The rivers hadn’t been this high for years. As long as I could remember at least. My father said he’d seen it -the flooding that is - this bad only once before in his 30’s. He was on a trip with all of his college friends but that’s a story for another time. We ate just outside Ontario in Wilderness the likes of which I’ve been imagining my entire life. The air’s flavor rushes up my nostrils and lands on the back of my tongue tickling my taste buds and informing me that I’ve never consumed fresh oxygen before. This air is pure.
My father has been hunting here ever since he was 16. That was the year his father deemed him man enough for the wild. Take a guess how old I am right now.
I’ve been terrified that we wouldn’t come. The floods have been getting national attention on the news for a week and my father threatened that “It may not be safe this year. Especially for your first time.”
Now that we’re here and I see the cold electricity in his eyes, I know that he was only playing with me. He needs this place the way we humans need air. Without it, there is only death. I’m not saying my father would up and die without the trip, but I’m saying it is apparent that this place is the oxygen for the lungs of his soul.
The boat we’ll be driving, or more accurately, be carried away in is an old row boat: Tin or aluminum and sturdy. Not the kind of boat I’m excited to step into but the sort of boat my grandfather would swear is “just as good as any of these new boats with the fancy carpet and comfy seats.”
Maybe that wisdom will sink in in my later years but for now, I’m just going to make sure to steer clear of the spider webs and try to keep my feet out of the inches of rust water at the bottom.
My father gave neither a sign of approval nor disdain at the sight of the boat. I think he’s probably caught between the desire to carry on his father’s example that simpler is better while simultaneously aching for the creature comforts of the modern day. He hopped in the back and grunted that I was to unhook the front.
He ripped the chord and the motor stretched her atrophied legs. I jumped in and was scrambling to get the knot undone. There is no way I was gonna let him be tethered up when he was ready to let that engine rip.
Sure enough on the next yank the motor fired up. He was revving it a bit making sure she was warm. I had seconds. My desperate arm raced to untie the figure 8’s of the rope on the dock tie.
I finished, pushed off, and sat back all cool-like just as he turned to me. He had his mouth open but caught the words in his mouth right as he was going to let them out. He gave me a wry smile and said “Well here we go then.”
Test one… passed with flying colors. He tried to return back to the face of a stern leader but a little corner of his mouth was stuck in a proud smile. I smiled and played it cool but I knew I impressed him. He’d have to step it up to get me. For a second I realized I’m digging my own grave. This is only going to fuel him to be harder with the next test. Ehh..Bring it…
We pulled away from the dock slowly. I looked into the water and was shocked that it was ocean clear. I could see 20 feet deep. Structure, rocks, and leaves. The only difference was the reflection of the cold chilling grey sky above that let me know the water was as pure as the air but not teeming with life like the ocean. Their was a wildness… a respect was demanded by this water.
I looked up and I saw a cow Moose and her calf walking away from the waters edge and back into the woods. My whole soul rushed out from where I keep it deep in my heart to fill every square inch of my body. Skin tingling and hair dancing. This must be what my father means when he says, “Life breathes in us at all times, waiting for us to calm our fear so that it can fill us…”