While I Was Fishing
While I was fishing in an old wooden boat on Lake Winnipeg, the sun slipped down, and the moon crested out of its hiding place. Loons started a chorus. My parka was just warm enough for the autumn bite. I sat in twilight with a line hanging slack and thought of you, silent as a morning pillow, sitting across from me at breakfast. Do you really want to do this? you asked finally, looking over the brim of the newspaper I knew you weren't reading. Do you think it's safe?
You don't like fishing -- the worms, the water, the wait -- and you didn't like my father, either. So how could you understand that this was a tribute? I put on his old plaid parka lined in navy wool and took the boat out one last time. I would catch something in his memory. I would listen to the loons, smell the pine, and remember the young blonde man in denim overalls who taught me to hook a worm with my eyes closed and sit patiently for hours in the sun on still water. I would remember the old man who just last year took me out on the lake as a metaphor. You sit and wait when you fish, Susan, he said. You wait beautifully. But sometimes you need to realize the pond is empty; the fish aren't biting. Sometimes you pack up your gear and go home.
I had planned to make a Viking ritual. Cook one last fish in his honor, burn the boat and say good-bye to the soul of my father. But I was fishing and thinking of you. Wondering if the pond is dead. If it is time to pack up my gear and go home. The loons are crying and so am I. For my tall Viking father, gone home to Valhalla. For my husband, who does not understand the lure of the line. And for myself, alone on Lake Winnipeg, waiting for something, anything, to bite.