My father was a civil engineer, an adventurer and a renaissance man. He was a loving father and husband and it was such a delight to watch him mellow and grow into a quiet appreciation of himself in his 40’s before his abrupt departure from our world.
Growing up, my father was my ideal, his strength and bravado an inspiration to me, to the point that I would often compare the hair on my arms to his. I kept willing my little blond hairs to grow dark and bushy in hopes that I would someday overtake him in the arm hair growth department (good thing I was not quite as skilled at manifesting then as I am now )
Among my favorite childhood memories I count hours upon hours of hauling wood for the fireplace, loading up my arms 2, 3, 4 logs high in an attempt to do my dad proud. I remember water skiing and fishing, sailing, canoeing (in a sailboat and canoe that my dad hand made) and, my favorite, windsurfing, showing my skill along side the men as we raced across the waves at Setting Lake.
This Friday night, my husband and I went to Pennsylvania along lake Erie and as always, my brush with nature, the dirt under my nails and the smell of lake-water and camp smoke on the wind, reminded me of my dad.
Upon arrival Jeff and I scope out the site for the perfect spot for our shelter. We coordinate the raising like some “cooperation skit” off of Sesame Street. We stomp in the pegs and make up our little home for the weekend; air mattress….check, sleeping bags…..check, pillows……check, stuffed bear…..check!
I am always in awe of how at home we think we need all this furniture and all these accoutrements, while at the campsite I am perfectly content with a canvas roof, a campfire, a folding chair, a book and my husband. Truly amazing.
As Jeff blew up the air mattress, I took it upon myself to build a rain shelter out of a piece of rope, several bungee cords and a large tarp. There is something zen-like about using my hands and my mind to fashion this most essential of shelters under a perfectly clear, starry sky. There is such joy and freedom in using my hands and mind for geometry, construction and avoiding the myriad of creepy crawlies on the trees, versus my normal daily focus on creating the latest marketing plan or dreaming up some future-based life vision. This is living now, with nothing in existence but the rope that keeps tying itself in unhelpful knots, the unruly tarp and the daddy long legs crawling up my arm.
My husband acknowledges me, his “fuzzy Canadian, engineer’s daughter”, as the expert in many things woodsy and he defers to my fire making skills as I demonstrate how to place the paper and then the kindling and then the logs all with vertical element to allow the heat and the flames to rise and work its magic. (Jeff was a masterful student and built many large, hot and very manly fires through out the rest of the weekend. )
I found green willow and whittled sticks for marshmallows before we halted our homesteading and headed down to the lake to watch the unexpected storm flashing and rolling in from Canada.
Fire flies in the foreground.
The waves lap gently on the shore.
It’s twilight and the sky is dark but for the waning pink light in the west.
Flashes on the horizon.
Distant islands revealed, illuminated by the approaching storm.
Teenagers testing boundaries on the dock, electricity in the sky and excitement in the air.
The night is alive.
The water perfectly still but for a gentle lapping at the shore, we sat and watched the beauty of the world, and in that moment I knew that I wanted, no, needed my un-conceived children to know this experience. I want them to know the lake, and to build things and to get dirty and to know that despite all the wonders of the modern world, all they need is a chair and a stick, a campfire and a bag of marshmallows to have the makings of a great evening.
In that moment, I knew that I was my father’s daughter and that in many ways his legacy will live on through my children and theirs. And I am glad.
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