Memorial Day Weekend

My family’s Memorial Day weekend, like most of our weekends once the ice is melted, was spent up at the boat.  “Up at the boat” for my entire life (quite literally: there are photos infant Holly asleep in a car seat wedged between fish coolers on the back deck) has meant the boat my family owns on Lake Superior.  We don’t have a cabin, we don’t have isolated acreage with four wheelers and an archery range, but we do have a boat that sleeps four plus one dog, and a vast expanse of lake to float her on.

Although there was a time when I hated the idea of leaving the “civilization” of cable TV and frequent showers in favor of fishing, exploring the Apostle Islands, and meeting the many characters who moonlight as avid boaters, I have since come around.

I even filleted two fish last weekend.  Of course, I refused to hold the head while slicing the torso, so my brave younger sister did that for me.  I never said I was Ahab.

Here’s last weekend, “up at the boat”:

Ruby pleading for attention during the ride down.  Also, as per usual, using anything within reach as a pillow.

Ruby pleading for attention during the drive down. Also, as per usual, using anything within reach as a pillow.

My breakfast view.

My breakfast view.

Reading material.  Let the Michael Perry obsession continue.  Oh how I aspire to write books like this someday.

Reading material. Let the Michael Perry obsession continue. Oh how I aspire to write books like this someday.

I call this one "Glassy Water with Downrigger."

I call this one “Glassy Water with Downrigger.”

After a fish took a lure and broke the line, Dad felt compelled to go down and do some untangling.  I got to drive.

After a fish took a lure and broke the line, Dad felt compelled to go down and do some untangling. I got to drive.

The person in possession of the wheel is also in charge of watching the lines.  When a pole dips and bends sporadically, there's a fish on.

The person in possession of the wheel is also in charge of watching the lines. When a pole dips and bends sporadically, there’s a fish on.

I also got to keep tabs on what was going on down below.

I kept tabs on what was going on down below.

Once my driving duties were over, I took a nap on the couch.  When I awoke, the wind had picked up significantly.

Once my driving duties were over, I took a nap on the couch. When I awoke, the wind had picked up significantly.

Our catch.  You can't see all of them, but we caught nine Coho salmon.  Enough to win us $35 in the marina fishing contest.

Our catch. You can’t see all of them, but we caught nine Coho salmon. Enough to win us $35 in the marina fishing contest.

Ruby is fond of giving the camera forlorn looks.  But believe me when I say that she gets more than her share of attention from all of us.

Ruby is fond of giving the camera forlorn looks. But believe me when I say that she gets more than her share of attention from all of us.

See?

See?

After a long day on the water, it was time to head back to the marina for the annual chili dump.  This is the most delicious bowl in the world.

After a long day on the water, we headed back to the marina for the annual chili dump. This is the most delicious bowl in the world.

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And She Brings Her Laptop to the Lake

I’ve spent most of the day sitting on the back deck reading this

and trying to keep overeager dogs from jumping overboard.  I may have also netted a fish or two.  And taken a nap or two.

Now, stuffed with fresh salmon, I’ve settled down to watch this:

Yes, it feels wrong to be watching a TV show amongst all this nature.  But it’s Downton Abbey.  It’s a period drama.  Resistance was futile.

 

 

 

At the Lake

As you drive deeper and deeper into Northwoods Wisconsin, time seems to slow, and then with a lazy lurch, creep backwards again.

At first, trees are thin and far between.  They are a two hand span around, and their leaves are delicate, gasping toward the sun.  Every few miles, a field opens up, and a middle-aged man grins from high up on the spring seat of his John Deer.  Towns are medium-sized, offering the standard Subway McDonald’s Two Gas Stations IGA and a Pamida-turning-Shopko.

Soon, though, the trees grow wide and thick.  Pines are numerous, and deer stand beneath them, counting flashing lights on the highway.  Every so often, one will bound forward, perhaps to the telltale dull thump and angry squeal; the fate of many a Wisconsin deer since a path was cut for this road a hundred years ago.

Towns are smaller now.  There are no baseball diamonds visible from the main drag; no littered camp grounds bragging water slides and All You Can Eat steak dinners.  Cable, one sign reads.  Population 93.  How funny that the town’s oldest resident’s age could match the number on the sign.  And when he dies, the mayor might send some knobbly teenager out to the highway, to tick the figure down to 92.  How funny that no one driving through the town would likely notice such a change, nor care if they did.

As the lake nears, crafty shops appear more and more frequently, selling scrapbooking supplies or baby quilts or wooly yarn for thirty dollars a skein.  They cater to the tourists, who come up in the summer for Apple Fest and to marvel at Superior.  She’ll show off for them, lifting her glimmering waters up for closer inspection, and then flipping them down impishly.

We belong here, though, I think, lugging my big orange duffel down the dock.  Ruby is at the end of the leash I hold in my left hand.  She tugs, gasping a little as her collar strains against her neck.  No amount of ‘heel’ will slow her.  I keep my toes centered on the nails that run down the center of the dock, remembering a time when I was told not to stray from them.  Superior is deep and cold, and I know, as surely anyone who’s spent their life upon her does, that she can be as unflinchingly cruel beneath the surface as she is glittering above.

I arrange my sleeping bag on the lower bunk, listening to the water slap against the hull of the boat.