that anyone who was on that reservoir at 7 or 8 AM on a Saturday even cared if a fish bit. I know I didn’t. It was the practice and the silence that brought us there.

It’s almost impossible to think about anything other than the moment in a fishing kayak. Casting erases all past and future. There is only the path of the line and the gentle sound of the lure or fly touching down. That’s all there is and all there can be. The world is small, defined, and finite. It is all the things it can’t be when the gear is hung up to dry in the garage.

For me, all of this feel permanent. What I’ve seen I can’t unsee. I’ve found a way of letting go of what I “endure” as my part of the contract. I don’t imagine I’ll forget that as we all settle into The New Normal.

Cracking

A very old and broken pocket watch.

A long time ago, I was walking on Lake Superior in the winter. The temperature was somewhere below zero though not quite to -20F where everything, at least to me, starts to become the same temperature. It was night and there was a sound in the distance. I was told by my friend that it was the ice shifting and cracking. It’s a low and ominous sound. I can’t think of an equivalent. It lit up the hair on the back of my neck.

I can almost hear that sound now coming from the people around me. Families are starting to shift and crack. We’re close to school here in our part of the world and there are parents coming to grips with the fact that not only is the fight against the virus not over, but also that they are going to have to muscle through some kind of remote learning again. And what many of us learned last time is that we’re not equipped for it.

Sadly, neither are our schools because we didn’t take the time during the initial stay at home orders, or even this summer, to build out a strategy or a plan. We’re watching in slow motion as our governments fail us a second or third or fourth time depending on how you want to count it.

Winter is coming. That’s a time when we’re indoors most of the time, but we do venture out for socialization. There are rituals to winter that involve get togethers with other people. Holidays with loved ones. Traditions of fellowship. We’re waking up to the reality that those things are gone. They’re not an option. And that this winter will be more isolation than we’ve had throughout this entire pandemic.

Where is the ray of hope? In my analysis, there is only one: we’ve seen what we are truly made of. And we are wanting. This is a call to change everything.

An Island

Three Oil Lamps

It seems to me more and more that our home has become an island. Set back from the street and bordered by an empty field near an elementary school, it feels like we are far removed from the comings and goings of the world. In The After Times, this isn’t a bad feeling. It can be a bit eery, but it’s not “bad”.

When we first moved here, we were going from a county that was a COVID hot-spot to a state that had fewer cases than said county. It wasn’t planned. No, it was another in a long line of situations where it was better to be lucky than smart. Because a smart person wouldn’t have made the move the way we did, when we did.

My wife does an amazing job of making our house feel cozy. I tease her from time to time about reading all of her decorating blogs, but in truth, she has amazing taste and a way of making every room in the house feel like it’s exactly where you want to be. It’s brilliant.

Sitting in our house and listening to the quiet, which is quite a change from the old place, allows me to feel gratitude. These are strange times and we’re all isolated in some way. But the island isn’t the worst place to be.

Preparing

A GPS, a 2 Way Radio, a Map, a Bandana, and a Knife

A thing that we do as humans is think about the future. Sometimes, it’s a simple as a daydream about a hike or a trip to the lake to fish. We do have a tendency to go long and think about where we’d like to be in 5 years. In The After Times, it’s hard to see 2 or 3 weeks ahead, forget about 6 months.

But planning and dreaming are important. So I assemble bits and pieces for trips to the parks. I put together lists of things that we should carry with us to be prepared for our little adventures. We’re not usually out very long with having a puppy at home and two kids that run themselves out after a few hours, so this isn’t like an expedition to Antarctica, but it’s something to consider for any trip out. Scouts are prepared, right?

Yet in my mind, these are grand adventures. I think about taking my radio out to an island on the reservoir and making contacts. I imagine catching large fish early in the morning and snapping a few pictures. I drift to lunching on the shore before paddling back for the day. Again, quiet time on the water.

Is that what we’re all doing right now? Baking bread and adopting puppies so that we can give ourselves a future? Having things around that provide us with a sense that we will have something to do that is different or important tomorrow seems to be a zeitgeist of a sort.

We all need a long game. So we’re making them ourselves.