I'm in the process of unscrewing up the screwups in Learning Curve (I do not like that title - There's a perfect one out there somewhere and I'm hoping it'll eventually find the time to pay me a visit). It may not look it but that's the sixth draft on those pages Not perfect. So what is? On the other hand, some of it doesn't read bad at all. Of course I'm partial to me and my sense of humor. Have a fine time being by myself. Don't know if that's a good thing or not. First there's Jed Clampett about Hollywood stars, "I've heard tell some of them are so stuck on theyselves they can walk hand in hand off into the sunset all alone." Then there's Ron Dawes, an Olympic marathoner back in '68, about training, "Anyone who can't stand doing a three hour run on their own is keeping mighty poor company." So there I am, alone and poor company. Point of view thing I suppose.
So I'm stuck needing a topic that fits the occasion. Wilderness Canoe Fishing in Canada and Minnesota was chosen as a title 'cause it covered a lot of topics in seven words per some sage advice. Mostly I've been writing this thing to be writing. And to put together a coherent summary of the trips Allan and I took to Canada. Eventually add the pictures. Then blow a few bucks having a couple of copies printed for the two of us. What it all boils down to is that we spent a lot of time in the boonies together. Time that doesn't mean a whole lot to anyone but us. But that's enough. As Uncle Emil said, "Some things in life are worth doing simply because they are."
I began what follows last Spring. Not sure it'll ever be done. It's something like life. No climaxes, no punch lines. It doesn't stop like a novel or a movie. Just keeps going on. Evolving.
Not one of them buggers was buzzing around the cabin last November when we locked it up and drove home. Where the dead ones on the window sills and floors came from is beyond me. First they weren't there. Then I find them dead. Somewhere there's a big, missing in-between.
It's that time of year. Early Spring in the Northland. Light snow on and off all day long. Not all that bad either, seeing as how I'm up here for Spring cleaning. Most every other year Lois'd be along and do the bulk of it herself. But not this year. As for the weather, so long as I keep a small fire in the wood stove, what's going on outside the door doesn't mean a lot. Snow is my friend. Cuts down on the temptation to play hooky. Take a peak at the loons on Deadman. There's work to be done inside. The kind that needs doing. And goes faster and more enjoyably with the blinders on.
The cabin radio is a lot like me. A little slow about entering the digital age. Lois found it at a close out of a close out around three decades ago. Only a couple of years from state of the art back then. Now it's nearly an antique. A tribute to the good old days when crap wasn't quite as crappy as it is now. Old crap is most always better than new crap I guess. Only curmudgeonliness remains as good as ever. With a practiced hand you can get a clear signal for at least an hour. But she's gonna fade sooner or later. When the smush and background buzz finally gets my Germanic dander up it's time to do the tweak and dance. Or find a new station.
Finding a new station is not as easy as it seems. Rock and Roll doesn't much cut it for me anymore. Not that I dislike the idea of a driving beat. But, my God, how many times can you listen to "Brown Eyed Girl?" Fourteen Country Western stations. Say no more. Don't feel the need to be saved, at least by radio. NPR is the last thing to squeeze out of the sieve and I stick with it from beginning of day to end of day. Not that I'm exactly in love with classical music. Don't hate it either. Drop a Mozart piano concerto on me or something by Papa Hayden once in a while and I've been known to tap my toes. In truth most of it simply passes below my radar. I can tune out a string quartet as well as anyone. Much easier to do than some hot shot making a stratacaster sound like a sow in heat.
I realize that it's all in my head but there's this image frozen there of the person behind the mike. Locked in a windowless cell, surrounded by walls of flat black, spray painted egg cartons and a couple of thousand CD's. All bought at estate sales of people who died of boredom and too much Scrabble. No cigarette burns or spilt beer on those babies. All but four still in their plastic wrappers. Maybe a drop or two of cabernet on the open ones. But otherwise pristine. Gimme a break here. When you're cleaning bug snot offa windows the mind has a tendency to drift off.
The guy who's running the show is obviously out of touch with reality. Keeps saying cool and cloudy for the weather. Stick your head out the door man! Look up and taste the snowflakes goober.
Just about from the day it was buttoned it up I've spent a lot of time figuring out how the cabin could've been done differently. Even entered my dreams. Yeah, it's hard to hide from a life symbol. The latest phase, one I know'll never happen, is erecting a second wrap-around addition that would tie the building together. Like it'd always meant to be that way. Drive a deep well. Have indoor plumbing just like the rich folks over on the big lake. Then I remember. The cabin was never meant to be more than a fancy tent. Something to keep the rain off the sleeping bags. Toward that purpose it's a small work of art. Way more than it needs be. Our only hope was for the building to last as long as Lois and I did. Looks like it's gonna make it.
But now, in the middle of Spring cleaning, I wish it was smaller. Like the ideal house my mom used to describe, "Stand in the middle and hit all four corners with a dust mop." Get used to it Mark. It is what it is, too big and too small at the same time. Or I could get a new take on it. Flip the big and the small. Then it'd always be the right size.
Early Spring and late Fall. Flurries but no accumulation. The best times of the year to be up here. In the Fall the poinging of forming lake ice off in the distance as I stand in the dark looking at the Milky Way or emptying my bladder. One of my cousins told me you've got enough land if you can take a leak in the yard and not be seen by anyone. The wisdom of the agrarian man. Didn't hear but two cars pass down the road today. Probably the same person going and coming.
In the Spring it's the smell of the Earth coming alive. Rich, live funk. The leaf buds are there. Catkins forming. A soft green outline to the woods. The birds can't hide yet. Don't move your eyes. Open 'em wide. Bird flight and feeding will give them away. A couple hundred yards away a pileated woodpecker tries to hammer down a jackpine. No way that guy can hide.
All the ice around the cabin is gone, even on the big lake. It's almost a temptation to head out and float the canoe. Though no real point to it yet. Water's too cold to roll the boat and the fish are still asleep. And I'm not the hot to trot fisherman I used to be. The appeal is still there. Just not overpowering enough to get the boat loaded. Warmer days will come. As I've grown older it's almost enough to be on the water with only the paddle. Almost. The fishin' pole gets me to slow down, pay closer attention. Putz along. Get that tingle of life on the line. On the dark side, it's becoming an inconvenience to release so many fish. The inevitable burden of being a master. At least so far as those couple of canoe lakes where the fish have suicidal tendencies. Experience hasn't made me a better fisherman but it has shown me the location of lakes that give me an edge.
The cabin done I move on to the outhouse. As far as shithouses go, it's a biggun. But it does qualify for my mom's idea of convenience. Spic and span in fifteen minutes.
Keep it clean and maintained. Stay on top of the repairs and it'll last forever. Or 'til Lois and I move on. One of my nephews who'd helped during the initial stages of building recently said, "You know, it doesn't look thirty years old." Thanks David.